U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

October 2012 Archives

Court Discharges $200K in Student Debt Based on Mental Illness

Higher education is expensive, and the cost keeps rising. A growing number of people have started warning of an education bubble to rival the mortgage bubble. But there's a difference between and home loans and student loans: Generally, student loans aren't dischargeable in bankruptcy.

The exception to this rule is undue hardship, which takes on a Potter Stewart quality in bankruptcy proceedings: It's not clearly defined, but a judge knows it when she sees it.

This week, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals offers an undue hardship example.

Sentence Reduction for Cooperation Requires ... Cooperation

There’s a metaphorical pot of gold at the end of the sentencing rainbow for defendants who cooperate with the authorities. A defendant who accepts responsibility for his actions can receive a sentence reduction under USSG §3E1.1.

The opposite is true for defendants who try to thwart law enforcement efforts. A district court can enhanced a defendant’s sentence under USSG §3C1.1 for obstruction of justice. And that’s what happened in Robert Dufresne III’s case.

Eighth Circuit: Fleeing is a Violent Felony

Fleeing the cops is a “violent crime” for the purpose of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), according to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

No, it’s not as violent as staring the cops down in a gun-blazing standoff, but courts are looking for the potential for violence, rather than the actual degree of violence in particular situation.

John Lee Bartel pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The district court ruled that Bartel’s four prior state convictions for fleeing police in a motor vehicle constituted violent felonies, thus making him an armed career criminal subject to a 15-year minimum sentence under the ACCA.

Mean Boys: Court Rules Against Brothers After Blog Disrupts School

Lee's Summit North High School suspended twin brothers Sean and Steven Wilson for 180 days after a website they created to discuss, satirize, and "vent" about events at the school went semi-viral and disrupted school. The school was peeved because the blog contained several racist and sexist comments, including sexist remarks about named female students, Ed Week reports. The Wilson brothers reportedly created the posts, though a separate racist comment was allegedly posted by a third student.

The Wilsons, then juniors, were allowed to enroll at Summit Ridge Academy during their suspension. They sued the school district, claiming that the suspension violated their free speech rights, and that they would suffer irreparable harm at Summit Ridge. (Lee's Summit had honors courses and band. Summit Ridge did not.)

Manchester Defeats Westboro Baptist Church in Eighth Circuit Appeal

Last year, a three-judge Eighth Circuit panel ruled that Manchester, Missouri could not enforce a local ordinance banning protests near funerals.

The ordinance, of course, was adopted to stop the controversial Westboro Baptist Church protestors from further upsetting grieving families at military funerals.

Tuesday, the en banc Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the panel, ruling that the final version of the Manchester ordinance — which prohibits “picketing or other protest activities …within 300 feet of any funeral or burial site during or within one hour … of a funeral or burial service” — is a legitimate time, place, and manner regulation consistent with the First Amendment.

When Must Cops Provide Interpreters for Deaf Arrestees?

Douglas Duane Bahl sued the City of St. Paul under the anti-discrimination provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, §504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, after a traffic stop turned into a scuffle that turned into a hospital visit and an arrest.

Bahl, who is deaf and uses American Sign Language (ASL) as his primary language, claimed that the entire unpleasant ordeal should have been avoided because St. Paul cops were required to communicate with him in writing or through an interpreter. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals mostly disagreed.

Eighth Circuit Rejects Affordable Care Act Appeal

If your life has felt a little empty without an Affordable Care Act to discuss, this Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion may help fill the void.

Thursday, the Eighth Circuit ruled that a group of seven plaintiffs, including Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, lacked standing to challenge various provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

According to the appellate court, the plaintiffs lacked standing. (And their claims were sooo last term.)

Res Judicata Can Be Raised in Motion to Dismiss

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals offered two important lessons for contract disputes this week.

First, choice of venue clauses are sometimes mere suggestions.

Second, res judicata can be raised in a motion to dismiss.