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Federal Judge Strikes Iowa 'Ag-Gag" Law

A federal judge ruled that Iowa's "ag-gag law," prohibiting surreptitious investigation of animal abuse, is unconstitutional.

Judge James Gritzner struck the law, which was enacted in 2012 to keep reporters and activists from going into animal facilities and reporting abuse. He said people have a First Amendment right to report what is going on inside such places as pig farms, chicken ranches, and slaughterhouses.

The decision in Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Reynolds is not the first to invalidate an ag-gag law. It's part of a trend of legal decisions across the country.

A recent Eighth Circuit decision made a rather technical distinction when it came to a recent Title VII retaliation claim: a job applicant's request for a religious accommodation is not protected activity for the purposes of a Title VII retaliation claim.

Fortunately, the Eighth Circuit limited its decision to prospective employees and to facts evidencing that the request itself did not communicate "opposition" conduct. And though there was a rather well thought out dissent, and it was the EEOC prosecuting the case, the panel of judges upheld the dismissal of the clear contentious case upon some questionable analysis.

Judge Won't Block Voter ID Law for Native Americans in North Dakota

A federal judge denied a last-minute request by Native Americans to exempt them from a North Dakota law that requires voters to show proof of residence when voting.

It was a tough call for Judge Daniel Hovland, who expressed concern that Native Americans were disenfranchised by the requirement. Voters have to show valid identification with a street address, but reservations don't have standard addresses.

It was too late for the judge, however, to change the status quo in Spirit Lake Tribe v. Jaeger. Not to mention, his hands were tied.

Not making the varsity squad for any high schooler can be tough. But when that high schooler's mom files a federal lawsuit over it ... that's just unbelievable.

But believe it or not, that's just what happened at St. Louis' Ladue High School when one junior didn't make the varsity soccer team, and then was also excluded from the junior varsity team. While this might seem to defy ordinary logic, the school pointed to an established policy, but then the mother pointed to Title IX. The school didn't agree with the parent, and a lawsuit followed.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a ruling in the matter over the state of Missouri's regulations for abortion clinics. And unfortunately for the challengers who succeeded in obtaining an injunction at the federal district court level, the appellate court didn't quite see it the same way.

The court found that the challengers hadn't actually established a sufficient injury or irreparable harm to qualify for the injunction. This was due to the fact that the state regulations allow for variances to exempt requesting clinics from certain parts of the regulations, and none of the challengers had applied for the variance and been denied.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a rather short decision dismissing a challenge brought by the Satanic Temple and a Mary Doe plaintiff against the state of Missouri's abortion laws requiring certain prerequisites.

If you had to read that a couple times because of the inclusion of the Satanic Temple (not to be confused with the Church of Satan), you're probably not alone. The group doesn't worship the devil, at least not seriously, but it does fight for social justice causes, particularly those that relate to or are founded upon religious beliefs. Unfortunately for the group and Mary Doe plaintiff, the Eighth Circuit agreed with the lower district court that the temple and Doe lacked standing due to a biological/legal technicality.

Kindergarten Shoot-Up Joker Wins Appeal

It wasn't funny when James Ross made a satirical Facebook post about shooting kindergarten students.

It also wasn't funny when Jackson police officers arrested him. He sued, and the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said he has a case.

In Ross v. City of Jackson, the appeals court said the police should have known it was just a bad joke.

Leaving only one last avenue for recourse to Gage County, the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied an en banc rehearing on the county's failed appeal of the $28 million judgment in the Beatrice Six civil case.

The Beatrice Six case is one of the biggest DNA, wrongful conviction exonerations in history. That's because the DNA evidence of a murder that took place decades ago was used to free six individuals that were wrongfully convicted. The story of their conviction and their exoneration is absolutely the stuff of TV drama, and sadly for the all the victims, a hot topic among the locals in Nebraska.

The civil rights case of Arkansas judge Wendell Griffen against the Arkansas Supreme Court, and each of its members, was just dismissed by a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Griffen's case is a fascinating one, as he is an outspoken advocate against the death penalty and the state's high court barred him from hearing death penalty cases due to his alleged bias, and in accordance with the state's judicial ethics. And while that may seem extreme, not only has Judge Griffen blogged about his views against the death penalty, he participated in a protest where he laid down on a gurney in front of the governor's mansion while wearing an anti-death penalty button.

Court Upholds $28 Million Award for 'Beatrice Six'

DNA evidence can cut both ways -- for conviction or exoneration.

In one Nebraska case, it cut deep for exoneration. Six defendants were wrongfully imprisoned for another man's crime before DNA evidence freed them.

But the "Beatrice Six" got their payback when a trial court handed them a $28 million judgment against a small Nebraska County. The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said it was an "obvious case" and affirmed in Dean v. Searcey.