U.S. Sixth Circuit - The FindLaw 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

October 2011 Archives

6th Flashback: Circuit Denied Damages in Halloween Costume Lawsuit

Before you make your own Halloween costume out of unconventional materials, ask yourself: WWMD? What would Martha do?

Of course we're referring to domestic goddess Martha Stewart, who we suspect would only incorporate non-flammable materials into her homemade Halloween costumes. And with good reason: some jurisdictions, like the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, are hesitant to award damages in failure to warn/Halloween costume lawsuits.

Susan and Frank Ferlito learned this lesson the hard way after Frank's homemade sheep costume turned into a homemade fireball.

Unreasonable Search: Drug Theft Violates Civil Rights

We’re all aware that a cop can seize drugs from a criminal, but did you know that a cop who steals a dealer’s drugs has conducted an unreasonable search?

That’s the word out of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on Friday that a police officer violates a suspect’s civil rights when he seizes drugs for personal gain.

Arthur Sease was a Memphis police officer until he was fired by the department in late 2004, after the department learned about Sease’s side gig: stealing drugs.

Sixth Circuit Affirms Warrantless Search Evidence

Crack is wack, especially when it's discovered during a warrantless search of an automobile; but that doesn't mean that it inadmissible.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that evidence seized from an automobile exception warrantless search of defendant's car, and the subsequent search of his girlfriend's home, could be used to prosecute him.

An anonymous informant contacted the Jackson Narcotics Enforcement Team (JNET) in Jackson, Mich. to report that one, Jamail Arnold, was selling crack cocaine out of his burgundy mid-1980s Monte Carlo. It was not the first time that JNET had received tips about Arnold.

Sixth Circuit Denies Qualified Immunity for Prison Officials

Prisoners lose most of the pro se appeals that we read, but today, we have a rare example of a prisoner winning in an appellate court.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in an unpublished opinion this week that Michigan prison officials who ignored a prisoner's documented health needs were not entitled to qualified immunity, and that the prisoner could proceed in his civil rights claim against them.

Stephen Hall is a prisoner in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). He brought a pro se civil rights claim against a group of prison officials, alleging that they unreasonably exposed him to Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) despite an MDOC medical notice requiring that he be placed in tobacco-free housing.

Company Challenges Epic Tobacco Settlement in Sixth Circuit

Tobacco companies don't like Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, the Mississippi plaintiff's attorney famous for leading 46 states toward a $246 billion tobacco settlement in 1998. Scruggs cost Big Tobacco a lot of money, and the companies, no doubt, were secretly pleased when Scruggs pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges 10 years later.

Scruggs' downfall, however, was not sufficient vindication for tobacco companies driven out of business by the epic '90s settlement. A challenge to the tobacco settlement is back in the courts.

ADF and ACLU Spar in Julea Ward Free Speech Rights Case

Do First Amendment free speech rights cover a counseling student’s right to refuse to speak to someone?

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments this week in a former Eastern Michigan University (EMU) graduate student’s lawsuit challenging her dismissal from the school’s graduate counseling program.

Julea Ward enrolled in the EMU program in 2006 to become a high school counselor. In 2009, she declined to counsel a homosexual client during her school practicum because her “Christian beliefs would not allow her to affirm the client’s homosexual behavior,” according to the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which is representing Ward.

Sixth Circuit: No Habeas Relief From Procedural Default

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an Ohio man’s death sentence yesterday, finding that procedural default barred his habeas corpus petition.

In 1985, Robert Van Hook met David Self at a gay bar. Van Hook “lured Self into a vulnerable position,” strangled him, killed him with a kitchen knife, and mutilated his body, according to court records.

Van Hook has appealed his case to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals four times. He petitioned for federal habeas corpus relief in 1995 after waiving trial by jury, after a three-judge Ohio panel sentenced him to death for the brutal murder of David Self in connection with a homosexual encounter, and after the Ohio courts upheld Van Hook’s death sentence.