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

September 2013 Archives

Judge Kethledge Defies Physics, Counsels State Farm on Decorum

There are good reasons not to call an opponent's argument "ridiculous," which is what State Farm calls Barbara Bennett's principal argument here. The reasons include civility; the near-certainty that overstatement will only push the reader away (especially when, as here, the hyperbole begins on page one of the brief); and that, even where the record supports an extreme modifier, "the better practice is usually to lay out the facts and let the court reach its own conclusions."

But here the biggest reason is more simple: the argument that State Farm derides as ridiculous is instead correct.

A woman walks down the street. She is hit by a car, and flung onto the car's hood, where she sustains additional injuries. The car was insured by State Farm.

6th Cir. Holds That Employer Must Provide Contraception

Okay, there's almost no way this doesn't get to the Supreme Court.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, also known as ACA or Obamacare) requires health plans to cover contraception, sans co-pay. Employers with religious owners argue that this infringes upon their religious liberty. According to the ACLU, 72 cases have been filed nationwide challenging the "mandate."

Here, we have Autocam, an automotive and medical manufacturer, whose owners, the Kennedys, are Catholic, opposed to birth control on religious grounds, and who believe that some of the drugs covered by the mandate are abortifacients.

6th Circuit Makes Right Call in Cancelling Judicial Conference

Perhaps conscious to the appearance of insensitivity to the current budget crisis, specifically, the federal court system's budget crisis caused by sequestration, the Sixth Circuit has agreed to do what many other circuits have declined to do: cancel the party.

By law, the heads of each circuit are authorized to have a judicial conference either every year, or every other year. In the Sixth Circuit, there is a biennial judges-only conference, as well as a biennial open conference for judges and lawyers in the intervening years. Possibly influenced by the criticism levied at other circuit courts, which have thrown lavish conferences at local resorts, the Sixth Circuit announced that the 2014 conference is cancelled, says the Sixth Circuit Appellate Blog by Squire Sanders.

Another Crack Case, This Time Decided Semi-Correctly

We're a bit exhausted by all of the crack cases, and truthfully, if we had our druthers, we'd never report on another run-of-the-mill Fair Sentencing Act case again.

Except, thanks to the Sixth Circuit, there is no run-of-the-mill. To recap their exploits, they decided one case (Hammond) that said that the Fair Sentencing Act's reduction of mandatory minimums in crack cocaine cases did not apply to those who had been sentenced before the law's passage. Simple enough.

They then ignored it in Blewitt, which was, itself, vacated a few weeks later and set for en banc rehearing later this year. We rehashed both of these cases, plus the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in Dorsey two weeks ago, when the Sixth Circuit released two conflicting opinions on the same day: Johnson, which side-stepped Hammond, and Joiner, which abided by its binding precedent.

Another Circuit, a Different Border Search Doctrine for Electronics

Theodore Stewart was entering the United States from Japan, when he ran into Customs and Border Protections (CBP) agents at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. His "standoffish" and "confrontational" responses to their routine inquiries let them to believe that something was amiss, and led to a search of his belongings and computers.

One of his laptops, the Twinhead, required a foreign power adapter and could not be searched. The other, a Sony, was searched and about a dozen images, which appeared to be child pornography, were found. Both laptops were kept for further inspection, while Stewart was sent on his way.

TripAdvisor Didn't Defame the Dirtiest Hotel in America: 6th Cir.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that TripAdvisor can't be held liable for defamation for crowning Tennessee's Grand Resort Hotel and Convention Center as the Dirtiest Hotel in America. In the $10 million lawsuit, the owner of the unlucky winner claimed TripAdvisor used a flawed rating system based on unreliable rumors.

The court's decision reminds business owners and their lawyers alike that hyperbolic scathing reviews typically won't be considered defamatory.