Thursday, August 26, 2010

Highlights and Trends

For the most recent federal appellate headlines, click here (AD's Twitter home page).

As a follow-up to Tuesday's Short Circuits, below are recent highlights and trends from the federal appellate courts:

The Big Apple Tax
Last week, the Second Circuit upheld a State Department notice that exempts foreign countries from local, in this case New York City, property taxes on diplomatic staff residences in buildings the countries own.  The Supreme Court ruled on the case before in 2007 (re: jurisdiction) and an appeal is expected.

Stolen Valor Act
Also last week, the Ninth Circuit declared unconstitutional the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to lie about receiving military honors.  A local California water official claimed to have been a marine and recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor; neither was true.  (He also claimed to have played for the Detroit Red Wings, among other lies, according to the opinion.)  The court found that though "society would be better off if [the defendant] would stop spreading worthless, ridiculous, and offensive untruths," the Act goes too far and violates free speech.  AMVETS, a veterans organization, spoke out against the decision, calling it "appalling and misguided."  In the Tenth Circuit, prosecutors are considering an appeal from a Colorado federal district court decision that also found the Act unconstitutional.

Although the Ninth Circuit stay in the Prop. 8 case received more attention, another stay issued last week in a same-sex rights case, this time by consent.  In July, a federal district judge in Massachusetts struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional and a First Circuit appeal is under consideration.  The parties in the DOMA case agreed to a stay of the lower decision, pending appeal.

On a different topic, the Fifth Circuit postponed its hearing on the deepwater drilling moratorium.  The Department of Interior superseded the moratorium under review with a new version and the circuit court wanted the district judge to review the latest version first.