This is Weekend Circuit, a weekly review of the serious and the silly in federal appellate courts in the last week.
SCOTUS Declines Request For Stay In North Carolina Voting Rights Case
A North Carolina voting restrictions law will not be enforced for the November elections, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to stay a lower court ruling striking down the law.
The law, among other things, required voters to present a government issued identification before casting ballots, and reduced the number of early voting days. Critics say the law disproportionately affects minority populations.
In asking for a stay, North Carolina argued that an earlier ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals essentially neuters the Supreme Court’s finding in Shelby County v. Holder, and that the formula the 4th Circuit applied to evaluate its law is even more stringent than the procedures the Supreme Court had already tossed in Shelby, and should therefore be vacated. (RELATED: Supreme Court Turns Down North Carolina’s Request To Enforce Voting Restrictions Law)
The justices split 4-4 along ideological lines on the matter. 5 votes are required to issue a stay. The 4th Circuit’s ruling was therefore affirmed.
Though the vote ensures the law will not be enforced in the November election, many liberal legal scholars and commentators had hoped Kennedy and the Chief Justice would be attracted to the liberal side. They argued that North Carolina’s appeal for an emergency stay was exceptionally weak. The petition itself was filed nearly three weeks after the 4th Circuit’s ruling, eroding the state’s claim that they required emergency action. In addition, there was a ruling on the merits that the North Carolina legislature had acted with discriminatory intent in adopting the law, a finding the state vigorously contests in its brief. In short, the fact posture of the case was not favorable to North Carolina, and many hope Kennedy and Roberts will relax their ideological commitments in order to exert influence of the Court’s ascendant liberal majority.
“If Kennedy and the Chief are going to be in play in future voting wars cases, this stay order does not give an inkling of that,” professor Rick Hasen, an election law expert at UC Irvine School of Law noted on his blog.
Employer Responsible For Employee’s Unsolicited Sexts
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an employer may be liable for phallic images sent by an employee if their own negligence contributes to the employee’s intent.
Andrea Vasquez, an EMT, complained to her employer in 2014 that another employee, Tyrell Gray, had sent her an unsolicited picture of his erect penis. The sext was the most dramatic instance in a months-long sequence of inappropriate advances in the work place. Shortly after she formally lodged a complaint, Gray presented superiors with screenshots of a fabricated text message conversation between him and Vasquez, in which Vasquez welcomed and encouraged his sordid intent. Vasquez was immediately dismissed for sexual harassment.
After her dismissal, she brought a claim against the company, alleging she was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment, in violation of Title VII and the New York State Human Rights Law. A federal district court dismissed her lawsuit ruling Gray’s retaliatory behavior could not be held against the employer. The 2nd Circuit overruled the lower court.
“We hold, however, that an employee’s retaliatory intent may be imputed to an employer where, as alleged here, the employer’s own negligence gives effect to the employee’s retaliatory animus and causes the victim to suffer an adverse employment decision,” the three judge panel wrote.
2nd Circuit Vacates Huge Award To Victims Of Terrorism
The 2nd Circuit vacated a $655 million dollar award against two Palestinian terror fronts, ruling U.S. courts did not have jurisdiction over the defendants.
The Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization were found liable for a series of terrorist attacks between 2002 and 2004 that left several Americans dead. In February 2015, a jury awarded the families of the dead a $218 million compensatory award. The figure was trippled in accordance with the Anti-Terrorism Act. The 2nd ruled that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction in this case over the PA and the PLO. (RELAYED: NY Court Stiffs American Victims Of Terror To The Tune of $655 Million)
“The terror machine gun attacks and suicide bombings that triggered this suit and victimized these plaintiffs were unquestionably horrific,” Judge John Koeltl wrote for the panel. “But the federal courts cannot exercise jurisdiction in a civil case beyond the limits prescribed by the due process clause of the Constitution, no matter how horrendous the underlying attacks or morally compelling the plaintiffs’ claims.”
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