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Archive for January, 2009

B.W.A. v. Farmington R-7 Sch. Dist., No. 07-3099.

A Missouri school suspended several students for wearing clothing depicting the Confederate flag to school.  The school had experienced several racially charged incidents in the past and, therefore, banned wearing of the Confederate flag.  The students sued the school, asserting that their First Amendment rights had been violated.  The school filed for summary judgment, arguing that it believed displaying the Confederate flag would cause a material and substantial disruption of school activities.  The trial court agreed.

On appeal, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the trial court ruling, noting that wearing of the Confederate flag was not pure speech because of the race-related events occurring at the school, some of which included the Confederate flag.  Consequently, the court held that the school’s ban was constitutionally permissible.

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Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht publicly endorsed Harriet Miers’ nomination to the United States Supreme Court, which led to charges against him by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct.  Hecht’s attorneys, the Jackson Walker law firm, charged him a reduced rate for their representation.  Then, the Texas Ethics Commission fined Hecht $29,000 for the “contribution” made by Jackson Walker, which exceeded the $30,000 limit for law firm contributions.  For the full story, click here.

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For an interesting account of the law preceding this bill, click here or here.

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Maloney v. Cuomo, No. 07-0581-cv.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals holds that the ban does not violate the Second Amendment of the Federal Constitution.

This ruling is interesting when compared to Arkansas, where Arkansans are seeking an “open carry” statute.  To see the petition, click here.

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Singson v. Norris, No. 08-1570.

Plaintiff sued the Arkansas Department of Corrections (“ADC”), claiming that the restriction upon tarot cards violated his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”).  While in prison, plaintiff must check out tarot cards from a chaplain.  An ADC expert testified that the policy prevented (1) gambling, (2) trafficking, (3) psychological control, and gang violence.  The trial court agreed with the ADC, holding that the policy guarantees prison safety while accommodating plaintiff’s religious beliefs.

On appeal, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals noted that, under the RLUIPA, plaintiff must show that (1) there is a substantial burden on his ability to exercise his religion and (2) the burden is not the least restrictive means to achieve prison safety.  Here, the court agreed with the ADC that the check-out policy was the least restrictive means of allowing plaintiff to practice his religious beliefs while ensuring prison safety.

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Missouri has not held any executions since 2005 because of this problem.  For a full account, see here.

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Sasser v. Norris, No. 07-2385.

Andrew Sasser was convicted of murdering Jo Ann Kennedy and sentenced to death.  His conviction and sentence was affirmed by the Arkansas Supreme Court.  In 2002, the United States Supreme Court held that the execution of a mentally retarded person is cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment in Atkins v. Virginia.  Sasser subsequently filed a Habeas Corpus Petition to have his case remanded to a federal trial court for a determination of whether he is ineligible for the death penalty because of his mental condition.  The trial court denied Sasser’s petition because (1) Sasser did not raise mental retardation during his state trial and (2) Arkansas law also prohibits execution of mentally retarded persons.

On appeal, the Eighth Circuit held that it was unnecessary for Sasser to raise his mental state in order for him to receive a Atkins evidentiary hearing.  The court explained that a trial court must hold an evidentiary hearing if the habeas applicant did not receive a full and fair evidentiary hearing in state court.  Accordingly, the case was remanded back to the trial court.

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