The 8th Circuit court of appeals holds court at Mizzou law school about once each year. Although no IP cases this year, all three slated for tomorrow’s oral arguments are interesting:
Is the right to counsel enforceable in court?: The first case involves the class action Church v. State of Missouri and Gov. Eric Greitens. Plaintiffs in the case are “individuals who are currently facing criminal charges in Missouri state court and who are represented by lawyers from the Missouri State Public Defender Office.” The problem is that Missouri has inadequately funded the Public Defender Office in a way that public defenders allegedly “systematically provide constitutionally deficient legal representation.” The lower court is allowing the case to proceed. The appeal by the State argues for immunity. In particular, the Government argues that: (a) the Eleventh Amendment and the doctrine of sovereign immunity bar Plaintiffs’ claims against the State of Missouri; (b) Plaintiffs’ claims against Missouri’s Governor do not fall within the Ex parte Young exception to sovereign immunity; and (c) that absolute legislative immunity bars Plaintiffs’ claims against the Governor.
Seizing Guns of Someone with Mental Instability who has Committed No Crime: The second case fits well within recent news cycles. Mark Wellman v. St. Louis County. In 2014, Wellman permitted himself to be admitted on a short term basis (96 hour hold) to a psychiatric facility based upon suicide threat. He was released and has no further relevant medical history. At the time, Officers were told there were guns in the home — they entered on two occasions while he was hospitalized without permission or a warrant and found dozens of weapons that they confiscated. St. Louis County then refused to return the weapons unless he jumped through special hoops, including either obtaining a Writ of Replevin or else a “no-danger” note from a treating psychiatrist followed by administrative approval from St. Louis County Counselors. Instead, he sued – both for a return of the guns and for damages for violating his constitutional rights. The district court ordered return of the guns, but did not assign any liability under 42 U. S. C. §1983. Wellman appealed.
Is an RV a residence or a vehicle?: US v. Houck. After snooping through peer-to-peer usage, a Pennsylvania cyber-crimes investigator found six files allegedly containing child pornography associated with a particular IP address. Using a court order, the investigator obtained information that Audrey HJ (the Defendant’s mother) was assigned that particular IP for her home use. The police obtained a search warrant for Audrey’s Pennsylvania home as well as all “vehicles” present at the time. At the time of the raid, the police searched Houck’s Recreational Vehicle (RV) (a “fifth wheel trailer”) where he claims to have been living (at the time, the RV was hooked-up to water and electric lines, and its A/C was running). The district court suppressed the evidence — finding it to be an unreasonable search, and the U.S. government has appealed.