Posts Tagged ‘Sixth Circuit’

“The First Amendment does not depend on whether everyone is in on the joke.”

“…when it comes to parody, the law requires a reasonable reader standard, not a ‘most gullible person on Facebook’ standard. The First Amendment does not depend on whether everyone is in on the joke.” — Judge Amul Thapar, Sixth Circuit, writing on behalf of a unanimous panel that “an Ohio man who was acquitted of a felony after creating a parody Facebook page that mocked a suburban Cleveland police department can sue the city and two police officers over his arrest.” [Jonathan Stempel, Reuters]

Related: everyone has the right to call politicians idiots, and that goes for gun store owners too [Eugene Volokh; North Carolina gun store owner’s billboard likened by sitting member of Congress to “inciting violence”]

Insurer owes $200,000 after drunken game of “chicken”

The insurance policy had excluded coverage for injuries arising from “illegal use of alcohol,” but a Sixth Circuit panel ruled that since the 22-year-old’s actual consumption of the alcohol hadn’t been unlawful — though his decision to operate a dirt bike while intoxicated afterward was — the exclusion did not apply. Back to the drawing board on contract language for the insurer [John Agar, MLive; Lowell, Mich.]

May 3 roundup

Sixth Circuit: IRS, unlike Caligula, cannot punish under unproclaimed law

Judge Jeffrey Sutton, writing for a Sixth Circuit panel, reverses a Tax Court ruling in an opinion beginning thus:

Caligula posted the tax laws in such fine print and so high that his subjects could not read them. Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, bk. 4, para. 41 (Robert Graves, trans., 1957). That’s not a good idea, we can all agree. How can citizens comply with what they can’t see? And how can anyone assess the tax collector’s exercise of power in that setting? The Internal Revenue Code improves matters in one sense, as it is accessible to everyone with the time and patience to pore over its provisions.

In today’s case, however, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service denied relief to a set of taxpayers who complied in full with the printed and accessible words of the tax laws. The Benenson family, to its good fortune, had the time and patience (and money) to understand how a complex set of tax provisions could lower its taxes.

And taking issue with the IRS Commissioner’s decision to disallow the use of two Congressionally approved devices, the Roth IRA and DISC (domestic international sales corporation), in a way said to trigger the so-called substance-over-form doctrine:

Each word of the “substance-over-form doctrine,” at least as the Commissioner has used it here, should give pause. If the government can undo transactions that the terms of the Code expressly authorize, it’s fair to ask what the point of making these terms accessible to the taxpayer and binding on the tax collector is. “Form” is “substance” when it comes to law. The words of law (its form) determine content (its substance). How odd, then, to permit the tax collector to reverse the sequence—to allow him to determine the substance of a law and to make it govern “over” the written form of the law—and to call it a “doctrine” no less.

[Summa Holdings v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue via Paul Caron/TaxProf]

Free speech roundup

  • Uh-oh: “40% of Millennials OK with limiting speech offensive to minorities” [Pew Research, Cathy Young on Twitter (“OK, NOW can we stop the ‘naww, political correctness isn’t a threat to free speech, it’s just about courtesy’ spin?”)]
  • Breezy but informative guide to why Schneiderman & Co. might hope to find, amid the general rule that the First Amendment protects business speech about public policy, an exception/ loophole for business speech about public policy when it affects securities [Matt Levine, Bloomberg View; earlier on climate speech investigations here, etc.]
  • “Lawsplainer: How The Sixth Circuit Stood Up To Hecklers (And Cops)” [Popehat on Michigan case of Bible Believers v. Wayne County, Dearborn protesters threatened with arrest for “disorderly conduct” arising from prospect of violence against them]
  • Discrimination law: “Can Office Depot be forced to print flyers that it disapproves of?” [Eugene Volokh; compare Hands On Originals case in Kentucky]
  • Scary: UK’s Muslim Council calls for controls on UK press coverage of Islamic issues [Ben Flanagan, Al-Arabiya] Prominent Labour MP says he would have “no problem” with reintroducing blasphemy laws [National Secular Society]
  • Cook County sheriff sent letterhead takedown demands to Backpage.com over sex ads, but Supreme Court has looked askance at informal you’d-better-not-publish-this pressure by government [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer, Cato]
  • Portland, Ore. police department “encourages the reporting to law enforcement” of “offensive language used on social media” even when not illegal. It does? [Charles Cooke]

Sixth Circuit smacks EEOC on work-from-home accommodation

An 8-5 decision from (these days) one of the nation’s more liberal circuits in EEOC v. Ford Motor Company:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to reasonably accommodate their disabled employees; it does not endow all disabled persons with a job—or job schedule—of their choosing. Jane Harris, a Ford Motor Company employee with irritable bowel syndrome, sought a job schedule of her choosing: to work from home on an as-needed basis, up to four days per week. Ford denied her request, deeming regular and predictable on-site attendance essential to Harris’s highly interactive job. Ford’s papers andpractices—and Harris’s three past telecommuting failures—backed up its business judgment.

Nevertheless, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Ford under the ADA. It alleged that Ford failed to reasonably accommodate Harris by denying her telecommuting request and retaliated against her for bringing the issue to the EEOC’s attention. The district court granted summary judgment to Ford on both claims. We affirm.

More: Jon Hyman. On the EEOC’s many rebuffs in federal court, see here, here, here, here, etc.

Labor and employment roundup

Courts rebuff EEOC again

I’ve got a new post up at Cato (“Sixth Circuit: You’re Drunk, EEOC, Go Home“) on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s spectacular loss yesterday at the Sixth Circuit in the Kaplan case. As I comment, the victory for the defendant is

all the more impressive because one of the three judges on the opinion is liberal lion Damon Keith, about as sympathetic a judicial ear as the EEOC could normally hope for. It’s a sharp setback for the agency’s dubious “disparate impact” campaign against employer use of credit and criminal records in hiring. And it’s also part of a pattern of rebuffs and defeats the EEOC has been dealt by judges across the country since President Obama turned the agency on a sharp leftward course with his appointments.

The Sixth Circuit has actually been one of the EEOC’s better circuits in recent years. For example, it reversed a Michigan federal judge who in 2011 had awarded $2.6 million in attorneys’ fees to Cintas, the employee-uniform company, and reinstated the lawsuit. In doing so, the appellate panel nullified what had been the lower court’s findings of “egregious and unreasonable conduct” by the agency, including a “reckless sue first, ask questions later strategy.” The commission hailed the reversal as one of its big legal wins — although when one of your big boasts is getting $2.6 million in sanctions against you thrown out, it might be that you don’t have much to brag about.

For some other recent EEOC courtroom setbacks, check our roundup of last month. If you wonder why the commission persists in its extreme aggressiveness anyway, one answer may be that the strategy works: most defendants settle, and the commission hauled in a record $372 million in settlements last year. Yet here and there, as with Kaplan, defendants decide to put up a fight, with instructive results. When will Congress begin to hold the commission accountable? More: Hans Bader, CEI.

Labor and employment roundup

  • Labor Department wants to shut down consignors-as-volunteers consignment-sale business plan [Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Sean Higgins/Examiner]
  • Operating Engineers Local 17: “Legality of union violence at heart of court case” [Buffalo News]
  • Alternative to “Ban the Box”: revisit extent to which old convictions stay on the books [Eli Lehrer; Baltimore Sun on municipal proposal]
  • Human capital investment by women has narrowed gender pay gap, desire for time flexibility crucial in explaining what remains [Tyler Cowen on Claudia Goldin paper]
  • Carl Horowitz on UAW push to organize VW in Chattanooga [Capital Research Center]
  • Seyfarth Shaw’s 10th annual Workplace Class Action Litigation Report [Seyfarth, Daniel Fisher]
  • Sixth Circuit: transfer can count as adverse action even when employee had previously requested it [Jon Hyman]

Sixth Circuit: civil RICO not available for failed worker’s comp claim

Dividing 11-5: “Plaintiffs who failed in their state worker’s compensation claim cannot sue their employers and their medical experts under federal civil racketeering laws, the en banc 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.” [Jackson et al. v. Sedgwick Claims Management et al., PDF; Miller Canfield; Business Insurance; Steven Schwinn, Constitutional Law Prof Blog]