U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

  • February 16, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Harvey Fiser, Associate Professor of Business Law at Millsaps College

    All eyes are once again focused on our southern states and their leaders for again defying federal court orders.  This time, as last, is about violating the constitutional rights of its citizens.  The latest in the long line of outspoken obstructionists is Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore.  Moore, infamous for once being removed from his position on the Alabama Supreme Court for defying a federal court order to remove a 2.6-ton monument of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of Alabama’s Supreme Court building, is the lead mouth-piece on the current issue of same-sex marriage. 

    On Monday, February 9, after a denial of a stay request by both the Eleventh Circuit and the United States Supreme Court, United States District Court Judge Granade’s order took effect.  The order declared Alabama’s bans on same-sex marriage violate the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  On that Monday, same-sex couples were allowed the same marriage rights as all other couples in Alabama – until they weren’t. 

    Perhaps forgetting the commandment, “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8),” Justice Moore, on Sunday, February 8, set aside any Sabbath work restrictions and issued an Administrative Order prohibiting all probate judges in Alabama from granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite the federal court order.  Moore supported his order with the technical fact that neither the United States Supreme Court nor the Supreme Court of Alabama had ruled on the Alabama laws – never mentioning the denial of a stay by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit five days prior.  The U.S. Supreme Court did act the next day, and, on Monday, February 9, the path was cleared for same-sex couples to marry in Alabama again.  Surely this satisfied Moore’s Sunday declaration.  Except, it didn’t.

  • October 31, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Paul J. Larkin, Jr., Senior Legal Research Fellow, Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation.

    On November 5, 2014, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a case technically captioned as Yates v. United States, but colloquially known as The Fish Case. The facts of the case are, in a word, bizarre; the government’s theory, even more so. The problem is two-fold: This is a real case, not a law school hypothetical, and the government persuaded the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to rule in its favor. The Eleventh Circuit held that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act -- a statute designed to prevent corporate fraud and accounting shenanigans from sinking large corporations -- makes it a crime for a fisherman to engage in a catch-and-release program.

    In 2007, John Yates was the captain of the Miss Katie, a commercial fishing boat working in the Gulf of Mexico. John Jones, a federally deputized Florida Fish and Game Wildlife Commission officer, was patrolling offshore. He saw the Miss Katie, boarded it to conduct a safety inspection, and found some undersized red grouper. He told Yates to put the grouper aside for reinspection when he returned to port, but Yates decided retroactively to adopt a “catch-and-release” program.  Yates threw the undersized fish overboard, and replaced them with fish that were large enough to be caught.  Bad move.

  • November 3, 2011
    Elbert Parr Tuttle
    Chief Jurist of the Civil Rights Revolution
    Anne Emanuel

    By Anne Emanuel, a law professor at Georgia State University College of Law.

    Elbert Parr Tuttle. In his time his name was synonymous with integrity. That unassailable reputation -- hard earned as an Atlanta lawyer in the first half of the twentieth century and as the commander of an artillery battalion in the Pacific Theater in World War II -- served him well when he took over as Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit in December of 1960. The next month, sitting alone, he lifted a stay only hours after it had issued. Because of his swift, decisive action, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter registered at the University of Georgia that very day.

    The importance of that historic order can hardly be exaggerated. Six long years had passed since the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education and nothing had happened. In five southern states – Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina – public elementary and high schools remained totally segregated. In others there had been token integration; in North Carolina, for instance, 60 black students attended school with white students, leaving the remaining 319,000 in segregated schools. Even less had happened on the voting rights front; black voters remained almost completely disenfranchised across the south.

    As Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit -- then covering Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas – Tuttle led the way in enforcing the constitutional rights of black Americans, in dismantling the American apartheid known as Jim Crow. The task was dangerous and difficult. Tuttle dealt not only with the massive resistance of  demagogues in high and low office, but also with the obstructionism of federal judges committed to protecting the southern way of life, to prohibiting “race mixing,” in the parlance of those troubled times.

  • September 28, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The Obama administration is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court opinion that a major provision of the landmark Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

    In August, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled 2-1 that the individual responsibility provision, or the individual mandate, which requires some people to carry a minimum amount of health care coverage starting in 2014 is unconstitutional.

    The administration decided to skip asking the entire Eleventh Circuit to reconsider the panel’s ruling. The panel’s opinion was swiftly panned by an array of constitutional law experts and legal pundits. The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen blasted the Circuit’s majority opinion as sounding frequently like a “political manifesto.” He continued, “Had its language been made public just one day earlier, for example, you can bet your last pork-chop-on-a-stick that it would have been anthemized at the Republican debate in Iowa.”

    During an ACS press briefing on the Eleventh Circuit panel decision, ACS Board Chair and University of Chicago law school professor Geoffrey R. Stone said, “[I]f you gave this case, for example, to a group of law students who didn’t have any particular views on the merits but just as a legal exercise, and you gave them the existing precedents, I think they would have no difficulty upholding the legislation.” Audio of the briefing is available here.

    In announcing its action in defense of the ACA’s integral provision, the Department of Justice said:

    The Department has consistently and successfully defended this law in several court of appeals, and only the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled it unconstitutional. We believe the question is appropriate for review by the Supreme Court.

    Throughout history, there have been similar challenges to other landmark legislation such as the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act, and all of those challenges failed.  We believe the challenges to Affordable Care Act — like the one in the 11th Circuit — will also ultimately fail and that the Supreme Court will uphold the law.

    Earlier in the summer, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the ACA’s mandate, holding, in part, “The minimum coverage provision regulates activity that is decidedly economic.”