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Judicial Reform Second Circuit

United States Court of Appeals: 2nd Circuit

Leans Pro Government
Total Judgeships: 

13 (0 vacancies)

Political Makeup: 

8 Dem – 5 GOP

New York, New York
Connecticut, New York, Vermont


About The Court:

The Second Circuit Court was established on June 16, 1891 and is mid-sized compared to the other 12 courts of appeals. The Second Circuit has been home to many notable jurists, including Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, who served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1967 until his death in 1993.


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Landowner Denied Right to Build Home on Her Property

Fri, 08/29/2014

Holt v. Town of Stonington: Holt sought equitable relief to prevent the Town of Stonington from denying her the ability to build on her privately owned lot of land. The district court granted injunction to Holt. Holt purchased the land in question with the advisory opinion of a zoning officer stating Holt would be approved to build a single-family residence on the property. However, this initial understanding was later overturned based on 1981 alterations to the property, involving the sale of a small section of the property. Consequently, Holt filed a federal appeal. According to Connecticut law, a plaintiff must first exhaust available and adequate administrative remedies before receiving judicial relief in a zoning dispute. Circuit court found Holt did not exhaust these options, and thus the district court lacked jurisdiction to rule in this dispute.


Circuit court vacates and remands, with instructions to dismiss the complaint without prejudice.

Read the full decision here

Court Demands Transparency from Correctional Facilities

Mon, 08/18/2014

United States v. Erie County: United States took action against Erie County correctional facilities for allegedly violating their inmates’ federal constitutional rights. As part of the original settlement, both parties agreed to have compliance consultants prepare progress reports of the County’s correctional facilities conditions. The progress reports were to be filed with the district court. The district court allowed the reports to be filed under seal, leading to the New York Civil Liberties Union intervention and requests to have the reports unsealed. The district court allowed the intervention but denied the motion to unseal the reports.


Circuit Court reverses the denial, and holds that the First Amendment requires public access to the reports.

Read the full decision here

Eminent Domain Case Dismissed On Precedent

Wed, 07/16/2014

Kurtz v. Verizon New York, Inc.: Verizon placed a number of multi-unit terminal boxes on the Kurtz's property without compensating him for the land the boxes rested on. Kurtz filed an eminent domain complaint based on physical takings, versus regulatory taking, which led the lower courts to dismiss the case on the grounds that Kurtz didn’t exhaust all his local means of gaining compensation for the land. Kurtz filed for appeal, stating that the precedent doesn’t demand additional action and that his due process rights were violated.


The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the lower courts by dismissing Kurtz complaint. The Court ruled that precedent for an eminent domain complaint of this time does necessitate that Kurtz exhaust all local means of getting compensation from Verizon before filing such a suit. In addition, since the complaint is based on a physical taking versus a regulatory one, the Court deemed that due process rights were not violated.

Read the full decision here

Government Shutdown Factored into Criminal Sentencing

Wed, 07/09/2014

United States v. Park: Park was convicted of filing a false corporate tax return and was sentenced to a term on probation. The normal sentencing for this crime involves a term of imprisonment. When Park’s case was in court, the government was in a “government shut-down” and therefore, the probation sentence was ordered based on the court’s conclusion that the funds necessary to incarcerate Park may not be available.


The Circuit Court of Appeals vacated and remanded the case for retrial. The Court ruled that a sentencing cannot and should not be based on the fiscal state of the government but rather on the severity of the crime. Thus, Park’s case will re-appear in court for a new conviction and sentencing.

Read the full decision here

Campaign Finance Laws Challenged On Vagueness

Wed, 07/02/2014

Vermont Right to Life Committee (VRLC) v. Sorrell, et al.: VRLC is a non-profit corporation who is associated with VRLC-FIPE which is an expenditure-only political action committee. VRLC filed suit challenging Vermont election laws on the basis that the disclosure provisions concerning media and election communications are vague, infringe upon freedom of speech, and violate the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment.


The 2nd Circuit Court ruled in favor of the defendant, affirming that Vermont election laws were not unconstitutionally vague and did not violate the 1st or 14th Amendment. The Court also deemed that the law was just in placing contribution limitations on an expenditure-only PAC in connection to its spending on “mass media activity” and “electioneering communications”.

Read the full decision here

Company Off Hook For Employee Loss of Retirement

Thu, 05/29/2014

Coulter, et al. v. Morgan Stanley & Co. Inc., et al.: In 2007-2008 Morgan Stanley shifted its 401(k) Plan and Employee Stock Ownership Plan to be based in company stock rather than cash assets. When the company’s stock price substantially decreased, plaintiffs sued for losses. The District Court dismissed the claims stating that they believed Morgan Stanley works prudently in relation to its stock prices/assets and therefore cannot be held liable for losses.


The Second Circuit Court upheld the decision, adopting the Moench Presumption, a controversial rule that is slowly being accepted by a growing number of the circuit courts. The Court determined that a loss of stock value does not break the fiduciary agreement between the company and its employees who participate in their retirement benefit programs.

Read the full decision here

Drone Documents Released to New York Times

Mon, 04/21/2014

The New York Times Company v. United States. The New York Times submitted a request for documents from the Department of Defense relating to the use of drones in the attacks that killed three US citizens. The District Court dismissed the case on motions for summary judgment, preventing the case from going to trial on the assumption that the outcomes were obvious.


The Second Circuit Court overrode the decision made and called for certain documents’ redacted versions to be released to the The New York Times.

Read the full decision here

Business Shut Down After Letter Sent To Official

Wed, 03/19/2014

Royal Crown Day Care LLC v. Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Just days after sending a letter to NY State Senator Martin Golden on allegations of corruption at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the owners of Royal Crown Day Care had their business shut down for violating the health code. They claimed this was retaliatory and that their 1st Amendment and substantive due process rights had been violated. The Health Department filed a motion for summary judgement on these claims.


The Second Circuit Court found that the New York City Health Code granted the Health Department discretion when administering corrective action to health code violations and did not necessarily have to close the facility. Therefore, the summary judgement in favor of the Health Department was not granted.

Read the full decision here

Precedent Set For Parental Choice

Tue, 03/11/2014

C.L. v. Scarsdale Union Free School District: Federal law requires states to create an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each disabled student. C.L.'s parents requested an IEP for their son, but the school district declined, so they placed their child in private school. Federal law also states that all children are entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Under the FAPE provision, C.L.'s parents requested reimbursement for C.L.'s tuition at the private school.


The Second Circuit Court reversed the decision that denied C.L.'s parents reimbursement. They found that the quality of the child’s education program takes precedent over all other considerations. C.L.’s parents were entitled to reimbursement from the school district so that the private school could provide their child with a FAPE.

Read the full decision here

Courts Must Assume All Alleged Facts Are True

Thu, 02/13/2014

Nielsen v. Rabin: Charles Nielsen was beaten by police and required immediate medical attention. He claimed his 14th Amendment rights were violated by hospital doctors for deliberate indifference and not providing necessary medical treatment. When the defendants motioned to dismiss the case, Nielsen requested to amend his complaint with an allegation that police told his doctors he attacked a female officer and should be ignored. The district court denied this request and granted the defendants' motion to dismiss.


The Second Circuit Court reversed the decision. They found that courts must assume all alleged facts are true, and then decide whether the plaintiff is entitled to relief when the facts are proven in court.

Read the full decision here