Benjamin Beaton

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No arguments at the court last week, but we received 13 published opinions and 9 unpublished opinions. Plus, as we’ll discuss later this week, one white-hot denial from en banc review that produced four separate opinions. Here’s what you may have missed: A substantively unreasonable sentence – A divided Sixth Circuit panel vacated the sentence of Davian Warren as substantively unreasonable(!) in United States v. Warren. That doesn’t happen every day. Though Warren, the government,…
Showing no signs of a Kentucky Derby hangover (or any follow-on litigation, at least not yet), last week the court wrapped up arguments during the second half of its May sitting. Your quick recap: A rational basis for suspended licenses – In a blow to con-law professors and indigent drivers, a divided panel held in Fowler v. Benson that Michigan may suspend drivers licenses for unpaid fines. The trial court had granted a…
“How long will my appeal take?”  A question clients always ask and lawyers often resist (and which always depend heavily on the individual facts of the case).  But the data also shows that the average has continued to decline in the Sixth Circuit.  In 2011, the average Sixth Circuit appeal took 15.5 months from the notice of appeal to the final decision.  Under the leadership of Sixth Circuit Clerk Deborah Hunt and Chief Judges Batchelder…
In Thacker v. Tennessee Valley Authority, the Supreme Court held that sovereign immunity does not necessarily shield TVA’s “discretionary functions” from liability.  Justice Kagan’s unanimous opinion reversed the Eleventh Circuit, which had sided with longstanding Sixth Circuit precedent treating many TVA functions as immune from suit. Congress created the Tennessee Valley Authority, a government-owned corporation, to promote economic development during the Great Depression. TVA exercises both “traditionally governmental functions” (like making arrests and condemning…
Recently we discussed academic criticism claiming that circuit courts may respond to increased caseload pressure by spending less time per case or lengthening the appeals process.  We found evidence suggesting that this is not occurring at the Sixth Circuit.  One interesting side note that our analysis showed is that the percentage of written decisions has increased significantly over the past decade.  We have calculated that the percentage of total appeals that end in a written…
When welcoming his (many) new colleagues, Judge Sutton has sometimes mentioned his court’s long-lost nickname: “The Learned Sixth.” Many of its earliest judges—Taft, Day, Lurton, Howell Jackson—served as diplomats or law school deans, cooled their heels at the Sixth Circuit, and proceeded to the Supreme Court. Is the Sixth Circuit recovering its name and reputation? Several current judges have appeared on shortlists of potential Supreme Court nominees. And as for the…