Diary of a 1L
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Monday, August 11, 2003
3:22 PM

Time to write about the second orientation case.

This case has a nice summary right up front that the other case lacks. That should help. But this is a much longer case and seems to actually have some lasting importance.

There's a lot you can say, but I want to try to make it as general as possible. The importance of this case goes beyond the particular parties involved at that particular time, and to bring that out you need to divorce the legal findings and reasoning from the specifics. (Wait, I'm not in school yet, how could I know or even profess to know all this?)

The appellant argues that since he's guaranteed due process by the Fifth Amendment, you can't have a law that more or less discriminates against prisoners just because they are prisoners. Interestingly, the court buys his argument, but not for the same reason.

The court uses a form of argument where they say "Either this is true, or this is true, or this is true. But this and this aren't true, so #3 must be true."

Alternative Number One is that the appellant is legally capable of establishing a domicile in Pennsylvania where he's locked up. In that case, the court must reverse the lower court's decision.

Alternative Number Two is that the appellant is not legally capable of establishing a domicile in PA. The court says there's only two ways this could be true, thus we have:

Alternative 2(a): He can't "form the intent" to make Pennsylvania his home because he's forced to be there.

Or Alternative 2(b): He's "civilly disabled" because he's a federal prisoner.

So the court then knocks off 2(a) and 2(b) in turn, and it takes a lot longer to get past 2(a) than 2(b).

The court talks about lots of different situations where someone might be forced to live in a certain place, like when you're in the military living on a base, or when you get appointed to the Cabinet and have to move to Washington, or when you move to another city to go to school or to teach. The court says that the rules about whether you can establish a domicile in the place you were forced to go can vary; it doesn't always go the same way. The court says if you can't preclude servicemen or students or monks or Cabinet members from establishing a domicile in the place they're forced to live, you can't do it to prisoners, either.

I think in this section there is a lot of meaty, weighty stuff that I don't understand yet.

As far as 2(b) goes, the court says that losing your right to sue in federal court has never in the past been considered part of the punishment when you're jailed.

The court does not say whether or not the appellant is a citizen of Pennsylvania, or Ohio, or anywhere else. All it says is that the possibility that the prisoner is domiciled in PA shouldn't be dismissed out of hand and has to be given consideration. The district court still has to decide the facts of the case, and it might be an uphill battle for the appellant to prove that he really intends to live in PA and not move back to Ohio.

In fact, in real life, the guy did move back to Ohio after he got out of jail. That big fat non-murdering liar!

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