Thai Meditation Association of Alabama, Inc., v. City of Mobile: Eleventh Circuit Finds District Court Improperly Dismissed Plaintiff’s Claims that City Violated State and Federal Religions Protection Laws

Hannah Cassady*

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In Thai Meditation Ass’n of Alabama, Inc., v. City of Mobile, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed whether the district court erred in its dismissal of claims brought by the Thai Meditation Association of Alabama (“the Association”) against the city of Mobile, Alabama (“the City”) for the denial of a permit.  The Association applied to the City for permits to build a “Buddhist meditation and retreat center,” the prospect of which was not received well by the public.  Due to the Association’s religious affiliation and the subsequent public outrage, the permit denial led the Association to believe that the City violated the U.S. Constitution, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), the Alabama Constitution, and state common law.  The Eleventh Circuit declined to decide whether the City committed these violations but held that the district court improperly dismissed the Association’s federal constitutional, RLUIPA, and state constitutional claims. Going forward, the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion in this case will likely be considered by similarly situated plaintiffs in determining whether to bring claims under federal or state law—especially plaintiffs in Alabama who are members of a religious minority.


Law Review Members Advance to National Trial Competition Nationals

Photo Credit: Sara Williams

Cumberland’s National Trial Teams won each round they competed in for Region 8 of the National Trial Competition! Law Review members Trent Testa (3L) and Kate Belyayeva (2L) both competed in this competition and are advancing to Nationals in April. The teams were coached by Judge Jim Roberts, Sara Williams, and Craig Shirley. 

Congratulations!!!

Junior Editor Allison Lowery Places in Top Eight Teams in American Bar Association’s National Negotiation Competition

Congratulations to Law Review member Allison Lowery (2L) for placing in the top eight teams in the American Bar Association’s National Negotiation Competition, hosted the weekend of February 5th! Allison and partner Dylan Martin (3L) advanced to Nationals after competing in this Fall’s regional competition.

This team was coached by Ben Warren, Kevin Bufford, and Thomas Thorneycroft.

Great work!!!

Trademark Law—Trademark Infringement—Willfulness is Not a Precondition to a Profits Award in a Trademark Infringement Suit. Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil, Inc., 140 S. Ct. 1492 (2020).

Amanda Nelson*

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In her casenote chosen for online publication, Junior Editor Amanda Nelson discusses the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil, Inc. and prior precedent on the issue of whether a showing of willfulness was a precondition to be awarded profits in a suit for trademark infringement. The ruling in Romag is particularly significant, as it settles a longstanding split among the circuit courts—at the time Romag was decided, half of the geographic circuits required a plaintiff to prove willful infringement in order to obtain a profits award while the other half did not.

Voter buttons saying vote

Wood v. Raffensperger: Aggrieved Georgia Voter Directed to State Court Following the 2020 Election

Emma Goodloe*

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In Wood v. Raffensperger, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed whether it had jurisdiction over an appeal from the denial of a Georgia voter’s request for emergency relief following the 2020 United States presidential election.  A Georgia voter alleged that the absentee ballot and recount procedures violated existing Georgia law as well as his federal constitutional rights.  The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the District Court’s denial of the voter’s request for emergency relief for lack of standing and mootness and ruled that it did not have jurisdiction over post-election contests involving “issues of vote counting and misconduct that may be properly filed in state courts.” The Eleventh Circuit’s decision in Wood shows that federal courts are not willing to allow voters to tie state law claims into federal claims to gain relief against state officials.  


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Ronning v. Commissioner: Eleventh Circuit Finds Plaintiff Did Not Provide Sufficient Evidence to Show He Was an Accrual-Method Taxpayer

Michael Miaoulis*

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In Ronning v. Commissioner, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed the differences between an accrual-method taxpayer and a cash-method taxpayer.  After the IRS determined that a taxpayer, Scott Ronning (“Ronning”), owed a significant amount in back taxes and penalties, the Tax Court calculated the amount owed based on a finding that Ronning was a cash-method taxpayer. Considering this evidence, the Eleventh Circuit held that the “Tax Court’s finding that Ronning was a cash-method taxpayer was not clearly erroneous. With their decision in Ronning, the court showed deference to the decision of the Tax Court.  However, in its step-by-step analysis, the Eleventh Circuit made clear that a taxpayer could provide sufficient evidence for the court to determine the Tax Court erred in its determination of a taxpayer’s methodology.


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Cumberland Law Review Members Receive CALI Awards for the 2020 Fall Semester

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Please congratulate the following Cumberland Law Review Members for being named Scholars of Merit and receiving CALI Awards for the 2020 Fall Semester! Students who qualify as Scholars of Merit and receive CALI Awards have been recognized by their professors to have written the best exam or were deemed overall superior in that course.

Robert Adams – Business Organizations

Cullen Armstrong – Nonprofit Corp-Law & Govern

Kate Belyayeva – Constitutional Law I; Mergers & Acquisitions

Lauren Brasher – Employment Law

Mitchell Brisbon – Constitutional Law I

Ben Brown – Advanced Evidence

Katelyn Dodd – Workers’ Compensation

Taylor Johnson – Appellate Advocacy; Torts II

Stephanie Lynge – Domestic Relations

Caroline McLeroy – Employment Law

Michael Miaoulis – Business Organizations

Kaylee Rose – Professional Responsibilities

Trent Testa – E-Discovery/Digital Evidence

Gabe Tucker – Administrative Law; Criminal Procedure I; Municipal Courts

Alternative Dispute Resolution and Advocacy: Insights and Strategies for the Modern Advocate

The Cumberland Law Review is excited to announce our upcoming annual Symposium!

The event will be held virtually this year on Friday, February 26! This year’s theme is “Alternative Dispute Resolution and Advocacy: Insights and Strategies for the Modern Advocate.” We have an impressive panel of speakers who will be sharing must-know ADR insights.

Best of all, attorneys who attend will receive 3 FREE CLE credits! Register by emailing lawrev@samford.edu.

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Up in Arms: Son of Former Albanian Prime Minister Claims Defamation in Arms-Dealing Controversy in Berisha v. Lawson

Niki Ozburn*

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In Berisha v. Lawson, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed a defamation suit brought by Shkelzen Berisha (“Berisha”), the son of Albania’s former Prime Minister, against a United States author, Guy Lawson (“Lawson”).  In analyzing the defamation claim, the court considered whether Berisha was a limited public figure in this circumstance, and, if so, whether he had to prove that Lawson acted with actual malice.  The court also expanded on the employee-equivalent theory as it relates to an independent contractor’s ability to claim attorney-client privilege for communications when the contractor is not a traditional employee. The importance of the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling in Berisha v. Lawson is two-fold: (1) it upholds the importance of the First Amendment within the judicial system, even when a public figure is an involved party; and (2) it brings further definition to the Supreme Court’s holding that the attorney-client privilege can be expanded to include non-traditional employees.