America Descends Into Hell One Federal Ruling at a Time

All eyes are on the Supreme Court right now, but what’s going on at the appellate level is also terrifying.

Justin Ward
6 min readSep 6, 2021


(Justin Ward / CanvaPro)

Ever since the Supreme Court functionally overturned Roe vs. Wade last week, national attention has been laser-focused on the ruling’s dire consequences for women’s health. Meanwhile, other horrifying decisions are being handed down one level lower on the judicial hierarchy. These may not have the same far-reaching implications — but they’re pretty goddamn bleak.

While circuit courts may not get as much press as the Supreme Court, they play a significant role in establishing legal precedent under the principle of stare decisis. Their decisions also have binding authority over all the lower federal courts in their jurisdiction.

In the past week, appellate courts issued some rulings related to policing that nudge federal case law in a disturbing direction.

County Not Liable for Police Inaction That Led to Murder-Suicide

Excerpt from Rosemarie Reilly’s petition for a protective order (Grand Rapids Police Department / Public domain)

In 2016, a Michigan student named Rosemarie Reilly was being stalked, harassed and physically abused by her ex Jeremy Kelley and the local sheriff’s office did nothing. Kelley owned guns and was calling her upwards of 40 times a day, threatening to shoot Reilly and himself.

There were multiple domestic violence incidents, including one in which Kelley sent Reilly to the hospital with a broken nose. Reilly petitioned the court for a protective order and it was granted. However, the judge didn’t issue an order to take Kelley’s guns away.

Kelley had open warrants for domestic strangulation and stalking. The sheriff’s deputies had his current address and could have easily taken him into custody. Instead, they mailed him a letter asking him to turn himself in.

In other words, even though state and police inaction undeniably allowed Kelley to murder her, the county can’t be held…



Justin Ward

Journalist and activist. Founder and co-chair of DivestSPD. Bylines at SPLC, The Baffler, GEN, USA Today. Follow on Twitter: @justwardoctrine, @DivestSPD