In 2001, the New England Patriots won their first Super Bowl. In the home stretch of that season, Bill Belichick showed the team a video of a horse race from The Breeders Cup. In the middle, Belichick paused the video and asked the team which horse they thought would win the race. He then explained that it didn’t matter, the race wasn’t over! That’s the story of Gil v. Winn Dixie – this case isn’t over, not by a long shot.
What’s This Case About?
In 2017, a trial was held in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The issue: whether Winn Dixie had to make its website accessible for a blind person. In a scathing decision, Federal Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. ruled that Winn Dixie needed to make its website accessible for the blind. Winn Dixie appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Appellate Court Reverses – For Now
Almost 4 years later, the Eleventh Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, reversed the decision of the lower court. In doing so, the Eleventh Circuit said that websites aren’t covered under the ADA.
This is a LANDMARK decision… at least that’s what everyone thinks. But on Friday, April 9, 2021, just a few days after the decision, something happened that was missed by anyone not directly involved in the case.
The Stay that Everyone Missed
So, bear with me because this is going to get a little technical. When an appeals court reverses a lower court, they issue this thing called a “Mandate.” It’s when they tell the lower court what to do.
In Gil v. Winn Dixie, a judge that sits on the Eleventh Circuit (there are 15 total judges that are part of the court) decided to stop the issuance of the “Mandate.” That means that although the decision was issued, it hasn’t taken effect yet. This is very rare and unless you have intimate knowledge of the case, you wouldn’t know this happened.
What Does This Mean and What’s Next?
The judge who stopped the “Mandate” is likely polling all of the other judges to see if they want to re-hear the case en banc, which means before the entire court (all 15 judges). Given the stay of the “Mandate,” Gil’s counsel just filed papers asking the entire court to rehear the case. These en banc hearings are rare, but even rarer is when a judge stays a mandate. It’s usually only seen in cases of tremendous importance
The point here – this case is far from over.