Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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November 8-12 2010.

United States First Circuit, 11/12/2010
Freedom from Religion Found. v. Hanover Sch. Dist., No. 09-2473
In plaintiffs’ suit seeking a declaration that the federal Pledge statute and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in New Hampshire’s public schools violates various provisions of the U.S. Constitution, the New Hampshire Constitution, and federal and state law, district court’s dismissal of all of plaintiffs’ federal claims on their merits is affirmed as the New Hampshire School Patriot Act and the voluntary, teacher-led recitation of the Pledge by the state’s public school students do not violate the Constitution. .

United States Sixth Circuit, 11/09/2010
McCarthy v. City of Cleveland, No. 09-4149
In plaintiffs’ 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against the City of Cleveland, claiming that the city’s decision to enforce its traffic camera ordinance against drivers who lease their cars constituted an unconstitutional taking of private property without just compensation because the ordinance originally did not provide for lessee liability, district court’s dismissal of the suit for failure to state a cause of action under the Takings Clause of either the United States or Ohio Constitution is affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded where: 1) plaintiffs have failed to plead a cause of action under the Takings Clause as the challenged ordinance does not seize or otherwise impair an identifiable fund of money; but 2) the district court’s judgment on plaintiffs’ state law claims is reversed and remanded as the district court did not analyze plaintiffs’ claim which asserted that the city’s enforcement of the traffic camera ordinance unjustly enriched the city. .

United States Sixth Circuit, 11/09/2010
Sykes v. Anderson, No. 08-2088
In plaintiffs’ 42 U.S.C. section 1983 actions against several police officers, asserting claims of false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and denial of due process, and against the City of Detroit claiming that the city failed to respond to citizen complaints and that it failed to train and supervise its employees, following their overturned convictions for state crimes of “Larceny by Conversion” and “False Report of a Felony,” jury verdict in favor of the plaintiffs on their claims against two police officers and award of over $2.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages is affirmed in part and remanded in part where: 1) defendants’ qualified immunity claim is waived as their failure to make a pre-verdict motion for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(a) on the grounds of qualified immunity precluded them from making a post-verdict motion under Rule 50(b) on that ground; 2) district court’s judgment as to plaintiffs’ claim of false arrest is affirmed because probable cause was lacking at the time the officer submitted a warrant application; 3) judgment against the defendants as to the plaintiffs’ claims for malicious prosecution is affirmed as the record contains ample evidence that the officer influenced or participated in the ultimate decision to prosecute plaintiffs by way of his knowing misstatements to the prosecutor; 4) judgment against the defendants as to the plaintiffs’ due-process claims is affirmed; 5) district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendants’ motion for a new trial; and 6) because the district court failed to articulate a basis for its denial of the defendants’ motion for remittitur, the matter is remanded for the sole purpose of having the district court explain its reasons for denying remittitur Continue reading

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October 11-15 2010.

United States First Circuit, 10/14/2010
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston v. Seger-Thomschitz
In an art museum’s action for a declaratory judgment to confirm its rightful ownership of a painting, which a sole surviving heir of the painting’s artist claimed that the artist was forced to sell under duress after Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938, district court’s grant of summary judgment for the museum on statute of limitations grounds is affirmed where: 1) because defendant did not make a demand on the museum more than three years after her causes of action accrued, summary judgment was properly granted on the museum’s limitations defense; 2) defendant has not shown that application of the Massachusetts statute of limitations to the Massachusetts causes of action in this case would cause a significant conflict with, or threat to, the federal interests and policies embodied in section 510(c)(3); and 3) the Massachusetts statute of limitations does not conflict with the federal government’s foreign policy. ..

United States First Circuit, 10/15/2010
Statchen v. Palmer
In plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against police officers, claiming that they used excessive force in arresting him for public intoxication and in transporting him from a station house to jail, district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants on the basis of qualified immunity is affirmed as the district court had no basis for sending the case to a jury because plaintiff’s own deposition provided no evidence to indicate that the force exerted was unnecessary, or that a reasonable police officer would have thought otherwise.

United States Second Circuit, 10/12/2010
Amore v. Novarro
In a civil rights action alleging a false arrest, a denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity is reversed where the district court erred in deciding that it would have been clear to a reasonable officer in defendant’s position that making the arrest was unlawful.
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October 4-8, 2010.

United States First Circuit, 10/08/2010
Tevlin v. Spencer
District court’s denial of defendant’s request for habeas relief from his convictions for first-degree murder, armed robbery, and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, is affirmed where: 1) defendant has failed to demonstrate the existence of ineffective assistance of counsel in any of his theories; and 2) the Massachusetts discovery procedures are not on their face unconstitutional and defendant has not established that their application here violated due process. .

United States Second Circuit, 10/04/2010
Analytical Diagnostic Labs, Inc. v. Kusel
In a class-of-one equal protection claim alleging that defendants, employees of the New York State Department of Health, intentionally and maliciously subjected plaintiff-clinical testing laboratory to an intense and unwarranted degree of regulatory scrutiny, summary judgment for defendant is affirmed where there was no record evidence raising a question of fact as to whether: 1) other labs were similarly situated; or 2) even assuming other labs were similarly situated, that the same decisionmakers were aware of the similarity and treated plaintiff differently.

United States Second Circuit, 10/08/2010
Byrne v. Rutledge
In an action alleging that Vermont’s denial of plaintiff’s requested vanity license plate, on the grounds that it contained a religious message in violation of state law prohibiting such messages on vanity license plates, violated the Free Speech Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Due Process Clause, summary judgment for defendants is reversed where Vermont’s ban on all vanity plate combinations that “refer, in any language, to a … religion” or “deity” constituted unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. .
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I often find there is little time to read all of the books I would like, or even need, to and therefore find myself resorting to book reviews. Last Sunday I read a review that to me seemd exceptional and would like to share it with you.

David Badertscher

REVIEW::

Constitutional Law

United States Second Circuit, 09/14/2010
Chase Grp. Alliance LLC v. N.Y. Dep’t of Fin.
In an action claiming that plaintiffs’ right to due process was violated by liens placed upon their properties by the City of New York, dismissal of the action is affirmed where the complaint alleged that New York law afforded appellants a right to notice and access to a tribunal to assert their objections before the liens were imposed, and thus, appellants’ right to due process was not violated. ..

United States Second Circuit, 09/17/2010
Faghri v. Univ. of Conn.
In an action claiming that defendants unconstitutionally retaliated against plaintiff for his exercise of his right to free speech in violation of the First Amendment and violated his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment when they removed him from his position as dean, a denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity is reversed where plaintiff had no clearly established right to remain as dean while voicing opposition to the policies of the team he was hired to be part of.

United States Second Circuit, 09/17/2010
Van Allen v. Cuomo
In an action challenging New York Election Law sections 5-210 and 5-304, which prevented plaintiff’s enrollment in a party from becoming effective until after the November 2007 general election, dismissal of the complaint is affirmed where plaintiff did not indicate that he currently intended or had already attempted to change his party enrollment again, and thus his claims were moot.
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August 16-20, 2010.

United States Third Circuit, 08/18/2010
McCauley v. Univ. of the Virgin Islands
In plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against a university, its president and two other individuals arising from the university’s decision charging plaintiff with violating provisions of the Student Code of Conduct (Code) for his alleged harassment of an individual who had accused his friend of rape, claiming that various Code provisions violated the First Amendment, district court’s judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part where: 1) district court’s dismissal of all claims against the university in holding that it was not a “person” for purposes of section 1983 is affirmed; 2) the two individuals, as employees of the university acting in their official capacities, were likewise not “persons” for purposes of section 1983; 3) adjudication of plaintiff’s as-applied challenge to Major Infraction Paragraph E was unnecessary because the district court had already concluded that the paragraph was facially unconstitutional; 4) district court’s dismissal of Paragrap h B for lack of an injury should be reversed and judgment should be entered in favor of the two employees because that paragraph has a limited, constitutional construction; and 5) Paragraphs H and R are unconstitutional infringements on students’ First Amendment right to free speech.

United States Sixth Circuit, 08/17/2010
McKenna v. Honsowetz
In plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against two police officers who responded to a 911 report that plaintiff was having a medical seizure and and thereafter allegedly violated his Fourth Amendment rights, district court’s denial of defendants’ motions for summary judgment based on qualified immunity and reduction of an award for pain and suffering from $275,000 to $10,000 are affirmed where: 1) whether the officers were entitled to qualified immunity depends on whether they acted in a law-enforcement capacity or in an emergency-medical-response capacity when engaging in the conduct that plaintiff claimed violated the Fourth Amendment, and here, the view of the facts undoubtedly supports a finding that the officers acted in a law-enforcement capacity; 2) the record contained ample evidence to support the determination that the officers unreasonably searched the home and seized plaintiff; and 3) plaintiff’s appeal of the reduction in the award is denied as the Suprem e Court has clearly stated that a plaintiff cannot appeal a remittitur after he has accepted it. .

United States Sixth Circuit, 08/20/2010
Hussein v. City of Perrysburg
In homeowners’ suit against a city, a city inspector and other individuals in their official and personal capacities, claiming that defendants violated their procedural and substantive due process rights by ordering a construction worker to remove a temporary asphalt layer in their driveway, judgment of the district court is reversed and remanded where: 1) defendants are entitled to qualified immunity because state officials are permitted under the Constitution to inform citizens of the officials’ view that they are violating state or local law and state officials are also permitted to threaten litigation or prosecution if citizens do not agree to conform their actions to state or local law; and 2) defendant did not violate plaintiffs’ substantive due process rights as the asphalt driveway incident did not implicate specific constitutional guarantees.
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August 2-6, 2010.

United States First Circuit, 08/04/2010
IMS Health Inc. v. Mills
In a challenge to the constitutionality of 22 Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 22, section 1711-E(2-A), which allows prescribers licensed in Maine to choose not to make their identifying information available for use in marketing prescription drugs to them, district court’s grant of plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction in prohibiting Maine from enforcing section 1711-E(2-A) on the basis of plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims is reversed where: 1) plaintiffs’ First Amendment challenges fail for the reasons stated in Ayotte, as the statute regulates conduct, not speech, and even if it regulates commercial speech, that regulation satisfies constitutional standards; 2) the Maine statute constitutionally protects Maine prescribers’ choice to opt in to confidentiality protection to avoid being subjected to unwanted solicitations based on their identifying data; 3) plaintiffs’ argument that the statute is void for vagueness is rejected; 4) section 1711-E(2-A) regulates prescript ion drug information intermediaries’ out-of-state use or sale of opted-in Maine prescribers’ data, and this interpretation does not raise constitutional concerns under the dormant Commerce Clause; and 5) nor would section 1711-E(2-A)’s regulation of prescription drug information intermediaries’ out-of-state use of sale of opted-in Maine prescribers’ identifying data raise constitutional concerns as a disproportionate burdens on interstate commerce under Pike.

United States Second Circuit, 08/02/2010
Scott v. Fischer
In an action claiming that defendants deprived plaintiff of liberty without due process of law both by placing her on mandatory post-release supervision without a proper judicial sentence and by failing to take action to remove the supervision before or after she was rearrested for violating the terms thereof, dismissal of the action is affirmed where defendants were entitled to qualified immunity for all actions they took prior to the Second Circuit’s decision in Earley v. Murray, 451 F.3d 71 (2d Cir. 2006), and further, plaintiff has not pleaded sufficient facts to state a claim upon which relief can be granted for any actions the defendants took thereafter. ..

United States Second Circuit, 08/03/2010
US v. Broxmeyer
Defendant’s convictions for production of child pornography and for transportation of a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity are reversed where: 1) the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant persuaded, induced, or enticed the victim to take Photos 1 and 2; and 2) an 18 U.S.C. section 2423(a) conviction cannot lie where the unlawful sexual act occurs before the crossing of state lines, and where there is no evidence of an intent to commit a sexual act when state lines were crossed.
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