Articles Posted in Court Decisions

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March 21-25, 2011.

United States First Circuit, 03/22/2011
US v. Werra, No. 09-1593
Conviction and sentencing of defendant is reversed because stop-and-frisk conducted on him after law enforcement officers forced their way into a house occupied by a group of unrelated individuals to execute an arrest warrant violated the Fourth Amendment rights of defendant, where he was not the subject of the warrant.

United States Fourth Circuit, 03/25/2011
US v. Masciandaro, No. 09-4839
Conviction and sentencing of defendant for carrying or possessing a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle, under 36 C.F.R. section 2.4(b), is affirmed where the general federal savings statute, 1 U.S.C. Section 109, denies defendants an automatic entitlement to the benefit of post-arrest changes in the law.

United States Ninth Circuit, 03/21/2011
Smith v. Almada, No. 09-55334
In an appeals arising out of the arrest and trial of the appellant for arson, summary judgment in favor of the appellee is affirmed where failure to disclose evidence during criminal trial did not prejudice appellant.
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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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November 8-12 2010.

United States Fourth Circuit, 11/12/2010
US v. Ide, No. 09-4833
District court’s grant of government’s petition to revoke defendant’s term of supervised release originally imposed in May 2002 as part of his sentence on a federal charge, claiming that defendant’s commission of an additional state offense, along with his failure to file monthly reports, violated the conditions of his supervised release, is affirmed as, under the circumstances, a defendant’s supervised release term is tolled under 18 U.S.C. section 3624(e) during the period that he spent in pretrial detention awaiting trial on the state charge for which he later was convicted. ..

United States Fifth Circuit, 11/09/2010
US v. Jackson, No. 09-10850
Defendant’s conviction and sentence, following a jury trial, for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, are vacated where certain notebooks introduced into evidence were not sufficiently authenticated, the error violated defendant’s rights under the Confrontation Clause, and the error was not harmless.

United States Fifth Circuit, 11/09/2010
US v. Flores-Gallo, No. 09-40882
Defendant’s sentence for unlawful reentry into the U.S. is affirmed where the district court properly found that defendant’s prior Kansas aggravated battery offense was a “crime of violence” for sentencing purposes and imposed an enhancement accordingly.
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October 11-15 2010.

United States First Circuit, 10/11/2010
US v. Brown
Defendant’s conviction for possession of cocaine base with intent to distribute is affirmed where: 1) although the district court’s factual findings and the inferences made from those findings, which formed the basis of its conclusion that reasonable suspicion existed to stop a car, are not compelled by the record or by the facts, both are nonetheless reasonable and therefore pass constitutional muster; 2) the affirmance of the district court’s finding that the officers had reasonable suspicion to stop the car forecloses the need to address defendant’s challenge to the district court’s alternate conclusion that the car was not seized when the officers first approached; and 3) there was no abuse of discretion in the district court’s denial of defendant’s motion to suppress evidence without an evidentiary hearing.

United States First Circuit, 10/14/2010
US v. Kinsella
Conviction of defendant for conspiring to possess and distribute oxycodone, possessing oxycodone with intent to distribute, and willfully failing to appear in court as required, as well as a 97-month sentence, are affirmed where: 1) defendant’s claim of multiple instances of prosecutorial misconduct is rejected; and 2) the district judge did not clearly err in his drug-quantity calculations.

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. .
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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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October 4-8, 2010.

United States First Circuit, 10/07/2010
US v. Figueroa-Gonzalez
Conviction of defendant for carjacking and firearm use during and in relation to a crime of violence is affirmed as there was no error, clear or otherwise, as the district court was presented with conflicting evidence and chose to conclude that the evidence was stronger in favor of competency to plead guilty.

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, 10/06/2010
Matthews v. US
Defendant’s convictions for racketeering, drug-related murder, and the use of a firearm are affirmed where, while drug-related murder can be punishable by death if certain aggravating circumstances are specified in the charging instrument, no such aggravating factors were specified in the information. .
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A significant note from the Duke Law Journal by Joanna Huang with the above title has been posted today September 29 on the Sentencing Law and Policy blog According to Ms. Huang, “…in 1987 the United States political and social systems lost trust in the judiciary and severely limited its authority by enacting the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.” She goes on to observe that in 2005 trust was restored in the judiciary when United States v. Booker made the Sentencing Guidelines advisory; and that, although Booker provides for increase in judicial discretion, judges are still unable to correct sentences imposed during the intervening eighteen years because Booker does not apply retroactively.

For more, we recommend that you go to the Sentencing Law and Policy blog

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