Findlaw Case Summaries: Constitutional Law 31

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U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, February 03, 2010 Abrante v. St. Amand, No. 09-1020 Denial of defendant’s petition for habeas relief following conviction of armed robbery and related crimes is affirmed where: 1) defendant has not offered clear and convincing evidence that the state established agency relationships with inmate informants who then elicited admissions from him without the presence of counsel in violation of his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights; 2) defendant’s due process claim fails; 3) defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim is rejected; and 4) the issues defendant raises do not present the court with opportunity to consider his constitutional challenge to the AEDPA. .

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, February 04, 2010 Estrada v. State of Rhode Island, No. 09-1149 In plaintiffs’ action challenging the constitutionality of the actions of a police officer during a traffic stop, summary judgment in favor of defendant is affirmed where: 1) the officer is entitled to federal and state qualified immunity for any possible constitutional violations that he may have committed in asking the van’s passengers questions about their immigration status and in contacting ICE; 2) the officer is entitled to qualified immunity for alleged violations of state or federal laws surrounding the seizure of plaintiffs and their subsequent escort to ICE office; 3) officer is entitled to qualified immunity for both pat down searches under federal and state law; and 4) the officer is entitled to qualified immunity for all of the challenged actions with respect to the Rhode Island Racial Profiling Prevention Act e produced by Findlaw
U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, February 01, 2010 Account Servs. Corp. v. US, No. 09-3561 In a corporation’s appeal from the district court’s order holding it in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena for corporate records, the order is affirmed where a corporation with a sole shareholder, officer, and employee may not refuse to comply with a subpoena demanding production of corporate records under the Fifth Amendment’s “act of production” privilege.

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, February 03, 2010 Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. v. City of N.Y., No. 09-1553 In a group of billboard owners’ First Amendment challenge to provisions of New York City’s Zoning Resolution, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where: 1) the city was not required to adopt the “least restrictive means” of advancing its asserted interests; 2) the city did not violate the protections afforded commercial speech when it distinguished between plaintiffs’ signs or billboards and those located on government property; and 3) the New York Constitution did not provide broader protection for commercial speech than the First Amendment.

U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, February 01, 2010 Jackson v. Danberg, No. 09-1925 In an appeal brought by a class of inmates challenging the constitutionality of Delaware’s lethal injection method for capital punishment, district court’s grant of summary judgment is affirmed and a stay dissolved as: 1) under Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35 (2008), an execution protocol that does not present a substantial risk of serious harm passes constitutional muster; and 2) on the record, Delaware’s protocol presents no such risk.

U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, February 04, 2010 Layshock v. Hermitage Sch. Dist., No. 07-4465 In plaintiffs’ 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action arising after defendant-school district punished their son for creating a fake internet “profile” of his high school principal on, district court’s judgment is affirmed where: 1) district court correctly ruled that the school district’s response to the student’s expressive conduct violated the First Amendment guarantee of free expression as allowing the school to punish him for conduct he engaged in using his grandmother’s computer while at his grandmother’s house would create an unseemly and dangerous precedent; 2) the school cannot punish the student merely because his speech reached inside the school; and 3) district court correctly concluded that the parents have not shown how their liberty interest was infringed by the School District’s violation of their son’s First Amendment right of expression.

U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, February 04, 2010 Snyder v. Blue Mountain Sch. Dist., No. 08-4138 In plaintiffs’ action against the school district for punishing their daughter for creating a internet profile of her high school principal on, district court’s judgment in favor of the school district is affirmed where: 1) Tinker applies to student speech, whether on- or off-campus that causes or threatens to cause a substantial disruption of or material interference with school or invades the rights of other members of the school community, and here, because the student’s internet profile featuring her principal alluded to his interest or engagement in sexually inappropriate behavior and illegal conduct, it threatened to substantially disrupt the Middle School regardless of whether the student’s role in creating the profile was criminal or tortious; 2) school district did not violate the parents’ Fourteenth Amendment rights to direct and control the upbringing of their child; 3) Pennsylvania permits school authorities to discipline students for conduct akin to ! this student’s creation of the profile; and 4) the Middle School’s policies under which the student was punished were not unconstitutionally vague or overbroad.

U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, February 05, 2010 Clausell v. Sherrer, No. 06-4606 District court’s denial of defendant’s petition for habeas relief is affirmed where: 1) defendant forfeited his right to raise a Batson claim on appeal; 2) defendant’s ineffective assistance claim fails to meet the first prong of the Strickland standard; and 3) a state court reasonably applied established federal law regarding Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance claims.

U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 03, 2010 King v. McMillan, No. 08-1667 In plaintiff-former deputy’s suit against a sheriff in his official capacity under Title VII for sexual harassment and in his individual capacity under Virginia law for battery, district court’s substitution of new sheriff as the defendant in her official capacity in the Title VII claim and jury verdict in favor of plaintiff is affirmed as to accept defendant’s argument that because each sheriff in Virginia is by state law a singular entity with an independent tenure, she could not be substituted in her official capacity as the successor to the former sheriff in the Title VII claim, would be to allow a state law to override Title VII in violation of the Supremacy Clause. Defendants’ remaining challenges are rejected.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 03, 2010 Koubriti v. Convertino, No. 09-1016 In plaintiff’s civil action against defendant, pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, for constitutional violations that defendant allegedly committed while serving as the Assistant United States Attorney who prosecuted plaintiff for conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists and conspiracy to engage in fraud or misuse of visas, permits or other immigration documents, partial denial of defendant’s motion to dismiss is reversed where: 1) plaintiff has pointed to no harm to himself from the investigation defendant conducted except the non-disclosure of certain exculpatory evidence at trial; and 2) defendant is shielded by prosecutorial immunity for such non-disclosures of exculpatory evidence.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 04, 2010 Jefferson v. Lewis, No. 08-2116 In plaintiff’s action against a police officer under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 and state tort law for being shot by the officer on New Year’s Eve while responding to reports of gunfire shots in the area, denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity is affirmed where: 1) because plaintiff has produced adequate evidentiary support for her version of events and because plaintiff’s version of events must be accepted as true for purposes of interlocutory appeal, the jury must decide whether plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated; and 2) in light of the competing inferences one might draw from the facts and their effect on the question of whether the officer’s actions were objectively reasonable, a jury should find the facts that determine whether the officer is entitled to qualified immunity.

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 02, 2010 US v. Turner, No. 08-2350 District court’s disqualification of defendant’s retained counsel from representing him in a prosecution for conspiracy to distribute cocaine because the attorney was also representing an alleged co-conspirator in sentencing proceedings is reversed and remanded for retrial as the district court’s disqualification order violated defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to choose his own counsel, and, under Gonzalez-Lopez, this constitutional violation is a structural error not subject to review for harmlessness.

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 03, 2010 Parish v. City of Chicago, No. 09-1385 In plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action asserting Fourth Amendment violations for malicious prosecution against the City of Chicago and detectives from the Chicago Police Department, dismissal of the action is affirmed as Seventh Circuit precedent does not permit an action for malicious prosecution under section 1983 if a state remedy exists, and plaintiff has explicitly limited his appeal to asking to overrule the precedent and there is no reason to overturn circuit precedent.

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 04, 2010 Olson v. Brown, No. 09-2728 In a putative class action lawsuit filed by an inmate against a county sheriff alleging several First Amendment violations and violations of Indianan law in a county jail, dismissal of the suit as moot on the ground that plaintiff was transferred out of the county jail before class certification is reversed and remanded as this case fits within the exception to the mootness doctrine carved out for inherently transitory cases.

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 05, 2010 Lopez v. Thurmer, No. 08-2110 In a prosecution for first-degree intentional murder as a party to a crime, district court’s denial of defendant’s petition for habeas relief is affirmed as the court did not unreasonably apply clearly established federal law to the facts of defendant’s case on claims that: 1) a state appellate court’s application of Strickland to the facts of petitioner’s case was unreasonable because the court applied the wrong standard under Wisconsin law to determine whether he was entitled to a felony-murder instruction; and 2) a state appellate court’s factual determination that counsel had discussed a felony-murder instruction with him was unreasonable.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 01, 2010 Mahach-Watkins v. Depee, No. 08-15694 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action involving a deadly shooting by police, the district court’s award of $136,687.35 in attorney’s fees to plaintiff (following $1 nominal damages awards on two claims) is affirmed where: 1) the legality of state-sanctioned force resulting in death constituted an important legal issue; and 2) the award would likely deter the officer from future unconstitutional conduct.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 05, 2010 Mortimer v. Baca, No. 07-55393 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action alleging that plaintiffs were wrongfully detained in jail for periods of time ranging from twenty-six to twenty-nine hours after the court had authorized their releases, summary judgment for defendant is affirmed where: 1) the district court was not foreclosed on a prior remand from reviewing defendant’s proffered evidence concerning deliberate indifference and ruling on the motion for summary judgment on its merits; and 2) given the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s many affirmative efforts to remedy the problem, the evidence in the record did not support a finding of a policy of deliberate indifference.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 05, 2010 Waggy v. Spokane County, No. 09-35133 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action claiming that county prosecuting attorneys and a county violated plaintiff’s constitutional right to be free from arrest without probable cause, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where: 1) the prosecutor’s motion for a bench warrant essentially constituted the initiation of new judicial proceedings against plaintiff for violating the terms of his community placement, and was not an investigative act; and 2) plaintiff pointed to no county policy or custom that caused his alleged injury.

U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 03, 2010 Clyma v. Sunoco, Inc., No. 08-5153 In a non-party’s appeal from the district court’s denial of an “Application for Permission to Interview Jurors for Instructional Purposes” pursuant to N.D. Okla. L.R. 47.2.1, the appeal is construed as a writ of mandamus and the district court is directed to vacate its denial of the application and reconsider the matter pursuant to a meaningful exercise of its discretion in support of its ultimate determination.

U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 04, 2010 Clark v. Riley, No. 08-11978 In an action by a member of the Board of Trustees for Alabama State University seeking a declaratory judgment that an age limit in Ala. Code section 16-50-20(a) prohibiting a board member from serving beyond September 30 following his seventieth birthday did not apply to him, dismissal of the action is affirmed where the Code section relied upon by plaintiff applied only to the initial reshuffling of the board that occurred when a 1986 amendment was passed.

U.S. Fed. Circuit Court of Appeals, February 05, 2010 Totes-Isotoner Corp. v. US, No. 09-1113 In plaintiff’s claim that the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States unconstitutionally denies equal protection of the laws by imposing different rates of duty on seamed leather gloves “for men” and seamed leather gloves “for other persons”, judgment of the United States Court of International Trade dismissing the claim is affirmed where: 1) the CIT’s judgment concluding that it had jurisdiction under section 1581(i), that plaintiff has standing to bring its claims, and that plaintiff’s equal protection claims are justiciable is affirmed; but 2) plaintiff has failed to state an equal protection claim due to its failure to plead facts sufficient to allege a claim of unconstitutional discrimination.

Supreme Court of California, February 01, 2010 In re E.J., No. S156933 In a unified habeas petition by four registered sex offenders challenging the constitutionality of a provision in the Jessica Law, that sets forth restrictions on where certain registered sex offenders subject to the lifetime registration requirement may reside, is transferred to the courts of appeal for further proceedings where: 1) the court rejects claims that Penal Code section 3003.5(b), construed as a statutory parole condition, is being impermissibly retroactively enforced as to the petitioners, and as thus enforced, constitutes an ex post facto law under the state and federal constitutions; and 2) with regard to defendants’ remaining claims that section 3003.5(b) is an unreasonable, vague and overbroad parole condition that infringes on a number of their fundamental constitutional rights, evidentiary hearings will have to be conducted to establish relevant facts necessary to decide each such claim.

Supreme Court of Florida, February 04, 2010 Barnes v. State of Florida, No. SC08-63 Convictions of defendant for first degree murder and related crimes and sentnece of death are affirmed where: 1) defendant’s plea was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary, and he was made aware of the consequences of his plea, was apprised of the constitutional rights he was waiving, and pled guilty voluntarily; 2) trial court acted properly in appointing independent counsel, who did not represent defendant but was directed to assist the court by investigating and presenting mitigation; 3) defendant’s claim that the trial court erred when it considered the comprehensive pre-sentence investigation report over his objection is rejected; and 4) the death sentence is proportionate when considered in light of other death sentences that has been affirmed involving similar circumstances of murder, similar aggravators, and similar mitigation.

California Appellate Districts, February 01, 2010 Catsouras v. Dep’t of the California Highway Patrol, No. G039916 In an action brought against the State of California Highway Patrol and two of its officers by the family of a decedent who died in an automobile accident, judgment of the trial court in favor of the defendants is reversed where: 1) the trial court erred in sustaining the officers’ demurrers as to the invasion of privacy cause of action for dissemination of the pictures of decedent’s decapitated body, as family members have a common law privacy right in the death images of a decedent, subject to certain limitations; 2) the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrers as to a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress as plaintiffs’ allegation that the officers had acted with the intent to cause them emotional distress, is sufficient to withstand a demurrer; 3) the trial court erred in concluding that plaintiffs had no cause of action for negligence as, applying the Rowland factors, CHP and its officers owed plaintiffs a duty of care not to place decede! nt’s death images on the internet for the purposes of vulgar spectacle; 4) trial court properly sustained the demurrer of the CHP as to the section 1983 cause of action against it based on the doctrine of sovereign immunity; and 5) the section 1983 causes of action against the officers also fail as plaintiffs did not plead facts sufficient to allege that the actions of the officers violated any clearly established constitutional right.

California Appellate Districts, February 02, 2010 In re Watson, No. D055404 Petition for habeas relief by a defendant convicted of murder and related crimes is granted and his sentence is reversed in part and remanded where: 1) defendant’s claim of sentencing error is timely as defendant has shown good cause for any delay in seeking habeas corpus relief based on Cunningham and Apprendi; and 2) defendant’s upper term sentences for kidnapping and two firearm use enhancements violated the rule set forth in Apprendi. .

California Appellate Districts, February 02, 2010 People v. Leon, No. H034066 Trial court’s imposition of various conditions on defendant’s probation following conviction of drug related crimes is modified where: 1) the gang-association probation order is constitutionally defective because it lacks an explicit knowledge requirement; 2) the gang paraphernalia order is modified to include a knowledge requirement; 3) probation order with respect to the areas of gang-related activity is modified as it is constitutionally vague; and 4) the prohibition-from-court-proceedings condition is modified.

California Appellate Districts, February 04, 2010 In re A.G., No. D053991 Juvenile court’s true finding that defendant violated the San Diego curfew ordinance is reversed as, although a more narrowly tailored curfew ordinance is within the legislative prerogative, the present ordinance sweeps too broadly and includes within its ambit otherwise innocent and legal conduct by minors even when they have the permission of their parents, and as such, the ordinance is unconstitutional.

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