Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

On Wednesday August 4, 2020 Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco struck down California’s ban on same sex marriage in a 136 page opinioon, ruling that voter approved Proposition 8 violates the constitutional right of equal protection. Proposition 8 defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

This high profile case, Kristin Perry et. al. v. Arnold Schwarzenegger Case3:09-cv-02292-VRW, is being watched closely by both supporters and opponents of same sex marriage, as many believe it will make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court where it could result in a landmark decision.

Below are links to a discussion of this decision in the August 15 New York Times and to the decision as decided on Wednesday.

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June 21-25, 2010.

U.S. Supreme Court, June 21, 2010 Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, No. 08–1498 In a constitutional challenge to 18 U.S.C. section 2339B(a)(1), which prohibited knowingly providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, the Ninth Circuit’s affirmance of partial judgment for plaintiffs is reversed in part where the material support statute was constitutional as applied to the particular forms of support that plaintiffs sought to provide to foreign terrorist organizations. Read more…

U.S. Supreme Court, June 24, 2010 Doe v. Reed, No. 09–559 In a First Amendment challenge to the Washington Public Records Act based on its provision permitting the disclosure of referendum petition signers’ names and addresses, the Ninth Circuit’s reversal of the district court’s preliminary injunction in favor of plaintiffs is affirmed where disclosure of referendum petitions does not as a general matter violate the First Amendment.

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, June 21, 2010 Rodriguez-Garcia v. Miranda-Marin, No. 08-2319 In a municipal employee’s suit claiming that she was transferred to another position in retaliation for testimony she gave before the Puerto Rico Government Ethics Office in violation of her rights under the First Amendment and Puerto Rico law, judgment of the district court is affirmed where: 1) the evidence presented at trial is sufficient to support a jury finding that plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action sufficient to support her section 1983 claim; 2) defendants would not have taken the same adverse employment action in the absence of her protected conduct; 3) the mayor was personally liable for retaliation under section 1983; 4) the municipality is liable under section 1983; 5) the court did not abuse its discretion in affirming the damages award in the amount of $350,000; and 6) the court’s determination that plaintiff waived her Puerto Rico Law 115 claim was not an abuse of discretion.
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June 14 – 18, 2010.

U.S. Supreme Court, June 17, 2010 Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Fla. Dept. of Env. Protection, Inc., No. 08–1151 In an action challenging the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s approval of permits to restore a portion of beach eroded by several hurricanes, the Florida Supreme Court’s holding that the approval of the permits did not unconstitutionally deprive plaintiffs of littoral rights without just compensation is affirmed where there could be no taking unless petitioner could show that, before the Florida Supreme Court’s decision, littoral property owners had rights to future accretions and to contact with the water superior to the State’s right to fill in its submerged land.

U.S. Supreme Court, June 17, 2010 City of Ontario v. Quon, No. 08–1332 In an action by police officers against the city employing them, claiming that defendants violated their Fourth Amendment rights and the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA) by obtaining and reviewing the transcript of plaintiff-officer’s pager messages, the Ninth Circuit’s reversal of summary judgment for defendants is reversed where, because the city’s search of plaintiff’s text messages was reasonable, defendants did not violate plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights.

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, June 17, 2010 Cortes-Reyes v. Salas-Quintana, No. 08-2210 In a political discrimination suit brought by thirty-six former Ranger cadets of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, claiming they were terminated due to their political affiliation with the New Progressive Party, district court’s judgment is affirmed in part and vacated in part where: 1) jury’s finding of a due process violation and a related award of compensatory damages is vacated as the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on the due process claim; and 2) jury’s finding of a First Amendment violation and the award of nominal and punitive damages are affirmed Continue reading

Holder (Attorney General) v. Humanitarian Law Project et. al. 08-1498

A Service from the ABA Criminal Justice Section,

This summary has been created by Professor Rory K. Little (, U.C. Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco, who has long presented “Annual Review of the Supreme Court’s Term” program at the ABA’s Annual Meetings. It represents his personal, unofficial views of the Justices’ opinions. The original opinions should be consulted for their authoritative content.

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May 31 – June 4, 2010.

U.S. Supreme Court, June 01, 2010 Levin v. Commerce Energy, Inc., No. 09–223 In an action by independent natural gas marketers (IMs) who offered to sell natural gas to Ohio consumers against the Ohio Tax Commissioner (Commissioner), alleging discriminatory taxation of IMs and their patrons in violation of the Commerce and Equal Protection Clauses, the Sixth Circuit’s reversal of the district court’s dismissal of the action is reversed where, under the comity doctrine, a taxpayer’s complaint of allegedly discriminatory state taxation, even when framed as a request to increase a competitor’s tax burden, must proceed originally in state court.

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, June 03, 2010 Chaparro v. Ruiz-Hernandez, No. 08-1989 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit brought by a group of twenty-two contract employees against a Puerto Rican municipality and its officers, a grant of plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment is affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded where: 1) plaintiffs had a reasonable expectation of continued employment; 2) a one-year term of employment with Puerto Rican government bodies is generally considered a protected property interest for procedural due process purposes; and 3) defendants’ claim that plaintiffs were not deprived of protected property interests without due process of law because the process Puerto Rico provided was adequate is rejected.

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, June 04, 2010 Harrington v. Cty. of Suffolk, No. 09-3911 In an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983 asserting that defendants deprived plaintiffs of a property interest protected by the Due Process Clause by conducting an inadequate investigation into their son’s fatal traffic accident, the dismissal of the action is affirmed where plaintiffs had no property interest in an adequate police investigation.
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May 17-21, 2010
U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, May 17, 2010 Coggeshall v. Massachusetts Bd. of Registration of Psychologists, No. 09-1111 In plaintiffs’ 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Psychologists, claiming multiple challenges to the constitutionality of the Board’s actions and the regulations involving plaintiff-psychologist’s evaluation of a seven-year-old boy, district court’s dismissal of the action is affirmed where: 1) the members of the Board, individually, are shielded from the damages claims by reason of quasi-judicial immunity; 2) district court’s dismissal on abstention ground is affirmed as this case is a paradigm for Younger abstention; and 3) third party lacks standing to pursue his nonmonetary claims as he suffered no legally cognizable injury in fact as a result of the Board’s actions.

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, May 20, 2010 Gorelik v. Costin , No. 09-1192 In plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against the president of the New Hampshire State Board of Medicine, arising from the Board’s mischaracterization of plaintiff’s temporary license as disciplinary action rather than as “Board action” and posted on the Board’s website and in newsletters, judgment of the district court is affirmed where: 1) the issuance of plaintiff’s temporary license and the posting of the newsletter labeling it a “disciplinary action” occurred eleven years before filing of the complaint, which is well outside the limitations period; and 2) plaintiff has failed to identify any retaliatory decision or action by the Board in response to her attempts to avail herself of administrative remedies.

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, May 18, 2010 Adams v. Zelotes, No. 07-1853 In an action challenging the constitutionality of a Bankruptcy Code provision, 11 U.S.C. section 526(a)(4), alleging that the provision’s prohibition on debt relief agencies advising clients to incur additional debt in contemplation of bankruptcy violated plaintiff’s First Amendment rights, an injunction in favor of plaintiff is reversed where the Supreme Court’s decision in Milavetz directly foreclosed plaintiff’s as-applied challenge by narrowly construing the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act to avoid his First Amendment complaint.
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May 3-7, 2010
U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, May 04, 2010 Estate of Oliva v. Dep’t of Law & Pub. Safety , No. 09-2082 In an action by the estate of a now deceased state trooper who committed suicide, claiming harassment by numerous individuals connected with the State Police for his objections to what he believed was a State Police practice to profile motorists when making traffic stops, a grant of summary judgment to defendants and denial of plaintiff’s leave to amend his complaint is affirmed as plaintiff is not entitled to relief as he has failed to establish that his section 1981, 1985(3) and other various statutory causes of action can be sustained according to their requirements or establish that the district court abused its discretion in denying him leave to amend his complaint. …

U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, May 06, 2010 Dique v. New Jersey State Police, No. 05-1159 In plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment claim for selective-enforcement, arising from his 1990 traffic stop that led to his conviction for drug related offenses which was vacated in 2002 on the ground that colorable issues of racial profiling existed at the time of the arrest, district court’s dismissal of the claim as time barred is affirmed where: 1) under Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384 (2007), in a case of selective-enforcement, it will no longer be required that the complainant have been convicted and have had that conviction reversed, expunged or invalidated, and the statute of limitations begins to run at the time the claimant becomes detained pursuant to legal process; and 2) plaintiff asserted his selective-enforcement claim over two years after July 2001, when his attorney became aware of the extensive documents describing the State’s pervasive selective enforcement practices, that plaintiff discovered, or by exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered that h! e might have a basis for an actionable claim. .

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, May 06, 2010 Flanory v. Bonn , No. 09-1161 In a pro se prisoner’s section 1983 suit against various prison officials and others claiming violation of his Eighth Amendment right, dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a claim is reversed and remanded as plaintiff has made allegations which satisfy the objective and subjective components required for an Eighth Amendment violation as he has alleged that he was completely denied certain hygiene items and that he specifically was without toothpaste for a period of 337 days, and he also alleged that defendants were aware that he was without toothpaste and were deliberately indifferent to his hygiene needs.
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April 12 -16, 2010:

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, April 15, 2010 Foley v. Kiely , No. 09-1250 In plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 claim against Massachusetts State Troopers and a police sergeant, claiming the troopers unconstitutionally seized and arrested him, district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants is affirmed, as the troopers did not violate plaintiff’s constitutional rights in detaining and subsequently arresting him.

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