Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

November 23-27, 2009.

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U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, November 23, 2009 Vaqueria Tres Monjitas, Inc. v. Irizarry, No. 07-2240 In plaintiffs’ suit against Puerto Rico’s Milk Industry Regulation Administration, claiming that the Administration’s regulatory scheme governing milk prices violates the Due Process, Equal Protection, Takings, and dormant Commerce Clauses, grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining the regulatory scheme is affirmed where: 1) the district court properly declined defendants’ invitation to abstain from entertaining the action; 2) the Eleventh Amendment does not bar the form of relief granted by the district court in its preliminary injunction; 3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting defendants’ unclean hands defense; 4) the district court did not abuse its discretion in failing to dismiss the action on the basis of laches; 5) the district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting defendants’ estoppel defense; and 6) district court did not abuse its discretion in granting plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. ..

U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, November 24, 2009 Stratechuk v. Bd. of Educ., S. Orange-Maplewood Sch. Dist. , No. 08-3826 In plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit challenging school district’s prohibition on celebratory religious music at school-sponsored events for the purpose of maintaining a policy of complete religious neutrality, summary judgment for the school district is affirmed as the court did not err in concluding that December concerts are not public fora, and that the school district’s interpretation of the policy was reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, November 25, 2009 Entm’t Prod., Inc. v. Shelby County, Tenn. , No. 08-5494 Denial of plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction in their suit against the county challenging the constitutionality of the Tennessee Adult-Oriented Establishment Registration Act is affirmed where: 1) the district court did not err in denying the preliminary injunction on the basis that plaintiffs did not demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success in their challenges to the definitions of “adult cabaret,” “adult-oriented establishment,” and “adult entertainment”; 2) the district court did not err in holding that a vagueness challenge is not likely to succeed on the merits as a narrowing construction sufficiently clarifies the parts this Act allegedly contaminated by vagueness; 3) plaintiffs’ claim that the Act’s requirements will result in a drastic reduction in the quantity and accessibility of speech is rejected; and 4) the issue of balancing of equities is moot as the district court correctly determined that plaintiffs have not demonstrated a likelihood of s! uccess on the merits.
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November 9-13, 2009.

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U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, November 12, 2009 Cabral v. US Dep’t of Justice, No. 07-1633 In an appeal arising from an underlying action brought by a nurse practitioner claiming that defendant-sheriff barred plaintiff from a County House of Correction (HOC) for informing the FBI of alleged prisoner abuse at the HOC, denial of defendants’ motions for a new trial and for remittur is affirmed where: 1) there is nothing in the record indicating that the district court abused its discretion in making its pre-trial evidentiary and disclosure rulings; 2) district court’s dismissal of defendants’ action under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) was proper as there was nothing in the record indicating that agency’s denial of the defendants’ Touhy requests was arbitrary and capricious; 3) the evidence was sufficient to establish that the sheriff engaged in the callous and reckless conduct necessary to support an award of punitive damages; and 4) the award of punitive damages of $250,000 against sheriff was not excessive.

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, November 12, 2009 Wilson v. CIA, No. 07-4244 In a First Amendment action claiming that the CIA was required to allow former employee Valerie Plame Wilson to publish a memoir about her tenure at the agency, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where: 1) plaintiff, and not the agency, permitted the classified information at issue to be revealed to the public; and 2) further, the public disclosure did not deprive the information of classified status, and the agency demonstrated good reason for adhering to its classification decision. A former CIA agent cannot use her own unauthorized disclosure of classified information to challenge the CIA’s ability to maintain the information as classified.

U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, November 12, 2009 Berg v. Obama, No. 08-4340 In one of the so-called “birther” suits challenging Barack Obama’s eligibility to run for and serve as President of the United States based on claims that Obama was born in Kenya and therefore was not a natural born citizen of the United States, dismissal of the action is affirmed where plaintiff lacked standing to bring the suit because he suffered no injury particularized to him Continue reading

September 28 – October 2, 2009.

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U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, September 28, 2009 Chiang v. Skeirik, No. 08-2105
District court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s amended complaint arising from a denial of his petition for a fiancee visa is affirmed where: 1) district court did not err in dismissing plaintiff’s claim that his visa was improperly denied as he failed to state a plausible entitlement to relief; 2) district court did not err in dismissing plaintiff’s Bivens claims as he failed to name any officers in their individual capacities in the first amended complaint and a Bivens claim does not lie against the United States; and 3) district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff’s motion to file a second amended complaint as it would have been futile. .

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, October 01, 2009 Remexcel Managerial Consultants, Inc. v. Arlequin, No. 08-1753
In a political discrimination case against a municipality in Puerto Rico, default judgment against defendants is affirmed where the district court did not abuse its discretion in entering the default judgment for repeated discovery violations, and the law of the case doctrine bars defendants’ attempt to re-argue the adequacy of plaintiffs’ complaint.

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, September 28, 2009 Frontera Resources Azerbaijan Corp. v. State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan, No. 07-1815 In a petition to confirm a Swedish arbitral award against the government of Azerbaijan, dismissal of the petition for lack of jurisdiction is reversed where the district court erred by holding that foreign states and their agents are entitled to rights under the Due Process Clause.
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September 7-11, 2009.

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U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, September 11, 2009 US v. Piza-Blondet, No. 08-2263
In condemnation proceedings involving a 34 acre parcel used by the Federal Aviation Administration for aircraft navigation, the district court’s judgment is affirmed where the district court: 1) did not abuse its discretion in excluding defendant’s own testimony when the court had excluded similar testimony by defendant’s expert; 2) did not err in holding that the “before and after” method was appropriate in valuing the property, assuming a partial taking; and 3) did not err in submitting to the jury unity of use. Defendant’s remaining contentions were without merit.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, September 11, 2009 Thompson v. Bell, No. 06-5744 In habeas proceedings arising from petitioner’s capital murder conviction, district court’s denial of relief is affirmed in part and reversed in part and remanded where: 1) district court’s denial of defendant’s Rule 60(b) motion is reversed and remanded with instructions for the district court to first rule on the merits of defendant’s remaining ineffective assistance claims, while only addressing the incompetency question if it rejects the ineffective assistance claims on the merits; 2) the case is remanded to conduct defendant’s incompetency hearing and decide the merits of his incompetency claim de novo because the Tennessee courts unreasonably applied federal law clearly established by Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399, (1986); and 3) district court’s dismissal of defendant’s chemical competency claim is affirmed without prejudice to defendant raising a chemical competency claim in the future should he be forcibly medicated.

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, September 08, 2009 Harper v. Sheriff of Cook County, No. 08-3413 District court’s certification of a class action lawsuit involving challenges to the constitutionality of certain intake procedures at a county jail is vacated as the intake procedures detainees are required to undergo on remand to the Sheriff’s custody after a probable cause hearing are an individual issue and thus, not appropriate for class disposition. The matter is remanded for resolution of plaintiff’s individual claims.
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August 24 – 28, 2009.

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U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, August 24, 2009 Calderon-Garnier v. Sanchez-Ramos, No. 08-1284
In an employment discrimination case brought by a former prosecutor of Puerto Rico, summary judgment and dismissal rulings for defendants are affirmed where plaintiff raised no genuine issue as to any material fact that would cause the court to doubt whether the plaintiff had a meaningful opportunity to participate in a pre-termination hearing.

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, August 24, 2009 Crawford v. Clarke, No. 08-2100 In an action brought by Muslim inmates in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections (DOC) alleging the Commissioner violated their right to freely exercise their religion, grant of an injunction in favor of inmates is affirmed where the district court did not abuse its decision in denying Commissioner’s motion for reconsideration as the Commissioner sought to introduce evidence that could have been introduced at trial but chose not to.

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, August 26, 2009 Negron-Almeda v. Santiago, No. 08-2360 In a case brought by dismissed employees of a government agency in Puerto Rico claiming political discrimination, district court’s order of reinstatement against defendant-intervenor is affirmed where: 1) it was proper for the district court to revisit the earlier order where, under the law of the case doctrine, courts may reopen a matter previously decided on a showing of exceptional circumstances such as the serious injustice to the plaintiffs in this case; 2) the reinstatement order was proper as defendants could be substituted for the original party under Rule 25(c) and they are not protected by sovereign immunity.
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July 20-24. 2009.

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, July 21, 2009 Oscar Renda Contracting Inc. v. Lubbock, No. 08-10481 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action claiming that defendant city violated the First Amendment by denying plaintiff a construction contract, summary judgment for defendant is affirmed where not all construction contract disputes involving government entities or agents are matters of public concern.

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, July 21, 2009 US v. Whaley, No. 08-10951 Defendant’s conviction for failure to register in accordance with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) is affirmed where SORNA does not exceed Congress’s powers under the Commerce Clause because it forbids sex offenders from using the channels of interstate commerce to evade their registration requirements.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, July 22, 2009 Waeschle v. Dragovic, No. 08-2228 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action against a county Medical Examiner for depriving plaintiff of her right to dispose of her deceased mother’s brain (removed in an autopsy and later incinerated as medical waste), denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity is reversed where plaintiff had no clearly established property right in the brain because it was removed and retained for study in furtherance of a lawful criminal investigation Continue reading

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July 6-10. 2009.

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, July 08, 2009 McCullen v. Coakley , No. 08-2310
In an action challenging a statute creating a fixed buffer zone around reproductive health care facilities, district court judgment rejecting the facial challenge and refuseing to enjoin enforcement of the new law is affirmed where: 1) there is nothing in the text or the legislative history of the statute that deprives that statute of content-neutral status, and thus an intermediate scrutiny analysis applies; 2) the statute is a valid time-place-manner regulation that advances a significant governmental interest without burdening substantially more speech than necessary and leaves open adequate alternative channels of communication; 3) plaintiffs’ overbreadth argument is without merit as the increased degree of the expansion of the buffer zone in the statute is reasonable, and thus the expansion is not a matter of constitutional significance; and 4) plaintiffs’ vagueness argument fails as plaintiffs want to engage in the anti-abortion protests that are proscribed in the atto! rney general’s challenged guidance letter, and a party to whose conduct a statute clearly applies may not successfully challenge it for vagueness.

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, July 06, 2009 Pilgrim v. Luther, No. 07-1950 In a prisoner civil rights action, district court’s grant of summary judgment for defendant is affirmed where: 1) plaintiff’s First Amendment retaliation claim fails as a matter of law as entreaties to activity such as petitions protesting prison conditions are not entitled to First Amendment protection where other less disruptive means of airing grievances are available; and 2) plaintiff’s claims that defendant violated his due process rights are without merit as any error on the part of the corrections officer assigned to assisting plaintiff was harmless in light of defendant’s owns failures.

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, July 10, 2009 Little v. KPMG LLP, No. 08-50100 In an action claiming that Plaintiff accounting firms lost business to Defendant when Defendant’s partner practiced without a Texas accounting license, the dismissal of the action is affirmed, where the alleged injury to Plaintiff was too speculative Continue reading

TITLE: A Right to Discriminate?

SUBTITLE: How the Case of Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale Warped the Law of Free Association

AUTHOR: Andrew Koppelman with Tobias Barrington Wolff PUBLICATION DATE: July 2009

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June 15-19, 2009.

U.S. Supreme Court, June 15, 2009 Polar Tankers, Inc. v. Valdez, No. 08–310 In a Tonnage Clause challenge to an Alaska ordinance imposing a personal property tax on large oil tankers, judgment for Defendant is reversed, where the ordinance was unconstitutional because it was designed to impose “a charge for the privilege of entering, trading in, or lying in a port.””

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