Findlaw Case Law Summaries: Constitutional Law. January 19 – January 23, 2009.

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January 19 – January 23, 2009
U.S. Supreme Court, January 21, 2009 Locke v. Karass, No. 07-610 In a case involving circumstances where a local union charges nonmembers a service fee that (among other things) reflects an affiliation fee that the local union pays to its national union organization, a portion of which the national union uses to pay for litigation expenses incurred in large part on behalf of other local units, the Supreme Court rules that the Constitution permits including such an element in the local’s charge to nonmembers as long as: 1) the subject matter of the extra-local litigation is of a kind that would be chargeable if the litigation were local; and 2) the litigation charge is reciprocal in nature.

U.S. Supreme Court, January 21, 2009 Pearson v. Callahan, No. 07-751 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action against state law enforcement officers who conducted a warrantless search of plaintiff’s house incident to his arrest for the sale of methamphetamine to an undercover informant (whom plaintiff had voluntarily admitted to the premises), a court of appeals ruling reversing a ruling that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity is reversed where: 1) the procedure the Supreme Court mandated in Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001), should not be regarded as an inflexible requirement; and 2) petitioners were entitled to qualified immunity on the ground that it was not clearly established at the time of the search that their conduct was unconstitutional. ..

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, January 22, 2009 Abraham v. Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst., No. 08-1655 In an employment discrimination action brought by former employee, a researcher on the biological aspect of zebrafish, who was terminated after he stated he did not believe in the theory of evolution, denial of plaintiff’s motion for leave to file an amended complaint, as well as a decision not to apply equitable tolling principles in granting defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, are affirmed where: 1) the request to amend was futile; and 2) the doctrine of equitable tolling could not apply as plaintiff failed to exercise diligence in meeting any of the filing deadlines for his employment discrimination claim
U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, January 20, 2009 Fieger v. Michigan Supreme Court , No. 07-2213
District court decision that the courtesy and civility provisions of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution is vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction where: 1) plaintiffs lack standing because they have failed to demonstrate actual present harm or a significant possibility of future harm based on a single, stipulated reprimand; 2) plaintiffs have not articulated their intended speech and conduct; and 3) plaintiffs have not sufficiently established a threat of future sanction under the challenged provisions applied by the Michigan Supreme Court.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, January 22, 2009 Brown v. Cal. Dep’t of Corr., No. 07-55409 In a suit under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 alleging that defendants violated the terms of an oral plea agreement by advocating for plaintiff’s imprisonment past the term agreed to in the plea, summary judgment on grounds of immunity is affirmed for all defendants where: 1) prosecutors should be afforded absolute immunity for parole recommendations; 2) parole board members are entitled to absolute immunity for parole board decisions; 3) plaintiff failed to present any evidence that defendant-warden set in motion a series of acts by others, which she knew or reasonably should have known, would cause others to inflict the constitutional injury, and the warden lacked independent authority to order the release; and 4) in the absence of a waiver by the state or a valid congressional override, under the eleventh amendment, agencies of the state are immune from private damage actions or suits for injunctive relief brought in federal court..

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, January 22, 2009 US v. Mikhel, No. 07-99008 Defendant’s motion is granted and special administrative measures are modified in order to allow defendant’s full exercise of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

New York Court of Appeals, January 22, 2009 Bernstein v. Feiner, No. 16mem09 Appeal is dismissed, without costs, upon the ground that no substantial constitutional question is directly involved.

California Appellate Districts, January 20, 2009 People v. iMergent, Inc., No. B201302 Grant of motion for preliminary injunction prohibiting defendants, self-described providers of “eCommerce” technology, as well as training to help start, operate, and maintain home-based businesses, from selling their products and services without first complying with the disclosure provision of the Seller Assisted Marketing Plan (SAMP) Act and the Unfair Competition Law (UCL)is affirmed over claims of error that: 1) the order granting the injunction should have been reversed because the SAMP Act is unconstitutionally vague on its face; and 2) the trial court abused its discretion in issuing a mandatory injunction prohibiting defendants from engaging in lawful conduct.

California Appellate Districts, January 22, 2009 Legal Servs. for Prisoners with Children v. Bowen, No. A120220
Writ of mandate claiming that disenfranchment allowed by section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment is limited to felonies at common law is denied where: 1) there is no historical evidence supporting the claim; and 2) the US Supreme Court in interpreting the Constitution never read the word “crime” as petitioners contend.

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