Findlaw Case Law Summaries: Constitutional Law. April 5 – April 9, 2010.

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April 5 – April 9, 2010:.

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, April 01, 2010 Chamberlin v. Town of Stoughton, No. 08-1289 In plaintiff-officers’ 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against a town, its officials and police chiefs involving various workplace discrimination and harassment claims, district court’s grant of a directed verdict in favor of one of the two police chiefs is affirmed as any error in granting the directed verdict was harmless because of the rejection of plaintiffs’ claims against the other police chief by a different jury in a second trial.

U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, April 09, 2010 Educational Media Co. v. Swecker, No. 08-1798 In an action brought by college newspapers alleging that two of Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board’s regulations restricting alcohol advertisements violate their First Amendment rights, summary judgment declaring both provisions facially unconstitutional and permanently enjoining their enforcement is reversed and remanded where, on its face, the Board’s ban on alcoholic advertisements in college student publications passes muster under Central Hudson Gas & Elec. Corp. v. Public Serv. Comm’n of New York, 447 U.S. 557 (1980). .

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, April 07, 2010 Jennings v. Owens, No. 09-50047 In an action claiming that officials from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice committed procedural due process violations after the Board of Pardons and Paroles imposed sex offender special conditions on plaintiff’s parole, summary judgment for plaintiff is reversed where, because plaintiff was indeed a sex offender, he failed to show that he had a liberty interest that was infringed when the parole board imposed sex offender special conditions on his parole.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, April 05, 2010 Dorn v. Lafler, No. 08-1594 District court’s denial of defendant’s request for habeas relief, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel and denial of an appeal as of right in violation of his constitutional right to access the courts, is reversed and remanded where: 1) the prison’s handling of defendant’s papers precluded him from pursuing his statutory right of appeal and the argument that prison officials did not intentionally suppress defendant’s legal papers is irrelevant as the effect was the same; and 2) defendant is entitled to a presumption of prejudice.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, April 06, 2010 Goff v. Bagley , No. 06-4669 District court’s denial of defendant’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus from his capital murder conviction is reversed and a conditional writ of habeas corpus granted where: 1) defendant’s appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise on direct appeal the issue of his right to allocution before sentencing, and the opposite conclusion reached by the Ohio Supreme Court constitutes an unreasonable application of federal law; and 2) defendant’s remaining claims are rejected as meritless, and noteably, the jury instructions and verdict forms that defendant’s trial court utilized are conceptually indistinguishable from those at issue in Spisak III, and as such, the jury instructions properly focused only on the overall balancing question, and the instructions repeatedly told the jury to consider all of the relevant evidence.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, April 09, 2010 White v. US, No. 09-3158 Dismissal of plaintiffs’ pre-enforcement challenge to the anti-animal-fighting provisions of the Animal Welfare Act is affirmed where none of the following alleged injuries sufficed to confer standing for plaintiffs’ action: 1) plaintiffs’ economic injuries caused by the AWA; 2) the plaintiffs’ fear of false prosecution under the AWA and resulting “chill” on the plaintiffs’ conduct; 3) the AWA’s violation of plaintiffs’ constitutional rights; and 4) the AWA’s violation of the principles of federalism contained in the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Amendments. .

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, April 05, 2010 Estate of Escobedo v. Bender, No. 08-2365 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit filed by a personal representative of an estate against a city and individual members of the city’s police department claiming excessive force arising from the shooting death of an individual, district court’s denial of defendants’ motion for summary judgment is affirmed as, taking the facts as the district court presented them, the district court did not err in finding that the individual officers were not entitled to qualified immunity for their decision to use tear gas to extricate plaintiff from his apartment and their decision to use more tear gas and flash bang grenades to enter his apartment. .

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, April 06, 2010 Leavell v. Illinois Dep’t of Natural Res., No. 09-2590 In plaintiff’s action against the Illinois Department of Resources (Department) and several oil companies asserting a due process claim and seeking injunctive relief to prevent the Department from plugging oil wells owned by various members of plaintiff’s family and from transferring control over wells to defendant oil companies, district court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s due process claim with prejudice is affirmed as plaintiff’s failure to avail herself of available state remedies is fatal to her federal due process claim.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, April 05, 2010 Holley v. Cal. Dept. of Corrs., No. 07-15552 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action by a prisoner claiming that California Department of Corrections grooming regulations requiring short hair imposed a substantial burden on his exercise of religion in violation of section 3 of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where the acceptance of federal prison funding by the state of California did not effect a waiver of the state’s sovereign immunity that would allow the RLUIPA claim for damages against state officials in their official capacities to proceed in federal court.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, April 09, 2010 Serra v. Lappin, No. 08-15969 In an action by prisoners claiming that the low wages they were paid for work performed in prison violated their rights under the Fifth Amendment and various sources of international law, the dismissal of the action is affirmed where prisoners had no enforceable right to be paid for their work under the Constitution or international law.

U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, April 06, 2010 Starling v. Bd. of Cty. Comm’rs., No. 09-11168 In an action claiming that defendants violated plaintiff-firefighter’s First Amendment right to intimate association when they demoted him for an extramarital affair with one of his subordinates, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where the county’s interest in discouraging extramarital associations between supervisors and subordinates was so critical to the effective functioning of the Fire Department that it outweighed plaintiff’s interest in extramarital association with a subordinate, even assuming arguendo that the First Amendment protected extramarital association as fundamental right.

Supreme Court of California, April 05, 2010 People v. Noriega , No. S160953 Judgment of the court of appeal reversing trial court’s conviction of defendant for murder on the ground that the trial court’s replacement of appointed counsel violated defendant’s right to counsel under the California Constitution and that under state statutory law the replacement was an abuse of trial court’s discretion is reversed as the trial court did not violate defendant’s right to counsel under either the federal or state Constitution. Furthermore, conceding that the replacement violated state statutory law and was an abuse of discretion, the error requires reversal only upon a showing of prejudice, which defendant did not establish.

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