Findlaw Case Summaries: Constitutional Law October 13-17, 2008

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U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, October 15, 2008 Batterman v. Leahy, No. 072653 In a claim for attorneys fees, the district court’s administrative closure of the case on grounds of Pullman abstention is vacated and remanded where: 1) the Pullman abstention did not apply in this case; 2) there was no right under state law, property or otherwise, for attorney-plaintiff to be paid more than the cap on billable hours and so no federal constitutional issue is presented by defendants’ refusal to do so; 3) there was no ambiguity with respect to state law that required clarification; and 4) no single abstention doctrine, or probably any combination of them, would justify abstention for all of the counts.

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, October 17, 2008 Diaz v. Paterson , No. 052685, 063942, 063992 In a putative class action challenging the constitutionality of state civil procedure law, which allows a plaintiff who brings a lawsuit claiming interest in real property to file a lis pendens with respect to the property, is affirmed where the state’s lis pendens law as applied to plaintiffs did not offend the Constitution as construed by Connecticut v. Doehr, 501 U.S. 1 (1991).

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, October 14, 2008 Laskowski v. Spellings, No. 05-2749 In an Establishment Clause suit attempting to enjoin a government grant to the University of Notre Dame, dismissal for mootness is affirmed on remand from the Supreme Court where: 1) the expiration of the grant mooted plaintiffs’ claims for injunctive relief against the Secretary of Education; and 2) plaintiffs lacked standing as taxpayers to pursue a restitutionary remedy against the university.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, October 14, 2008 San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce Political Action Comm. v. City of San Jose, No. 06-17001 In a First and Fourteenth Amendment challenge to campaign contribution limits for elected city positions, summary judgment for plaintiff is vacated and the case remanded with instruction to dismiss, as federal courts must abstain where: 1) defendant Election Commission’s investigation into plaintiff’s violation of campaign contribution regulations is an ongoing state proceeding; 2) the ongoing proceeding implicates an important state interest in regulating local elections; 3) plaintiff is not barred from making its constitutional arguments in the state proceeding; and 4) the federal suit would effectively enjoin the state proceeding because plaintiff seeks injunction against defendant enforcing its municipal statute.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, October 15, 2008 Posey v. Lake Pend Oreille Sch. Dist. No. 84, No. 07-35188 In a public employee First Amendment case, summary judgment for defendant is reversed where: 1) plaintiff has spoken on a matter of public concern; 2) the state lacks an adequate justification for treating the employee differently from any other member of the general public; and 3) there is a genuine and material dispute as to the scope and content of plaintiff’s employment duties. .

California Appellate Districts, October 14, 2008 Woods v. Shewry, No. C056072 In a constitutional challenge to several domestic violence programs and programs for inmate mothers, denial of petition for writ of mandate is reversed where: 1) the gender-based classifications in the challenged statutes that provide programs for victims of domestic violence violated equal protection; 2) male victims of domestic violence are similarly situated to female victims for purposes of the statutory programs and no compelling state interest justified the gender classification; and 3) plaintiffs failed to show men are similarly situated to women for purposes of the prison programs for inmate mothers.

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