Findlaw Case Summaries: Constitutional Law 27

November 30-December-4, 2009.

To view the full-text of cases you must sign in to All summaries are produced by Findlaw.


U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, December 03, 2009 US v. Hersom, No. 07-2401 Defendant’s conviction for maliciously destroying by fire a building owned by an institution receiving Federal financial assistance in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 844(f) is affirmed where: 1) in general, the statute should be limited to arson of property acquired, renovated, or leased using federal financial assistance; 2) section 844(f) is constitutional and it applies to defendant’s conduct in this case; but 3) defendant’s sentence is vacated and remanded in light of US v. Giggey to determine whether defendant’s second career offender predicate is a crime of violence. ..

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, December 03, 2009 Lopez v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, No. 09-1664 In minority police officers’ disparate impact race claim under Title VII against a state agency that prepares and administers promotional examinations for local police officers under the state civil service system, their employers, various cities, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), district court’s denial of Eleventh Amendment immunity for the state defendants, the state of Massachusetts and a chief human resources officers of the Human Resources Division (HRD) in his official capacity, is reversed where: 1) the state defendants do not qualify as employers as that term is used in Title VII; 2) HRD cannot be deemed plaintiffs’ de facto employer as it exercised no control, direct or indirect, over the factors relevant to the common law agency test; and 3) plaintiffs’ alternate theories why HRD should be considered their employer under Title VII are rejected.

U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 02, 2009 Francis v. Giacomelli, No. 08-1908 In a case brought by a police commissioner and his deputies following a highly public dispute with the mayor of Baltimore resulting in the termination of their employment, dismissal of the action is affirmed as, based on the facts alleged in the complaint, the complaint fails to articulate any claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Furthermore, the mayor, against whom the allegations of due process violations were directed, is entitled to qualified immunity.

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 02, 2009 Morgan v. Plano Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 08-40707 In a First Amendment challenge to the facial validity of school rules for elementary school student distribution of written materials, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed in part where the school district had a significant legitimate interest that was furthered by the regulations because the regulations were aimed at providing a focused learning environment for the district’s students. However, the case is remanded where plaintiffs’ claim for nominal damages as part of their as-applied challenge avoided mootness.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 01, 2009 Cohen v. Corr. Corp. of America, No. 06-3168 Appellate court’s opinion affirming the district court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. sections 1983, 2000bb, and 2000cc-1 complaint on the ground that plaintiff failed to allege exhaustion of his available administrative remedies prior to filing his complaint is reversed in light of the United States Supreme Court holding in Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 127 S. Ct. 910 (2007), that under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, a prisoner is not required to specifically plead or demonstrate exhaustion in his complaint and that exhaustion is not per se inadequate simply because an individual later sued was not named in the grievance. .

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 01, 2009 Thomas v. Cook County Sheriff’s Dep’t, No. 08-2232 In plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against a county, sheriff, and correctional employees, alleging that defendants violated her son’s constitutional rights by failing to respond to his serious medical needs while detained, jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff and award in the amount of $4,450,000 is affirmed for the most part where: 1) the jury had sufficient evidence to impose liability against the county and officers for their deliberate indifference to the detainee’s medical needs; 2) there is insufficient evidence to hold the sheriff liable as the causal connection between the sheriff’s policies and practices and detainee’s death is tenuous in light of the jury’s finding that individual correctional officers deliberately disregarded the detainee’s medical needs; 3) nonetheless, the sheriff’s absence as a liable party does not affect the jury’s compensatory damage award as the parties are jointly and severally liable for the entire award, which measures the amou! nt required to compensate the plaintiff for her indivisible harm, and the sheriff only added an additional source from whom the plaintiff could collect; 4) jury’s damage award for constitutional violations that resulted in death is not excessive; and 5) none of the defendants’ evidentiary challenges warrant reversal.

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 04, 2009 Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs’ Ass’n v. Clarke , No. 08-1515 In a suit brought by two sheriff deputies under 18 U.S.C. section 1983 alleging a violation of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment when the sheriff invited a Christian group to speak at a number of mandatory employee meetings, grant of plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on the Establishment Clause claim is affirmed as the religious group’s presentations during mandatory employee gatherings gave, at the least, the appearance of endorsement by the sheriff’s department, and thus, defendants violated the Establishment Clause.

Supreme Court of California, November 30, 2009 Roby v. McKesson Corp. , No. S149752 In plaintiff’s wrongful discharge, harassment and discrimination suit against her former employer and supervisor, court of appeal’s judgment is reversed where: 1) the Court of Appeal erred in allocating the evidence between the harassment claim and the discrimination claim, and as such, basing on that allocation, it erred in finding insufficient evidence to support the harassment verdict; and 2) although the court of appeal was correct in holding that the $15 million punitive damages award exceeds the federal constitutional limit, it erred in concluding that in this case the appropriate limit is $2 million as, under the test set forth in State Farm, a one-to-one ratio between compensatory and punitive damages is the federal constitutional limit in this case.

Contact Information