Findlaw Case Summaries: Constitutional Law 28

December-14-18, 2009.

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U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, December 17, 2009 Mosher v. Nelson, No. 09-1636 In plaintiffs’ civil rights action brought following the death of their son against a facility operated by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections that serves as both a prison and a mental hospital, its superintendent, and others, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where: 1) defendant-superintendent is entitled to qualified immunity as a reasonable official in defendant’s place, given the circumstances and the legal standard, could have believed that allowing a certain practice to continue would not lead to events that would violate a patient’s rights; 2) commissioner is also entitled to qualified immunity as a reasonable official in his position could have reasonably believed that staffing that met the hospital’s recommendations was sufficient to avoid constitutional violations; and 3) the district court properly dismissed the plaintiffs’ state law claims as barred by the Eleventh Amendment. .

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, December 16, 2009 US v. Hester, No. 08-4665 Defendant’s conviction for traveling in interstate commerce and failing to register or update his sex offender registration in violation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) is affirmed where the fact that defendant had no actual notice of SORNA was not sufficient to render his prosecution pursuant to that statute a violation of his due process rights.

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, December 18, 2009 Turkmen v. Ashcroft, No. 06-3745 In an action claiming abuse, mistreatment, and detention of Arab and Muslim aliens who were held on immigration violations in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, an order partially dismissing the complaint is affirmed in part where there was no clearly established equal protection right to be free of selective enforcement of immigration laws based on national origin, race, or religion at the time of plaintiffs’ detentions. However, the order is vacated in part where defendant-officials were entitled to qualified immunity because a law enforcement official’s actual motivation for the Fourth Amendment seizure of a person was constitutionally irrelevant if the seizure was supported by probable cause.

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, December 18, 2009 Tuccio v. Marconi, No. 07-5493 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action claiming that a town selectman violated plaintiff’s right to petition the government under the First Amendment by refusing to meet with him in retaliation for his filing a lawsuit against the town, judgment as a matter of law for defendants is affirmed where, given that plaintiff had no business with the town and suffered no harm or injury, the town’s reasonable precaution to communicate with an adverse litigant only in writing was not a violation of a constitutional right.

U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, December 14, 2009 US v. Battis , No. 08-2949 In defendant’s challenge to his conviction for attempted homicide and related offenses arising from a fight at a bar, judgment of the district court concluding that there was no constitutional violation is reversed with instructions to dismiss the indictment and vacate the conviction as, weighing the four Barker factors anew, defendant’s right to a speedy trial was violated when forty-five months elapsed between his indictment and trial. Prejudice will be presumed (rebuttably) when there is a forty-five-month delay in bringing a defendant to trial, even when it could be argued that only thirty-five months of that delay is attributable to the government.

U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 16, 2009 Walker v. Kelly, No. 08-11 In habeas proceedings, defendant’s conviction and death sentence are affirmed where: 1) the district court properly conducted an evidentiary hearing on the Brady issue and rendered a decision on the merits; and 2) the district court properly determined that, even if defendant were able to show that the evidence at issue was withheld and that it was favorable to him, the alleged Brady material does not undermine confidence in the guilty verdict.

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 17, 2009 Hoog-Watson v. Guadalupe Cty., No. 08-50077 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action claiming that defendant-officers conducted a warrantless search of plaintiff’s property and seized her animals, summary judgment for defendants is reversed where: 1) plaintiff’s evidence opposing summary judgment created a genuine question of fact with respect to the animal cruelty proceedings’ criminal or civil nature; and 2) the district court erred when it concluded that defendant-prosecutor’s absolute prosecutorial immunity shielded her from all of plaintiff’s claims.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 18, 2009 Earhart v. Konteh, No. 07-4127 Denial of defendant’s petition for habeas relief from a conviction of rape of a child under thirteen years of age and related crimes is reversed and a conditional writ as to the indictment charging defendant with gross sexual imposition against a minor victim is granted as the admission of a videotape deposition without a proper finding that the witness was constitutionally unavailable violated defendant’s clearly established right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment. However, district court’s judgment as to the remainder of the petition is affirmed as defendant is not entitled to relief on the remainder of his claims.

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 16, 2009 Pro’s Sports Bar & Grill, Inc. v. City of Country Club Hills, No. 09-2082 In a dispute between a bar and a city over a liquor license with hours restrictions, grant of a preliminary injunction based on a due process claim is affirmed where: 1) plaintiff has a protected property interest in a liquor license with the same hours as other license holders in the city, as nothing in the text of the ordinance suggests that the council intended to amend the hours of operation section or to exclude plaintiff from its effects; 2) plaintiff has shown that it has been deprived of that property without due process of law as it did not receive a pre-deprivation hearing or any other such protections; and 3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in its balancing of the preliminary injunction factors given the strong likelihood of success of the merits, and the concrete and irreparable harm to plaintiff outweighs any interest advanced by the city in continuing to enforce the hours limitation.

U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 18, 2009 Akins v. Epperly, No. 08-3753 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action claiming that defendant-officers inadequately investigated an incident in which plaintiff was shot by another officer, denial of defendants’ summary judgment motion is reversed where, although plaintiff highlighted multiple errors and inconsistencies in defendants’ investigation, he failed to show conscience-shocking reckless or intentional conduct.

U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 16, 2009 Vasquez v. Starks, No. 08-3121 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action alleging that, in two separate incidents, Kansas state authorities falsely arrested plaintiff and filed falsified pre-trial diversion agreements containing his forged signatures, dismissal of the action is reversed where: 1) there was no related underlying conviction that could be invalidated by plaintiff’s section 1983 actions and thus the action was not barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and 2) a district court may not sua sponte dismiss a prisoner’s section 1983 action on the basis of the statute of limitations unless it is clear from the face of the complaint that there are no meritorious tolling issues, or the court has provided the plaintiff notice and an opportunity to be heard on the issue.

U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, December 15, 2009 Act Now To Stop the War and End Racism Coalition v. Dist. of Colum., No. 08-7098 In an action claiming that certain regulations of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation governing the placement of posters in the District violated the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause, dismissal of the action for lack of standing is reversed where: 1) an affidavit by plaintiff’s executive director plainly qualified, at the stage of a motion to dismiss, as a credible statement of intent to commit violative acts; and 2) Younger abstention was improper to the extent that plaintiff’s suit challenged the constitutionality of other postering regulations that plaintiff had not been accused of violating, so long as the invalidity of the challenged regulation did not, presumably through inseverability, imply the invalidity of any regulation that plaintiff had been accused of violating.

California Appellate Districts, December 17, 2009 People v. Saleem, No. B204646 Defendant’s conviction for possession of body armor by a person previously convicted of a violent felony, with prior serious felony and prior prison term findings, is reversed where: 1) Penal Code section 12370 must be construed to contain a knowledge element and the prosecution had to prove that defendant knew, or reasonably should have known, the body vest in his possession had characteristics making it illegal under section 12370; and 2) section 12370 is unconstitutionally void for vagueness because it does not provide fair notice of which protective body vests constitute the body armor made illegal by the statute.

California Appellate Districts, December 17, 2009 Derick B. Sup. Ct., No. D055446 A juvenile defendant’s petition for a writ of prohibition to bar the juvenile court from imposing a Fourth Amendment waiver condition is granted and the condition vacated as a juvenile court does not have the authority to impose a Fourth Amendment waiver as a condition of informal supervision under Welfare and Inst. Code sections 654 and 654.2.

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