Findlaw Case Summaries: Constitutional Law November 24 – 28, 2008

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U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, November 26, 2008 Estate of Bennett, No. 072169 In a suit against defendant-police officers for the shooting death of decedent following gunfire initiated by decedent, judgment in favor of defendants is affirmed where: 1) the district court properly granted defendant-officer’s motion to dismiss where the estate failed to show a deprivation of a protected interest in life, liberty, or property; 2) the district court did not err in dismissal by judgment on the pleadings because plaintiff-estate did not meet its pleading requirements, plaintiff-estate waived its equal protection claim, and there was no property interest that was allegedly taken to support the takings claim; and 3) grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants was proper.

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, November 24, 2008 In reTerrorist Bombings of U.S. Embassies in East Africa, No. 011535, 011550, 011553, 011571, 056149, 056704 Judgments of convictions for offenses arising from involvement in an international conspiracy, led by Osama Bin Laden and organized through the al Qaeda terrorist network, to kill American citizens and destroy American facilities across the globe are affirmed and remanded for re-sentencing where: 1) the indictment was sufficient to support a conviction of a capital offense; 2) sufficient evidence supported the convictions; 3) the District Court’s application of the Classified Information Procedures Act did not violate the Constitution; 4) a severance motion was properly denied; 5) statements of co-defendants, co-conspirators, and certain third parties were properly admitted at trial; 6) the government withheld exculpatory evidence; 7) there was no merit in co-defendant’s suggestion that “cumulative error” deprived him of a fair trial; and 8) the application of certain enhancements to co-defendant’s sentencing guidelines calculation was not in error. Insofar as co-defendant’s! sentence resulted from the mandatory application of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, he is entitled to be resentenced pursuant to U.S. v. Fagans, 406 F.3d 138 (2d Cir. 2005). R
U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, November 26, 2008 Cooper v. S.E. Pennsylvania Transp. Auth., No. 07-1522 In a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, alleging defendant undercompensates its bus drivers by failing to fully account for their performance of required pre-trip safety inspections, denial of summary judgment to defendant is affirmed where defendant is not entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment, even in light of subsequent changes in Eleventh Amendment jurisprudence and in defendant’s state funding formula.

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, November 24, 2008 Walker v. Epps, No. 0860652 In an Eight Amendment challenge to lethal injection as the method of execution for two death-row inmates, rulings that the applicable statute of limitations barred plaintiffs’ section 1983 action and grant of summary judgment to defendant are affirmed where: 1) under Wilson v. Garcia, the statute of limitations apply with equal force to section 1983 method-of-execution action; 2) the limitations period begins to accrue on the date direct review of a plaintiff’s conviction and sentence is complete; 3) the district court correctly found that the statute of limitations has run for each of the three remaining plaintiffs; and 4) there was no reason to hold that the statute of limitations has been tolled.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, November 24, 2008 Smith v. Jefferson County School Bd. of Comm’rs, No. 066533 In claim by former principal and teachers alleging that closing of county’s public alternative school and violated First Amendment Establishment Clause rights and Fourteenth Amendment rights, grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant county school board is reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded where: 1) there was genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Board violated the Establishment Clause; 2) the Board did not violate the teachers’ procedural and substantive due-process rights; and 3) individual Board members are entitled to legislative immunity.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, November 24, 2008 Molina-Crespo v. US Merit Sys. Prot. Bd. , No. 073745 In a claim for violation of the Hatch Act which prohibits state or local officer or employee from being a candidate for elective office, grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant-Merit Systems Protection Board is affirmed over claims that: 1) the district court erred in concluding that Board did not abuse its discretion in determining that plaintiff’s violation of the Hatch Act, regulating the political activity of state employees who administer federal funds, warranted his removal; and 2) the district court erred in rejecting plaintiff’s challenges to the constitutionality of the Hatch Act, including attacks based on equal protection, due process, and the First Amendment.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, November 24, 2008 O’Bryan v. Holy See , No. 075078, 075163 In a class action suit against defendant-Holy See for claims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy, partial grant of defendant’s motion to dismiss is affirmed where: 1) plaintiffs’ response to the defendant’s First Amendment challenges could not preserve plaintiffs’ own Establishment Clause claim; 2) plaintiffs waived their constitutional challenges to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA); 3) the district court correctly applied the FSIA’s burden shifting process; 4) the portions of plaintiffs’ claims that were based upon the conduct of bishops, archbishops and Holy See personnel while supervising allegedly abusive clergy satisfied all four requirements of the tortious act exception; 5) plaintiffs’ claims of violation of customary international law of human rights, negligence, and breach of fiduciary duty should not be dismissed for ‘arising out of…misrepresentation [or] deceit’; and 6) the last two claims advanced by plaintiffs were dismissed for arising out of! misrepresentation or deceit.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, November 26, 2008 League of Women Voters of Ohio v. Brunner, No. 063335, 063483, 063621 In a claim by plaintiff-voting rights organizations claiming that state voting system was deficient and alleging violations of equal protection, substantive due process, procedural due process and the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), decision dismissing the HAVA claim but allowing parties to proceed on the constitutional claims is affirmed in part and reversed in part where: 1) plaintiffs and intervenor pled sufficient facts to survive a motion to dismiss with respect to their equal protection and substantive due process claims; however 2) plaintiffs did not allege facts that would establish a violation of procedural due process, if proven.

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, November 25, 2008 Houskins v. Sheahan, No. 06-2283, 06-2549 and 06-2575 In a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, judgment against a county is reversed where: 1) the defendant’s failure to include the issue of protected speech in the final pre-trial order is not fatal to its claims on appeal; 2) speech made pursuant to an official’s duties as an employee is not protected under the First Amendment; and 3) claims that a county has a policy of retaliation and selective discipline fails when the plaintiff fails to establish a deprivation of a constitutional right.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, November 25, 2008 Equity Lifestyle Props., Inc. v. County of San Luis Obispo, No. 05-55406 In an action involving a municipal rent control ordinance, the district court’s order dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint is affirmed where: 1) the complaint contained no claim upon which relief could be granted, because its as-applied takings claim was unripe; 2) its facial claims failed to satisfy the applicable statute of limitations; 3) its due process and equal protection claims lacked merit under the U.S. Constitution; 4) the principles of abstention justify the district court’s dismissal of the petition for a writ of administrative mandamus; and 5) the appellate court declines to disturb the state trial court’s subsequent decision denying the writ.

U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, November 26, 2008 Pointdexter v. The Bd. of County Comm’rs of the County of Sequoyah, No. 07-7074 In an action involving First Amendment rights of political association and speech, summary judgment for the defendants is affirmed where: 1) the office of Road Foreman has significant political dimension and sufficient discretionary authority that the County Commissioner, for whom the Foreman works, may properly take political loyalty into account; and 2) there was insufficient evidence to go to jury on the free speech claim.

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