Findlaw Case Summaries: Constitutional Law 30

January 18, 2010 – January 1, 2010
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U.S. Supreme Court, January 21, 2010 Citizens United v. FEC, No. 08–205 The Court rules that the government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether. Specifically, in an action brought by a nonprofit corporation, the makers of a documentary critical of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, challenging the constitutionality of a federal law prohibiting corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech that was an “electioneering communication” or for speech that expressly advocated the election or defeat of a candidate, a denial of a preliminary injunction for plaintiff is reversed in part where Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U.S. 652 (1990), is overruled, and thus provides no basis for allowing the government to limit corporate independent expenditures. Hence, the part of McConnell v. Federal Election Comm’n, 540 U.S. 93 (2007), that upheld the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act sect! ion 203’s extension of section 441b’s restrictions on independent corporate expenditures is also overruled. However, the order is affirmed in part where BCRA sections 201 and 311 were valid as applied to the ads for the documentary and to the movie itself because disclaimer and disclosure requirements may burden the ability to speak, but they imposed no ceiling on campaign-related activities, or prevented anyone from speaking. .

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, January 20, 2010 Fox v. Vice, No. 08-31135 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action based on a blackmail letter sent to plaintiff by a rival candidate for the office of police chief, a grant of defendants’ motion for attorneys’ fees based on the dismissal of plaintiff’s federal claims is affirmed where: 1) defendants were prevailing parties despite plaintiff’s voluntary dismissal of his federal claims because the case had proceeded through substantial discovery before defendants’ motion to dismiss those claims; and 2) plaintiff’s claims were frivolous because it was clear from the face of the complaint that the letter was not sent under color of law. .

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, January 22, 2010 Libertarian Party v. Dardenne, No. 09-30307 In an action seeking to declare unconstitutional the Louisiana Secretary of State’s deadline for submitting qualifying papers entitling candidates to be on the ballot for the 2008 presidential election, dismissal of the complaint as moot is affirmed where plaintiffs failed to show a reasonable expectation that the Secretary would again unilaterally change filing deadlines in the future.

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, January 21, 2010 Ray v. Boatwright, No. 08-2825 Denial of defendant’s petition for habeas relief is reversed and remanded where: 1) the detective testifying to the co-actors’ statements violated defendant’s right of confrontation; 2) the statements were inadmissible under Roberts as they neither fell within a firmly rooted hearsay exception nor did they contain particularized guarantees of trustworthiness; 3) the error in admitting statements by the nontestifying co-actors was plain and defendant’s substantial rights were affected; and 4) defendant’s petition is determined to be timely.

Supreme Court of California, January 21, 2010 In re Freeman, No. S150984 Court of appeals’ reversal of defendant’s conviction for child endangerment and related crimes is reversed and remanded as, while a showing of actual bias is not required for judicial disqualification under the due process clause, neither is the mere appearance of bias sufficient, and in light of Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., Inc., __ U.S. __ (2009), this case does not present the “extreme facts” that require judicial disqualification on due process grounds.

Supreme Court of California, January 21, 2010 People v. Kelly, No. S164830 In an action arising from a conviction of a defendant for possessing more than 28.5 grams of marijuana, court of appeals judgment determining the validity of Health & Safety Code section 11362.77 which prescribes the amount of marijuana that a qualified patient may possess or cultivate is affirmed in part and reversed in part where: 1) insofar as section 11362.77 burdens a defense under the CUA to a criminal charge of possessing or cultivating marijuana, it impermissibly amends the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) and in that respect is invalid under California Constitution article II, section 10(c); and 2) the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that section 11362.77 must be severed from the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) and hence voided.

Supreme Court of Florida, January 21, 2010 Johnston v. State of Florida, No. SC09-839 Denial of defendant’s request for postconviction relief, following his conviction for first-degree murder and death sentence, is affirmed where: 1) trial court applied the correct newly discovered evidence standard and determined, in light of all the now available and admissible evidence, that the newly discovered evidence would not exonerate defendant; 2) a a report in a scientific journal presented by defendant does not constitute newly discovered evidence; 3) postconviction court did not err in denying production of the fingerprints and shoeprint evidence for additional testing, and that denial of the motion did not deprive defendant of due process; 4) no specific procedures are mandates in the clemency process and defendant has been provided with the clemency proceedings to which he is entitled; 5) defendant’s claim of mental illness was procedurally barred, and even if the claim were not procedurally barred, it is without merit; 6) defendant’s claim that execution after! an inordinate length of time on death row is unconstitutional is without merit; and 7) defendant’s claim that he is entitled to relief due to the leg shackles, when he insisted on wearing more noticeable belt restraints, is without merit.

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