Findlaw Case Summaries: Constitutional Law – June 21-25, 2010

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June 21-25, 2010.

U.S. Supreme Court, June 21, 2010 Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, No. 08–1498 In a constitutional challenge to 18 U.S.C. section 2339B(a)(1), which prohibited knowingly providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, the Ninth Circuit’s affirmance of partial judgment for plaintiffs is reversed in part where the material support statute was constitutional as applied to the particular forms of support that plaintiffs sought to provide to foreign terrorist organizations. Read more…

U.S. Supreme Court, June 24, 2010 Doe v. Reed, No. 09–559 In a First Amendment challenge to the Washington Public Records Act based on its provision permitting the disclosure of referendum petition signers’ names and addresses, the Ninth Circuit’s reversal of the district court’s preliminary injunction in favor of plaintiffs is affirmed where disclosure of referendum petitions does not as a general matter violate the First Amendment.

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, June 21, 2010 Rodriguez-Garcia v. Miranda-Marin, No. 08-2319 In a municipal employee’s suit claiming that she was transferred to another position in retaliation for testimony she gave before the Puerto Rico Government Ethics Office in violation of her rights under the First Amendment and Puerto Rico law, judgment of the district court is affirmed where: 1) the evidence presented at trial is sufficient to support a jury finding that plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action sufficient to support her section 1983 claim; 2) defendants would not have taken the same adverse employment action in the absence of her protected conduct; 3) the mayor was personally liable for retaliation under section 1983; 4) the municipality is liable under section 1983; 5) the court did not abuse its discretion in affirming the damages award in the amount of $350,000; and 6) the court’s determination that plaintiff waived her Puerto Rico Law 115 claim was not an abuse of discretion.

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, June 21, 2010 Real Estate Bar Ass’n for Massachusetts, Inc. v. Nat’l Real Estate Info. Serv., No. 09-1809 In the Real Estate Bar Association’s suit against defendant for unauthorized practice of law, judgment of the district court is vacated in part, reversed in part and remanded where: 1) district court’s judgment against plaintiff on its unauthorized practice of law claim is vacated as in Massachusetts, the state judicial branch and the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (SJC) in particular, is solely responsible for defining what is the practice of law, and here, there is no controlling precedent which addresses whether the activities at issue constitute unauthorized practice of law; and 2) district court’s judgment on defendant’s dormant Commerce Clause counterclaim is reversed as plaintiff is not a state actor, defendant has not stated a dormant Commerce Clause claim against plaintiff, and plaintiff’s bringing of its suit against defendant under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 221, section 46B is protected by the First Amendment.

U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, June 22, 2010 Sides v. Cherry , No. 08-1982 In a former inmate’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against various prison officials, jury verdict in favor of the defendants is affirmed where: 1) requiring a party in a civil trial to appear in shackles may well deprive him of due process unless the restraints are necessary; and 2) even if the district court erred in ordering that defendant be shackled during trial, that error was harmless.

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, June 22, 2010 Terry v. Hubert, No. 09-30559 In an action brought by a former inmate detained (for about 7 months) following Hurricane Katrina alleging violations of plaintiff’s First Amendment right to access the courts and Fourteenth Amendment right to due process, a denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity is reversed where the undisputed evidence showed that defendant-warden neither violated plaintiff’s right of access to the courts nor violated any clearly established law in connection with the detention.

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, June 21, 2010 Junkert v. Massey, No. 09-2908 In an attorney’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit claiming that searches of her law office and residence for stolen laptop computers and controlled substances violated her Fourth Amendment rights, judgment against plaintiff pursuant to a jury verdict is affirmed as an affidavit was not so deficient that any reasonably well-trained officer would have known that probable cause was lacking, requiring the second-guessing of the judge’s authorization, and thus, the officer has a qualified immunity defense against the attorney’s section 1983 suit. .

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, June 23, 2010 Parra v. Neal, No. 09-1404 In a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit, brought by registered voters against the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago and its members, claiming that their votes for a disqualified candidate on the ballot were invalidated in violation of their Fourteenth Amendment rights, district court’s grant of defendants’ motion for summary judgment is affirmed as the plaintiffs’ suit is meritless as they provide no grounds for federal court interference with the state supreme court’s decision or the Board’s implementation of that decision.

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, June 23, 2010 Ebert v. Gaetz, No. 09-1627 District court’s denial of defendant’s petition for habeas relief from his murder and armed robbery conviction is affirmed where: 1) a state court’s conclusion that new statements from a witness did not negate its earlier finding of probable cause to arrest defendant was not so erroneous as to be objectionably unreasonable; and 2) defendant’s counsel was not constitutionally deficient in failing to file what would have been an unmeritorious motion to quash his arrest and suppress inculpatory statement.

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, June 24, 2010 Muscarello v. Ogle County Bd. of Comm’rs, No. 08-2464 In plaintiff’s suit against multiple defendants asserting various claims based on the U.S. Constitution, the Illinois Constitution, Illinois statutes, and the common law, arsing from the county’s decision to amend its zoning ordinances to allow special permits for the construction of windmills used to generate power, and in particular, the construction of 40 windmills adjacent to plaintiff’s property, judgment of the district court is affirmed where: 1) plaintiff’s federal takings, equal protection, and due process claims fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; 2) plaintiff’s state law trespass and nuisance claims are not ripe for review; 3) plaintiff has failed to avail herself of the opportunity to allege and support an independent basis of federal subject-matter jurisdiction over the other seven claims; and 4) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant’s motion for an administrative stay.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, June 23, 2010 Simmons v. Navajo County, No. 08-15522 In a civil rights action against county jail personnel claiming that they negligently permitted the suicide of an inmate, summary judgment for defendant is affirmed in part where: 1) no reasonable jury could conclude that a nurse consciously disregarded an excessive risk to plaintiffs’ decedent’s safety; 2) plaintiffs adduced no evidence that a corrections officer knew that the decedent was suicidal; and 3) because there was no underlying constitutional violation, plaintiffs could not maintain a claim for municipal liability. However, the judgment is vacated in part where, should the district court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ state law claims, it may remand those claims to state court for further proceedings.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, June 25, 2010 Kimbrough v. State of Cal., No. 08-17231 In an action claiming that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) grooming regulations concerning hair length interfered with plaintiff’s First Amendment right to free exercise of religion, the district court’s award of attorney’s fees to plaintiff is reversed where, because the district court did not actually adjudicate plaintiff’s claims, the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Siripongs foreclosed an award of attorneys’ fees in this case.

U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, June 21, 2010 Golan v. Holder, No. 09-1234 In an action challenging the constitutionality of Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), which granted copyright protection to various foreign works that were previously in the public domain in the U.S., summary judgment for plaintiffs is reversed where: 1) the government’s interest in securing protections abroad for American copyright holders satisfied this substantial government interest standard; 2) Congress had substantial evidence from which it could reasonably conclude that the ongoing harms to American authors were real and not merely conjectural; and 3) there was substantial evidence from which Congress could conclude that Section 514 would alleviate these harms to American copyright holders.

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