Findlaw Case Summaries – Constitutional Law

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August 2-6, 2010.

United States First Circuit, 08/04/2010
IMS Health Inc. v. Mills
In a challenge to the constitutionality of 22 Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 22, section 1711-E(2-A), which allows prescribers licensed in Maine to choose not to make their identifying information available for use in marketing prescription drugs to them, district court’s grant of plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction in prohibiting Maine from enforcing section 1711-E(2-A) on the basis of plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims is reversed where: 1) plaintiffs’ First Amendment challenges fail for the reasons stated in Ayotte, as the statute regulates conduct, not speech, and even if it regulates commercial speech, that regulation satisfies constitutional standards; 2) the Maine statute constitutionally protects Maine prescribers’ choice to opt in to confidentiality protection to avoid being subjected to unwanted solicitations based on their identifying data; 3) plaintiffs’ argument that the statute is void for vagueness is rejected; 4) section 1711-E(2-A) regulates prescript ion drug information intermediaries’ out-of-state use or sale of opted-in Maine prescribers’ data, and this interpretation does not raise constitutional concerns under the dormant Commerce Clause; and 5) nor would section 1711-E(2-A)’s regulation of prescription drug information intermediaries’ out-of-state use of sale of opted-in Maine prescribers’ identifying data raise constitutional concerns as a disproportionate burdens on interstate commerce under Pike.

United States Second Circuit, 08/02/2010
Scott v. Fischer
In an action claiming that defendants deprived plaintiff of liberty without due process of law both by placing her on mandatory post-release supervision without a proper judicial sentence and by failing to take action to remove the supervision before or after she was rearrested for violating the terms thereof, dismissal of the action is affirmed where defendants were entitled to qualified immunity for all actions they took prior to the Second Circuit’s decision in Earley v. Murray, 451 F.3d 71 (2d Cir. 2006), and further, plaintiff has not pleaded sufficient facts to state a claim upon which relief can be granted for any actions the defendants took thereafter. ..

United States Second Circuit, 08/03/2010
US v. Broxmeyer
Defendant’s convictions for production of child pornography and for transportation of a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity are reversed where: 1) the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant persuaded, induced, or enticed the victim to take Photos 1 and 2; and 2) an 18 U.S.C. section 2423(a) conviction cannot lie where the unlawful sexual act occurs before the crossing of state lines, and where there is no evidence of an intent to commit a sexual act when state lines were crossed.

United States Third Circuit, 08/02/2010
Reedy v. Evanson
In plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action against a detective and others, claiming unlawful seizure and unlawful search under the Fourth Amendment and related state law violations arising from a criminal complaint against plaintiff for falsely reporting a crime of sexual assault and robbery while working as a cashier at a convenience store (these were later dropped after a serial rapist was captured and confessed to the crimes), a grant of defendants’ motion for summary judgment is affirmed in part, vacated in part, reversed in part, and remanded where: 1) district court erred in granting summary judgment to the detective on plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment unlawful seizure claim and her related federal and state law claims, as no reasonably competent officer could have concluded at the time of plaintiff’s arrest that there was probable cause for the arrest; 2) summary judgment on detective’s defense of qualified immunity cannot stand as the availability of the defense mus t be decided after fact finding by the jury to determine whether the facts as recounted by the detective or by plaintiff are more credible; 3) district court erred in granting summary judgment to the detective on plaintiff’s unlawful search claim; 4) district court’s grant of summary judgment as to all claims against the officer and the public safety director are affirmed; and 5) district court’s grant of summary judgment as to plaintiff’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, against the officer and the safety director is affirmed.

United States Third Circuit, 08/02/2010
Equal Employment Oppotunity Comm’n v. Geo Group, Inc.
In the EEOC’s Title VII suit on behalf of a class of Muslim women employees against a private company that was contracted to run a prison for Delaware County, claiming that defendant violated Title VII’s prohibitions on religious discrimination when it failed to accommodate the class members by providing them an exception to the prison’s dress policy that otherwise precluded them from wearing Muslim head coverings called khimars at work, a grant of defendant’s motion for summary judgment is affirmed as the district court did not err by relying on Webb v. City of Philadelphia, 562 F.3d 256 (3d. Cir. 2009), which held that, notwithstanding the sincere religious beliefs of plaintiff police officer of the need to wear a khimar, that belief was subordinate to the police department’s policy prohibiting the wearing of a khimar because “safety is undoubtedly an interest of the greatest importance.”

United States Third Circuit, 08/03/2010
Saranchak v. Beard
A partial grant of defendant’s petition for habeas relief from the first degree murder conviction of his grandmother and uncle and a sentence of death is reversed where: 1) the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s rejection of the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel regarding the counsel’s failure seek suppression of certain statements was not an unreasonable application of, or contrary to, clearly established federal law; 2) defendant failed to establish a reasonable probability that, but for the admission of his statements to the state police, the result of the proceeding would have been different; 3) defendant failed to establish a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors in failing to investigate and present a proper diminished capacity defense, he would not have been convicted of first degree murder; and 4) defendant failed to show that he is “in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.”

United States Third Circuit, 08/05/2010
Great W. Mining & Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP
In plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against a law firm and an alternative dispute resolution entity, claiming that its state-court losses were the result of a corrupt conspiracy between defendants and members of the Pennsylvania state judiciary to exchange favorable rulings for future employment as arbitrators with the arbitration firm, the district court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim and denial of its motion for reconsideration and motions for leave to amend its complaint are affirmed where: 1) defendants’ argument that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes the exercise of subject matter jurisdiction over this case is rejected as plaintiff is not complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments, but rather, plaintiff asserts an independent constitutional claim that the alleged conspiracy violated it s right to be heard in an impartial forum; and 2) granting plaintiff leave to amend would have proved futile as even the final version of its complaint failed to plead facts plausibly suggesting a conspiratorial agreement.

United States Third Circuit, 08/05/2010
Singer Mgmt. Consultants, Inc. v. Milgram
District court’s denial of plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees, arising from plaintiff’s suit seeking a TRO and preliminary injunction to restrain the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey from her allegedly unconstitutional enforcement of the New Jersey Deceptive Practices in Musical Performances Statute (Truth in Music Act), is vacated and remanded for an order awarding reasonable attorney’s fees and costs as the district court erred in holding that plaintiff was not a prevailing party because it “voluntarily” changed its interpretation of the Truth in Music Act.

United States Fifth Circuit, 08/02/2010
Valle v. Houston
In an action based on an incident in which decedent was shot and killed by Houston police officers during an incident at his family’s home, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where: 1) although an officer’s decision to order entry into plaintiffs’ home was arguably the “moving force” behind the constitutional violations that resulted in decedent’s death, because his decision was not a decision by a final policymaker of the City, the City could not be liable; and 2) plaintiffs failed to present sufficient evidence of causation as to the entry of their home.

United States Sixth Circuit, 08/03/2010
In re: Squire
In proceedings arising from the suspension of a former judge on the county’s Domestic Relations and Juvenile Court from practicing law in state of Ohio for two years, district court’s imposition of a reciprocal disbarment of petitioner from practicing in federal court is affirmed where: 1) the failure to disclose the names of those persons to whom the Ohio disciplinary counsel may have spoken during the course of his investigation, but who were not part of the administrative record resulting in petitioner’s disbarment did not testify against her, was not a due process violation requiring reversal; 2) the record supports the district court’s decision to impose reciprocal discipline on petitioner; and 3) petitioner’s remaining claims are rejected as meritless.

United States Sixth Circuit, 08/04/2010
US v. People First of Tennessee
In a case arising from the district court’s original 1993 ruling that the state was violating the substantive due process rights of mentally retarded residents at a state operated home for mentally retarded individuals, district court’s denial of the State of Tennessee’s motion under Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 60(b)(5), requesting the court to vacate the injunctive relief and dismiss the case, is affirmed as the state has not put forward a single case or statute that could qualify as the significant change in law required to satisfy its initial burden under Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk County Jail, 502 U.S. 367 (1992), and in light of this failure, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it refused to revisit the original judgment.

United States Seventh Circuit, 08/02/2010
Moss v. Martin
In plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against several state officials, claiming that he was fired as the Chief of the Highway Sign Shop of the Illinois Department of Transportation in order to make room for an employee chosen by the administration of then-Governor Rod Blagojevich, district court’s grant of defendants’ motion for summary judgment is affirmed as, although the decision to fire plaintiff probably fell afoul of the Rutan principal (rule banning politically-based firings)l, defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. .

United States Seventh Circuit, 08/02/2010
Purvis v. Oest
In a former high school teacher’s suit against a school district’s superintendent and others claiming deprivation of due process and false arrest, arising from a prosecution for allegedly having a sexual relationship with with a 15-year-old student, of which she was acquitted, district court’s denial of defendants’ motion for summary judgment is reversed where: 1) a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether the school’s investigation was biased and deprived plaintiff of due process; 2) the superintendent, dean and the principal are entitled to qualified immunity; and 3) the police chief had probable cause to arrest plaintiff.

United States Eighth Circuit, 08/05/2010
Rattray v. Woodbury Cty.
In an action against an Iowa county alleging that plaintiff was strip searched illegally as part of the booking process at the county jail, a denial of plaintiff’s motion for class certification is affirmed where: 1) the magistrate judge’s determination that plaintiff had good cause for not asserting a class action before October 2007 did not dictate the conclusion on the separate motion to certify a class; and 2) plaintiff’s failure to move to certify with alacrity undermines confidence in the zeal with which she would represent the interests of absent class members.

United States Ninth Circuit, 08/02/2010
Krainski v. Nevada
In an action alleging constitutional and state law violations by a college student arising from an altercation with plaintiff’s former roommate that led to plaintiff’s arrest and subjection to university discipline, dismissal of the action is affirmed where: 1) the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiff’s claims against defendants in their official capacities based on sovereign immunity; 2) the record did not contain any information that would create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether officers had facts sufficiently detailed to cause a reasonable person to believe a crime had been committed and that plaintiff was the perpetrator; and 3) plaintiff did not allege that defendants suspended or expelled her for her conduct, or that she was otherwise deprived of an entitlement to education conferred by the state or secured by some other independent source or understanding.

United States Tenth Circuit, 08/02/2010
Braxton v. Zavaras
In an action by Colorado prisoners proceeding pro se, alleging that defendants violated their civil rights during a public strip search at a correctional facility, the dismissal of the action as untimely is affirmed where: 1) the Colorado Supreme Court had not held that the statute of limitations was automatically tolled whenever a person is involved in any administrative review process; and 2) plaintiffs did not diligently pursue their claims following the exhaustion of their administrative remedies.

United States Tenth Circuit, 08/06/2010
Dodds v. Richardson
In an action claiming that defendant-sheriff violated plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment due process rights by depriving him of his protected liberty interest in posting bail, the denial of summary judgment to defendant based on qualified immunity is affirmed where: 1) defendant has yet to proffer any reason, let alone a “legitimate goal,” for refusing to allow plaintiff to post bail and detaining plaintiff for three days, other than the assertion that the longstanding policies or customs at the jail, allegedly set by either the court clerk or the district judges, prohibited individuals charged with a felony from posting bond until they had been arraigned by a judge and from posting bond after hours; and 2) plaintiff’s right to be free from unjustified detention after his bail was set was clearly established such that a reasonable official in defendant’s position in April 2007 would have understood that his deliberately indifferent maintenance of the policies that pre vented arrestees from posting preset bail for no legitimate reason violated the Constitution.

United States DC Circuit, 08/06/2010
Boardley v. US Dep’t of the Interior
In a challenge to National Park Service regulations making it unlawful to engage in expressive activities within any national park unless a park official first issues a permit authorizing the activity, a partial grant of defendant’s motion for summary judgment is reversed where the regulations in their current form were antithetical to the core First Amendment principle that restrictions on free speech in a public forum may be valid only if narrowly tailored.

United States DC Circuit, 08/06/2010
Phillips v. Fulwood
In an action claiming that plaintiff-inmate should be subject to the parole rules in effect at the time of his conviction in determining his eligibility, the dismissal of the complaint is affirmed where there was no significant risk that application of the 2000 regulations had prolonged plaintiff’s incarceration. .

United States Federal Circuit, 08/02/2010
Consol. Coal Co. v. US
In a suit by a group of operators in the coal mining industry, the United States court of Federal Claims’ grant of summary judgment finding that certain regulations that implement the Surface Mining Control and Reclamations Act of 1977 (SMCRA) reclamation fee do not violate the Export Clause of the Constitution is affirmed as all of Office of Surface Mining’s (OSM) challenged regulations for collecting the reclamation fee under SMCRA, like the statute itself, apply to “coal extracted” and do not violate the Export Clause. .

Supreme Court of California, 08/02/2010
Coral Constr. Inc. v. City & County of San Francisco
In an action against the City and County of San Francisco brought by construction companies, challenging the 2003 version of an ordinance that preferentially awards public contracts to minority-owned business enterprises (MBE’s) and women-owned business enterprises (WBE’s) as unconstitutional, the judgment of the court of appeal is affirmed where: 1) the political structure doctrine does not invalidate section 31 of Article I of the California Constitution (forbidding a city awarding public contracts to discriminate or grant preferential treatment based on race or gender), which was approved by voters via Proposition 209; 2) there is no merit in the argument that the federal funding exception exempts the 2003 ordinance from section 31’s general prohibition of racial preferences, and as such, no triable issue of fact exists on this point to preclude summary judgment for plaintiffs; and 3) the court of appeal was correct in reversing superior court’s grant of summary judgm ent for plaintiffs on the city’s Federal Compulsion argument that the federal equal protection clause requires the 2003 ordinance as a remedy for the city’s own discrimination, and in remanding for the limited purpose of adjudicating this issue. .

California Court of Appeal, 08/04/2010
In re Coley
Defendant’s request for habeas relief from his conviction for failing to update his sex offender registration within five days of his birthday, and a sentence of 25 years to life pursuant to the Three Strikes law, the petition is denied where: 1) as in Ewing, defendant’s sentence is justified by the State’s public safety interest in incapacitating and deterring recidivist felons, and amply supported by his own long, serious, criminal record; 2) this is not the “extreme” case necessary to justify a finding that noncapital punishment violates the Eighth Amendment; and 3) in disagreement with the holding in People v. Carmony, 127 Cal.App.4th 1066 (2005), defendant’s sentence does not violate the Eighth Amendment.

California Court of Appeal, 08/05/2010
Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dist. v. Casasola
In plaintiffs’ request for reimbursement from a school district for relocation expenses, arising from the school district’s acquisition of plaintiffs’ property by eminent domain, judgment of the trial court is affirmed where: 1) the trial court did not err in rejecting the plaintiffs’ claim for expenses incurred to mitigate loss of goodwill of their business; and 2) the trial court did not err in enforcing the stipulated $5,000 per day penalty

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