Findlaw Case Summaries: Constitutional Law 37

To view the full-text of cases you must sign in to All summaries are produced by Findlaw
August 16-20, 2010.

United States Third Circuit, 08/18/2010
McCauley v. Univ. of the Virgin Islands
In plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against a university, its president and two other individuals arising from the university’s decision charging plaintiff with violating provisions of the Student Code of Conduct (Code) for his alleged harassment of an individual who had accused his friend of rape, claiming that various Code provisions violated the First Amendment, district court’s judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part where: 1) district court’s dismissal of all claims against the university in holding that it was not a “person” for purposes of section 1983 is affirmed; 2) the two individuals, as employees of the university acting in their official capacities, were likewise not “persons” for purposes of section 1983; 3) adjudication of plaintiff’s as-applied challenge to Major Infraction Paragraph E was unnecessary because the district court had already concluded that the paragraph was facially unconstitutional; 4) district court’s dismissal of Paragrap h B for lack of an injury should be reversed and judgment should be entered in favor of the two employees because that paragraph has a limited, constitutional construction; and 5) Paragraphs H and R are unconstitutional infringements on students’ First Amendment right to free speech.

United States Sixth Circuit, 08/17/2010
McKenna v. Honsowetz
In plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against two police officers who responded to a 911 report that plaintiff was having a medical seizure and and thereafter allegedly violated his Fourth Amendment rights, district court’s denial of defendants’ motions for summary judgment based on qualified immunity and reduction of an award for pain and suffering from $275,000 to $10,000 are affirmed where: 1) whether the officers were entitled to qualified immunity depends on whether they acted in a law-enforcement capacity or in an emergency-medical-response capacity when engaging in the conduct that plaintiff claimed violated the Fourth Amendment, and here, the view of the facts undoubtedly supports a finding that the officers acted in a law-enforcement capacity; 2) the record contained ample evidence to support the determination that the officers unreasonably searched the home and seized plaintiff; and 3) plaintiff’s appeal of the reduction in the award is denied as the Suprem e Court has clearly stated that a plaintiff cannot appeal a remittitur after he has accepted it. .

United States Sixth Circuit, 08/20/2010
Hussein v. City of Perrysburg
In homeowners’ suit against a city, a city inspector and other individuals in their official and personal capacities, claiming that defendants violated their procedural and substantive due process rights by ordering a construction worker to remove a temporary asphalt layer in their driveway, judgment of the district court is reversed and remanded where: 1) defendants are entitled to qualified immunity because state officials are permitted under the Constitution to inform citizens of the officials’ view that they are violating state or local law and state officials are also permitted to threaten litigation or prosecution if citizens do not agree to conform their actions to state or local law; and 2) defendant did not violate plaintiffs’ substantive due process rights as the asphalt driveway incident did not implicate specific constitutional guarantees.

United States Seventh Circuit, 08/19/2010
US v. Smith
Conviction of defendant for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, money laundering, concealment of information from the Social Security Administration, and making false statements, and sentence of ninety-two months’ imprisonment is vacated and remanded where: 1) given the court’s failure to meet the requirements of Rule 11(b)(1)(N) and the fundamental nature of the underlying right at issue, the plea agreement’s appellate waiver does not preclude defendant from challenging on direct appeal the court’s alleged denial of his right to counsel of his choice; and 2) defendant is entitled to have his guilty plea vacated as district court erroneously denied defendant his constitutional right to his choice of defense counsel, and under Gonzalez-Lopez, defendant is not required to prove that he was prejudiced by the violation.

United States Seventh Circuit, 08/20/2010
Bauer v. Shepard
In plaintiffs’ challenge to certain provisions of the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct, claiming that they refrain from speaking about controversial issues such as abortion or from filling out questionnaires about abortion sent by the Indiana Right to Life, Inc., because they fear the prospect of sanctions under the Code, district court’s holding that all of the contested provisions are constitutional is affirmed where: 1) district court’s judgment that a plaintiff’s challenge to the pre-2009 Code became moot is modified as it is unripe; 2) the fundraising provisions are constitutional; 3) the partisan-activities provisions are constitutional; 4) the “commits clauses” provisions are not overbroad; and 5) the recusal clause does not present a constitutional issue at all.

United States Eighth Circuit, 08/17/2010
Shannon v. Koehler
In an action alleging that defendant-officer violated the Fourth Amendment by using excessive force in arresting plaintiff, a denial of qualified immunity to defendant is affirmed where: 1) the facts, construed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, established a violation of a constitutional right; and 2) a reasonable official would have known that his actions were unlawful.

United States Ninth Circuit, 08/17/2010
US v. Alvarez
Defendant’s conviction for falsely verbally claiming to have received the Congressional Medal of Honor is reversed where the Stolen Valor Act lacked the elements that would make it analogous to the other restrictions on false speech previously held to be proscribable without constitutional problem, and thus the Act was not narrowly drawn to achieve a compelling governmental interest, and was unconstitutional.

United States Tenth Circuit, 08/17/2010
Lundstrom v. Romero
In a civil rights action claiming a prolonged detention of plaintiffs, summary judgment for defendant-officers is reversed in part where plaintiffs alleged facts sufficient to demonstrate the officers violated their clearly established constitutional rights because, while the circumstances the officers confronted initially supported a brief investigatory detention, objectively reasonable officers would not have prolonged the detention and searched the home on the facts before them.

United States Tenth Circuit, 08/18/2010
American Atheists, Inc. v. Duncan
In an Establishment Clause Challenge to the decision of the Utah Highway Patrol Association, with the permission of Utah state authorities, to erect a number of twelve-foot high crosses on public land to memorialize fallen Utah Highway Patrol troopers, summary judgment for defendants is reversed where the memorials had the impermissible effect of conveying to the reasonable observer the message that the state preferred or otherwise endorsed a certain religion.

Supreme Court of California, 08/19/2010
Moore v. Superior Court
A court of appeals reversal of trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to stay the proceedings to extend his commitment as an SVP to determine his mental competence to stand trial is reversed as, balancing all the factors, and placing special weight on the paramount interest in public safety, the due process does not require mental competence on the part of someone undergoing a commitment or recommitment trial under the SVP.

California Court of Appeal, 08/18/2010
Qualified Patients Ass’n v. City of Anaheim
In plaintiffs’ action against the City of Anaheim, seeking a declaratory judgment that state’s medical marijuana laws preempted the city’s ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries within the city, trial court’s order sustaining the city’s demurrer to plaintiffs’ complaint without leave to amend is affirmed in part and reversed in part where: 1) trial court correctly concluded plaintiffs failed to state a cause of action under the Unruh Act, which is aimed at “business establishments,” not local government legislative acts; and 2) trial court erred as a matter of law in concluding federal regulation of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act preempted California’s decision in the Compassionate Use Act and the Medical Marijuana Program Act to decriminalize specific medical marijuana activities under state law.

Contact Information