Findlaw Case Summaries: Constitutional Law 39

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October 4-8, 2010.

United States First Circuit, 10/08/2010
Tevlin v. Spencer
District court’s denial of defendant’s request for habeas relief from his convictions for first-degree murder, armed robbery, and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, is affirmed where: 1) defendant has failed to demonstrate the existence of ineffective assistance of counsel in any of his theories; and 2) the Massachusetts discovery procedures are not on their face unconstitutional and defendant has not established that their application here violated due process. .

United States Second Circuit, 10/04/2010
Analytical Diagnostic Labs, Inc. v. Kusel
In a class-of-one equal protection claim alleging that defendants, employees of the New York State Department of Health, intentionally and maliciously subjected plaintiff-clinical testing laboratory to an intense and unwarranted degree of regulatory scrutiny, summary judgment for defendant is affirmed where there was no record evidence raising a question of fact as to whether: 1) other labs were similarly situated; or 2) even assuming other labs were similarly situated, that the same decisionmakers were aware of the similarity and treated plaintiff differently.

United States Second Circuit, 10/08/2010
Byrne v. Rutledge
In an action alleging that Vermont’s denial of plaintiff’s requested vanity license plate, on the grounds that it contained a religious message in violation of state law prohibiting such messages on vanity license plates, violated the Free Speech Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Due Process Clause, summary judgment for defendants is reversed where Vermont’s ban on all vanity plate combinations that “refer, in any language, to a … religion” or “deity” constituted unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. .

United States Third Circuit, 10/04/2010
Kelly v. Carlisle
In plaintiff’s civil rights suit claiming that his First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated when he was arrested for filming a police officer during a traffic stop, district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the police officer and the Borough of Carlisle is affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded where: 1) district court’s grant of summary judgment in granting qualified immunity to the officer on plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment claims is vacated and remanded because the district court did not consider the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, did not evaluate the objective reasonableness of the officer’s decision to rely on the prosecutor’s advice in light of those facts, and did not evaluate sufficiently the state of Pennsylvania law at the relevant time; 2) the right to videotape police officers during traffic stops was not clearly established and the officer was entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff’s First Amendment claim; and 3) district court’s summary judgment in favor of the Borough of Carlisle is affirmed. .

United States Third Circuit, 10/04/2010
Renchenski v. Piazza
In an inmate’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit alleging that his forced participation in sex offender treatment therapy violates several constitutional rights, district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants on the inmate’s procedural due process claim is reversed and remanded where, because the inmate was never charged with nor convicted of a sex offense, the procedure he was afforded during his trial and conviction for the 1982 murder cannot serve as the sufficient procedural safeguard for Fourteenth Amendment purposes.

United States Seventh Circuit, 10/07/2010
Palka v. Shelton
In a former deputy sheriff’s section 1983 suit against Cook County, the City of Chicago, a sheriff, and other individuals, claiming that defendants violated his procedural and substantive due process rights prior to his suspension and resignation, and deprived him of his interest in “occupational liberty,” district court’s grant of defendants’ motion to dismiss with prejudice is affirmed where: 1) district court was correct in dismissing plaintiff’s procedural due process claim as plaintiff’s decision to resign rather than risk and unfavorable Merit Board decision does not make his resignation involuntary; 2) district court properly dismissed plaintiff’s substantive due process claim as this sort of claim is limited to violations of fundamental rights and employment-related rights are not fundamental; 3) the district court properly dismissed plaintiff’s occupational liberty claim as the complaint against plaintiff was not publicly disclosed, and the stigmatizing allegations were made only to the sheriff’s department, and not a potential future employer; and 4) plaintiff’s claims against the county and the city under Monell fails because his complaint fails to state a claim for any constitutional violation.

United States Eighth Circuit, 10/08/2010
Marksmeier v. Davie
In a section 1983 action claiming that defendant-officers arrested plaintiff for sexual assault without probable cause, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where: 1) the district court did not err in concluding that plaintiff’s constitutional rights were not violated by his arrest as there was probable cause to believe that plaintiff had committed a violation of Nebraska law; 2) plaintiff failed to identify a deliberate choice of a guiding principle or procedure made by the municipal official who has final authority regarding such matters; and 3) the district court did not abuse its substantial discretion in granting a protective order.

United States Ninth Circuit, 10/06/2010
Community House, Inc. v. Boise
In an action against the City of Boise and the Boise City Council, alleging, among other things, that the anticipated lease of a building to a homeless shelter violated the First Amendment’s anti-Establishment Clause and the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), the denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity is reversed where: 1) the Mayor and the members of the City Council were entitled to absolute legislative immunity for their actions in promoting and approving the lease; and 2) certain other individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because at the time the City approved the lease and sale, a reasonable official would not have known that such actions would violate the Establishment Clause or the FHA.

United States Ninth Circuit, 10/07/2010
Luchtel v. Hagemann
In an action claiming that defendant-officers lacked probable cause to arrest her, and that excessive force was used by the officers, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where: 1) under the circumstances defendants were entitled to subdue plaintiff, to arrest her, and to get her to a hospital for assessment; and 2) there was no genuine dispute from the evidence that plaintiff posed a threat to herself, her neighbors, and the officers.

United States Ninth Circuit, 10/08/2010
Johnson v. Rancho Santiago Comm. Coll. Dist.
In an action challenging a public project labor agreement as preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and as violative of their rights to substantive and procedural due process and to equal protection, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where: 1) entering into the agreement constituted market participation not subject to preemption by the NLRA or ERISA; 2) the agreement did not violate the plaintiffs’ liberty interest in pursuing their careers as electricians; and 3) the agreement was rationally related to the district’s legitimate interest in preventing labor disruptions.

Supreme Court of California, 10/04/2010
St. John’s Well Child & Family Ctr. v. Schwarzenegger
In a petition for writ of mandate by nonprofit network of five community health centers and six school-based clinics in medically underserved areas of Los Angeles County, and others, challenging the Governor’s use of the so-called “line-item veto” under the asserted authority of article IV, section 10(e) of the California Constitution, to further reduce funding that already had been reduced by the Legislature in its midyear adjustments to the Budget Act of 2009, the Court of Appeal’s denial of the petition is affirmed as, because Article IV, section 10(e) grants the Governor the limited legislative authority to eliminate or reduce “items of appropriation,” and the budget reductions here at issue were “items of appropriation” within the meaning of that constitutional provision, the Governor’s exercise of line-item authority to reduce those appropriations, while approving other portions of Assembly Bill 4X 1, was consistent with his constitutional powers.

Supreme Court of California, 10/04/2010
Prof’l Eng’r in California Gov’t v. Schwarzenegger
In employee organizations’ suit claiming that the Governor lacked authority to unilaterally implement an involuntary furlough of represented state employees that reduces such employees’ hours and earnings by approximately 10 percent, trial court’s conclusion that the Governor possessed the authority to impose the furlough in response to the fiscal emergency facing the state is affirmed where: 1) under existing constitutional provisions and statutes, the Governor on December 19, 2008, possessed authority to institute a mandatory furlough of represented state employees, reducing the earning of such employees, only if specifically granted such unilateral authority in an applicable memorandum of understanding entered into between the state and the employee organization representing the affected employees; 2) even if the Governor lacked authority to institute the challenged furlough plan unilaterally, plaintiffs’ challenge to the furlough plan must be rejected as in mid-February 2009 – shortly after the furlough program went into effect – the Legislature enacted, and the Governor signed, legislation reducing the appropriations for employee compensation contained in the original 2008 Budget Act by an amount that reflected the savings the Governor sought to obtain through the two-day-a-month furlough program; and 3) the 2009 budget legislation validated the Governor’s furlough program at issue as the Legislature’s 2009 enactment of the revisions to the 2008 Budget Act operated to ratify the use of the two-day-a-month furlough program as a permissible means of achieving the reduction of state employee compensation mandated by the act.

Supreme Court of Florida, 10/07/2010
Florida Educ. Ass’n v. Florida Dep’t of State
In plaintiffs’ challenge to Amendment 8, a legislatively proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution concerning class size, trial court’s judgment that Amendment 8 shall remain on the ballot for the November 2010 general election is affirmed as the ballot language is not defective and Amendment 8 complies with the requirements of law as the ballot title and summary accurately represent the chief purpose of the amendment, and it further provides fair notice of what the amendment contains and does not mislead the voters as to the amendment’s true effect.

Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, 10/06/2010
Scott v. State of Texas
In a prosecution of defendant for harassment, court of appeals’ reversal of the conviction in holding that two subsections of a harassment statute, Texas Penal Code section 42.07 were unconstitutionally vague on their face, is reversed and remanded as, because section 42.07(a)(4) does not implicate the free-speech guarantee of the First Amendment, defendant, in making his vagueness challenge to that statutory subsection, was required to show that it was unduly vague as applied to his own conduct, which defendant has not done.

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