Findlaw Case Summaries: Constitutional Law 7

U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 09, 2009 Cloaninger v. McDevitt , No. 072054 In a claim against defendant-deputy sheriffs alleging violation of plaintiff’s search and seizure rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and his due process and equal protection rights, grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants is affirmed where: 1) there was no genuine dispute of fact material to defendants’ qualified immunity suit under 42 U.S.C. section 1983; and 2) plaintiff’s state law claims had abated, were abandoned, or failed as a matter of law.

U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 12, 2009 Waller v. City of Danville, Virginia, No. 072099 In a claim under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) alleging defendant-city violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution by unlawfully arresting decedent using excessive force and failing to properly train officers in dealing with the disabled, grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants is affirmed where any duty of reasonable accommodation that existed under the ADA was satisfied under the circumstances.

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 09, 2009 Equal Employment Opportunity Comm’n v. Bd. of Regents for the Univ. of Louisiana Sys., No. 08-30327 In a suit alleging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, denial of defendant’s motion to dismiss on Eleventh Amendment grounds is affirmed where the Eleventh Amendment does not shield a state from suit brought by a federal government agency to enforce a federal law, and the federal agency may seek make-whole relief on behalf of a private individual.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 12, 2009 Richland Bookmart, Inc. v. Knox County, Tennessee, No. 07-6469 In a suit challenging the constitutionality of a county ordinance that establishes licensing requirements and regulations for sexually-oriented businesses, summary judgment for defendants and partial denial of summary judgment for plaintiffs is affirmed in part and reversed in part where: 1) the ordinance is a content-neutral time, place, and manner regulation aimed at preventing the deleterious secondary effects of the businesses; 2) the county met its burden of providing a reasonable evidentiary basis for concluding that its regulation would have the desired effect; 3) plaintiffs did not meet their burden of casting direct doubt on the factual findings or rationale underlying the ordinance; 4) the ordinance was narrowly tailored and not overbroad; 5) the ordinance was not an unconstitutional prior restraint; 6) state law did not preempt the ordinance’s limitation on hours of operation; and 7) plaintiffs had no standing to challenge the civil disability provisions of the or! dinance.

U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 13, 2009 Tennessee Scrap Recyclers Assoc. v. Bredesen , No. 085824 In case brought by scrap dealers to enjoin enforcement of a state ordinance requiring scrap metal dealers to “tag and hold” the scrap metal they acquire for a period of ten days, denial of injunction is affirmed over claims that the ordinance: 1) violates the dormant commerce clause of the Constitution, either as a direct regulation of interstate commerce or an undue burden upon it; 2) takes property without just compensation; 3) akes property without procedural due process; and 4) violates federal law by restricting the use of legal tender and infringing upon the federal power to coin money.

U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 09, 2009 Akande v. Gounds, No. 07-3800 In a suit alleging that defendants deprived plaintiff of a constitutionally-protected interest in his employment, summary judgment for defendants on grounds of qualified immunity is affirmed where, under Illinois law, plaintiff did not suffer a demotion, thus plaintiff failed to show that he was subjected to a constitutional deprivation.

U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 09, 2009 US v. Gentry, No. 07-3361 Conviction for drug and weapons charges is reversed and remanded where: 1) defendant’s post-arrest silence was not a proper subject of examination; 2) the improper examinations prejudiced defendant; and 3) defendant was entitled to a jury instruction of possession of a controlled substance under 21 U.S.C. section 844.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 10, 2009 Mendez v. Knowles, No. 06-15153 Denial of a petition for habeas corpus is affirmed where: 1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by granting petitioner’s motion for an extension of time to file his notice of appeal; 2) it is absolutely certain that the jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that petitioner was guilty of the charged offenses; and 3) the court declines to expand the Certificate of Appealability to consider petitioner’s due process claim that the trial court was required to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine his competence.

U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 06, 2009 Christensen v. Park City Mun. Corp., No. 07-4273 In a case involving the enforcement against a visual artist selling his own work of municipal ordinances forbidding any person, with certain exceptions, from selling goods or merchandise on the streets, in the parks, or on other city property, dismissal of claims against city and individual defendants is affirmed in part and reversed in part where: 1) the district court correctly held that individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because they did not violate a constitutional right that was clearly established at the time of their action; but 2) plaintiffs claims of municipal liability required a remand for further determination of the proper constitutional principles and determination of the facts, if necessary.

U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 11, 2009 USA v. 480.00 Acres of Land, No. 0713584 Land Commission Report setting compensation payable by plaintiff-U.S. to defendants to take property by eminent domain is affirmed where: 1) in order for a fact finding body to ignore a regulation in calculating “just compensation” for property, the landowner must show that the primary purpose of the regulation was to depress the property value of land or that the ordinance was enacted with the specific intent of depressing property value for the purpose of later condemnation; 2) once the district court determines that a regulation or ordinance was not improperly used to prevent development and reduce value, there is no reason to present evidence of such allegations of improper use to a Commission charged with determining “just compensation”; 3) no actual bias was present in the Commission report filed on September 15, 2005, and the individual landowners’ rights were preserved; 4) the Commission used an acceptable resolution mechanism to obtain uniform results across trials ! and issued a thoughtful and detailed report; and 5) defendants were not denied due process, and the district court did not err in deciding that the Commission was not biased or in refusing to grant defendants a new trial.

U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, February 10, 2009 Verizon California, Inc. v. Fed. Communications Comm’n, No. 08-1234 In a challenge to an FCC order mandating that petitioner cease and desist the use of phone number port requests to contact defecting customers, petition for review is denied where: 1) the relevant statutory language is not unambiguously contrary to the FCC’s interpretation; 2) the FCC has a substantial interest in limiting petitioner’s commercial speech; and 3) the FCC’s designation of two companies as “telecommunications carriers” was not arbitrary or capricious.

Supreme Court of California, February 09, 2009 Spielbauer v. County of Santa Clara, No. S150402 In an action for reinstatement brought by a former deputy public defender who was investigated by his employer for deceptive court conduct, and who was terminated after he refused to answer questions regarding such conduct, an appellate court ruling in favor of plaintiff is reversed where: 1) a public employee may be compelled, by threat of job discipline, to answer questions about the employee’s job performance, so long as the employee is not required, on pain of dismissal, to waive the constitutional protection against criminal use of those answers; 2) in this case, plaintiff was not ordered to choose between his constitutional rights and his job; and 3) employer was not required to seek, obtain, and confer a formal guarantee of immunity before requiring its employee to answer questions related to the investigation.

Supreme Court of California, February 09, 2009 Morongo Band of Mission Indians v. State Water Res. Control Bd., No. S155589 In an administrative proceeding to revoke a water license, it does not violate the license holder’s constitutional right to due process of law for the agency attorney prosecuting the matter before the State Water Resources Control Board to simultaneously serve as an advisor to that board on an unrelated matter.

Supreme Court of Texas, February 13, 2009 In re Coppock, No. 080093 In a contempt action which ex-wife violated divorce decree enjoining “coarse or offensive” communications with ex-husband, petition for writ of habeas corpus is granted and order of contempt is set aside as void where: 1) the injunctive provision in issue was less than clear as what constituted “coarse or offensive” communication; and 2) the underlying judgment lacked decretal language necessary for enforcement by contempt.

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