Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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After petitioner filed a second-in-time habeas petition raising Brady and actual innocence claims, the district court concluded that the petition was successive and transferred it to the Fifth Circuit. Petitioner was convicted and sentenced to death for the capital murder of a police officer. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's transfer order, holding that the petition is second or successive under 28 U.S.C. 2244. The court explained that, even though petitioner did not know of the State's alleged Brady violation at the time he filed his first habeas petition, it is still subject to the statutory requirements for filing a successive petition under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, and the district court did not err in transferring the habeas petition to this court. The court granted the motion for authorization, holding that petitioner made a prima facie showing that the factual predicate for his Brady claim could not have been previously discovered through due diligence. The court also held that petitioner has made a prima facie showing, by clear and convincing evidence, that no reasonable factfinder would find him guilty. In this case, petitioner has demonstrated that it is reasonably likely that, after hearing the Hit Document and the Schifani Report, every reasonable juror would have some level of reasonable doubt. View "Will v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Ouza was arguing with her son, Hassan. Ouza’s daughter, Maysaa called her father, Mohamad. Mohamad went to Ouza’s house, in violation of Ouza's Personal Protection Order. Maysaa called the police. When Officer Dottor arrived, the men were gone. The case report identified Ouza as the “victim” of domestic violence. After Dottor left, Mohamad returned and pushed into the house, causing Ouza to fall. A struggle ensued. The women pushed Mohamad out of the house. Maysaa called 911 and reported that her father was hitting her mother. Dottor and Officer Derwick arrived. Mohamad, standing outside, told a false story that Ouza had attacked him. Dottor placed Ouza under arrest and handcuffed her. Mohamad then said, “I was trespassing. I hit her. ... She was just defending herself.” Ouza alleges that she told Dottor several times that the handcuffs were too tight. Ouza was released from custody the next day. The prosecutor declined to prosecute. Ouza alleges that she continues to suffer physical injury from the excessively tight handcuffing. In Ouza’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the officers’ motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds with regard to Ouza’s excessive force claim; a ruling that the officers spoiled evidence (audio and video recordings), without a sanction of an adverse inference; and a ruling that the municipality is not liable. The court reversed summary judgment in favor of Dottor with regard to false arrest claims. View "Ouza v. City of Dearborn Heights" on Justia Law

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Wingate was charged with one count of bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. 2113(a); two counts of pharmacy robbery, 18 U.S.C. 2118(a); three counts of using or carrying a firearm during a federal crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c), two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm (Wingate was on parole for second-degree murder at the time of the robberies), 18 U.S.C. 922(g), and one count of conspiracy to commit those crimes, 18 U.S.C. 371. Nearly all of the indicted co-conspirators pleaded guilty. A jury convicted Wingate on all nine counts; he was sentenced to 684 months’ imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Wingate subsequently filed a section 2255 motion, arguing that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to cross-examine more of the government’s witnesses and for “failing to move to suppress the identification obtained as a result of a suggestive photo lineup” and that his convictions for bank and pharmacy robbery were improperly classified as crimes of violence under section 924(c). The Sixth Circuit affirmed the rejection of those claims. Wingate cannot demonstrate prejudice as a result of his attorney’s purportedly ineffective assistance. The district court was right to conclude that sections 2113(a) and 2118(a) are crimes of violence under section 924(c)’s elements clause. View "Wingate v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Immigration and Nationality Act states that any alien who is “likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible,” 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4)(A) but has never defined “public charge.” The Department of Homeland Security sought to define “public charge,” via rulemaking, as an alien who was likely to receive certain public benefits, including many cash and noncash benefits, for more than 12 months in the aggregate over any 36-month period. The district court enjoined that Rule nationwide. The Fourth Circuit reversed. Invalidating the Rule “would visit palpable harm upon the Constitution’s structure and the circumscribed function of the federal courts that document prescribes” and would entail the disregard of the statute's plain text. The Constitution commands “special judicial deference” to the political branches in light of the intricacies and sensitivities inherent in immigration policy. Congress has charged the executive with defining and implementing a purposefully ambiguous term and has resisted giving the term the definite meaning that the plaintiffs seek. The court noted that, in cases addressing the identical issue, the Supreme Court granted the government’s emergency request to stay the preliminary injunctions, an action which would have been improbable if not impossible had the government, as the stay applicant, not made “a strong showing that it was likely to succeed on the merits.” View "Casa De Maryland, Inc. v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Sharkey worked as a special educator and assistant principal at Susquehanna Township High School in 2013. He and M.S., a 16-year-old female student, began a sexual relationship. Weeks later, students began spreading rumors. The District launched an investigation, which included numerous interviews with M.S., Sharkey, and others; review of Sharkey’s telephone records, and examinations of texts, emails, and photos on M.S.’s telephone and on Sharkey’s district-issued telephone. M.S. and Sharkey denied the rumors. Not finding any evidence of wrongdoing, the superintendent ended the investigation. At the beginning of the next school year, the rumors resurfaced. The District contacted the police and placed Sharkey on administrative leave. M.S. still denied having a sexual relationship with Sharkey but officers informed her that they planned to get a search warrant for her phone. The next day, M.S. and her parents met with the police; M.S. provided details about her relationship with Sharkey. Sharkey was criminally charged. The District informed Sharkey that it intended to terminate his employment and obtained his resignation. M.S. sued the District, alleging a hostile educational environment in violation of Title IX, violations of the Fourteenth Amendment, and state-law claims. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the District. Sharkey’s knowledge of his own wrongdoing is irrelevant to the District’s actual knowledge of the sexual harassment. No other appropriate person at the District had actual knowledge of the sexual relationship until days before Sharkey resigned. View "M. S. v. Susquehanna Township School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against O.J.'s Cafe under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging that the slopes in the restaurant's parking lot deprived him of full and equal enjoyment of the facility. The restaurant made improvements to the lot and then the district court dismissed plaintiff's claims as moot. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court correctly determined that there was no ongoing injury sufficient to establish Article III standing. In this case, the district court found that any excess slopes in the parking lot were located in areas that would not interfere with plaintiff's access to the restaurant and this finding is supported by the record. View "Hillesheim v. O.J.'s Cafe, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of felony strangulation of his girlfriend, holding the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction, and Defendant did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to sustain Defendant's conviction of felony strangulation; (2) Defendant failed to meet the prejudice standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. on his claim that his counsel was ineffective by opening the door to evidence of Defendant's prior violence; and (3) this Court declines to review for plain error Defendant's argument challenging the district court's instruction on the mental state for strangulation. View "State v. Dineen" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254 to petitioner, who pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual battery on a child between the ages of 12 and 18 years old by someone in familial or custodial authority, one count of possession of child pornography with intent to promote, four counts of possession of child pornography, and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The court held that the district court did not violate Clisby v. Jones, 960 F.2d 925 (11th Cir. 1992) (en banc), by failing to address all claims fully, and petitioner never presented an independent coercion claim; the district court did not err in denying, without an evidentiary hearing, petitioner's claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him of a prosecutorial vindictiveness defense; and the district court did not err in denying, without an evidentiary hearing, petitioner's claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him of a double jeopardy defense to the charges of possession of child pornography and possession of child pornography with intent to promote. The court explained that the vindictive prosecution claim and double jeopardy defense would not have succeeded and petitioner suffered no prejudice from counsel's failure to raise the claims. View "Barritt v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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In 1997, Sexton pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and aggravated robbery; an Ohio state court judge sentenced him to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. Sexton later argued that Ohio law required a three-judge panel to receive his plea and impose the sentence and that he was not aware of that purported error nor was he told about his right to appeal his sentence. Within 13 months, he wrote to the Ohio Public Defender, which replied with a form that Sexton could use to pursue pro se claims pro se. Two weeks later, Sexton filed a pro se petition to vacate his sentence, focused on Sexton’s co-defendant, who apparently testified against him and received a more lenient sentence. Sexton made assertions that amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel. The trial court dismissed the petition as time-barred and failing to state any claims warranting either relief or an evidentiary hearing. Sexton says that in 2017 he learned, from another inmate, that he should have been sentenced by a three-judge panel. Sexton filed an application for leave to file a delayed appeal with the affidavits from Sexton and the other inmate. Ohio courts denied Sexton’s application. The Sixth Circuit vacated the dismissal of his federal habeas petition; 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(D) made timely Sexton’s claim that he was denied due process and equal protection in 2017 when the Ohio court denied his motion for leave to file a direct appeal. View "Sexton v. Wainwright" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Aaron Jensen sued defendant-appellees West Jordan City and Robert Shober for Title VII retaliation, First Amendment retaliation, malicious prosecution, and breach of contract. At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Jensen on all his claims and awarded $2.77 million in damages. The trial court discovered the jury did not properly fill out the verdict form, so the court instructed the jury to correct its error. When the jury returned the corrected verdict, it had apportioned most of the damages to Jensen’s Title VII claim. Because the district court concluded that Title VII’s statutory damages cap applied, the court reduced the total amount of the award to $344,000. Both parties appealed. They raised nine issues on appeal, but the Tenth Circuit concluded none of them warranted reversal and affirmed. View "Jensen v. West Jordan City" on Justia Law