by
Meza, with his girlfriend as a passenger was driving at least 90 mph. As he applied the brakes, he lost control. The car catapulted across the median and oncoming traffic and fell down an embankment. A California Highway Patrol sergeant saw the crash and saw Meza emerge from the driver’s side of the car. Concord police officers arrived. Officer Cruz had a brief conversation with Meza while Meza was waiting for treatment by emergency medical personnel. She noted “a moderate odor of alcoholic beverage coming from his mouth,” and blood-shot and watery eyes. Because Meza was complaining of pain, Cruz did not request field sobriety tests. She concluded that he should be arrested for driving under the influence and followed the ambulance to the hospital. The hospital drew blood, as they do for all trauma patients, and measured Meza’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at 0.148 percent. Two hours after the accident, a second phlebotomist, summoned by Cruz, drew Meza’s blood and measured its BAC at 0.11. Cruz never attempted to get a warrant because Meza did not refuse to have his blood drawn. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of a motion to suppress. The blood draw was inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment because exigent circumstances did not prevent officers from obtaining a warrant but the error was harmless, in light of the evidence of the hospital’s testing. View "People v. Meza" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for an officer based on qualified immunity in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging excessive force. The panel held that the district court did not err by raising the issue of qualified immunity sua sponte and by addressing it on summary judgment. The panel also held that, in viewing the record in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the officer's use of deadly force was objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. In this case, the officer could have reasonably feared that plaintiff had a gun and was turning to shoot him when the officer shot plaintiff following a traffic stop. View "Easley v. City of Riverside" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a devout Christian, alleged violations of his right to religious liberty under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc-1, and the denial of due process. In this case, plaintiff committed a disciplinary violation and was terminated from his kitchen assignment job after he refused to work on a religious holiday. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff's two inmate letters did not exhaust his administrative remedies, but that he exhausted administrative remedies through the disciplinary process. The panel held that defendants did not consider plaintiff's request for accommodation and RLUIPA mandated consideration of the requested accommodation. Finally, in regard to the district court's dismissal of certain defendants at the screening stage under 28 U.S.C. 1915A, the panel held that plaintiff's complaint did not explain how the dismissed defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment or RLUIPA. Therefore, the panel reversed the district court's ruling that plaintiff failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies; affirmed the section 1915A screening decision; and remanded for consideration of the merits of plaintiff's First Amendment and RLUIPA claims. View "Fuqua v. Ryan" on Justia Law

by
Nicandro Galaviz was committed to a state mental health institution for a term of 60 years to life after he was found not guilty by reason of insanity of possession of methamphetamine and assault with a deadly weapon. In July 2017, Galaviz filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging the commitment order. Galaviz previously filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the trial court. After holding an evidentiary hearing, the court referred to the hearing as something “akin to a retrospective competency hearing” and denied Galaviz’s petition on the ground Galaviz failed to prove he was incompetent at the time of trial. The petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed with the Court of Appeal was granted; the Court found the trial court erred in 1996 by failing to hold a hearing to determine Galaviz’s competence at the time of trial. "Reports filed by mental health professionals in the months preceding trial raised serious doubt about Galaviz’s competence to stand trial. This error constitutes reversible error unless it is feasible to conduct a retrospective competency hearing to now determine whether Galaviz had been competent to stand trial in 1996. The prosecution failed to carry its burden of showing that conducting such a retrospective competency hearing is feasible based on a totality of the circumstances in this case." View "In re Galaviz" on Justia Law

by
The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama ("the Board") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Circuit Court to dismiss for lack of subject- matter jurisdiction, based on Article I, section 14, Ala. Const. 1901, an action filed against it by Paul F. Castellanos, M.D. ("Dr. Castellanos"). Dr. Castellanos filed an action against six named defendants and other fictitiously named defendants asserting claims of intentional interference with contractual and business relations, civil conspiracy, and "intentional infliction of mental anguish -- outrageous conduct" and sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The Supreme Court determined the circuit court lacked the power to compel the Board to arbitrate Dr. Castellanos's claims against it. Instead, it was incumbent upon the circuit court to grant the Board's motion to dismiss the claims against it, as Dr. Castellanos himself conceded. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the circuit court to vacate its order insofar as it compelled arbitration with regard to the Board and to dismiss the claims against the Board based on section 14 immunity. View "Ex parte the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama." on Justia Law

by
Defendants the Alabama Secretary of State, John Merrill, and a member of his staff, Ed Packard, the director of elections, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to vacate a preliminary injunction and to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction the underlying action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. On December 7, 2017, plaintiffs Pamela Miles, Dan Dannemueller, Paul Hard, and Victoria Tuggle (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the plaintiffs") filed a civil action against Merrill and Packard, in their official capacities, alleging certain electronic voting machines used in Alabama elections created digital images of the paper ballots scanned and counted by the machines, and that defendants "do not and will not instruct election officials" to preserve the digital ballot images. Those images, it was argued, were public records that, under Alabama law, had to be preserved. Plaintiffs also appeared to allege that federal law, specifically, 52 U.S.C. 20701, required those images be retained. This failure "to require that all election materials" be preserved, the plaintiffs contended, "infringe[d] upon their right to a fair and accurate election." The Alabama Supreme Court determined plaintiffs' allegations did not demonstrate how the "challenged practices harm[ed]" plaintiffs in a concrete way; how they would personally suffer the threatened injury, which is itself described only as a mere speculative possibility; or how they would benefit in a "tangible way" by a judgment in their favor. Instead, the Court found they alleged only that they "could" be harmed." Therefore, because the complaint insufficiently alleged that plaintiffs have standing, the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the action. The Court therefore directed that the case be dismissed. View "Ex parte Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and Director of Elections Ed Packard." on Justia Law

by
Department of Correction impoundments do not violate the First Amendment but the failure to give proper notice of them does violate the Fourteenth Amendment. PLN filed suit contending that the Department's impoundments of its monthly magazine violated its constitutional rights. Applying the Turner standard to determine whether the impoundments of PLN's magazine violated the First Amendment, the court held that limiting three-way calling ads, pen pal solicitation ads, cash-for-stamps ads, prisoner concierge and people locator ads was not so remote from the Department's security and safety interests as to render the impoundments arbitrary or irrational; there were alternative means for PLN to send alternate publications; the impact of accommodating the asserted right favored the Department; and the Department's decision to impound was not an exaggerated response. The court held, however, that the power to impound comes with a duty to inform PLN of the reasons for the impoundments, and thus the district court did not abuse its discretion in entering an injunction to require the Department to adhere to its own notice rules. View "Prison Legal News v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

by
The circuit court erred in admitting evidence seized as the result of an unlawful, warrantless search, a search that failed to satisfy any of the exceptions to the warrant requirement. Petitioner was convicted and sentenced for possession of a controlled substance, cocaine, with intent to deliver. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the circuit court erred by admitting evidence seized from his person because the evidence was obtained without a search warrant and that none of the exceptions to the warrant requirement were satisfied. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed Petitioner’s conviction, holding that the evidence was seized unlawfully and that the admission of the evidence was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court remanded the case for a new trial. View "State v. Barefield" on Justia Law

by
Laux broke into his ex‐wife’s home and murdered her with a crowbar. An Indiana jury decided that the aggravating circumstance that he committed murder during a burglary outweighed the primary mitigating circumstance that he had no criminal history and recommended a sentence of life without parole, which the court imposed. Indiana state courts affirmed Laux’s convictions and sentence. After a post‐conviction hearing, they also rejected the claim that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. Laux filed a federal habeas corpus petition. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of relief, rejecting a claim that trial counsel was ineffective by not fully investigating and presenting all of the available mitigating evidence about Laux’s childhood that surfaced at his post‐conviction hearing. The state courts’ conclusion that Laux received effective assistance of counsel was not unreasonable. A defendant can often point to some additional subject and argue it should have been pursued further. The Sixth Amendment does not require counsel to investigate every conceivable line of mitigation evidence—it requires counsel to make reasonable decisions about which matters to pursue. The evidence of Laux’s childhood failed to show significant hardship; he was never a victim of abuse or neglect, was never in trouble, and excelled in high school and college. View "Laux v. Zatecky" on Justia Law

by
Prisoner Timothy Pryer filed an action in chancery court against the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department and the Itawamba County Circuit Clerk. Pryer claimed that the defendants wrongfully had denied him access to public records under the Mississippi Public Records Act, entitling him to civil damages. More than three years after filing the complaint, Pryer filed a motion for leave to amend it to add a Public Records Act claim against Circuit Judge Thomas Gardner, III. Pryer alleged that, in deeming his public records request a motion for post-conviction relief, and then denying it, Judge Gardner had violated the Public Records Act, entitling Pryer to civil damages. The Chancery Court of Itawamba County granted Judge Gardner’s motion to dismiss, and Pryer appealed. Because Pryer’s claim against Judge Gardner was barred by the doctrine of judicial immunity, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of his amended complaint. View "Pryer v. Gardner" on Justia Law