Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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At 3:55 a.m. people were loitering outside a lounge when Lopez sideswiped an SUV parked in front of the lounge. Bystanders swarmed Lopez’s car, punching him through an open window. A passenger exited Lopez’s car and fired a warning shot. Lopez exited the car, grabbed the gun, and walked toward the bystanders. Raines, a Cook County correctional officer, out celebrating, arrived at 3:56:11. Lopez walked back toward his car, stopping to fire two shots at an upward angle. Raines approached Lopez with his own gun drawn. Lopez reached to open his car door. Raines started shooting at 3:56:27. Lopez, injured, dropped his gun and staggered away. Raines continued to fire. Raines pursued Lopez, who was leaning against a wall. Lopez’s passenger, Orta, picked up the dropped gun and fired at Raines at 3:56:32 a.m. For about three minutes, Orta and Raines engaged in a standoff. Raines simultaneously restrained Lopez, wounded but conscious, and used him as a human shield. At 4:00:10 a.m., Orta fled. Police and paramedics arrived. Lopez faced criminal charges.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants in his 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit. Raines was entitled to qualified immunity because his use of deadly force did not violate clearly established law although the video footage of the events conveys the impression that Raines might have been able to avoid any use of lethal force. View "Lopez v. Sheriff of Cook County" on Justia Law

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After a jury returned a verdict in plaintiff's favor on his claim of First Amendment retaliation, he was awarded only one dollar in nominal damages because the Eleventh Circuit has interpreted the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. 1997e(e), as barring punitive damages for a prisoner's civil action where no physical injury is shown.The en banc court now recognizes that section 1997e(e) permits claims for punitive damages without a showing of physical injury. The en banc court explained that it did not conduct a textual interpretation of the statutory text and did not consider any non-physical injuries that were also not mental or emotional in nature. The en banc court misapprehended the text of the statute and the nature of the physical injury requirement when it comes to punitive damages. Therefore, in this case, plaintiff should be given an opportunity to obtain punitive damages too. In all other respects, the en banc court reinstated the panel opinion. View "Hoever v. Marks" on Justia Law

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The Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, and the President of the Oregon State Senate, on behalf of the Oregon Legislative Assembly, informed the Oregon Supreme Court that the federal government would not meet its statutory deadline to produce federal decennial census data and, therefore, that neither the Legislative Assembly nor the Oregon Secretary of State (Secretary) would be able to meet the deadlines for decennial reapportionment of state legislative districts set out in Article IV, section 6, of the Oregon Constitution. Relators asked the Supreme Court to exercise its authority under Article VII (Amended), section 2, of the Oregon Constitution and issue a writ of mandamus requiring the Secretary to fulfill her constitutionally specified duties, and to do so on dates ordered by the court. Relators served their petition for writ of mandamus on the Secretary, and she appeared in opposition. The Court elected to exercise that authority to compel compliance with Article IV, section 6, according to a revised schedule set out in an appendix to its opinion in this case. The Court thus issued a peremptory writ to direct the Secretary to abide by that schedule. View "Oregon ex rel Kotek v. Fagan" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit sua sponte vacated its previous opinion and substituted the following opinion.In 2015, plaintiffs filed suit challenging Alabama's 2011 Photo Voter Identification Law passed by the Alabama legislature as House Bill 19 and codified at Ala. Code 17-9-30. The voter ID law took effect in June 2014 and requires all Alabama voters to present a photo ID when casting in-person or absentee votes. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent the enforcement of Alabama's voter ID law, alleging that the law violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution; Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), 52 U.S.C. 10301; and Section 201 of the VRA, 52 U.S.C. 10501.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment in favor of the Secretary, concluding that plaintiffs have failed to identify any genuine disputes of material facts and because no reasonable factfinder could find, based on the evidence presented, that Alabama's voter ID law is discriminatory. The court explained that the burden of providing a photo ID in order to vote is a minimal burden on Alabama's voters—especially when Alabama accepts so many different forms of photo ID and makes acquiring one simple and free for voters who lack a valid ID but wish to obtain one. Therefore, the Alabama voter ID law does not violate the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution, nor does it violate the VRA. View "Greater Birmingham Ministries v. Secretary of State for the State of Alabama" on Justia Law

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MacIver, a “think tank that promotes free markets, individual freedom, personal responsibility, and limited government,” sponsors a “separately branded” MacIver News Service. Some of Wisconsin Governor Evers's press events are open to the public, and others are limited to subsets of the media of varying size. The Governor’s Office maintains a media advisory list to notify members of the media of events. The original list was based on newspaper circulation, radio listenership, and TV viewership.MacIver reporters learned of an invitation-only press and, although not invited, sent an RSVP. They were not admitted. Hundreds of other media personnel were also not invited to the small event. MacIver requested the criteria used to determine which journalists would be allowed access. The Governor’s Office distributed guidance for determining how media would be granted access to limited-access events, noting that the “most important consideration is that access is based on neutral criteria.” The factors were adapted from standards used by the Wisconsin Capital Correspondents Board and the U.S. Congress. According to the Governor, MacIver is not included on the list because MacIver Institute “is not principally a news organization” and “their practices run afoul of the neutral factors.”MacIver sued, citing the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Governor Evers. The press conferences were non-public fora and the criteria that the Governor used to accept or exclude media were reasonable. There is no evidence of viewpoint discrimination under any First Amendment test. View "John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, Inc. v. Evers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction and sentence for manufacturing a controlled substance, holding that the circuit court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence that Defendant argued was the fruit of an illegal entry and search of his home.Law enforcement went to Defendant's home to serve a domestic violence emergency protective order (EPO) that prohibited Defendant from possessing firearms and provided for the surrender of firearms to the officer serving the EPO. The officers concluded that the EPO served as a search warrant permitting them to enter and search Defendant's home for weapons. When the officers stepped into the residence, they smelled marijuana and performed a protective sweep, including a pat down of Defendant. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) an EPO is not a de facto search warrant, and no exception to the warrant requirement applied to otherwise validate the entry into and search of Defendant's home; and (2) therefore, the circuit court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress. View "State v. Snyder" on Justia Law

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In 2015, D’Alandis Love, Perez Love, Kelsey Jennings, and Ken-Norris Stigler were driving in a red Pontiac headed to the Moroccan Lounge when a gold Tahoe approached as they were driving and opened fire. D’Alandis Love was killed. Perez Love, Jennings, and Stigler were seriously injured. Armand Jones, Sedrick Buchanan, Michael Holland, Jacarius Keys, and James Earl McClung, Jr., were developed as suspects in the shooting. Keys, accompanied by his attorney, went to the Sheriff’s Department and gave a videotaped statement to investigators implicating Jones, Holland, Buchanan, and McClung in the shooting. Keys, Jones, Holland, Buchanan, and McClung were later indicted and charged with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder. Approximately five months after the men were indicted, Keys was shot and killed. Holland and Buchanan were considered suspects in Keys’s death. It is undisputed that at the time of Keys’s death, Jones was incarcerated. Before trial, Jones, Holland, Buchanan, and McClung moved to exclude Keys’s videotaped statement based on hearsay and the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause. The trial court denied the motion and allowed the statement to be admitted into evidence under Mississippi Rules of Evidence 804(b)(3) (the statement-against-interest hearsay exception), 804(b)(5) (the catch-all hearsay exception), and 804(b)(6) (the forfeiture-by-wrongdoing hearsay exception). The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review centered on whether that videotaped statement could be introduced against a defendant under Rule 804(b)(6). The Court found that because the record showed Jones forfeited by wrongdoing his constitutional right to confront the witness, his convictions of murder and attempted murder were affirmed. But because there was insufficient evidence presented to support Buchanan’s convictions of aggravated assault, the Court reversed and rendered a judgment of acquittal as to Buchanan. View "Buchanan v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Jeremy Harris was convicted of attempted burglary of a dwelling with the intent to commit larceny and was sentenced to a term of ten years, with five years suspended. Harris argued on appeal that the trial court erred by granting a mistrial in his first trial. As the record from the first trial was not made part of the record on appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered that the record be supplemented. The parties were directed to file supplemental briefing if they so chose, and each filed a supplemental brief. Then after review of the entire record, the Supreme Court reversed the conviction and sentence, finding that the mistrial in Harris’s first trial was not manifestly necessary. In the absence of manifest necessity, the constitutional protection against double jeopardy prohibited a second trial for the same crime. View "Harris v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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David Dickerson was convicted by jury of killing his ex-girlfriend and mother of his daughter by shooting and then burning her. In 2015, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Dickerson’s capital-murder conviction and sentence of death, along with related convictions and sentences for arson and armed robbery. Dickerson petitioned for post-conviction relief, arguing he was “he is intellectually disabled as defined by the Court in [Atkins] and thus he is ineligible for the death penalty.” Specifically, Dickerson insists that the PCR “and its accompanying affidavits[] contai[n] much evidence that” he “meets all three criteria for mental retardation”—“subaverage intellectual functioning[,]” “significant deficits in adaptive functioning[,]” and that the “deficits manifested before age 18.” The Supreme Court again declined post-conviction relief, finding that Dickerson’s PCR claims were barred and/or failed to present a substantial showing of the denial of a state or federal right. View "Dickerson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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After the DEA terminated Darek and Lisa Kitlinski's employment based on their refusal to participate in an internal investigation into their own allegations of misconduct by the DEA, the Kitlinskis alleged that the DEA terminated Darek in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), and that the DEA terminated Lisa in retaliation for her support of Darek’s USERRA claims against the DEA. The Kitlinskis also claim that the DEA retaliated against them for their prior protected activity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the DEA, concluding that the Kitlinskis offer no evidence that Darek's military service or his prior USERRA-protected activity was a motivating factor in his termination. Furthermore, even assuming that Armstrong v. Index Journal Co., 647 F.2d 441, 448 (4th Cir. 1981), applies here, the court has little difficulty concluding that the DEA's interest in ensuring its employees' full participation in internal investigations outweighs any interest Lisa had in promoting USERRA's nondiscriminatory purpose. The court also concluded that no reasonable factfinder could conclude that the DEA terminated the Kitlinskis' employment in retaliation for engaging in protected activity. The court explained that the Kitlinskis offer no evidence showing that the DEA terminated their employment for any reason other than their conduct during the OPR investigation. The court rejected the Kitlinskis' remaining claims. View "Kitlinski v. Department of Justice" on Justia Law