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Wisconsin amended its state constitution to permit state‐funded transportation of private and parochial students. Under Wis. Stat. 121.54, if a school district operating within a metropolitan area where other public transportation is available to schoolchildren exercises the "city option," there must “be reasonable uniformity" regardless of whether students attend public or private schools. The Milwaukee district (MPS) has public city-wide schools, which offer special courses; attendance‐area schools, which draw only from a particular neighborhood; and nonattendance-area schools, which do not offer special classes but serve students from outside the area. MPS Policy provides free transportation for high schoolers only if they live two or more miles from their school and more than one mile from public transportation. Students who attend citywide or nonattendance‐area schools are governed by “Racial Balance, Modernization, Overload, and Lack of Facility” rules, making any student assigned to a school farther than two miles from her home eligible for free transportation, regardless of proximity to public transportation. Private schools must submit lists of students eligible to receive busing by May 15. There is no notification deadline for public schools. On May 14, St. Joan, a private school, submitted a 62-name list; on September 29, it added six names. MPS refused to bus any of the students because each lived within one mile of public transportation, and the later‐added students were disclosed after the deadline. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Rational bases exist for the differences in busing eligibility. MPS has legitimate interests in reducing overcapacity in crowded attendance‐area schools and in expanding special program access. MPS students who attend citywide or nonattendance‐area schools are more likely to have to travel farther than students who go to attendance‐area schools. The court remanded with respect to the deadline. View "St. Joan Antida High School Inc. v. Milwaukee Public School District" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of conspiracy to deprive a person of civil rights and sentence of eighty-seven months in prison, holding that the evidence was sufficient to sustain Defendant's conviction and that there was no other reversible error. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motions for judgment of acquittal based on the insufficiency of the evidence; (2) the district court properly admitted testimony of two government witnesses under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b); (3) the district court did not violate Defendant's rights under the Sixth Amendment's Compulsory Process Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause; (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant's second motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence; and (5) Defendant's sentence was procedurally reasonable. View "United States v. Martinez-Mercado" on Justia Law

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After the district court found that the boundaries for Mississippi State Senate District 22 dilute African-American voting strength and prevented those citizens from having the equal opportunity "to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice" that the Voting Rights Act guarantees, the district court switched 28 precincts between District 22 and a bordering district to remedy the violation. The Governor and Secretary of State sought a stay of the district court's final judgment. The Fourth Circuit granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion for a stay. The court held that the rule of construction, the text of the three-judge statute, its lineage, and the caselaw applying it all favor the district court's view that three judges are not required for a claim raising only statutory challenges to state legislative redistricting. The court also held that defendants have not shown a high likelihood of overturning the finding of vote dilution because their legal argument was at odds with "unimpeachable authority" from this court and their factual challenges must overcome deferential standards of review. The court rejected defendants' laches claim. However, the court held that the legislature should have the initial opportunity to draw new lines for District 22 that comply with the Voting Rights Act. Accordingly, the court issued an order granting a temporary stay to allow the legislature to remedy the Section 2 violation. Finally, the court held that defendants have not demonstrated a high likelihood of showing that the district court's narrow redraw was an abuse of discretion, and there was no risk of voter confusion and no outcry from state officials that implementing the district court’s remedy substantially disturbed its election process. View "Thomas v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant John Walker pled guilty to two counts of bank robbery and was originally sentenced to time served (33 days in pretrial detention, and three years of supervised release). The government appealed, and the Tenth Circuit reversed the sentence as substantively unreasonable. The matter was remanded for resentencing, and a second sentencing hearing resulted in ten years’ probation, two years of home confinement, and 500 hours of community service. The government appealed again. The issues presented for the Tenth Circuit on re-review were: (1) whether the district court violated the mandate issued in the first case; and (2) whether, even if the district court complied with the Tenth Circuit’s mandate, Walker’s sentence following remand nevertheless remained substantively unreasonable. The government also requested, in the event that the sentence was reversed and remanded, that it be reassigned to a different district court judge. Because the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court did not run afoul of Walker I’s mandate when it declined to sentence Walker to a prison term, and further concluded the government waived its remaining substantive reasonableness challenge, the Court affirmed the district court’s sentence. View "United States v. Walker" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Benjamin Roina was charged with harassment and assault on an at-risk adult. At his preliminary hearing, Roina’s defense counsel filed a sealed motion with the trial court contesting his competency and requested that the court order a competency evaluation. Defense counsel provided notice of the motion to the prosecution but did not provide the prosecution with a copy of the motion. The trial court refused to review the sealed motion unless defense counsel provided the prosecution with a copy. In its written order, the trial court explained that engaging in an ex parte communication with the defense would contravene Rule 2.9(A) of the Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct, which prohibited communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties or their lawyers unless, as relevant here, expressly authorized by law. The court further concluded that section 16-8.5-102(2)(b) was ambiguous as to whether ex parte review of defense counsel’s motion would be permitted. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the trial court erred by declining to review the defense’s sealed motion. The Court ruled that it did: “Although Rule 2.9(A) of the Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct generally prohibits judges from considering communications that are shared with only one party in a pending matter, this type of ex parte communication is permitted when expressly authorized by law. Because section 16-8.5-102(2)(b), C.R.S. (2018), requires the trial court to consider defense counsel’s motion raising competency without disclosing that motion to the prosecution.” The case was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "In re Colorado v. Roina" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against several parties, alleging violations of her parental rights over one of her minor children, E.J.K., under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. E.J.K. obtained a letter from Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid concluding that E.J.K. was legally emancipated under Minnesota law. Although the letter had no legal effect, E.J.K. was able to obtain funding for medical services and other living expenses, as well as gender transition care. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court properly granted judgment on the pleadings for St. Louis County (including the official-capacity claim against the interim director) because plaintiff did not adequately plead a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983. In this case, plaintiff's conclusory assertion that the County acted based on a policy or custom was insufficient to state a claim. The court also held that plaintiff failed to state a claim for damages against the then-interim director of Public Health and Human Services; neither of the medical provider defendants were acting under state law; the school district's alleged handling of plaintiff's case, assuming it interfered with plaintiff's rights, was insufficient to establish a custom or practice under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); the school principal was entitled to qualified immunity; and declaratory and injunctive relief claims were moot. View "Calgaro v. St. Louis County" on Justia Law

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Defendant Bernard Rougeau appealed a trial court’s requirement that he post $100,000 cash or surety bond to mitigate any potential risk that he flee from prosecution. He was being held in custody for failure to post bail while he awaited trial on three counts: aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer by threatening with a deadly weapon, and interference with access to emergency services. In October 2018, defendant’s sister telephoned the state police to report that defendant was suicidal and had cut himself. The police arrived at the home and an officer located defendant outside, emerging from the surrounding woods, armed. According to the affidavit of probable cause, the officer warned him to drop the weapon, yet defendant advanced toward the officer, still holding the gun. Then defendant raised the firearm. In that moment, according to the affidavit, the officer shot defendant in the abdomen. Defendant was taken into custody and airlifted to Albany Medical Center to treat his wounds. In November 2018, he waived extradition from New York and was arraigned in Vermont on the above-three counts. The State argued that defendant’s charges involved a “mental health break,” threats of self-harm, and a firearm. Moreover, “an individual who flees into the woods with a firearm, indicating to his mother that he wants to be shot by the police, poses a significant risk of flight.” The State also recounted defendant’s criminal history, which involved felony convictions for arson, DUI III, multiple contempt-of-court convictions, and a failure to appear. The trial court concluded defendant posed a flight risk, and set bail based on his criminal record, the seriousness of the offenses, and the nature and circumstances of those offenses. On appeal, defendant challenged the imposition of bail and the amount of bail imposed. Finding no reversible error or abuse of discretion, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Vermont v. Rougeau" on Justia Law

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Defendant Mark Bergquist appealed after a jury convicted him of sexually assaulting his seven-year-old daughter, A.B. On appeal, defendant raised multiple arguments challenging the trial court’s: (1) admission of A.B.’s out-of-court statements pursuant to Vermont Rule of Evidence 804a; (2) exclusion of certain evidence concerning A.B.’s mother’s state of mind and conduct; (3) ruling allowing A.B. to testify out of defendant’s presence pursuant to Vermont Rule of Evidence 807(f); (4) denial of discovery of some of A.B.’s mental-health records; and (5) admission of expert testimony that he argues improperly “vouched” for A.B.’s credibility. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed defendant's conviction. View "Vermont v. Bergquist" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was fired from her tenured professorship by the Board of LSU, she filed suit against defendants alleging that they violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment right to free speech and academic freedom, and her Fourteenth Amendment procedural and substantive due process rights. Plaintiff also alleged a facial challenge to LSU's sexual harassment policies. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's as-applied challenge and held that the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff's speech was not protected by the First Amendment. In this case, plaintiff's speech was not a matter of public concern, because the use of profanity and discussion of professors' and students' sex lives were clearly not related to the training of Pre-K–Third grade teachers. The court vacated plaintiff's facial challenge and held that she failed to sue the proper party, the Board of Supervisors, which is responsible for the creation and enforcement of the policies at issue. Although the court need not address the district court's holding on qualified immunity because plaintiff's claims failed, the court nevertheless affirmed that all defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on her damages claims. View "Buchanan v. Alexander" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with aggravated battery of a child, heinous battery, and aggravated domestic battery. The indictments alleged that defendant immersed his six-year-old stepson, J.H. in hot water. The court admitted J.H.’s out-of-court statement to his nurse at Stroger Hospital. The state also offered expert testimony from Dr. Fujara, a specialist in child abuse pediatrics and from White, a retired investigator with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Defendant acknowledged that he falsely identified himself at the hospital. The trial court found him guilty. The appellate court held that the trial court erred in admitting J.H.’s statement identifying defendant as the offender under the hearsay exception for statements made for the purpose of medical diagnosis and treatment and held that the double jeopardy clause barred retrial because the evidence was insufficient to prove defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, reasoning that J.H.’s hearsay statement was the only identification evidence placing defendant in the bathroom when the injury occurred. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the double jeopardy clause does not bar retrial. Dr. Fujara offered persuasive expert testimony that J.H.’s burns resulted from forcible immersion in hot water, ruling out alternative causes and rebutting defendant’s argument that J.H. may have been burned accidentally as a result of a faulty water heater. Defendant was the only adult present in the house at the time J.H. was injured and did not seek prompt treatment. View "People v. Drake" on Justia Law