by
Defendant-appellant Tanner Polk, an inmate at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, was found in his cell with eight small pieces of cut-up and numbered paper, along with a greeting card. The correctional officer had learned from other prison officers during routine training that a current trend in the prisons was the possession of methamphetamine-infused paper. A preliminary test at the prison revealed the presence of methamphetamine on one piece of paper and on a small corner of the greeting card. The paper was tested at a laboratory, and some of the papers were found to contain methamphetamine; the remainder of the greeting card tested negative. Defendant was found guilty of possession of methamphetamine while in prison. Defendant admitted he had suffered one prior serious or violent felony conviction. Defendant was sentenced to six years in state prison. On appeal, defendant argued: (1) insufficient evidence was presented to support that he possessed a usable amount of methamphetamine and he had knowledge that it was methamphetamine, to support his conviction of violating Penal Code section 4573.6; (2) the correctional officer should not have been allowed to testify as to whether the papers contained a usable amount of narcotics as his testimony was speculative and lacked foundation; (3) the trial court deprived defendant of a right to present a defense by refusing to allow him to properly address the quantity of methamphetamine found on the papers; (4) cumulative errors warrant dismissal; and (5) the trial court erred by denying his Romero motion to dismiss his prior strike conviction. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed conviction. View "California v. Polk" on Justia Law

by
Citizens submitted a referendum petition to challenge Amador Water Agency’s Board Resolution No. 2015-19, adopting new water service rates for Agency customers. The Clerk of the Agency rejected the referendum petition and refused to place it on an election ballot, on the grounds that: (1) the petition was “confusing;” and (2) the rate change, while subject to challenge by initiative, was not subject to referendum. Appellants Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Charlotte Asher, and Laura Boggs appealed the trial court’s denial of their petition for a peremptory writ of mandate against Amador Water Agency, its Clerk, and its Board of Directors (collectively “the Agency”). Appellants argued: (1) the Clerk exceeded her ministerial duties by declaring the petition confusing; and (2) referendum was an appropriate avenue to challenge the new water rates. After review, the Court of Appeal determined: (1) the Clerk exceeded the scope of her ministerial duty and should have certified the referendum petition as adequate; and (2) the Resolution was not subject to referendum. The Court reached a different conclusion in a different case currently under California Supreme Court review. Because the Court concluded the Resolution was not subject to referendum, it affirmed the judgment denying the writ petition. View "Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. v. Amador Water Agency" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit alleging that officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights by employing excessive force in effecting his arrest and his Eighth Amendment rights by being deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. The Eleventh Circuit held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on the excessive force and deliberate indifference claims and vacated the district court's conclusion to the contrary. The court held that the officers' conduct in taking plaintiff to the ground and fist-striking him were objectively reasonable uses of force to get plaintiff to produce his hands for cuffing. In this case, plaintiff had just stabbed the victim in the throat and the officers had no way of being sure he was not still armed at the time, and plaintiff repeatedly failed to comply with instructions. The court also held that the officers were not deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical needs where the evidence demonstrated that he did not have a serious medical need. Rather, plaintiff's injuries were merely superficial and non-life threatening. View "Hinson v. Bias" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Douglas McShane's teenage daughter ran away from home. At the daughter’s urging, three of her friends tried to steal defendant’s truck. Defendant stumbled across the theft in progress, chased the thieves, and after finding them in a nearby field, shot and killed one of them, a 15-year-old boy. As a result of these tragic events, defendant was convicted of second degree murder with an enhancement for personally and intentionally discharging a firearm, causing death. He was sentenced to a total of 40 years to life in prison. Defendant appealed, contending: (1) the trial court erred by failing to instruct on voluntary manslaughter on a heat of passion theory; (2) the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury that it could consider voluntary intoxication in determining whether defendant had the intent to kill; (3) under Penal Code section 1001.36, which became effective while this appeal was pending, defendant was entitled to a remand so the trial court could consider granting him pretrial mental health diversion; and (4) under Senate Bill No. 620 (2017-2018 Reg. Sess.), which also became effective while this appeal was pending, defendant was entitled to a remand so the trial court could consider striking the firearm enhancement. The Court of Appeal agreed defendant was entitled to a remand for consideration of whether to strike the firearm enhancement. Otherwise, the Court found his other contentions lacked merit. View "California v. McShane" on Justia Law

by
Transgender individuals who serve in the military or seek to do so, joined by the State of Washington, filed suit alleging that the August 2017 Memorandum, implementing President Trump's Twitter announcement that transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in the military, unconstitutionally discriminated against transgender individuals. The district court issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the 2017 Memorandum and defendants appealed. In the meantime, the then-Secretary of Defense studied the issue and produced a report recommending that the President revoke the 2017 Memorandum in order to adopt the report's recommendation. The President revoked the 2017 Memorandum and authorized the Secretary to implement the policies in the report (the 2018 Policy). Defendants then requested that the district court resolve the preliminary injunction on the basis of the new 2018 Policy. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's order striking defendants' motion to dissolve the preliminary injunction and remanded to the district court for reconsideration. In light of the Supreme Court's January 22, 2019 stay of the district court's preliminary injunction, the panel stayed the preliminary injunction through the district court's further consideration of defendants' motion to dissolve the injunction. Furthermore, the panel issued a writ of mandamus vacating the district court's discovery order and directing the district court to reconsider discovery by giving careful consideration to executive branch privileges as set forth in Cheney v. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, 542 U.S. 367 (2004), and FTC v. Warner Communications Inc., 742 F.2d 1156 (9th Cir. 1984). View "Karnoski v. Trump" on Justia Law

by
In 2000 John Doe was convicted of aggravated sexual battery in Virginia. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment, with all time suspended, and a five-year term of probation. Under Virginia law Doe was required to register as a sex offender. Doe moved to Alaska in January 2003. On January 6, 2003, he registered as a sex offender. On April 11, 2003, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) wrote Doe indicating that he had to register annually in January of each year. He did so in 2004 and 2005. On February 4, 2005, DPS wrote Doe stating that he was required to register quarterly, for life. DPS noted that Doe’s Virginia conviction “has essentially the same elements as sexual assault [first] degree (AS 11.41.410), which is an aggravated offense that requires quarterly verification of your sex offender registration information.” This appeal presented two questions concerning the Alaska Sexual Offender Registration Act (ASORA): (1) whether ASORA’s registration requirements could be imposed on sex offenders who moved to Alaska after committing sex offenses elsewhere; and (2) whether ASORA violated due process by requiring all sex offenders to register without providing a procedure for them to establish that they do not represent a threat to the public. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded ASORA’s registration requirements could constitutionally be applied to out-of-state offenders. The Court also concluded ASORA violated due process, but its defect could be cured by providing a procedure for offenders to establish their non-dangerousness. View "John Doe v. Alaska, Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Ronald Detro Winder was serving a three-year prison sentence for possession of firearms by a convicted felon. He appealed his sentence, arguing that the district court erred by concluding that his prior conviction in Wyoming for felony interference with a peace officer in 2012, was a crime of violence under section 4B1.2(a)(1) (2016) of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence. View "United States v. Winder" on Justia Law

by
The Landowners inherited Welty Farm in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri, bordered by the Whitewater River. Givens purchased a farm bordering and downstream from the Welty Farm in 1998. Givens maintains a drainage ditch and levee system near the River and is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), 16 U.S.C. 3831. Under the CRP, landowners can enter into contracts to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and to manage it in accordance with an approved conservation plan in exchange for monetary compensation from the USDA. Conservation plans for land adjacent to streams or rivers commonly require the maintenance of a “filter strip,” an area of vegetation adjacent to water to remove nutrients, sediment, organic matter, pesticides, and other pollutants from surface runoff and subsurface flow. In 2014, the Landowners sued Givens, alleging that his levee and ditch system resulted in the drainage of wetlands on Welty Farm and “caused unnatural flooding,” which rendered Welty Farm “unfit for cultivation.” The suit was dismissed. The Landowners sued the United States, claiming that the government had taken their property without just compensation by “requiring and/or approving the construction and maintenance” of the Givens levee. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The Landowners pled no facts suggesting that the flooding was a direct and intended result of the government’s actions nor have they pled facts sufficient to show that Givens was “coerced” into constructing and maintaining his levee. View "Welty v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success in connection with their claim that ORR's restriction on abortion access infringes their protected right to choose to terminate their pregnancies. In 2017, the government instituted a policy effectively barring any unaccompanied alien child in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) from obtaining a pre-viability abortion. The district court granted a preliminary injunction and the government appealed. Agreeing that the case was not moot, the DC Circuit affirmed and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in certifying a class consisting of pregnant unaccompanied minors in the government's custody. On the merits, the court held that, under binding Supreme Court precedent, a person has a constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy before fetal viability, and the government cannot unduly burden her decision. Consequently, these controlling principles dictate affirming the district court's preliminary injunction against the government's blanket denial of access to abortion for unaccompanied minors. The court vacated in part and remanded to the extent that the preliminary injunction barred disclosure to parents and others of unaccompanied minors' pregnancies and abortion decisions. The court held that this portion of the preliminary injunction warranted further explication to aid appellate review. View "J.D. v. Azar" on Justia Law

by
After plaintiff was denied tenure and terminated by the University, he filed suit against the Board of Trustees, claiming that the University discriminated against him based on race and violated both the terms and spirit of its contract with him. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the University on the Title VII, D.C. Human Rights Act (DCHRA), and contract claims. As to the statutory claims under Title VII and the DCHRA, the court held that plaintiff raised a plausible inference that race was a motivating factor in the University's decision to deny him tenure. As to the contract claims, the court held that the claims were not time-barred. On the merits, the court held that there was an unresolved factual dispute regarding whether an implied-in-fact contract between plaintiff and the University existed and, if it did, what the terms and intent of that contract were. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Mawakana v. Board of Trustees of the University of the District of Columbia" on Justia Law