Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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Mark’s grandfather, McKie, created a trust in his will for the benefit of his wife, Yvonne. during her life and granted her a testamentary power of appointment over the remainder. If Yvonne did not exercise her appointment power, McKie’s children from a prior marriage and Yvonne’s son from a prior marriage would each take a one-quarter share of the remainder; if a child did not survive Yvonne, that child’s surviving issue would take that child’s share. The issue of each of the children had a contingent remainder interest in the trust, subject to divestment by Yvonne’s exercise of her appointment power. McKie died in 1988. His adult children settled claims against the estate unrelated to the trust, disclaiming any interest in the trust. In 1991, the probate court issued a distribution decree, specifying that the trust's remainder was to be distributed solely to Yvonne’s son or his issue. McKie’s grandchildren were not given notice; the Decree eliminated their contingent interests. Yvonne died without having exercised her power of appointment. Mark’s father predeceased Yvonne. Mark unsuccessfully petitioned to be recognized as a trust beneficiary under the will's default distribution provision. The court of appeal reversed. Mark had a property interest in the trust in 1991 and the Decree adversely affected his interest. Mark’s existence and address were reasonably ascertainable; due process required that Mark be given notice of the proceeding that resulted in the Decree and an opportunity to object. View "Roth v. Jelley" on Justia Law

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Lee, a public-school teacher, was required to either join the union or pay fair-share fees as a non-member because the collective bargaining agreement between the school district and the union included a fair-share clause. Lee paid fair-share fees. Anticipating that the Supreme Court would overrule its precedent endorsing fair-share fees (Abood), Lee filed a putative class action, asserting that the union and state actors had violated her constitutional rights by imposing compulsory fair-share fees as a condition of employment. She sought a declaration that provisions of Ohio law were unconstitutional and damages. Two days later, the Supreme Court issued its "Janus" decision, reasoning that fair-share fees resulted in non-members being “forced to subsidize a union, even if they choose not to join and strongly object to the positions the union takes in collective bargaining and related activities,” thereby violating the free speech rights of non-members. Lee dismissed her claims against the state officials and the school district. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims against the union. The union, as a private actor sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, was entitled to rely on its good faith in following existing Ohio law and Supreme Court precedent. The state-law conversion count failed to state a plausible claim for relief. View "Lee v. Ohio Education Association" on Justia Law

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Dave Christensen was indicted by a grand jury on five counts of lewd conduct with two minors under sixteen. The State notified Christensen of its intent to introduce interviews of the two alleged victims at trial under Idaho Rules of Evidence (“I.R.E.”) 803(4) and 803(24). At a pretrial hearing, the district court ruled the interviews were admissible because the victims’ statements were made for purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment. The interviews were admitted at trial by stipulation. A jury found Christensen guilty on four of the five counts. Christensen appealed the district court’s admission of the interviews. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. Christensen" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a 28 U.S.C. 2241 petition for habeas relief based on lack of jurisdiction. Petitioner claimed actual innocence of his sentence as a career offender. The panel held that petitioner's appeal was not moot, because petitioner had a nontrivial argument for reducing his supervised release period under 18 U.S.C. 3583(e). The panel also held that petitioner has made a cognizable claim that he is actually innocent of a noncapital sentence for purposes of qualifying for the escape hatch, and that he has not had an unobstructed procedural shot at presenting the claim. The panel clarified that Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016), and Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254 (2013), apply retroactively when a court reviews a criminal judgment in the course of addressing a section 2241 petition or a first section 2255 motion. The panel concluded that petitioner may file a petition for habeas corpus under section 2241 and the panel remanded for reconsideration of petitioner's claim on the merits. View "Allen v. Ives" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs' challenges to HHS's 2019 Final Rule, implementing Title X of the Public Health Service Act, failed in light of Supreme Court approval of the 1988 regulations and the Ninth Circuit's broad deference to agencies' interpretations of the statutes they are charged with implementing. Section 1008 of Title X prohibits grant funds from being used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning. Specifically, plaintiffs challenged the "gag" rule on abortion counseling, where a counselor providing nondirective pregnancy counseling "may discuss abortion" so long as "the counselor neither refers for, nor encourages, abortion." The Final Rule also requires providers to physically and financially separate any abortion services from all other health care services. The panel held that the Final Rule is a reasonable interpretation of Section 1008; it does not conflict with the 1996 appropriations rider or other aspects of Title X; and its implementation of the limits on what Title X funds can support does not implicate the restrictions found in Section 1554 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The panel also held that the Final Rule is not arbitrary and capricious because HHS properly examined the relevant considerations and gave reasonable explanations; because plaintiffs will not prevail on the merits of their legal claims, they are not entitled to the extraordinary remedy of preliminary injunction; and thus the district courts' preliminary injunction orders are vacated and the cases are remanded for further proceedings. View "California v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(B) and 10(c) apply in habeas proceedings. The en banc court reversed the district court's dismissal of petitioner's amended habeas corpus petition as time-barred. Petitioner challenged his Nevada state conviction for theft-related offenses, asserting multiple claims, including the ineffective assistance of counsel. The en banc court held that claims in petitioner's amended petition that share core operative facts in common with those in his original petition relate back to the original petition and should not have been dismissed. However, the en banc court did not typically consider in the first instance issues not discussed by the district court, and thus the en banc court remanded for the district court to consider which of the claims in the amended petition are supported by facts incorporated into the original petition. View "Ross v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Nevik Howard, when sixteen years old, was convicted of first-degree assault (a crime of violence) and first-degree criminal trespass after his case was transferred from juvenile court to district court. During the sentencing hearing, Howard argued that he was subject to a more severe penalty for a crime of violence conviction under the transfer statute than he would be if this were a direct-file case because direct-filed juveniles were exempted “from the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions in [the crime of violence statute],” whereas transferred juveniles were not. To address that equal protection concern, the district court determined that the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions in the crime of violence statute would not apply in this transfer proceeding, just as they would not have applied in a direct-file proceeding. The court further determined, however, that this ruling did not make Howard eligible for probation. Instead, the court concluded that the statutory scheme only allowed either: (1) a youth offender services (“YOS”) sentence with a suspended Department of Corrections (“DOC”) sentence; or (2) a DOC sentence. The court ultimately sentenced Howard to six years in YOS with a suspended fifteen-year DOC sentence. Howard, appealed, arguing the district court erred in its reasoning. The court of appeals affirmed. The Colorado Supreme Court granted review, affirming the court of appeals, but on different grounds. The Supreme Court held that under the facts of this case, there was no equal protection violation because neither direct-filed juveniles nor transferred juveniles convicted of crimes of violence were eligible for probation, and the district court did not apply the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions in the crime of violence statute. Hence, Howard was treated the same as a direct-filed juvenile would have been with regard to probation and the applicable sentencing range. View "Howard v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a third successive federal habeas corpus petition challenging petitioner's state law murder conviction. The court held that the district court did not err in finding that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the petition because he failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence it was more likely than not that no reasonable jury would have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Because petitioner failed to make out a colorable claim under 28 U.S.C. 2254(e)(2)(B), he was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. View "Rhodes v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Defendant Fidel Mora-Duran waived preliminary hearing and pleaded no contest to felony marijuana cultivation. After his plea, but before sentencing, Proposition 64 was passed, which amended Health & Saf. Code section 11358 narrowing the scope of conduct constituting felony marijuana cultivation. Defendant asked the trial court to sentence him and redesignate his conviction as a misdemeanor. The trial court refused, explaining the parties had not agreed to that. The court then rejected the plea agreement and reinstated charges. After the prosecution filed an amended information, defendant pleaded no contest to felony marijuana cultivation under section 11358(d)(3)(C), a new provision enacted as part of Proposition 64 requiring proof of additional elements. Thereafter, defendant was placed on probation for two years on the condition that he serve a period in jail that amounted to time served. On appeal, defendant contended: (1) the trial court abused its discretion in rejecting the plea agreement; (2) his conviction should have been reversed because charges were added to the amended information after a preliminary hearing was waived in violation of Penal Code section 1009; and (3) his sentence violated the prohibition on ex post facto punishment. The Court of Appeal concluded defendant’s second contention had merit: the amendment to the information, though ostensibly filed pursuant to the same statute, constituted a significant variance from the original charges. Defendant's conviction under section 11358(d)(3)(C) was reversed, and the attendant sentence was vacated. The matter was remanded for further proceedings on the other charges. View "California v. Mora-Duran" on Justia Law

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Customs and Border Protection K-9 Officer Lopez was working at the airport in St. Thomas and took his certified canine, Bo, into a cargo plane to inspect incoming mail. Bo alerted to a package, indicating the presence of drugs. The package purportedly had been sent by Price, whose address was in South Carolina, and had been mailed to Meade in St. Thomas. Kouns removed it from the plane, opened the box and brought out a piece of clothing that smelled strongly of marijuana, although no drugs were found. When Kouns returned the item to the box, a magazine and round of ammunition fell to the floor. The officers discovered the unassembled parts of a gun. Days later, a postal inspector contacted Customs regarding another package, bearing the same names and addresses. Lopez and Kouns responded. Because of the addresses and the package's weight, Kouns suspected it might contain another gun. An x-ray revealed items an apparent gun and ammunition. Kouns opened the package and discovered a gun and ammunition. Homeland Security arranged a controlled delivery of the packages. Authorities apprehended Baxter as the sender of the packages; he was charged with two counts of illegal transport of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(a)(5). The District Court of the Virgin Islands granted his motion to suppress. The Third Circuit vacated, holding that Customs permissibly conducted the searches pursuant to the border search exception to the Fourth Amendment. View "United States v. Baxter" on Justia Law