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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that North Carolina prison officials imposed a substantial burden on his religious exercise by refusing his request to celebrate four annual Rastafarian holy days, in violation of his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the First Amendment. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for defendants based on different reasons than the ones given by the district court. The court held that plaintiff failed to show that defendants' policies caused a substantial burden on his exercise of religion. In this case, plaintiff failed to identify any Rastafarian inmate in the North Carolina prison system who would attend his proposed gatherings. View "Wright v. Lassiter" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of habeas relief as to the penalty phase, because petitioner's counsel rendered ineffective assistance by not investigating and presenting mitigating evidence at the penalty phase. Applying de novo review, the panel held that counsel did not properly investigate petitioner's background, and thus the trial court at the penalty phase was not presented with substantial mitigation evidence regarding petitioner's education and incarceration, his diffuse brain damage, and his history of substance abuse. The panel held that this raised a reasonable probability that, had the trial court been presented with the mitigation evidence in the first instance, the outcome would have been different. In this case, petitioner may have been spared the death penalty and been imprisoned for life instead. Accordingly, the panel remanded with instructions to grant relief against the death penalty. View "Washington v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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In 2018, the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s order granting a preliminary injunction that had enjoined Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government from enforcing Ordinance 25-2017, which restricts the delivery of “unsolicited written materials” to six enumerated locations and provides for civil penalties for violations. On remand, further proceedings were taken in the district court. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court in concluding that Ordinance 25-2017 constitutes a valid time, place, and manner regulation of speech. View "Lexington H-L Services, Inc. v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government" on Justia Law

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Appellant Douglas Couthren was convicted by a jury of felony driving while intoxicated. The jury also found that, during the commission of the offense, Appellant used or exhibited a deadly weapon: a motor vehicle. The court of appeals affirmed the jury’s deadly weapon finding. Appellant claimed the court of appeals erred in upholding the deadly weapon finding absent evidence that he operated his vehicle in a reckless or dangerous manner. After review, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found there were no facts to support an inference that Appellant was operating his vehicle in a manner that was capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. The court of appeals erred in upholding the deadly weapon finding absent evidence that Appellant operated his vehicle in a reckless or dangerous manner. Therefore, the Court held the evidence insufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Appellant’s vehicle was used or exhibited as a deadly weapon during the offense of driving while intoxicated. The Court reversed only that part of the court of appeals’ judgment which affirmed the deadly weapon finding and reformed the trial court’s judgment to delete it. View "Couthren v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Defendant Katherine Saintil-Brown was convicted by jury for negligent homicide,criminal neglect of an elderly adult, and failure to report adult abuse. Defendant’s convictions were based upon her failure to call for help while her elderly mother, the victim, lay in her own waste on the floor of their shared home for multiple days. On appeal, defendant argued the evidence was insufficient for the jury to have convicted her of the three charges. She also argued the trial court erroneously instructed the jury on the criminal neglect of an elderly adult charge and that this error required reversal of her conviction on that charge. As to the jury instruction issue, the State agreed the trial court’s instruction was erroneous and that the error was plain, but asserted the error did not require reversal. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire .v Saintil-Brown" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to prison officials in his 42 U.S.C. 1983 action for excessive force, failure to intervene, deliberate indifference, and retaliation claims arising from use of force during his confinement. Liberally construing plaintiff's appellate contentions and reviewing de novo, the Fifth Circuit held that Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and its progeny did not bar plaintiff's excessive force claims. In this case, plaintiffs excessive force claims implicated neither the validity of his underlying conviction nor the duration of his sentence. In regard to whether defendants were entitled to qualified immunity, the court held that there was a genuine dispute of material fact concerning what occurred during the use of force. Therefore, the court remanded for further consideration. View "Bourne v. Gunnels" on Justia Law

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In the underlying actions, the People asserted claims under Business and Professions Code section 17501 against real parties in interest and alleged that real parties sold products online by means of misleading, deceptive or untrue statements regarding the former prices of those products. The trial court sustained real parties' demurrer without leave to amend on the ground that the statute was void for vagueness as applied to real parties. The Court of Appeal granted the petition for writ of mandate seeking relief from the ruling regarding the section 17501 claims, and held that real parties failed to demonstrate any constitutional defect on demurrer. Regarding real parties' challenge to section 17501 as an unconstitutional regulation of free speech, as a preliminary matter, the court rejected petitioner's contention that the statute targets only false, misleading or deceptive commercial speech; the plain language of the statute restricts protected commercial speech and thus, the statute was subject to the test for constitutional validity set forth in Central Hudson Gas & Elec. v. Public Serv. Comm'n (1980) 447 U.S. 557, 566; and, because the undeveloped record was inadequate to apply the test, real parties' "free speech" challenge necessarily failed on demurrer. The court also rejected real parties' contention that section 17501 was void for vagueness, and rejected the facial and as-applied challenges. View "People v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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After plaintiffs were arrested and detained by ICE under 8 U.S.C. 1226(a), pending removal for being in the United States without inspection or admission, they filed suit against ICE and DHS, challenging their transfer or anticipated transfer from ICE's detention facility to an out of state facility. Plaintiffs alleged a violation of their substantive due process right to family unity and procedural due process right to notice and an opportunity to be heard, because such transfers separated them from their children and made it impossible for children to have access to their parents or to visit them. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the government's motion to dismiss and held that plaintiffs did not have a due process right to family unity in the context of immigration detention pending removal. Furthermore, the court did not have the authority to create a new substantive due process right in view of Supreme Court decisions cautioning courts from innovating in this area. Likewise, the court held that, because plaintiffs right to family unity did not exist, their procedural due process claim failed. View "Reyna v. Hott" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the motion court overruling Appellant's Mo. R. Crim. P. 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief alleging several claims of ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel, holding that Appellant's claims of error were unavailing. After a jury trial, Appellant was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder for the death of a Missouri highway patrolman. The jury was unable to agree whether to recommend a sentence of death or life imprisonment. The circuit court subsequently conducted an independent review of the facts and imposed a death sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed on appeal. Thereafter, Appellant filed his Rule 29.15 motion. The motion court denied the motion after an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding, among other things, that counsel were not ineffective in failing to question Juror 58 during voir dire about the provocative and violent novel he admitted writing and in failing to call other jurors in support of Appellant's motion for new trial. View "Shockley v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing a petition seeking a declaratory judgment that Governor Michael Parson's appointment of Mike Kehoe to the office of Lieutenant Governor was unauthorized under Mo. Rev. Stat. 105.030, holding that Darrell Cope had standing and that the Governor has the authority to appoint a Lieutenant Governor in the event of a vacancy. The Governor Eric Greitens resigned and Governor Parson succeeded Greitens to the office of Governor, the office of Lieutenant Governor was left vacant. Governor Parson appointed Kehoe to be the Lieutenant Governor. Darrell Cope and the Missouri Democratic Party (MDP) filed a petition seeking injunctive and declaratory relief alleging that Governor Parson lacked legal authority to appoint a Lieutenant Governor. The circuit court dismissed the petition, concluding that Cope and the MDO did not have standing to challenging Governor Parson's appointment of Kehoe. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Cope had taxpayer standing to seek a declaratory judgment in this case; and (2) Mo. Const. Art. IV, 4 controls the authority of the Governor to appoint a Lieutenant Governor, and Governor Parson was within his constitutional authority when he appointed Kehoe to the office of Lieutenant Governor. View "Cope v. Parson" on Justia Law