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Hawaii’s use tax, Haw. Rev. Stat. 238-2, does not violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution notwithstanding that the 2004 amendment to the statute eliminated the application of the tax to in-state unlicensed sellers. CompUSA Stores, L.P. filed claims for refund of its 2006, 2007, and 2008 use tax payments. The Department of Taxation (Department) denied the request. CompUSA appealed, arguing that the tax discriminates against out-of-state commerce, cannot be justified by a legitimate local purpose, and thus violates the Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. The Tax Appeals Court granted the Department’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the current version of the use statute establishes a classification between in-state and out-of-state sellers; but (2) the statute satisfies rational basis review because the classification of out-of-state sellers bears a rational relationship to the legitimate state interest of leveling the economic playing field for local businesses subject to the general excise tax. View "CompUSA Stores, L.P. v. State" on Justia Law

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Meza, with his girlfriend as a passenger was driving at least 90 mph. As he applied the brakes, he lost control. The car catapulted across the median and oncoming traffic and fell down an embankment. A California Highway Patrol sergeant saw the crash and saw Meza emerge from the driver’s side of the car. Concord police officers arrived. Officer Cruz had a brief conversation with Meza while Meza was waiting for treatment by emergency medical personnel. She noted “a moderate odor of alcoholic beverage coming from his mouth,” and blood-shot and watery eyes. Because Meza was complaining of pain, Cruz did not request field sobriety tests. She concluded that he should be arrested for driving under the influence and followed the ambulance to the hospital. The hospital drew blood, as they do for all trauma patients, and measured Meza’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at 0.148 percent. Two hours after the accident, a second phlebotomist, summoned by Cruz, drew Meza’s blood and measured its BAC at 0.11. Cruz never attempted to get a warrant because Meza did not refuse to have his blood drawn. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of a motion to suppress. The blood draw was inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment because exigent circumstances did not prevent officers from obtaining a warrant but the error was harmless, in light of the evidence of the hospital’s testing. View "People v. Meza" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for an officer based on qualified immunity in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging excessive force. The panel held that the district court did not err by raising the issue of qualified immunity sua sponte and by addressing it on summary judgment. The panel also held that, in viewing the record in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the officer's use of deadly force was objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. In this case, the officer could have reasonably feared that plaintiff had a gun and was turning to shoot him when the officer shot plaintiff following a traffic stop. View "Easley v. City of Riverside" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a devout Christian, alleged violations of his right to religious liberty under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc-1, and the denial of due process. In this case, plaintiff committed a disciplinary violation and was terminated from his kitchen assignment job after he refused to work on a religious holiday. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff's two inmate letters did not exhaust his administrative remedies, but that he exhausted administrative remedies through the disciplinary process. The panel held that defendants did not consider plaintiff's request for accommodation and RLUIPA mandated consideration of the requested accommodation. Finally, in regard to the district court's dismissal of certain defendants at the screening stage under 28 U.S.C. 1915A, the panel held that plaintiff's complaint did not explain how the dismissed defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment or RLUIPA. Therefore, the panel reversed the district court's ruling that plaintiff failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies; affirmed the section 1915A screening decision; and remanded for consideration of the merits of plaintiff's First Amendment and RLUIPA claims. View "Fuqua v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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Defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article 2, section 8 of the Arizona Constitution were not violated when law enforcement officers followed Defendant’s vehicle onto a private driveway to complete a traffic stop that began on a public road. Defendant was found guilty of possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and transporting methamphetamine for sale. Defendant appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized from him and his vehicle. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Constitution does not protect a driver that declines to stop on a public road and retreats onto private property; and (2) the officers’ actions in this case comported with Fourth Amendment standards because Defendant impliedly consented to the location of the stop where he led the officers in his vehicle. View "State v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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Nicandro Galaviz was committed to a state mental health institution for a term of 60 years to life after he was found not guilty by reason of insanity of possession of methamphetamine and assault with a deadly weapon. In July 2017, Galaviz filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging the commitment order. Galaviz previously filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the trial court. After holding an evidentiary hearing, the court referred to the hearing as something “akin to a retrospective competency hearing” and denied Galaviz’s petition on the ground Galaviz failed to prove he was incompetent at the time of trial. The petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed with the Court of Appeal was granted; the Court found the trial court erred in 1996 by failing to hold a hearing to determine Galaviz’s competence at the time of trial. "Reports filed by mental health professionals in the months preceding trial raised serious doubt about Galaviz’s competence to stand trial. This error constitutes reversible error unless it is feasible to conduct a retrospective competency hearing to now determine whether Galaviz had been competent to stand trial in 1996. The prosecution failed to carry its burden of showing that conducting such a retrospective competency hearing is feasible based on a totality of the circumstances in this case." View "In re Galaviz" on Justia Law

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The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama ("the Board") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Circuit Court to dismiss for lack of subject- matter jurisdiction, based on Article I, section 14, Ala. Const. 1901, an action filed against it by Paul F. Castellanos, M.D. ("Dr. Castellanos"). Dr. Castellanos filed an action against six named defendants and other fictitiously named defendants asserting claims of intentional interference with contractual and business relations, civil conspiracy, and "intentional infliction of mental anguish -- outrageous conduct" and sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The Supreme Court determined the circuit court lacked the power to compel the Board to arbitrate Dr. Castellanos's claims against it. Instead, it was incumbent upon the circuit court to grant the Board's motion to dismiss the claims against it, as Dr. Castellanos himself conceded. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the circuit court to vacate its order insofar as it compelled arbitration with regard to the Board and to dismiss the claims against the Board based on section 14 immunity. View "Ex parte the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama." on Justia Law

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Defendants the Alabama Secretary of State, John Merrill, and a member of his staff, Ed Packard, the director of elections, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to vacate a preliminary injunction and to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction the underlying action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. On December 7, 2017, plaintiffs Pamela Miles, Dan Dannemueller, Paul Hard, and Victoria Tuggle (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the plaintiffs") filed a civil action against Merrill and Packard, in their official capacities, alleging certain electronic voting machines used in Alabama elections created digital images of the paper ballots scanned and counted by the machines, and that defendants "do not and will not instruct election officials" to preserve the digital ballot images. Those images, it was argued, were public records that, under Alabama law, had to be preserved. Plaintiffs also appeared to allege that federal law, specifically, 52 U.S.C. 20701, required those images be retained. This failure "to require that all election materials" be preserved, the plaintiffs contended, "infringe[d] upon their right to a fair and accurate election." The Alabama Supreme Court determined plaintiffs' allegations did not demonstrate how the "challenged practices harm[ed]" plaintiffs in a concrete way; how they would personally suffer the threatened injury, which is itself described only as a mere speculative possibility; or how they would benefit in a "tangible way" by a judgment in their favor. Instead, the Court found they alleged only that they "could" be harmed." Therefore, because the complaint insufficiently alleged that plaintiffs have standing, the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the action. The Court therefore directed that the case be dismissed. View "Ex parte Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and Director of Elections Ed Packard." on Justia Law

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The stop of Defendant’s vehicle for the purpose of gathering information about the presence of stolen firearms and other criminal activity at the residence Defendant drove from, for which a search warrant was being sought, did not violate Defendant’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article 1, section 7 of the Nebraska Constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court convicting Defendant of felony possession of a controlled substance, holding (1) the application of the balancing test set forth in Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47 (1979), which recognizes that warrantless seizures without reasonable suspicion may be reasonable under certain circumstances, was appropriate under the facts of this case; and (2) the stop was reasonable under Brown. View "State v. Sievers" on Justia Law

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Circuit courts possess statutory competency to proceed in criminal matters when the adult defendant was charged for conduct he committed before his tenth birthday. Defendant was charged with four counts of criminal misconduct. Defendant was nine through twelve years old during the time period charged in count one and fourteen through eighteen years old during the time period charged in counts two through four. Defendant was nineteen years old when the charges were filed. The jury acquitted Defendant of count one but convicted him of counts two through four. Defendant brought a postconviction motion alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to bring a pre-trial motion to dismiss count one. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the defendant’s age at the time he is charged, not his age at the time the underlying conduct occurred, determines whether charges are properly brought as a criminal matter. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court possessed statutory competency to hear Defendant’s case as a criminal matter because he was an adult at the time he was charged; and (2) therefore, Defendant’s counsel did not perform deficiently by failing to raise a meritless motion. View "State v. Sanders" on Justia Law