Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

by
Illinois Trooper Chapman received a message about a Volkswagen with California license plates driving on I-72. Chapman spotted the Volkswagen, driven by Cole, and trailed him, intending to find a pretext for a roadside stop. After another car cut off the Volkswagen, Chapman believed that the Volkswagen trailed that car at an unreasonably close distance. Chapman stopped Cole, requested his papers, and ordered him to sit in the police cruiser. This initial stop lasted 10 minutes. Chapman spent about six minutes questioning Cole about his residence, employment, travel history, plans, vehicle history, and registration information. Chapman told Cole that he would get a warning but that they had to go to a gas station to complete the paperwork because he was concerned for their safety. Chapman testified later that he had already decided that he was not going to release Cole until he searched the car. Driving to the gas station, Chapman requested a drug-sniffing dog and learned that Cole had been arrested for drug crimes 15 years earlier. At the gas station, Cole’s answers became contradictory. Finishing the warning, 30 minutes after the stop, Chapman told Cole that he could not leave because he suspected Cole was transporting drugs. The dog arrived 10 minutes later and quickly alerted. Chapman found several kilograms of methamphetamine and heroin in a hidden compartment.The Seventh Circuit reversed the denial of a motion to suppress. Even assuming that the stop was permissible, the officer prolonged the stop by questioning the driver at length on subjects well beyond the legal justification for the stop, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. View "United States v. Cole" on Justia Law

by
This panel originally held that binding circuit precedent required that it conclude that nominal damages claims alone could not save appellants' otherwise moot constitutional challenges. On March 8, 2021, the Supreme Court reversed the panel's opinion.On remand from the Supreme Court, which held that an award of nominal damages by itself can redress a past injury, the panel reversed the district court's dismissal of appellants' First Amended Complaint and remanded for further proceedings. View "Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski" on Justia Law

by
The 1972 Shakman Decree enjoined the City of Chicago and county officials from governmental employment practices based in politics. A 1983 Decree enjoined those officials from conditioning hiring or promotions on any political considerations. After the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment’s prohibition against patronage-based firings extends to promotion, transfer, recall, or hiring decisions involving public employment for which party affiliation is not an appropriate requirement, the Clerk of Cook County entered a separate consent decree. In 1992 the Voters Organization joined the Shakman complaint. The court has dismissed some entities and officials, including Chicago and its Park District, as showing substantial compliance. In 2010 the Clerk and other defendants consented to a magistrate judge conducting further proceedings. A new magistrate and a new district judge were assigned in 2020.In 2019, plaintiffs moved for supplemental relief. The magistrate found that the Clerk violated the 1991 Decree, that the evidence strongly suggested that the Clerk’s policy of rotating employees was “instituted for the purpose" of evading the 1972 Decree, appointed a special master to oversee compliance within the Clerk’s Office, and refused the Clerk’s request to vacate the Decrees. The Seventh Circuit, noting that it lacked authority to review the appointment of the special master, affirmed the denial of the request to vacate. Sounding a “federalism concern,” the court noted the permitting a consent decree over an arm of state or local government to remain on a federal docket for decades is inconsistent with our federal structure. View "Shakman v. Clerk of Cook County" on Justia Law

by
The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA) does not require landlords to accommodate the disability of an individual who neither entered into a lease nor paid rent in exchange for the right to occupy the premises.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, in an action brought by plaintiff against the City for wrongful eviction based on several theories of state law implied tenancy. The panel held that the FHAA applies to rentals only when the landlord or his designee has received consideration in exchange for granting the right to occupy the premises. As to occupants requesting accommodation, the panel held that the FHAA's disability discrimination provisions apply only to cases involving a "sale" or "rental" for which the landlord accepted consideration in exchange for granting the right to occupy the premises. Applying a federal standard rather than California landlord-tenant law, the panel concluded that because plaintiff never provided consideration in exchange for the right to occupy Spot 57, the FHAA was inapplicable to his claim for relief. Furthermore, the City was not obligated to provide, offer, or discuss an accommodation. View "Salisbury v. City of Santa Monica" on Justia Law

by
In this libel case, the Eleventh Circuit held that New York's "fair and true report" privilege, codified as N.Y. Civ. Rights Law 74, applies to the fair and true publication of the contents of a document that was filed and sealed in a Florida paternity/child custody proceeding.Plaintiff filed suit against Gizmodo and Katherine Krueger, the author of an article published on the Splinter website owned by Gizmodo, over an article entitled "Court Docs Allege Ex-Trump Staffer Drugged Woman He Got Pregnant with 'Abortion Pill.'" The district court concluded that section 74 applied, and that the Splinter article was a fair and true report of the supplement because it was "substantially accurate." Plaintiff does not challenge the district court's finding that the Splinter article was a fair and true report, but he maintains that the section 74 privilege does not apply because the supplement was filed in a paternity/child custody proceeding and sealed. The court held that section 74's fair and true report privilege applies to the Splinter article written by Ms. Krueger about the supplement filed by the mother of plaintiff's child, and that the 1970 decision of the New York Court of Appeals in Shiles v. News Syndicate Co., 261 N.E.2d 251, 256 (N.Y. 1970), does not preclude the application of section 74. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. View "Miller v. Gizmodo Media Group, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Tony Randell Barnett, Jr., was convicted of armed bank robbery. The sole issue on appeal was whether the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support Barnett’s conviction. After review of the trial court record, the Mississippi Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed Barnett's conviction. View "Randell v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Sergio Sandoval was convicted on two counts of touching a child for lustful purposes and one count of sexual battery and was sentenced to fifteen years for each count of touching and thirty years for sexual battery, all to run concurrently. Sandoval only appealed the trial court’s ruling that he was competent to stand trial. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court did not err by finding Sandoval competent. View "Sandoval v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
In November 2017, M.S. was charged with third degree assault of a King County Metro bus driver. M.S. approached the driver’s side window of a King County bus while it was parked. When the bus driver leaned out the driver’s side window to speak to M.S., M.S. squirted urine from a plastic bottle at the bus driver. M.S. pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of fourth degree assault and requested a deferred disposition of the criminal assault charge. The court also asked M.S. if he understood that the court could impose a manifest injustice sentence outside the standard range if it found aggravating factors. The court did not mention at the hearing or in the plea agreement any existing aggravating factors it could rely on if it did impose a manifest injustice sentence. The court granted M.S.’s request for a deferred disposition and in it required M.S. to comply with a number of conditions of community supervision. The trial court ultimately sentenced M.S. to a manifest injustice disposition based on facts and aggravating factors that M.S. had no notice of at the time of his plea. The Court of Appeals affirmed M.S.’s sentence and rejected M.S.’s argument that any right to notice of the factual basis of a manifest injustice disposition existed prior to pleading guilty. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether a juvenile, before entering a guilty plea in a criminal proceeding, had a statutory or constitutional due process right to notice of the factual basis of and the intent to seek a manifest injustice disposition. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and held that a juvenile has a right to notice of the factual basis necessary to support a manifest injustice sentence before deciding to plead guilty. View "Washington v. M.S." on Justia Law

by
In 2017, D.L., a 14-year-old boy, was charged with three counts of first degree rape and one count of attempted first degree rape of his 5-year-old half brother. At the time, D.L. had no prior criminal history. D.L. successfully negotiated a plea deal with the prosecutor, reducing the charges to a single count of first degree attempted child molestation. D.L. stipulated in his plea agreement that the trial court could use the probable cause statement to determine the facts that supported his conviction. But when the court imposed the manifest injustice disposition, it relied on three facts that were not in the probable cause affidavit: (1) that D.L.’s victim had a cognitive disability; (2) that D.L. refused accountability; and (3) that D.L. would not cooperate with treatment. This case asked the Washington Supreme Court whether due process required that the State give a juvenile notice of these specific facts before pleading guilty if they will be used to justify a manifest injustice disposition. "Ultimately, due process requires that juveniles be treated in a manner that is fundamentally fair. ... Without adequate notice, juveniles and their attorneys cannot predict which facts might be unearthed and weaponized to extend the juvenile’s sentence after the plea. This lack of notice causes unfair surprise to young defendants and serves only to undermine juveniles’ and their families’ trust in our juvenile justice system. Our adult defendants in Washington are not treated so unfairly and neither should we so treat our juveniles." As a result, the manifest injustice disposition was improperly imposed. As D.L. already served his sentence and this case was technically moot; the Court resolved this legal issue without modifying D.L.’s sentence. View "Washington v. D.L." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment entered by the superior court denying in part Petitioner's petition for post-conviction review of his conviction on several sexual assault charges, holding that Petitioner was deprived of his right to the effective assistance of trial counsel.After a trial, the jury found Petitioner guilty of one count each of gross sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact, and sexual abuse of a minor. The Supreme Court affirmed. Petitioner subsequently filed a postconviction petition arguing that he had been deprived of his right to the effective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court granted the petition as to the convictions for unlawful sexual contact and sexual abuse of a minor and vacated Petitioner's convictions on those counts but denied Petitioner's petition as to the conviction for gross sexual assault. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment and remanded for entry of a judgment granting Petitioner's petition for post-conviction review and vacating the remaining conviction, holding that counsel's performance was deficient and that Petitioner was entitled to post-conviction relief from the remaining portion of the judgment of conviction. View "Hodgdon v. State" on Justia Law