Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the decision of the district court dismissing all of Plaintiff's claims against Defendant at summary judgment, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment as to Plaintiff's excessive force claims against correctional officer Brian Piasecki.Plaintiff, the special administrator of the estate of Michael Madden, brought this action alleging deliberate indifference, use of excessive force, Monell liability, and state law claims against the state actors involved in the care of Madden while he was jailed in Milwaukee County. Over the course of one month, Madden developed infective endocarditis, which medical staff failed to diagnose. Madden died at the end of the month. The district court dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims at summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) the district court erred in awarding Piasecki summary judgment based on qualified immunity; and (2) the district court's judgment is otherwise affirmed. View "Stockton v. Milwaukee County, Wisconsin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court that the solar energy system owned by Springfield Solar 1, LLC was tax-exempt as a "solar energy system not held for resale" pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 137.100(10), holding that the statute is unconstitutional because the Missouri Constitution does not grant the legislature the power to exempt solar energy systems not help for resale from taxation.Springfield Solar appealed the Assessor for Greene County's 2017 assessment of its solar energy system (the equipment), arguing that the equipment was tax-exempt under section 137.100(10), which states that solar energy systems not help for resale are exempt from taxation for state, county, and local purposes. The Commission concluded that the equipment was exempt from taxation under section 137.100(10). The Assessor filed a petition for judicial review, arguing that the Commission's decision was unlawful. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of Springfield Solar, finding that the statute was constitutional. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the tax exemption created by section 137.100(10) is unconstitutional. View "Johnson v. Icet" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, two jail officers, and dismissing Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims that Defendants caused his injuries, holding that Plaintiff failed to establish that either defendant violated his constitutional rights.Plaintiff was booked into Boone County Detention Center on nonviolent drug charges and was placed in a cell with Jordan Webster, a fellow detainee. Webster attacked and beat Plaintiff during the night. Plaintiff brought this action alleging that Defendants violated the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to protect him from the risk of harm posed by Webster. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to establish that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious risk of harm by failing to protect him from Webster. View "Stein v. Gunkel" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the order of the district court denying Appellant's motion to suppress, holding that there was no violation of Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights under the circumstances of this case.Defendant entered a conditional plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Defendant subsequently brought this appeal challenging the district court's order denying his motion to suppress, arguing that the arresting officer lacked probable cause to initiate the traffic stop leading to the search of his car and unconstitutionally prolonged the stop. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence to warrant a prudent person in believing Defendant had violated 4511.431(A); and (2) the officer had probable cause to detain Defendant, investigate the source of a marijuana odor, and continue search the entire vehicle for marijuana. View "United States v. Stevenson" on Justia Law

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In response to sexual abuse allegations by another student, a Texas A&M panel found Plaintiff responsible for violating Texas A&M’s policy. Plaintiff sued Texas A&M and several university administrators for sex discrimination under Title IX and deprivation of constitutional due process under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. The district court ultimately granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Title IX erroneous outcome and 1983 due process claims. Thus, only Plaintiff’s Title IX selective enforcement claim was allowed to proceed. Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration, which the district court denied. The district court then certified its rulings for interlocutory appeal on the grounds that they turn on two controlling questions of law.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling and concluded that Texas A&M did not violate Plaintiff’s due process rights. The court explained that Plaintiff received advanced notice of the allegations against him. He was permitted to call witnesses and submit relevant, non-harassing evidence of his innocence to a neutral panel of administrators. He was represented by counsel throughout the entirety of his disciplinary proceeding. He had the benefit of listening to the accuser’s description of the allegations directly. And he and his attorney had the opportunity to submit an unlimited number of questions to the disciplinary panel. View "Van Overdam v. Texas A & M Univ" on Justia Law

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Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means (“the Chairman”) invoked Section 6103(f)(1) in a writing to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue (“the 2019 Request”). The Chairman requested the federal income tax returns of then-President Donald J. Trump and that of his related companies and organizations (collectively “the Trump Parties”). The Department of the Treasury responded that it did not intend to comply with the 2019 Request because it was not supported by a legitimate legislative purpose. Later the Treasury informed the district court and the Trump Parties that it intended to comply with the 2021 Request and provide the Committee with the requested materials. The Trump Parties alleged that Section 6103(f)(1) is facially unconstitutional and that compliance with the Request would be a violation of the First Amendment.The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the 2021 Request seeks information that may inform the United States House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means as to the efficacy of the Presidential Audit Program, and therefore, was made in furtherance of a subject upon which legislation could be had. Further, the Request did not violate the separation of powers principles under any of the potentially applicable tests primarily because the burden on the Executive Branch and the Trump Parties is relatively minor. Finally, Section 6103(f)(1) is not facially unconstitutional because there are many circumstances under which it can be validly applied, and Treasury’s decision to comply with the Request did not violate the Trump Parties’ First Amendment rights. View "Committee on Ways and Means, United States House of Representatives v. TREA" on Justia Law

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF” or the “Bureau”) promulgated a rule classifying “bump stocks” as machine guns. The Bureau’s new rule instructed individuals with bump stocks to either destroy them, abandon them at the nearest ATF facility, or face criminal penalties. Plaintiffs initially moved for a preliminary injunction to stop the rule from taking effect, which the District Court denied, and a panel of this Court affirmed. At the merits stage, the District Court again rejected Plaintiffs’ challenges to the rule under the Chevron framework. See Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984).The central question on appeal was whether the Bureau had the statutory authority to interpret “machine gun” to include bump stocks and the DC Circuit affirmed. In employing the traditional tools of statutory interpretation, the court found that the disputed rule is consistent with the best interpretation of “machine gun” under the governing statutes. The court explained that it joins other circuits in concluding that these devices, which enable such prodigious rapid-fire capability upon a pull of the trigger, fall within the definition of “machine gun” in the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act. View "Damien Guedes v. ATF" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Nathaniel Johnson was arrested on a Greyhound bus after an encounter with Special Agent Jarrell Perry. Law enforcement found two packages of methamphetamine in Johnson’s backpack, and Johnson gave several incriminating statements. The district court denied Johnson’s motion to suppress the physical evidence and his statements. Johnson appealed. The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court determined Perry had probable cause to arrest Johnson and to seize the bundle of clothing and backpack. But while seizing the items from the bus, Perry conducted an illegal search of the bundle by reaching inside Johnson’s open backpack and feeling the bundle in an exploratory manner. Then later, at the DEA office, still without a warrant, Perry conducted a second illegal search of the backpack and the bundle. And contrary to the government’s position, the plain-view exception to the warrant requirement could not apply because at neither point in time were the contents of the bundle or backpack a foregone conclusion. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Guy McDonald was arrested and charged for dealing methamphetamine. He pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate federal narcotics laws at the federal district court in Eastern Oklahoma. He received a sentence of 292 months’ imprisonment. McDonald appealed, arguing the district court erred in calculating his base offense level and in applying three sentencing enhancements to his sentence. Specifically, McDonald argued the district court improperly relied on facts alleged in his presentence investigation report given the objections he raised at the sentencing hearing. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. McDonald" on Justia Law

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Defendant pled guilty to unlawfully possessing a firearm as a felon. He appealed the district court’s conclusion that his prior Arkansas burglary convictions were separate offenses, rendering him an armed career criminal subject to an enhanced sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”).The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the ACCA mandates a 15-year minimum sentence for a defendant who has been convicted of unlawfully possessing a firearm as a felon following “three previous convictions by any court . . . for a violent felony . . . committed on occasions different from one another[.]” 18 U.S.C. Section 924(e)(1) In determining whether prior convictions are separate and distinct, at least three factors are relevant: “(1) the time lapse between offenses, (2) the physical distance between their occurrence, and (3) their lack of overall substantive continuity, a factor that is often demonstrated in the violent-felony context by different victims or different aggressions.” United States v. Pledge, 821 F.3d 1035.   Here, Defendant committed three residential burglaries—each on different days, in different locations, and against different victims—over an approximate three-week span. The court held that these offenses qualify as separate and distinct criminal episodes committed on occasions different from one another. View "United States v. Jeremy Robinson" on Justia Law