Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs, two brothers and their parents, filed suit seeking injunction relief under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act to prevent Mathis Independent School District from excluding them from extracurricular activities based on their religiously motivated hairstyles. After the district court granted preliminary injunctions to both brothers, the school district appealed.The Fifth Circuit upheld the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction as to one brother and vacated as to the other. In regard to one brother, C.G., the court held that the district court's conclusion that there was no time to reasonably provide 60-day pre-suit notice was plausible in light of the record as a whole. Therefore, C.G. satisfied the statutory exception to the Act's pre-suit notice requirement and thus the school district's governmental immunity is waived and there is no jurisdictional defect in C.G.'s claim. As to the other brother, D.G., the court held that his noncompliance with the Act's pre-suit notice requirement requires that the court vacate the district court's preliminary injunction as to him. View "Gonzales v. Mathis Independent School District" on Justia Law

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Dex Hunter Stone was indicted for sexual battery and lustful touching of a child. A jury acquitted him of sexual battery but found him guilty of lustful touching of a child. The Circuit Court sentenced Stone to ten years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with six years suspended and five years of probation. Stone appealed the denial of his motion for a new trial, arguing the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence and that newly discovered evidence entitled him to a new trial. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Stone v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against defendant, an investigator for the Texas Medical Board (TMB), alleging that defendant searched his medical office and seized documents without a warrant.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The court held that defendant violated plaintiff's constitutional rights when she copied documents in plaintiff's office without any precompliance review of the administrative subpoena. However, at the time, it was not clearly established that defendant's search per Texas Occupations Code 153.007(a) and 168.052, and 22 Texas Administrative Code 179.4(a) and 195.3 was unconstitutional. Therefore, defendant's right to a precompliance review was not clearly established at the time of the search. In this case, the TMB had received a complaint that plaintiff was operating an unregistered pain management clinic (PMC); even though plaintiff's license had been revoked at the time of the search, the Board still had the power to take disciplinary action against him, to issue administrative penalties, and to seek injunctions; and thus defendant's search served an administrative purpose, even if the TMB ultimately declined to take further administrative action against plaintiff. View "Cotropia v. Chapman" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted the petition for panel rehearing, withdrew its prior opinion, and substituted the following opinion.The court held that when a court order disposes of a habeas claim on procedural and, in the alternative, substantive grounds, a Rule 60(b) motion contesting this order inherently presents a successive habeas petition. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that it lacked jurisdiction over petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion -- facially challenging a procedural ruling and implicitly challenging a merits determination -- because it was a successive habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court also affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's inherent prejudice claim, because petitioner failed to overcome the arduous standard of review in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). In this case, petitioner identifies no clearly established law that the CCA misapplied, nor any unreasonable factual determinations on which the court based its holding. View "Will v. Lumpkin" on Justia Law

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Andrade, the mother of Omar’s children, called 911 and reported that Omar had hit Andrade and his mother, Ventura, and had smashed Andrade’s vehicle’s window. Officer Rutledge responded to the call, which was classified as a violent domestic disturbance. When Rutledge arrived at the home, Omar was not present. While Rutledge interviewed Andrade, Omar started walking toward the home. Andrade pointed and exclaimed, “that’s him.” Andrade moved behind trash cans in the driveway as Omar approached. Officer Rutledge issued several orders for Omar to “stop.” Omar continued to advance toward Andrade and displayed a knife, asking: “Is this what you wanted?” Rutledge shouted, “[s]top or I’ll shoot.” When Omar did not stop, Rutledge fired two shots, killing Omar. Omar got within 10–15 feet of Andrade before Rutledge fired.In Ventura's suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Rutledge, on the basis of qualified immunity. No controlling precedent clearly established that Omar’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from the excessive use of deadly force by police would be violated when he was shot and killed as he advanced toward an individual he had earlier that day assaulted, while carrying a drawn knife and while defying specific police orders to stop. View "Ventura v. Rutledge" on Justia Law

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Washington ballot initiative 1501 prohibits public access to certain government-controlled information, including the personal information of in-home care providers, but permits that information to be disclosed to the providers’ certified exclusive bargaining representatives. The law was challenged under 42 U.S.C. 1983 by in-home providers, required by Washington law to participate in statewide collective bargaining, who are not members of their respective unions and do not pay agency fees. They wanted to inform other individual in-home providers of their right to not pay union agency fees and were unable to obtain the necessary contact information.The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The First Amendment does not guarantee a general right of access to government-controlled information. Whether to disclose government-controlled information is generally left to the political processes but the First Amendment forbids a state from discriminating invidiously among viewpoints. A state does not engage in viewpoint discrimination by disclosing the personal information of public or quasi-public employees to the employees’ certified bargaining representative while denying equal access to the public. Initiative 1501 does not implicate the plaintiffs’ associational freedom; the plaintiffs lack standing to assert the rights of other in-home care providers. Initiative 1501 does not violate the Equal Protection Clause; the challenged provisions satisfy rational-basis review. The state has a legitimate interest in protecting seniors and other vulnerable individuals from identity theft and other financial crimes. There was no evidence that those who voted in favor of Initiative 1501 were motivated by an irrational prejudice or desire to harm the plaintiffs or their message. View "Boardman v. Inslee" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division reversing Defendant's conviction of manslaughter in the first degree and denied Defendant's motion to suppress DNA evidence from a Defendant's body by buccal swab, holding that there was no violation of Defendant's constitutional rights in this case.After the victim was shot, the People obtained a warrant to obtain a saliva sample for DNA testing from Defendant. Defendant moved to suppress the DNA evidence, asserting that the search warrant application failed to set forth probable cause that he committed the homicide and failed to articulate how the DNA profile related to the homicide investigation. The court denied the suppression motion. Defendant was subsequently convicted. The Appellate Division reversed and granted Defendant's motion to suppress, concluding that Supreme Court erred in precluding defense counsel from reviewing the search warrant application and in denying counsel the opportunity to be heard on the issuance of probable cause. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the requirement set forth in Matter of Abe A., 56 NY2d 288 (1982), of notice and an opportunity to be heard in the pre-execution stage of a warrant authorizing the seizure of evidence by bodily intrusion was satisfied in this case. View "People v. McIver" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Lusby was convicted of first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and home invasion and sentenced to 130 years’ imprisonment. Though he was 23 years old at the time of the trial, he was only 16 years old at the time of the offenses. After an unsuccessful direct appeal and post-conviction proceedings, he sought leave to file a successive post-conviction petition, asserting that his sentencing hearing was constitutionally inadequate under the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision, Miller v. Alabama. The Will County Circuit Court denied that motion. The appellate court reversed.The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court’s decision, denying relief. Lusby failed to show cause and prejudice such that the trial court should have granted leave to file a successive post-conviction petition. Lusby had every opportunity to present mitigating evidence but chose not to offer any. The trial court considered his youth and its attendant characteristics before concluding that his future should be spent in prison. The de facto discretionary life sentence passes constitutional muster under Miller; Lusby has not shown prejudice under 725 ILCS 5/122-1(a)(1). Miller does not require a court to use “magic words” before sentencing a juvenile defendant to life imprisonment but only requires consideration of “youth-related factors.” View "People v. Lusby" on Justia Law

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In this case involving a subsidy to offset part of the cost of health insurance that Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) provides to retirees receiving an OPERS pension the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's dismissal of the action for failure to state a claim, holding that the court of appeals correctly determined that Plaintiff stated a claim under Civ.R. 12(B)(6).Plaintiff filed a class action suit against OPERS arguing that reducing the subsidy of any retiree who is reemployed by a public employer that is a member of the OPERS network violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Ohio Constitution. The trial court dismissed the case under Civ.R. 12(B)(6). The appellate court reversed, holding that Plaintiff stated a claim under Ohio's Equal Protection Clause. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff alleged facts that, if accepted as true, would entitle him to relief. View "Sherman v. Ohio Public Employees Retirement System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of murder in the first degree on the theory of deliberate premeditation, holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below.After Defendant was convicted of murder, the Supreme Judicial Court reversed the conviction due to an error in the jury instructions. Following a retrial, Defendant was again convicted of murder. Defendant filed a motion for a new trial, which the trial court denied. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge's decision to allow a witness to avoid testifying at the second trial by invoking the privilege against self-incrimination and in admitting the witness's voir dire testimony, in lieu of live testimony at the second trial, did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial on the ground that he suffered from a mental disease or defect at the time of the shooting; (3) this Court again declines to extend its holding in Diatchenko v. District Attorney for the Suffolk District, 466 Mass. 655 (2013), to individuals over the age of eighteen; and (4) Defendant's arguments made pursuant to Commonwealth v. Moffett, 383 Mass. 201, 208-209 (1981) were unavailing. View "Commonwealth v. Johnson" on Justia Law