by
Kanter pleaded guilty to mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341, based on his submission of bills to Medicare for non-compliant therapeutic shoes and shoe inserts. Due to his felony conviction, he is prohibited from possessing a firearm under both federal and Wisconsin law, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) and Wis. Stat. 941.29(1m). He challenged those felon dispossession statutes under the Second Amendment, as applied to nonviolent offenders. The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment upholding the laws. Even if felons are entitled to Second Amendment protection, so that Kanter could bring an as-applied challenge, the government met its burden of establishing that the felon dispossession statutes are substantially related to an important government interest in preventing gun violence. Congress and the Wisconsin legislature are entitled to categorically disqualify all felons—even nonviolent felons like Kanter—because both have found that such individuals are more likely to abuse firearms. The “bright line categorical approach … allows for uniform application and ease of administration.” View "Kanter v. Barr" on Justia Law

by
Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a nonprofit organization, “[t]akes legal action challenging entanglement of religion and government, government endorsement or promotion of religion.” FFRF paid its co-presidents a portion of their salaries in the form of a housing allowance, seeking to challenge 26 U.S.C. 107, which provides: In the case of a minister of the gospel, gross income does not include— (1) the rental value of a home furnished to him as part of his compensation; or (2) the rental allowance paid to him as part of his compensation, to the extent used by him to rent or provide a home. Having unsuccessfully sought refunds from the IRS based on section 107 they sued. The district court granted FFRF and its employees summary judgment, finding that the statute violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Seventh Circuit reversed, applying the “Lemon” test. The law has secular purposes: it is one of many per se rules that provide a tax exemption to employees with work-related housing requirements; it is intended to avoid discrimination against certain religions in favor of others and to avoid excessive entanglement with religion by preventing the IRS from conducting intrusive inquiries into how religious organizations use their facilities. Providing a tax exemption does not “connote[] sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the [government] in religious activity.” FFRF offered no evidence that provisions like section 107(2) were historically viewed as an establishment of religion. View "Gaylor v. Peecher" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying without an evidentiary hearing Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief, holding that the district court did not err in denying postconviction relief without holding an evidentiary hearing. Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony. In his postconviction motion, Appellant alleged that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. The district court denied the motion without a hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that counsel provided effective assistance and that the district court did not err in denying Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief without an evidentiary hearing. View "State v. Martinez" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the school district in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that the district violated a student and his parents' First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights when it expelled the student for one year. The student was expelled for creating a hit list of students that "must die." Under the circumstances of this case, including the nature of the hit list, the student's access to firearms, and the close proximity of the student's home to the high school, the decision to discipline the student for his off-campus speech did not violate his constitutional right to free speech. The panel clarified that courts considering whether a school district may constitutionally regulate off-campus speech must determine, based on the totality of the circumstances, whether the speech bears a sufficient nexus to the school. The panel stated that there is always a sufficient nexus between the speech and the school when the school district reasonably concludes that it faces a credible, identifiable threat of school violence. Furthermore, a student's lack of intent to convey his off-campus speech to any third party is relevant to an evaluation of whether the speech constitutes a credible threat, but is not dispositive. In this case, taken as a whole, the considerations that guide application of the nexus test supported the school district. Finally, the parents' claims alleging violations of their substantive due process failed because their fundamental right to choose the student's educational forum was not infringed by the school district's discipline of the student. View "McNeil v. Sherwood School District 88J" on Justia Law

by
Indiana University and faculty members, claiming interference with medical scholarship, challenged a state statute, providing that “[a] person who intentionally acquires, receives, sells, or transfers fetal tissue commits unlawful transfer of fetal tissue, a Level 5 felony,” Ind. Code 35‐46‐5‐1.5(d). A federal district court held that several terms in the statute were unconstitutionally vague and that it must be treated as if it read: “A person who intentionally sells fetal tissue commits unlawful transfer of fetal tissue, a Level 5 felony.” The definitional clause, as enacted, read: “As used in this section, ‘fetal tissue’ includes tissue, organs, or any other part of an aborted fetus.” The court held it must be treated as if it read: “As used in this section, ‘fetal tissue’ includes tissue or organs of an aborted fetus.” The Seventh Circuit reversed. A federal judge cannot definitively interpret Indiana statutes but the state judiciary can do so in a declaratory judgment suit. Instead of using an available state‐law remedy, the plaintiffs asked a federal court to invalidate the law. The statute survives an equal‐protection challenge under a rational basis test. The law regulates conduct, not speech and does not discriminate against interstate commerce. A Takings Clause claim is confined to the University but the University, as part of Indiana, is not entitled to sue the state. View "Trustees of Indiana University v. Curry" on Justia Law

by
Jason Godwin, Sr. appealed after he was convicted for the second degree murder of Kyle Anderson in 2014. In his appeal, Godwin argued district court erred: (1) by denying his motion to suppress evidence of statements he made to police; (2) by requiring him to show personal knowledge of Anderson’s violent or aggressive character before allowing him to present evidence of that character; and (3) by failing to properly instruct the jury on justifiable homicide under section 18-4009 of the Idaho Code. Godwin also argued the State committed prosecutorial misconduct by impermissibly vouching for evidence and witnesses in closing arguments. Godwin asserted the complained-of errors in his case, even if harmless individually, amounted to a due process violation when viewed cumulatively. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed his conviction. View "Idaho v. Godwin, Sr." on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to a police officer in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging that the officer used excessive force during a routine traffic stop. The court held that a police officer, like the one here, was not entitled to qualified immunity when he intentionally applies unnecessarily tight handcuffs to an arrestee who is neither resisting arrest nor attempting to flee, thereby causing serious and permanent injuries. In this case, plaintiff was in handcuffs for more than five hours and suffered nerve damage to his hands and risks. The court held that such injuries that were not de minimus. View "Sebastian v. Ortiz" on Justia Law

by
Illinois law requires sex offenders to register with the police. Offenders with a fixed residence were required to register either every 90 days or annually; homeless offenders were to report weekly. Some Chicago officers thought the weekly requirement was burdensome and “steered” offenders to identify a residence. Officers directed Regains to a homeless shelter, which they listed as his permanent address, and to return for re-registration in 90 days. When he reported three months later, Regains was arrested on an “investigative alert,” because other officers had not been able to locate Regains at the address provided. Regains remained in custody 17 months before the Illinois trial court found him not guilty of failing to a report a change of address. Regains sued the city under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed the claim as time-barred under Illinois’ two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims and found that the amended complaint lacked sufficient factual details to give fair notice. The Seventh Circuit reversed, concluding that the claim accrued when Regains was released from custody. The court remanded, noting that it will be difficult for Regains to amend his complaint to allege a policy or practice, widespread enough to constitute a custom and that high-ranking Department members knew of the differing practices and allowed them to continue. View "Regains v. Chicago" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction and sentence for two counts of conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base, holding, among other things, that the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motions to suppress two warrants obtained by law enforcement and evidence obtained from Defendant’s warrantless arrest. Specifically, the Court held (1) there was no error int he issuance of precise location information (PLI) warrants by a magistrate judge allowing monitoring of the locations of Defendant’s two cell phones; (2) the cell phones were not tracking devices under 18 U.S.C. 3117; (3) the PLI warrants did not violate Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(b); (4) the use of rebuttal testimony from a pretrial services officer to impeach a witness was proper; and (5) the sentencing court’s adoption of two sentencing enhancements was not procedurally unreasonable. View "United States v. Ackies" on Justia Law

by
Albert and Ashley Debelbot were convicted of malice murder for the death of their infant daughter, McKenzy. The Debelbots each argued the evidence was insufficient to sustain their convictions, that their respective trial attorneys rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance, and that their convictions cannot stand for other reasons. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions of both Albert and Ashley. But while the Court was “deeply troubled” by at least two of the claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, the nature of the trial court record prevented meaningful review of all of those claims. Therefore, the Court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Debelbot v. Georgia" on Justia Law