Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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Three men ("Defendants") were involved in a fistfight. During the fracas, one of the Defendants ("the Shooter") retrieved a gun. The Shooter missed his intended target, but several passing vehicles, including a young child. All three Defendants were charged with attempted premeditated murder and shooting at an occupied motor vehicle. All charges contained a gang enhancement under Sec. 186.22. The jury convicted all Defendants of two counts of attempted murder and several counts of shooting at an occupied motor vehicle. The jury also found the gang enhancements to be true.In a May 2, 2022 opinion, the Second Appellate District reversed all Defendants' gang enhancements, remanding for further proceedings. The court held that Senate Bill 333 provides a new framework for determining the applicability of the enhancement. The court affirmed the Shooter's convictions for attempted premeditated murder but reversed the other Defendant's convictions for the same. The court held that the evolving standard of aiding and abetting liability requires a retrial on these charges. The court also affirmed the non-shooting Defendant's convictions for shooting at an occupied motor vehicle.The Second Appellate District released a modified opinion replacing the court's May 22, 2022 opinion. In its modified opinion, court removed certain directives to the trial court regarding the restructuring of Defendants' sentences. View "P. v. Perez" on Justia Law

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While imprisoned in Indiana, Lauderdale-El petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus challenging the loss of good-time credits resulting from a prison disciplinary conviction. His petition asserts that prison officials violated his due process rights in applying an Indiana Department of Correction policy rescinding previously restored good-time credits.The district court concluded that Lauderdale-El could challenge the restoration policy in state court, so it dismissed the case without prejudice for failure to exhaust state-court remedies, 28 U.S.C. 2254(b)(1)(A). Lauderdale-El had exhausted administrative remedies. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that dismissal of a habeas corpus petition without prejudice for failure to exhaust state-court remedies is a final and appealable judgment. Indiana law permits state-court review of Lauderdale-El’s claims. Because Lauderdale-El is still on parole, the court concluded that the matter was not moot. View "Lauderdale-El v. Indiana Parole Board" on Justia Law

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The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed each prisoner's conviction and death sentence on direct review; each was denied state postconviction relief. Rejecting their petitions for federal habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254, the district court found their ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claims procedurally defaulted as not properly presented in state court. Each unsuccessfully argued that ineffective assistance of postconviction counsel constituted "cause" to excuse the procedural default. The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded.The Supreme Court reversed. Under section 2254(e)(2), a federal habeas court may not conduct an evidentiary hearing or otherwise consider evidence beyond the state-court record based on the ineffective assistance of state postconviction counsel. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, section 2254(b)(1)(A), requires state prisoners to “exhaus[t] the remedies available in the courts of the State” before seeking federal habeas relief. The doctrine of procedural default, a “corollary” to the exhaustion requirement, generally prevents federal courts from hearing any federal claim that was not presented to the state courts “consistent with [the State’s] own procedural rules.” Together, exhaustion and procedural default protect against “the significant harm to the States that results from the failure of federal courts to respect” state procedural rules,Federal courts may excuse procedural default only if a prisoner “can demonstrate cause for the default and actual prejudice.” Attorney error cannot provide cause to excuse a default in proceedings for which the Constitution does not guarantee the assistance of counsel except where the state requires prisoners to raise such claims for the first time during state collateral proceedings. Under section 2254(e)(2), when a prisoner is “at fault” for the undeveloped record in state court, a federal court may hold “an evidentiary hearing on the claim” in only two limited scenarios not relevant here and also must show that further fact-finding would demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence, that he is innocent. State postconviction counsel’s ineffective assistance in developing the state-court record is attributed to the prisoner because there is no constitutional right to counsel in state postconviction proceedings. When a federal habeas court convenes an evidentiary hearing for any purpose or otherwise reviews any evidence for any purpose, it may not consider that evidence on the merits of a negligent prisoner’s defaulted claim unless the exceptions in section 2254(e)(2) are satisfied. View "Shinn v. Martinez Ramirez" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review in this case arose from a March 2020 traffic stop where a single officer, without having reasonable suspicion that a crime involving the passenger was afoot, checked the passenger for outstanding warrants. The officer used her patrol vehicle’s computer and received a “hit” for a warrant and arrested the passenger. After the arrest, the officer discovered methamphetamine in the passenger’s purse, the rear of the patrol vehicle where the passenger was seated, and on the passenger’s person. The district court ordered the methamphetamine evidence suppressed after concluding the officer unlawfully extended the traffic stop by checking the passenger for outstanding warrants absent reasonable suspicion or a safety justification particular to that stop. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the trial court's judgment, finding that the Fourth Amendment permits law enforcement to check passengers for outstanding warrants as a matter of course during traffic stops because of officer safety concerns. View "Idaho v. Wharton" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jayveon Caballero was convicted by a jury of second- degree murder. On appeal, he argued: (1) the evidence was insufficient to prove that he acted intentionally or in knowing disregard of a deadly risk to the victim when he fired a gun into the victim’s car; (2) the trial court deprived him of a fair trial by excluding a statement of remorse that he made to his cousin three hours after the shooting; and (3) the State showed three graphic crime scene photographs to the jury that were not admitted into evidence. After review of the trial court record, the Vermont Supreme Court concluded there was adequate evidence of intent to support the verdict, and that the alleged evidentiary errors did not require reversal. View "Vermont v. Caballero" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of conspiracy and substantive health care fraud for fraudulently billing Medicare and Medicaid for millions of dollars for visits to nursing home patients that he never made. He challenged the convictions, sentence, restitution amount, and forfeiture amount on appeal. In an April 12, 2022 opinion, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentence.Following the court's initial opinion, Defendant filed a petition for rehearing en banc. The Eleventh Circuit considered Defendant's petition as a petition for a panel rehearing. The court granted Defendant's petition, vacated its previous opinion and issued a revised opinion that did not change the court's judgment or Defendant's sentence. Defendant was given 21 days to file a supplemental brief. View "USA v. Douglas Moss" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s dismissal of their constitutional and state law claims against Defendants and its owner for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiffs are legal practitioners who reside in Florida and represent clients in personal injury cases. Defendant is a company is operated by an owner who resides in Florida.   Plaintiffs claim that Defendants violated their right to due process of law by freezing their assets in Maryland, obtaining writs of garnishment based on Maryland law without providing notice and an opportunity to be heard. They also alleged violations of state law, including a charge of usury, breach of contract, and tortious interference. The district court concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiffs’ federal claim was so utterly frivolous that it robbed the court of federal question jurisdiction.   The sole issue before the Eleventh Circuit court was whether the district court erred in concluding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims. The court reversed the district court’s ruling that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate Plaintiffs’ state and constitutional claims against Defendants. The court reasoned that Defendants have identified no case law suggesting that a plaintiff does not have a constitutionally protected interest in her property, even post-judgment.  Plaintiffs have plausibly raised an as-applied challenge to the use of Maryland’s garnishment statute, as opposed to a facial challenge, because they claim that the Maryland rules were applied in a way that unconstitutionally deprived them of their property. View "Diane N. Resnick, et al. v. KrunchCash, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker issued a series of executive orders that first required Illinois residents to shelter in place at their residences, compelled “non-essential” businesses temporarily to cease or reduce their operations and prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people (later increased to 50 people). Believing that these orders violated numerous provisions of the U.S. Constitution, several individuals joined with some Illinois businesses and sued the Governor in his official capacity. After granting the plaintiffs one opportunity to amend their complaint, the district court found that they lacked standing to sue. The court also concluded that it would be futile to allow a second amendment because, even if it had erred about the existence of a justiciable case or controversy, the plaintiffs could not state a claim upon which relief could be granted.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. With respect to five out of six counts, the plaintiffs have not satisfied the criteria for Article III standing to sue. The remaining count attempts to state a claim under the Takings Clause. The business plaintiffs “may have squeaked by the standing bar” for that theory but have not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. View "Nowlin v. Pritzker" on Justia Law

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Appellate was sentenced to life in prison in 1979 when he escaped prison and killed a federal officer. After serving more than 40 years of his sentence, he sought parole relief but was denied by the U.S. Parole Commission ("the Commission"). The Commission reasoned that Appellant was a high risk.Appellant sued the Commission, claiming that the Commission violated his due process rights and exceeded its statutory discretion when it denied him parole in 2016. Reaching the merits of Appellant's petition, the district court denied relief. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the denial of Appellant's petition, finding that the district court's jurisdictional analysis was proper and that the Commission did not violate Appellant's rights. View "Artie Dufur v. USPC" on Justia Law

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White Coat Waste Project (“WCW”) tried to run an advertisement denouncing animal experimentation with the Greater Richmond Transit Company (“Richmond Transit”) the ad was denied for being impermissibly “political.” WCW sued, challenging that denial as a violation of its First Amendment rights. Richmond Transit responded that, as a private company, it is not bound by the First Amendment, and even if it were, its policy passes constitutional muster because it only restrains speech in a nonpublic forum.   The district court disagreed on both counts, concluding that Richmond Transit is a state actor subject to constitutional constraints and that its policy violates the First Amendment right to free speech. But the district court granted WCW only partial summary judgment, holding that it could not provide the facial relief WCW sought because public-transit political-advertising bans can sometimes accord with the Constitution.   The Fourth Circuit concluded that the district court correctly identified Richmond Transit as a state actor and held that Richmond Transit’s policy is not “capable of reasoned application” and is therefore unconstitutionally unreasonable. Further, the court held that the district court erred in denying facial relief. Even if another public-transit political-advertising ban may be constitutional, this ban is incapable of reasoned, constitutional application in all circumstances. Thus, it is facially unconstitutional and warrants facial relief. View "White Coat Waste Project v. Greater Richmond Transit Co." on Justia Law