Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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The Ninth Circuit dismissed, based on lack of jurisdiction, an interlocutory appeal of the district court's order denying qualified immunity to defendant in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that defendant used excessive force when he shot Wayne Anderson. The panel explained that it lacked jurisdiction to review defendant's arguments because his interlocutory appeal challenges only the district court's conclusion that there is sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute as to the factual question that will determine whether defendant's use of force was reasonable. In this case, rather than "advanc[ing] an argument as to why the law is not clearly established that takes the facts in the light most favorable to [the Estate]," which the panel would have jurisdiction to consider, defendant contests "whether there is enough evidence in the record for a jury to conclude that certain facts [favorable to the Estate] are true," which the panel did not have jurisdiction to resolve. View "Estate of Wayne Steven Anderson v. Marsh" on Justia Law

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The Alaska Department of Corrections investigated its employee David Wilson for potentially criminal misconduct. It ordered him to answer questions from investigators but assured him that his answers and any evidence derived from those answers could not be used against him criminally. Wilson was terminated for refusing to answer and claimed the State violated his constitutional privilege against self­ incrimination by failing to tell his lawyer that his answers to the investigator could not be used against him in a criminal proceeding. After review of his appeal, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded that by terminating Wilson for refusing to answer those questions, the State of Alaska did not violate his privilege against self-incrimination, under either the U.S. Constitution or the Alaska Constitution. The State did notify Wilson that his answers could not be used against him criminally, and Wilson not only confirmed at the time that he understood this notification, but also in the subsequent court proceedings introduced no evidence to the contrary. View "Wilson v. Alaska" on Justia Law

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When LaSpina began working for the Scranton Public Library, all Library employees were exclusively represented in collective bargaining by Local 668. No employee had to join the Union; an employee could join and pay full membership dues or decline to join and pay a lesser nonmember “fair-share fee.” LaSpina joined the Union. In 2018, the Supreme Court held, in "Janus," that compelling nonmembers to pay fair-share fees violates their First Amendment associational rights. LaSpina resigned from the Union and sued, seeking monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief, including a refund of the portion of the dues she paid the Union equal to the nonmembers’ fair-share fees, and a refund of membership dues deducted from her paycheck after she resigned.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims. LaSpina had no standing to seek a refund of any portion of the dues she made prior to Janus because she cannot tie the payment of those dues to the Union’s unconstitutional deduction of fair-share fees from nonmembers. If LaSpina is due a refund of monies that were deducted from her wages after she resigned, the claim is not a federal one. LaSpina’s claim that the Union may not collect any dues from an employee until that employee knowingly and freely waives their constitutional right to resign from membership and withhold payments is moot as LaSpina no longer is a Union member. View "LaSpina v. SEIU Pennsylvania State Council" on Justia Law

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Linda Steinberg, individually and as the sole remaining member and representative of Mendelson Properties, LLC, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Etowah Circuit Court to vacate its order staying the proceedings in her civil case against several defendants. One of the defendants, Lisa Daugherty, moved the trial court to stay discovery regarding discovery requests that had been issued to her on the ground that such a stay was needed to protect her constitutional right against self-incrimination. The trial court granted that motion, but it also stayed the entire case. Because the Supreme Court found the trial court had before it no evidence supporting the stay, the Supreme Court granted the petition and issued the writ. View "Ex parte Linda Steinberg, individually and as sole remaining member and representative of Mendelson Properties, LLC." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction for distribution of a controlled substance and affirmed Defendant's remaining convictions, holding that there was insufficient evidence to support the distribution conviction.A jury found Defendant guilty of felony murder, distribution of a controlled substance, attempted aggravated robbery, criminal possession of a weapon, attempted murder in the second degree, criminal discharge of a firearm, aggravated battery, and aggravated burglary. The Supreme Court reversed one conviction and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in consolidating Defendant's cases for trial; (2) the evidence was insufficient to convict Defendant of distribution; and (3) the jury instructions on Defendant's aggravated robbery, felony murder, and criminal possession of a firearm charges were not erroneous. View "State v. Crosby" on Justia Law

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Appellant, a United States citizen working in Syria as a journalist, seeks a declaration that his alleged inclusion on the government's purported terrorist list is unconstitutional and an injunction barring the United States government from including him on the purported list without providing additional procedural protections. In this case, because five aerial bombings allegedly occurred in appellant's vicinity in Syria during the summer of 2016, he claims that he has mistakenly been placed on a purported list of individuals the United States has determined are terrorists who may be targeted and killed. The district court dismissed the complaint under the state secrets privilege.The DC Circuit held, however, that the complaint fails to allege plausibly that any of the five aerial bombings were attributable to the United States and specifically targeted appellant. Therefore, the court concluded that appellant's standing theory does not cross the line from conceivable to plausible. The court vacated the district court's dismissal and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint on the ground that appellant lacks Article III standing. View "Kareem v. Haspel" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion by denying plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, holding that plaintiffs will likely succeed in showing that, as applied, the Dual Enrollment Program's "publicly funded" requirement violated their rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. In this case, A.H., her parents, and the Diocese filed suit against the Agency of Education after A.H.'s application for public funding to the program was denied solely because of her school's religious status.The court concluded that, in these circumstances, the State's reliance on the "publicly funded" requirement as a condition for program eligibility imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion, because it forced Rice Memorial High School, a ministry of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, to chose whether to participate in an otherwise available benefit program or remain a religious institution. At the same time, the requirement puts A.H.'s family to a choice between sending their child to a religious school or receiving benefits. In light of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, 137 S. Ct. 2012, 2021 (2017), the court explained that the denial of a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity can be justified only by a state interest of the highest order. In this case, the Agency has not identified any compelling interest that could survive strict scrutiny. The court also concluded that the remaining preliminary injunction factors favor a preliminary injunction. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and granted the motion for a preliminary injunction. View "A.H. v. French" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order granting Simplified's special motion to strike the defamation cause of action in the cross-complaint as a strategic lawsuit against public participation under the anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. The court held that the second amended complaint (SAC) did not render the anti-SLAPP motion moot. The court also held that the email at issue was clearly an act in furtherance of Simplified's constitutional right of petition and is protected activity for purposes of the anti-SLAPP statute; the litigation privilege defeats cross-complainants' defamation cause of action; and there is no duty to meet and confer before filing an anti-SLAPP motion. View "Trinity Risk Management, LLC v. Simplified Labor Staffing Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant David Skillicorn, III was charged with first-degree criminal mischief, among other crimes. The state’s theory regarding the charge was that, after a disagreement with his girlfriend, defendant intentionally drove a truck into her car. Defendant admitted he hit the car, but claimed he had done so accidentally. Specifically, he claimed the truck had malfunctioned and that he lost control of it. To rebut that claim, the state sought to introduce evidence that, after a prior disagreement with his girlfriend, defendant had driven recklessly. Over defendant’s objection, the trial court admitted the evidence. The state used the evidence to argue that, when defendant “gets angry, he acts out,” and that, therefore, the jury should find that, on the night of the charged crimes, defendant had acted out by intentionally damaging his girlfriend’s car. The jury convicted defendant of first-degree criminal mischief and other crimes. Defendant appealed, arguing the trial court's admission of the evidence of his prior driving was not admissible "to prove the character of a person in order to show that the person acted in conformity therewith." The state argued that the evidence was admissible under the “doctrine of chances,” as applied in Oregon v. Johns, 725 P2d 312 (1986). The Court of Appeals observed that the evidence appeared to be propensity evidence, which was prohibited by OEC 404(3), but concluded that it was admissible under Johns. The Oregon Supreme Court concurred with the appeals court that the evidence was propensity evidence, but that it was inadmissible. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Oregon v. Skillicorn" on Justia Law

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A patient being treated for a sexual assault made statements to a sexual assault nurse examiner in the course of an exam with both medical and forensic purposes. The Washington Supreme Court held that under these circumstances, the primary purpose of nearly all of the statements was to guide the provision of medical care, not to create an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony. Thus, the statements were not testimonial, so their admission did not violate the Sixth Amendment. Furthermore, the Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting those statements under the hearsay exception for statements made for purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment. Finally, the Court found the trial court did err in admitting one statement describing the assailant, but the error was harmless. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed. View "Washington v. Burke" on Justia Law