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This case was reheard en banc after plaintiff obtained a $2.3 million judgment that was reversed and his claims were dismissed. The court held that plaintiff's Brady v. Maryland claim should have been dismissed as a matter of law on summary judgment because the city should not have been subjected to municipal liability for plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim. The court also declined the invitation to disturb its precedent concerning a defendant's constitutional right to Brady material prior to entering a guilty plea. View "Alvarez v. City of Brownsville" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for deliberate homicide, holding that the district court violated Defendant’s right to be present but that Defendant failed to demonstrate that the error was prejudicial. On appeal, Defendant argued that he was not included in several sidebars and in-chambers discussions during his trial and that his right of presence was violated twenty-three times. The Supreme Court held (1) the record supported Defendant’s assertion that he was not present in eight instances, but Defendant did not establish plain error in his exclusion from conferences; (2) because the burden was on Defendant to ensure the preservation of an adequate record for appeal, the district court did not err by failing to make a record of the various conferences that occurred during Defendant’s trial; (3) Defendant failed to rebut the State’s position that a violation of the public’s right to know cannot serve as a basis for overturning a criminal conviction; (4) the court did not abuse its discretion by allowing two of the State’s law enforcement witnesses to testify multiple times on direct examination; and (5) cumulative error did not warrant a new trial. View "State v. Hatfield" on Justia Law

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Upper Arlington's Master Plan guides its zoning decisions, emphasizing the need to increase the city’s revenue by attracting business development in the small portion of the city’s land that is devoted to commercial use. To further the Plan’s goals, the Unified Development Ordinance restricts the use of areas zoned "office district" to specific uses that are primarily commercial. The operation of schools, both secular and religious, is prohibited within the office district. Nonetheless, Tree of Life decided to purchase a large office building on a 16-acre tract within the office district for the operation of a pre-K through 12th-grade school. After failing to secure authorization to operate the school, Tree filed suit, citing the “equal terms” provision of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc(b)(1). After two prior appeals, the district court granted Upper Arlington judgment, holding that the Ordinance is no more onerous to Tree than to non-religious entities that generate comparably small amounts of revenue for the city. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Revenue maximization is a legitimate regulatory purpose. Upper Arlington’s assertion of revenue maximization as the purpose of the Ordinance is not pretextual. Daycares are the only potentially valid comparator put forward by Tree, which presented no evidence suggesting that nonprofit daycares are similarly situated to its proposed school in terms of their capacity to generate revenue. View "Tree of Life Christian Scool. v. City of Upper Arlington" on Justia Law

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Following an evidentiary hearing on the merits, petitioner Edward White appealed a trial court order denying his petition to be relieved of the obligation to register as a sex offender in New Hampshire. In January 1994, as a New Hampshire resident, petitioner became subject to lifetime registration as a sex offender for his Massachusetts convictions. Because of constitutional limitations, a Tier III offender, like petitioner, whose convictions pre-dated the establishment of the sex offender registry, may be subject to the registration requirement “only if he is promptly given an opportunity for either a court hearing, or an administrative hearing subject to judicial review, at which he is permitted to demonstrate that he no longer poses a risk sufficient to justify continued registration.” An assessment of petitioner was conducted, with findings that petitioner was then "a minimal risk to reoffend and therefore does not meet criteria for continued listing on the Sex Offender Registry." Following the evidentiary hearing, the trial court concluded that the petitioner failed to meet his burden of proof he was no longer a danger to the public and no longer posed a risk sufficient to justify continued registration. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined the record submitted on appeal established an objective basis sufficient to sustain the trial court's denial of petitioner's petition, and therefore upheld its decision. View "White v. New Hampshire" on Justia Law

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In this criminal matter, the Supreme Judicial Court held that maintaining pending charges against an incompetent defendant where the defendant will never regain competency and where maintaining the charges does not serve the compelling State interest of protecting the public violates the defendant’s substantive due process rights. In 1994, Defendant was charged with murder in the first degree but was deemed incompetent to stand trial. After unsuccessfully filing a series of motions to dismiss and for reconsideration, in 2016, Defendant sought relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Stat. ch. 211, 3 arguing that he was permanently incompetent to stand trial and dismissal of the charges was required. At issue was Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 16(f), which requires mandatory dismissal of charges at the time when the defendant would have been eligible for parole if he had been convicted and sentenced to the maximum statutory sentence. Defendant argued that the statute should be interpreted to apply to all crimes, regardless of parole eligibility. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding that the statute satisfies due process requirements only insofar as it is understood to allow the dismissal of charges, in the interest of justice, where the defendant will never regain competency and does not pose a risk to public safety. View "Sharris v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree on the theory of deliberate premeditation, holding that the judge erred by declining to require an explanation for the prosecutor’s preemptory challenge to a female African-American member of the venire and erred in declining to give Defendant’s requested jury instructions on self-defense and voluntary manslaughter. The shooting that led to the fatality in this case was precipitated by a drug turf war. At the close of the evidence Defendant requested that the jury be instructed on self-defense and voluntary manslaughter, but the request was denied. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the trial judge abused her discretion by declining to require the prosecutor to provide and adequate and genuine race-neutral reason for Defendant’s peremptory challenge to the juror at issue; and (2) considered in the light most favorable to Defendant, the evidence warranted instructions on self-defense and voluntary manslaughter based on the theory of excessive use of force in self-defense. View "Commonwealth v. Ortega" on Justia Law

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Defendant Walker Edelman appealed a trial court order denying his motion to suppress and dismiss, in which the trial court concluded that the Vermont Legislature had effectively granted automatic and presumptive consent to an evidentiary breath test by means of the implied consent statute and therefore defendant could not challenge admission of an evidentiary breath sample as involuntarily obtained. The Vermont Supreme Court found that determination of whether consent was voluntary depended on adequate factfinding in the first instance. Here, the trial court did not hold an evidentiary hearing on the issue of voluntariness after defendant raised it, deciding instead that such a challenge was precluded by Vermont’s implied consent law. On this record, the Court could not determine whether defendant voluntarily consented to law enforcement’s request for an evidentiary breath sample. Accordingly, the Court remanded for an evidentiary hearing on this issue. View "Vermont v. Edelman" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the district court’s denial of Defendants’ motion for a new trial based partly on a claim that one juror lied in filling out the written questionnaire given to prospective jurors prior to trial, holding that the district court’s investigation concerning the answers given by the juror was inadequate. After a jury trial, Defendants were convicted of charges arising out of a large-scale marijuana-farming operation. Defendants moved for a new trial, arguing that one juror lied in filling out a written questionnaire given to prospective jurors prior to trial. The district court denied the motion for a new trial. The First Circuit vacated the denial based on the possible bias of the juror and remanded for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the alleged bias of the juror presented a “colorable or plausible” claim of the type of juror misconduct that could require a new trial, and therefore, the district court was required to do more than it did before ruling on the new trial motion. View "United States v. Russell" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction stemming from an armed robbery committed in Puerto Rico and the sentence imposed, holding that armed robbery committed in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951, qualifies as a “crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. 924(c) and that Defendant's sentence was not an abuse of discretion. Defendant stood convicted of aiding and abetting a robbery committed in violation of the Hobbs Act and aiding and abetting felony murder in the course of using or carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Defendant’s conviction for felony murder rested on the proposition that his offense that led to a death - armed robbery in violation of the Hobbs Act - was a “crime of violence” under section 924(c). On appeal, Defendant argued that his armed robbery conviction did not qualify as a crime of violence and challenged the imposition of a restitution order. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) a conviction for Hobbs Act robbery categorically constitutes a “crime of violence” under section 924(c)’s force clause; (2) the district court did not err in ordering restitution; (3) the district court did not err in making Defendant’s Guidelines calculation; and (4) the district court was within its discretion to impose consecutive sentences for counts one and three. View "United States v. Garcia-Ortiz" on Justia Law

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Hrobowski was convicted of federal firearms offenses in 2006 and sentenced to 264 months’ imprisonment under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e) based on prior Illinois state‐law convictions: aggravated battery, second‐degree murder, aggravated discharge of a firearm, and aggravated fleeing from a police officer. Hrobowski first unsuccessfully moved to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel; he then unsuccessfully sought authorization to file a successive petition alleging a "Brady" violation. He then filed an unsuccessful petition under Descamps and Alleyne. Hrobowski then sought authorization to file a successive section 2255 petition following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Johnson decision, invalidating ACCA’s residual clause. Petitions based on Johnson errors generally satisfy the requirement for filing a successive section 2255 petition: the Johnson decision was a new rule of constitutional law, and the Supreme Court made the rule retroactive. Hrobowski claimed that he was discharged from the second‐degree murder conviction in 1998 and from the aggravated discharge of a firearm conviction in 2002 and that his civil rights were fully restored. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of the petition. One prior conviction was based on the residual clause but the Johnson violation was harmless as Hrobowski had three other prior violent felonies. His claim that two of his other convictions should not be considered prior violent felonies because his rights were restored is procedurally barred. View "Hrobowski v. United States" on Justia Law