by
In regulating the practice of engineering, Mississippi restricts the use of the term “engineer.” Express operates automotive service centers in Mississippi and other states under the Tire Engineers mark. The Mississippi Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers & Surveyors informed Express that the name Tire Engineers violated Miss. Code 73-13-39 and requested that it change its company advertisement name. Express sought a declaratory judgment, citing Express’s “rights of commercial free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment”; and “rights under preemptive federal trademark law” under 15 U.S.C. 1051–1127. The district court granted the Board summary judgment. The Fifth Circuit reversed. The Board’s decision violates the First Amendment’s commercial speech protections. Because its essential character is not deceptive, Tire Engineers is not inherently misleading. The name, trademarked since 1948, apparently refers to the work of mechanics using their skills “not usu[ally] considered to fall within the scope of engineering” to solve “technical problems” related to selecting, rotating, balancing, and aligning tires. Nor is the name actually misleading. Because the name is potentially misleading, the Board’s asserted interests are substantial but the record does not support the need for a total ban on the name. Other states with similar statutes have not challenged the use of the trademark and the Board did not address why less-restrictive means, such as a disclaimer, would not accomplish its goal. View "Express Oil Change, L.L.C. v. Mississippi Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers & Surveyors" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Christopher Hobdy, a Colorado state prisoner serving time for first degree assault and aggravated robbery, filed an application for federal habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254. The criminal charges against Hobdy arose from an assault on the victim Jerry Williams outside a convenience store in 1997. The victim was a police officer with the City of Aurora, Colorado, who had a terminal illness and was living in a hospice at the time of the assault. Williams left to make a purchase at a nearby convenience store early in the morning; as he walked back to the hospice, Hobdy stuck the victim with a shovel. The victim fell to the ground, and his possessions fell out of his pocket. Hobdy picked the items up and ran away. Police located Hobdy and identified him from photographs taken from the store's surveillance camera. Hobdy's main argument at trial was that because of medicines the victim took to treat his terminal illness, his identification of Hobdy from the convenience store and surveillance photos was legally insufficient. The victim died months after the incident, and approximately 8 months prior to trial. In his post-conviction appeals, Hobdy argued he received insufficient assistance of trial and appellate counsel for a variety of reasons, centering primarily on mishandling of testimony and trial procedure, and for failing to preserve certain issues related to the jury's deadlock notes. The district court granted Hobdy’s 2254 application and ordered the State of Colorado to retry him within ninety days. Respondents Rick Raemisch, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, and Phil Weiser, the Attorney General for the State of Colorado, appealed the district court’s decision. The Tenth Circuit concluded Hobdy's principal arguments for habeas relief were procedurally barred and could not serve as the basis for relief. The Court therefore reversed the district court, remanded the case with directions to enter judgment in favor of respondents. View "Hobdy v. Raemisch" on Justia Law

by
A district court denied Elizabeth Tafoya a preliminary hearing. Tafoya was accused of a class four felony, DUI (fourth or subsequent offense). She requested a preliminary hearing on that charge, but the district court found the DUI count was substantively a misdemeanor that could only be elevated to felony by a sentence enhancer--here, as a fourth or subsequent offense. The Colorado Supreme Court determined, however, under the plain language of the applicable statute, Tafoya was entitled to a preliminary hearing, and the district court erred in denying her request. View "In re Colorado v. Tafoya" on Justia Law

by
Centennial Water and Sanitation District appealed a water court order dismissing its objection to the Well Augmentation Subdistrict’s ("WAS") proposal to use additional sources of replacement water for its previously decreed augmentation plan. Centennial had asserted that WAS failed to comply with the notice requirements of the decree itself and that this failure amounted to a per se injury, for which it was entitled to relief without any further showing of operational effect. The water court heard Centennial’s motion objecting to WAS’s proposed addition of new sources of replacement water and, without requiring WAS to present evidence, found that Centennial failed to establish prima facie facts of WAS’s inability to deliver augmentation water in quantity or time to prevent injury to other water users. Referencing C.R.C.P. 41 as the appropriate procedural vehicle, the water court dismissed Centennial’s objection. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the water court: the water court’s jurisdiction was statutorily limited to preventing or curing injury to other water users, and the evidence presented by Centennial failed to establish that WAS would be unable, under the conditions imposed by the Engineer for approval of the additional sources of replacement water, to deliver augmentation water sufficient to prevent injury to other water users. View "Well Augmentation Subdist. v. Centennial Water & Sanitation Dist." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, Palestinians who mostly reside in the disputed West Bank territory, sued pro-Israeli American citizens and entities, including a former U.S. deputy national security advisor, claiming that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to expel all non-Jews from the territory by providing financial and construction assistance to “settlements” and that the defendants knew their conduct would result in the mass killings of Palestinians. The claims cited the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350; American-citizen plaintiffs also brought claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 102-256. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that the complaint raised nonjusticiable political questions. The D.C. Circuit reversed after holding that the court correctly treated the issue as jurisdictional. The court first identified two relevant questions: Who has sovereignty over the disputed territory Are Israeli settlers committing genocide? The court then applied the Supreme Court’s “Baker" factors, concluded that the only political question concerned who has sovereignty, and held that the question is extricable because a court could rule in the plaintiffs’ favor without addressing who has sovereignty if it concluded that Israeli settlers are committing genocide. If it becomes clear at a later stage that resolving any of the claims requires a sovereignty determination, those claims can be dismissed. View "Al-Tamimi v. Adelson" on Justia Law

by
In1998, police responded to a call at Hayslip’s apartment, where Hayslip’s boyfriend, Cain, was arguing with Thompson, Hayslip’s ex-boyfriend. They let Thompson leave. Three hours later, Thompson returned and shot Cain, killing him. Thompson shot Hayslip in the face, threw the gun into a creek, and went to Zernia's house. Hayslip died days later. Thompson later described the shootings to Zernia, then called his father, who took him to the police. In detention, Thompson talked with inmates Reid and Humphrey, about arranging for Zernia’s death using the Hayslip murder weapon Thompson drew a map of the weapon’s location, and asked Reid to pass the information to a contact. Reid relayed the information to the police. Divers were unable to locate the gun. Although Thompson’s right to counsel had attached, officers instructed Reid to tell Thompson his contact had been unable to find the weapon, and would visit for better directions. Posing as Reid’s outside contact, Investigator Johnson visited Thompson and recorded their conversation. Thompson offered Johnson $1,500 to retrieve the weapon and murder Zernia. The police then recovered the gun. Thompson later spoke with inmate Rhodes, to solicit the murder of witnesses. Thompson was convicted of capital murder; the court imposed the death penalty. After direct appeal and collateral review in Texas state court, he unsuccessfully sought federal habeas corpus relief. The Fifth Circuit grant a Certificate of Appealability on whether Thompson has established a Brady violation in the state’s nondisclosure of its past relationship with Rhodes and whether the introduction of Rhodes’s testimony constituted a “Massiah” violation, which requires determination of whether the informant was promised, reasonably led to believe, or actually received a benefit in exchange for soliciting information from the defendant and whether he acted pursuant to state instructions or otherwise submitted to the state’s control. View "Thompson v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
Dispatchers received calls about a man on a rural street, shooting a pistol and yelling “everyone’s going to get theirs.” Dispatchers relayed descriptions of a black male wearing a brown shirt. Officers arrived and observed a suspect matching that description, who fired at them, then disappeared into the trees. The suspect re-appeared 100-500 yards away. The officers advanced but again lost sight of the suspect. They began ordering him to drop his weapon and come out. After a few minutes, the officers spotted a figure on a bicycle, wearing a blue jacket, not a brown shirt, over 100 yards away. All of the officers claim the rider was armed. The rider was Gabriel, not the suspect. His father, Henry, claims that Gabriel was “unarmed” and did not move his hands in any way that might have suggested that he was reaching for something. An officer yelled “put that down!” Officers fired 17 shots within seconds of spotting Gabriel. Hit, Gabriel fled. While Henry was attempting to help Gabriel in their yard, officers advanced. Henry stated that the only gun they had was a toy, which he tossed toward the officers. When the officers attempted to cuff Henry and Gabriel, both resisted. Officers tased them. EMS pronounced Gabriel dead at the scene. In the family's civil rights suit, the court granted the officers summary judgment on limitations and qualified immunity defenses. The Fifth Circuit affirmed that claims against two officers were time-barred but reversed in part. With respect to qualified immunity, the district court erred in excluding Henry’s affidavit. Genuine issues of material fact remain with respect to whether the use of deadly force was objectively reasonable. View "Winzer v. Kaufman County" on Justia Law

by
Darius Virger and Alexis Cave were tried together for crimes related to the beating and death of Diarra Chappell, a 13-month-old child who lived with them. Virger was convicted of malice murder, Cave was convicted of felony murder, and both were convicted of other offenses. On appeal, both Virger and Cave challenged the legal sufficiency of the evidence supporting some of their convictions and contended the trial court erred by not severing their cases for trial. Virger also contended the trial court erred by failing to strike a juror for cause, by physically separating the co-defendants during their trial, and by overruling several of his evidentiary objections. Cave argued the trial court erred by allowing the admission of impermissible character evidence, by excluding expert testimony about her mental condition, and by denying her motion for a continuance. In its review of the record, the Georgia Supreme Court found no reversible error, so it affirmed the convictions in both cases. View "Virger v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
Appellant Shuntae Battle was convicted of malice murder, aggravated assault, and first-degree cruelty to children in connection with the death of her three-year-old daughter, Jazmine Jenkins. Appellant argued on appeal of her conviction: (1) the evidence presented at her trial was insufficient to support the malice murder and cruelty to children convictions; (2) her right to due process was violated because the prosecutor’s arguments about her credibility and culpability at her trial differed from the prosecutor’s arguments at her co-indictee Juan Johnson’s prior trial; and (3) the prosecutor’s incorrect statements of the law during closing argument require reversal. Finding no merit to these contentions, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed her convictions for malice murder and cruelty to children, but vacated her conviction for aggravated assault, because that count should have merged into the malice murder conviction. View "Battle v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
Frank Miller appealed his convictions for malice murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and two counts of false imprisonment in connection with the shooting death of his daughter, Colleen Miller Grant, and an attack on Grant’s grandson, Sawyer Dockery. Miller challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to convict him of the aggravated assault of Dockery and both counts of false imprisonment. Miller also argued his conviction for the aggravated assault of Grant should have merged with his conviction for the malice murder of Grant and that the defective indictment violated his due process rights. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded that the challenge to the indictment was not preserved, his conviction for the aggravated assault of Grant did not merge with the malice murder conviction, and the evidence was sufficient to support all of Miller’s convictions except the two counts of false imprisonment. As such, the Court reversed Miller’s convictions for false imprisonment, and affirmed on all other counts. View "Miller v. Georgia" on Justia Law