Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit granted a writ of mandamus directing vacatur of the district court's issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against executive order GA-09 as applied to abortion procedures. In order to preserve critical medical resources during the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor of Texas issued GA-09, which postpones non-essential surgeries and procedures until 11:59 p.m. on April 21, 2020. The court held that the drastic and extraordinary remedy of mandamus was warranted in this case because the district court ignored the framework governing emergency public health measures, like GA-09, in Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905); the district court wrongly declared GA-09 an "outright ban" on previability abortions and exempted all abortion procedures from its scope, rather than apply the Jacobson framework to decide whether GA-09 lacks a "real or substantial relation" to the public health crisis or whether it is "beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion" of the right to abortion; the district court failed to apply the undue-burden analysis in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 857 (1992), and thus failed to balance GA-09's temporary burdens on abortion against its benefits in thwarting a public health crisis; and the district court usurped the state's authority to craft emergency health measures, substituting instead its own view of the efficacy of applying GA-09 to abortion. Therefore, the court found that the requirements for a writ of mandamus are satisfied in light of the extraordinary nature of these errors, the escalating spread of COVID-19, and the state's critical interest in protecting the public health. View "In re: Gregg Abbott" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Ducksworth and Pollock filed suit alleging claims of race discrimination, and Pollock also alleged a sexual harassment claim. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Scotts and Pacific, holding that the staffing agencies were not involved in Tri-Modal's decisionmaking about whom to promote. The court also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Tri-Modal's executive vice president, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Pollock's hearsay objection to a declaration. The court also held that the trial court correctly concluded that Government Code section 12960, former subdivision (d) bars Pollock's claims because she did not file her administrative complaint within one year of March 2017, the time that those claims accrued. View "Ducksworth v. Tri-Modal Distribution Services" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). Plaintiff alleged that the Board of the HCC violated his First Amendment right to free speech when the Board publicly censured him. The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiff's allegations established standing and a state law claim for relief under section 1983 for a First Amendment violation. In this case, plaintiff alleged that the censure was issued to punish him for exercising his free speech rights and caused him mental anguish. Under the court's precedent, plaintiff's allegation of retaliatory censure is enough to establish an injury in fact. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded the section 1983 claim for damages for further proceedings. However, plaintiff's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief were moot because he is no longer a Board trustee. Therefore, the court granted HCC's motion for partial dismissal of plaintiff's appeal, instructing the district court to dismiss plaintiff's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief after remand. View "Wilson v. Houston Community College System" on Justia Law

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Defendant–Appellant John Mayville pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and possession of an unregistered firearm silencer. Exercising his right under the plea agreement, Defendant challenged the district court’s denials of his motions to suppress evidence of drugs and firearms seized from his car by Utah Highway Patrol troopers during a traffic stop. On appeal, Defendant argues the troopers violated his Fourth Amendment rights described in Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. 348 (2015), because they unjustifiably prolonged the traffic stop beyond the time needed to complete the tasks incident to the stop’s mission. The Tenth Circuit affirmed. "This is because reasonableness—rather than efficiency—is the touchstone of the Fourth Amendment." Because the Court determined the traffic stop here did not exceed the time reasonably required to execute tasks relevant to accomplishing the mission of the stop, Defendant's nineteen-minute roadside detention did not offend the Fourth Amendment. View "United States v. Mayville" on Justia Law

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An Illinois municipality may join the Municipal League, an unincorporated, nonprofit, nonpolitical association, and may pay annual membership dues and fees; member municipalities may act through the League to provide and disseminate information and research services and do other acts for improving local government, 65 ILCS 5/1-8-1. Lincolnshire is one of more than a thousand dues-paying League members and uses tax revenue to pay the dues from the Village’s General Fund. From 2013-2018, Lincolnshire paid at least $5,051 in voluntary dues and fees to the League. Individual residents and the Unions sued, claiming First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause violations. They claimed that Lincolnshire compelled them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern because the League sent emails promoting a particular political agenda, including the adoption of “right to work” zones. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Lincolnshire itself has the right to speak for itself and a right to associate; it voluntarily joined the League as it is authorized to do. Local governments must be allowed to discuss, either directly or through a surrogate, ideas related to municipal government, regardless of where those ideas originated. View "O'Brien v. Village of Lincolnshire" on Justia Law

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Reiner’s convictions arose from a 2011 Macomb County home invasion. Eisenhardt, age 69, was stabbed in the neck; jewelry was taken from her house, including a ring from Eisenhardt’s finger. Eisenhardt survived but suffered declining health after the stabbing and died months later. Police in New York apprehended Reiner days after the incident, on unrelated suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle. At his Michigan murder trial, the court admitted the statements to the police, in which a pawnbroker identified Reiner as having pawned Eisenhardt’s ring. The pawnbroker died before trial. The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld Reiner’s conviction, finding the Sixth Amendment error harmless. The Sixth Circuit reversed the denial of habeas relief, 28 U.S.C. 2254. The evidence presented at trial “paints the picture of a circumstantial case lacking physical evidence or eyewitness testimony placing Reiner at the crime scene.” The statements that caused the Sixth Amendment violation were the linchpin of the government’s case, connecting Reiner to the fruits of the crime in a way no other evidence could. Without those statements, the prosecution’s case would have been significantly weaker, such that “grave doubt” exists as to whether their admission had a “substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury’s verdict.” View "Reiner v. Woods" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit vacated the district court's preliminary injunction enjoining four plaintiffs from being executed. Plaintiffs claimed that the 2019 execution protocol and addendum violate the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 (FDPA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the Controlled Substances Act, and the First, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution. Each member of the panel had a different view of what the FDPA requires. Plaintiffs' primary claim under the FDPA, on which the district court found they were likely to succeed, involves the requirement to implement federal executions in the manner provided by state law. Judge Katsas and Judge Rao both rejected that claim on the merits; Judge Katsas concluded that the FDPA regulates only the top-line choice among execution methods, such as the choice to use lethal injection instead of hanging or electrocution; Judge Rao concluded that the FDPA also requires the federal government to follow execution procedures set forth in state statutes and regulations, but not execution procedures set forth in less formal state execution protocols; and Judge Rao further concluded that the federal protocol allows the federal government to depart from its procedures as necessary to conform to state statutes and regulations. On either of their views, plaintiffs' claim was without merit and the preliminary injunction must be vacated. Plaintiffs contend in the alternative that the federal protocol and addendum reflect an unlawful transfer of authority from the United States Marshals Service to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Judge Katsas would reject the claim on the merits, and Judge Rao would hold that it was forfeited. Judge Katsas and Judge Rao resolved the notice-and-comment claim because it involves purely legal questions intertwined with the merits of the FDPA issues at the center of this appeal. Judge Katsas and Judge Rao concluded, on the merits, that the 2019 protocol and addendum are rules of agency organization, procedure, or practice exempt from the APA's requirements for notice-and-comment rulemaking. Therefore, judgment for the government must be entered on this claim. Finally, the court declined to reject plaintiffs' claims under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the Controlled Substances Act. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "In re: Federal Bureau of Prisons Execution Protocol Cases" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a trial court's order suppressing two statements made by defendant Dominic Carrier. The trial court ruled defendant was subject to custodial interrogation at the time he gave the first set of statements, and, because he was not given the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), those statements were obtained in violation of his right against self-incrimination. The court suppressed the second set of statements because it found that the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant gave them voluntarily. After review of the statements and the trial court record, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Carrier" on Justia Law

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A jury found defendant Jeremiah Williams guilty of first degree robbery, four counts of making a criminal threat, two counts of forcible rape, sexual penetration by use of force, forcible oral copulation, burglary of an inhabited dwelling, battery and assault, as lesser offenses of sodomy by use of force, assault with a deadly weapon, and false imprisonment by violence. The first eight counts were committed against Jane Doe 1; the remaining counts against Jane Doe 2. The jury found defendant committed all counts but one: forcible sexual offenses against more than one victim. The trial court sentenced defendant to a term of 100 years to life plus 86 years two months. It also imposed a $10,000 restitution fine, and a matching suspended parole revocation restitution fine (and other fees and assessments). Defendant raised six enumerations of error at trial, but finding none, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Schillinger, a Wisconsin prisoner, was assaulted by another inmate as the prisoners were returning to their housing unit after recreation. He suffered a fractured skull, broken teeth, cuts, and other serious injuries. Schillinger sued three guards under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district judge screened the complaint and permitted Schillinger to proceed on a claim that the officers failed to take preventive action after learning of hostility between Schillinger and his attacker during the recreation period shortly before the attack. The judge later ruled that Schillinger had not exhausted his administrative remedies on that claim and entered summary judgment for the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Schillinger’s arguments that the judge should have gleaned from his complaint two additional factual grounds for a failure-to-protect claim: that the officers did not respond fast enough to an alarm about a medical emergency on his unit once the attack was underway and they stood by without intervening to stop the attack. Upholding the exhaustion ruling, the court reasoned that while Schillinger pursued a complaint through all levels of the prison’s inmate-complaint system, he never mentioned the claim he raised in litigation: that the officers were aware of threatening behavior by the attacker before the assault and failed to protect him. View "Schillinger v. Kiley" on Justia Law