Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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Illinois Trooper Chapman received a message about a Volkswagen with California license plates driving on I-72. Chapman spotted the Volkswagen, driven by Cole, and trailed him, intending to find a pretext for a roadside stop. After another car cut off the Volkswagen, Chapman believed that the Volkswagen trailed that car at an unreasonably close distance. Chapman stopped Cole, requested his papers, and ordered him to sit in the police cruiser. This initial stop lasted 10 minutes. Chapman spent about six minutes questioning Cole about his residence, employment, travel history, plans, vehicle history, and registration information. Chapman told Cole that he would get a warning but that they had to go to a gas station to complete the paperwork because he was concerned for their safety. Chapman testified later that he had already decided that he was not going to release Cole until he searched the car. Driving to the gas station, Chapman requested a drug-sniffing dog and learned that Cole had been arrested for drug crimes 15 years earlier. At the gas station, Cole’s answers became contradictory. Finishing the warning, 30 minutes after the stop, Chapman told Cole that he could not leave because he suspected Cole was transporting drugs. The dog arrived 10 minutes later and quickly alerted. Chapman found several kilograms of methamphetamine and heroin in a hidden compartment.The Seventh Circuit reversed the denial of a motion to suppress. Even assuming that the stop was permissible, the officer prolonged the stop by questioning the driver at length on subjects well beyond the legal justification for the stop, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. View "United States v. Cole" on Justia Law

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This panel originally held that binding circuit precedent required that it conclude that nominal damages claims alone could not save appellants' otherwise moot constitutional challenges. On March 8, 2021, the Supreme Court reversed the panel's opinion.On remand from the Supreme Court, which held that an award of nominal damages by itself can redress a past injury, the panel reversed the district court's dismissal of appellants' First Amended Complaint and remanded for further proceedings. View "Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski" on Justia Law

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The 1972 Shakman Decree enjoined the City of Chicago and county officials from governmental employment practices based in politics. A 1983 Decree enjoined those officials from conditioning hiring or promotions on any political considerations. After the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment’s prohibition against patronage-based firings extends to promotion, transfer, recall, or hiring decisions involving public employment for which party affiliation is not an appropriate requirement, the Clerk of Cook County entered a separate consent decree. In 1992 the Voters Organization joined the Shakman complaint. The court has dismissed some entities and officials, including Chicago and its Park District, as showing substantial compliance. In 2010 the Clerk and other defendants consented to a magistrate judge conducting further proceedings. A new magistrate and a new district judge were assigned in 2020.In 2019, plaintiffs moved for supplemental relief. The magistrate found that the Clerk violated the 1991 Decree, that the evidence strongly suggested that the Clerk’s policy of rotating employees was “instituted for the purpose" of evading the 1972 Decree, appointed a special master to oversee compliance within the Clerk’s Office, and refused the Clerk’s request to vacate the Decrees. The Seventh Circuit, noting that it lacked authority to review the appointment of the special master, affirmed the denial of the request to vacate. Sounding a “federalism concern,” the court noted the permitting a consent decree over an arm of state or local government to remain on a federal docket for decades is inconsistent with our federal structure. View "Shakman v. Clerk of Cook County" on Justia Law

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The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA) does not require landlords to accommodate the disability of an individual who neither entered into a lease nor paid rent in exchange for the right to occupy the premises.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, in an action brought by plaintiff against the City for wrongful eviction based on several theories of state law implied tenancy. The panel held that the FHAA applies to rentals only when the landlord or his designee has received consideration in exchange for granting the right to occupy the premises. As to occupants requesting accommodation, the panel held that the FHAA's disability discrimination provisions apply only to cases involving a "sale" or "rental" for which the landlord accepted consideration in exchange for granting the right to occupy the premises. Applying a federal standard rather than California landlord-tenant law, the panel concluded that because plaintiff never provided consideration in exchange for the right to occupy Spot 57, the FHAA was inapplicable to his claim for relief. Furthermore, the City was not obligated to provide, offer, or discuss an accommodation. View "Salisbury v. City of Santa Monica" on Justia Law

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In this libel case, the Eleventh Circuit held that New York's "fair and true report" privilege, codified as N.Y. Civ. Rights Law 74, applies to the fair and true publication of the contents of a document that was filed and sealed in a Florida paternity/child custody proceeding.Plaintiff filed suit against Gizmodo and Katherine Krueger, the author of an article published on the Splinter website owned by Gizmodo, over an article entitled "Court Docs Allege Ex-Trump Staffer Drugged Woman He Got Pregnant with 'Abortion Pill.'" The district court concluded that section 74 applied, and that the Splinter article was a fair and true report of the supplement because it was "substantially accurate." Plaintiff does not challenge the district court's finding that the Splinter article was a fair and true report, but he maintains that the section 74 privilege does not apply because the supplement was filed in a paternity/child custody proceeding and sealed. The court held that section 74's fair and true report privilege applies to the Splinter article written by Ms. Krueger about the supplement filed by the mother of plaintiff's child, and that the 1970 decision of the New York Court of Appeals in Shiles v. News Syndicate Co., 261 N.E.2d 251, 256 (N.Y. 1970), does not preclude the application of section 74. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. View "Miller v. Gizmodo Media Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this appeal in a capital case, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of criminal appeals affirming Defendant's convictions and sentence, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his claims of error.After a second trial, a jury found Defendant guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, murder in the perpetration of robbery, and aggravated robbery. Defendant was sentenced to death. The court of criminal appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) double jeopardy principles did not bar retrial on the felony murder count; (2) alleged prosecutorial misconduct in the first trial did not bar Defendant's retrial; (3) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress, in admitting evidence of Defendant's prior convictions for rape and assault of the victim and in admitting evidence of Defendant's escape attempts; (4) imposition of the death penalty was not arbitrary; and (5) the sentence of death was neither excessive nor disproportionate. View "State v. Rimmer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for second-degree murder, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that the trial court erred by denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence generated from his blood but that the error was not prejudicial.In denying Defendant's suppression motion the court of appeals held that the trial court erred by not excluding Defendant's blood test results but that Defendant failed to carry his burden to show that the denial of his motion to suppress resulted in prejudicial error. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals applied the incorrect standard for determining prejudice resulting from the violation of Defendant's rights under the United States Constitution. View "State v. Scott" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals with respect to Plaintiff's constitutional claims, holding that a state university's dismissal of a student for poor academic performance does not implicate a liberty or property interest protected by the Texas Constitution's guarantee of due course of law.Plaintiff was dismissed from Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law after one year due to his failure to maintain the required grade point average. Plaintiff brought this suit against the School, alleging breach of contract and deprivation of his property and liberty without due course of law. The trial court granted the School's plea to the jurisdiction invoking sovereign immunity. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding that Plaintiff's procedural and substantive due course of law claims were viable. The Supreme Court reversed in part and rendered judgment dismissing the case, holding that an academic dismissal from higher education does not implicate a protected liberty interest. View "Texas Southern University v. Villarreal" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the orders of the trial courts in these three cases brought by downstream property owners asserting that the San Jacinto River Authority's release of water from its Lake Conroe reservoir into the San Jacinto River caused or contributed to the flooding of their properties, holding that the trial court did not err by denying the River Authority's motions to dismiss the three suits.Plaintiffs asserted both common-law inverse condemnation claims under Tex. Const. art. I, 17 and statutory takings claims under Chapter 2007 of the Government Code. The River Authority moved to dismiss the three suits, arguing that Chapter 2007 applied strictly to regulatory takings and not physical takings, as Plaintiffs contended. The trial court denied the motions to dismiss. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that Chapter 2007's statutory takings claim included the physical takings claim alleged in the property owners' pleadings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the statutory takings claim may include a physical taking and is not limited solely to regulatory takings. View "San Jacinto River Authority v. Argento" on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court prohibiting Defendant from filing any additional pro se supplemental documents in a postconviction relief proceeding, holding that the district court did not err.Under Iowa Code 822.3A, postconviction relief applicants are prohibited from filing "any pro se document, including an application, brief, reply brief, or motion, in any Iowa court." At issue was the constitutionality of the law, which was passed in the spring of 2019 and effective July 1, 2019, to pending postconviction relief proceedings and postconviction relief appeals. Defendant in this case argued that section 822.3A violated his constitutional rights. The Supreme Court rejected the argument, holding that there is no constitutional right to file pro se supplemental documents in postconviction relief proceedings and postconviction appeals. View "Hrbek v. State" on Justia Law