Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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TSRA filed suit seeking to enjoin demolitions under the city's new ordinance, DALL. CITY CODE 51A-4.501(i), which streamlined the city's procedure for demolishing dilapidated historical homes smaller than 3,000 feet. The district court dismissed TSRA's claims. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that TSRA does not have standing to assert its claims under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) or its 42 U.S.C.1982 and 1983 claims. In regard to the FHA claim, the court held that TSRA failed to prove that its injuries are traceable to the city's alleged misconduct and that its injuries are redressable by judgment in its favor. In this case, TSRA did not put forth any separate theories of standing for its sections 1982 and 1983 claims. Therefore, even assuming that TSRA established a constitutional injury-in-fact for purposes of sections 1982 and 1983, the court held that these claims would likewise suffer the same traceability and redressability defects as its FHA claims. View "Tenth Street Residential Ass'n v. City of Dallas" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner under 28 U.S.C. 2254(d). Petitioner alleged claims of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel (IAAC) based on state appellate counsel's failure to raise a Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), claim on direct appeal. The court held that the district court did not commit reversible error in failing to explicitly review the merits of the IAAC claim. The court also held that the magistrate judge's conclusion that no Batson violation occurred establishes that appellate counsel's failure to raise the Batson challenge on direct appeal did not prejudice petitioner. Therefore, petitioner failed to satisfy the elements of his IAAC claim. View "Moore v. Vannoy" on Justia Law

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Two plaintiffs sought to qualify to run as independent candidates for President of the United States in the 2020 election. Ohio law requires them to file a nominating petition with at least 5,000 signatures of qualified Ohio electors by August 5, 2020. Each individual circulating petitions for an independent candidate must sign a statement stating that they witnessed the signature. Other plaintiffs sought to gather signatures to nominate candidates for the November 2020 election and to form the Green Party as a minor political party under Ohio law. To attain that status, the Party must file a party formation petition by June 30, 2020, with signatures collected in person. The plaintiffs’ signature collection efforts were ongoing until the beginning of the pandemic. Ohio began issuing orders that restricted person-to-person contact, first prohibiting gatherings of 100 or more people then limiting gatherings to 50 people. On March 22, the state issued an order requiring Ohioans to stay at home. Each of the orders contained an explicit exception for conduct protected by the First Amendment. On April 30, as the stay-at-home order eased, Ohio continued to prohibit most “public and private gatherings,” but explicitly excepted First Amendment protected speech, including “petition and referendum circulators.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The ballot-access requirements, as applied, are not unconstitutionally burdensome in light of the orders restricting in-person gatherings. View "Hawkins v. DeWine" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that Paez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 947 F.3d 649, 652–53 (11th Cir. 2020), is not controlling in this case and vacated the district court's dismissal of the petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254. In Paez, the court held that the district court acted within its discretion when it sua sponte dismissed a habeas petition as untimely. In this case, the district court, unlike in Paez, dismissed the petition based on a date that was neither in the record, nor provided by petitioner, nor expressly judicially noticed—a date that, even if properly judicially noticed, was the wrong one for purposes of calculating the timeliness of the petition. Therefore, the court held that the district court abused its discretion in sua sponte dismissing the habeas petition as untimely. The court remanded for the district court to determine the correct remittitur date and proceed accordingly. View "Bryant v. Ford" on Justia Law

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The Independent Party of Florida and the Party for Socialism and Liberation seek to place their presidential candidates on the ballot in Florida without satisfying the requirements of Fla. Stat. 103.021(4)(a)–(b). Under the law, minor parties may access the presidential ballot either by satisfying a one-percent signature requirement or by affiliating with a qualified national party. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the minor parties' motion for a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of these requirements. The court first held that the Party for Socialism and Liberation has Article III standing. In this case, the party will be injured if its candidate is denied access to the ballot; the future injury is impending; the injury is fairly traceable; and the injury could be redressed by an injunction forbidding the Secretary to deny the party access to the ballot based on the challenged provisions. The court applied the Anderson-Burdick test to resolve equal-protection challenges to a ballot-access requirement and held that Florida's goal of accounting for the national interest in presidential elections justifies its decision to provide different paths to the ballot for minor parties that affiliate with a qualified national party and those that do not. Therefore, the minor parties are unlikely to succeed on their claims that the ballot-access requirements unconstitutionally burden their First Amendment rights and deny them equal protection of the laws. View "Independent Party of Florida v. Secretary, State of Florida" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the State Defendants, challenging the constitutionality of Maryland's handgun licensing law, which is part of the Maryland Firearm Safety Act of 2013 (FSA), for violating their Second Amendment rights. Plaintiffs also challenged other FSA regulations as vague and ambiguous in contravention of the Fourteenth Amendment and separately attacked certain FSA regulations as ultra vires under Maryland law. The district court granted summary judgment to the State Defendants based on plaintiffs' lack of Article III standing. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court erred in holding that Atlantic Guns lacks both independent and third-party standing to bring a Second Amendment claim. In this case, the district court erroneously weighed the evidence by focusing on the extent of the economic injury as opposed to the existence of one; Atlantic Guns' owner and presidents' uncontroverted testimony and declaration, as well as the pertinent Maryland State Police records and Atlantic Guns' year-over-year sales records, are sufficient to establish an injury in fact for purposes of Article III standing; Atlantic Guns' injuries are fairly traceable to the challenged statute; and the injuries are likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision. Furthermore, Atlantic Guns has standing to challenge the statute on behalf of potential customers like the Individual Plaintiffs and other similarly situated persons. The court also held that, because standing for one party on a given claim is sufficient to allow a case to proceed in its entirety on that issue, the court need not reach the question of whether the Individual Plaintiffs and MSI have standing to bring their Second Amendment claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions. View "Maryland Shall Issue, Inc. v. Hogan" on Justia Law

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Adams, superintendent of the school district in 2013-2016, requested a forensic audit of the district’s expenditures and subsequently had disputes with board members that involved Adams filing a police complaint. The Board of Education revoked an offer to extend her three-year contract. Adams suspended the district’s business manager for financial irregularities. The Board blocked her email and told state education officials that Adams was no longer superintendent. Adams filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. A jury awarded $400,000 in damages. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding that the police report was not a personal grievance, but a matter of public concern within the scope of the First Amendment. The potential for physical altercations between public officials implies that an important public institution was not working properly, particularly given that a proposed forensic audit “seems to have unsettled at least one" Board member. The police report and the controversy more generally could have affected the outcome of elections and the daily management of the school system. The record permitted a reasonable jury to find that an ordinary employee in Adams’s position would be deterred from speaking by the prospect of losing her job and was permitted to consider the possibility that Adams would have remained on the job longer had she kept silent. Damages for a First Amendment violation are not limited by the duration of contracts. View "Adams v. Board of Education Harvey School District 152" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the decision of the district court denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained through a search and seizure of his vehicle, holding that the warrantless seizure of Defendant's vehicle was unlawful. Defendant was convicted of possession of marijuana and unlawful possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. On appeal, Defendant argued that law enforcement officers had no right to seize and tow his car, thereby setting it up for the inventory search that produced the evidence leading to his conviction. The First Circuit agreed, holding (1) the community caretaking exception to the warrant requirement did not apply in this case; (2) the government did not have probable cause to seize the vehicle pursuant to the Puerto Rico Uniform Forfeiture Act; and (3) the doctrine of inevitable discovery did not apply to justify the warrantless seizure of Defendant's vehicle. View "United States v. Del Rosario-Acosta" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the constitutional prohibition on state and local governments from imposing or increasing taxes or other "transaction-based" fees on services does not extend to "trip fees" imposed by the City of Phoenix on commercial ground transportation providers who transport passengers to and from an airport. The Attorney General filed a special action pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 41-194.01(B)(2) asking whether the City's newly adopted ordinance adjusting passenger pick-up fees and imposing new trip fees for dropping off departing passengers at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport violates Ariz. Const. Art. IV, 25 as to commercial ground transportation providers. The Supreme Court held (1) the ordinance does not violate section 25 because the fees are not "transaction-based"; and (2) the bond provision in section 41-194.01(B)(2) is incomplete and unintelligible and therefore unenforceable. View "State ex rel. Brnovich v. City of Phoenix" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the exemption in Cal. Const. art. II, 9, subd.(a) applies to measures setting municipal water rates, and therefore, municipal water rates and other local utility charges are not subject to referendum. To prevent the referendum process from disrupting essential governmental operations, the California Constitution exempts "statutes providing for tax levies or appropriations for usual current expenses" of the government. See Cal. Const. art. II, 9, subd.(a). After the City of Dunsmuir passed Resolution 2016-02 establishing a five-year plan for a $15 million upgrade to the City's water storage and delivery infrastructure Plaintiff submitted a petition for a referendum seeking to overturn the Resolution. The City declined to place the referendum on the ballot, and Plaintiff filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking to compel the City to place the referendum on the ballot. The trial court denied the petition. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the exemption did not apply because the water charges were a "property-related fee" and not a "tax." The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the City's water rates, adopted in the Resolution, fall within the exemption for "tax levies" and therefore are not subject to referendum. View "Wilde v. City of Dunsmuir" on Justia Law