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A certified class of minor children in the Permanent Managing Conservatorship (PMC) of DFPS filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, seeking injunctive relief and alleging that Texas' maintenance of its foster care system exposes them to a serious risk of abuse, neglect, and harm to their physical and psychological well-being. The district court granted plaintiffs a permanent injunction requiring sweeping changes to the state's foster care system. The Fifth Circuit held that facts in the record adequately supported the finding that a policy or practice of maintaining overburdened caseworkers directly causes all PMC children to be exposed to a serious risk of physical and psychological harm; the district court correctly found that the State was deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of serious harm to the Licensed Foster Care (LFC) subclass as a result of its insufficient monitoring and oversight, and that these deficiencies were a direct cause of the constitutional harm; the district court erred in concluding that inadequate placement array causes constitutionally cognizable harm to the LFC subclass and that the State was deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of serious harm; and to the extent that the lack of awake-night supervision may have sustained a constitutional claim under the circumstances, the remaining policies and their effects did not cause foster group homes (FGH) children an amplified risk of harm sufficient to overcome the threshold hurdle. The court also held that Rule 23-specific arguments were waived. While the district court entered an expansive injunction mandating dozens of specific remedial measures and it was entitled to grant plaintiffs injunctive relief, the court held that the injunction was significantly overbroad. Accordingly, the court vacated the injunction and remanded with instructions to remove the remedial provisions related to placement array and FGHs, and to strike provisions that were not necessary to achieve constitutional compliance. View "M.D. v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Shellpoint in an action alleging that Shellpoint discriminated against plaintiffs based on race when it prohibited them from assuming the loan of a home that they had purchased. The court held that no reasonable jury could find that Shellpoint discriminated against plaintiffs based on their race where their only evidence was vague and speculative. Furthermore, the requirement that plaintiffs satisfy the outstanding loan payment was consistent with the loan agreement, which conditions assumption on Shellpoint's determination that its security would not be impaired. The court also held that plaintiffs did not point to evidence countering the Shellpoint representative's statement that they never produced a complete application. View "Sims v. New Penn Financial LLC" on Justia Law

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Richard Green was convicted for the attempted murder and kidnapping of his wife, Cathleen Green (“Cathy”). Green appealed, arguing that the State presented insufficient evidence to convict him of both counts. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found a reasonable juror could have found that the State had proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, each element of both convictions based on the testimony, evidence, and applicable law. Therefore, it affirmed Green’s convictions and sentences. View "Green v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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On December 23, 2013, Abdur Ambrose, Stevie Ambrose, and Orlander Dedeaux were indicted for capital murder of Robert Trosclair with the underlying felony being kidnapping. The trial court severed the case for separate trials. Ambrose proceeded to trial on June 15, 2015. Following the culpability phase of trial, a jury found Ambrose guilty of capital murder. Following the penalty phase of trial, the jury imposed the death penalty. Ambrose appealed, raising twelve assignments of error. Finding only one harmless error, the Mississippi Supreme Court found no other reversible error and affirmed Ambrose's conviction and sentence. View "Ambrose v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order entering a declaratory judgment finding that Senate Joint Resolution 8 was not referred in accord with article 19, section 22 of the Arkansas Constitution and issuing a writ of mandamus ordering Secretary of State Mark Martin to refrain from counting, canvassing, or certifying any votes cast for or against the resolution. Appellee filed a complaint seeking a declaration that the resolution at issue, designated as “Issue No. 1” on the ballot for the November 6, 2018 general election, was unconstitutional, along with a request for either a writ of mandamus or injunctive relief. The circuit court granted Appellee’s request for declaratory relief, finding that Issue No. 1 violates article 19, section 22. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the submission of Issue No. 1 violates article 19, section 22; and (2) therefore, Appellee was entitled to both a declaratory judgment and a writ of mandamus. View "Martin v. Humphrey" on Justia Law

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After federal agents arrested Robert Doggart for plotting to attack an Islamic community at the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, he attempted to plead guilty to making a threat in interstate commerce, a crime carrying a sentence of no more than five years. But the district court found that he had not made a cognizable threat and rejected his plea under Criminal Rule 11. After that and after the government added some charges, a jury convicted Doggart of solicitation to damage religious property and solicitation to commit arson, leaving him with a sentence of almost 20 years. Because the district court wrongly rejected the plea agreement, the Sixth Circuit reversed its decision to reject the agreement, left in place the later convictions, and remanded for it to reconsider the agreement under the correct law. View "United States v. Doggart" on Justia Law

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When Brian Bassett was 16 years old, he was living in a "shack" with Nicholaus McDonald after Bassett's parents '"kicked [him] out'" of their home. With McDonald's assistance, Bassett snuck back into his home and shot his mother and father. His brother was drowned in the bathtub, an act that McDonald initially confessed to but later blamed on Bassett at trial. Bassett was convicted of three counts of aggravated first degree murder for the deaths of his mother, father, and brother. The judge commented that Bassett was "a walking advertisement" for the death penalty and sentenced him to three consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole. At issue here was the constitutionality of sentencing juvenile offenders to life in prison without the possibility of parole or early release. The State appealed a Court of Appeals decision holding that the provision of Washington's Miller-fix statute that allows 16- and 17-year-olds to be sentenced to life without parole violated the Washington Constitution's ban on cruel punishment. The appellate court adopted the categorical approach, rather than Washington's traditional Fain proportionality test, and found that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole or early release constituted cruel punishment. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision and held that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole or early release constitutes cruel punishment and therefore is unconstitutional under article I, section 14 of the Washington Constitution. View "Washington v. Bassett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed orders of the trial court denying Appellant’s motions to suppress evidence that was seized by the local police department and state police and then returned to the individuals who reported the items stolen, holding that Appellant received a fair trial and that the search warrants were valid. On appeal, Appellant argued that the State failed to preserve exculpatory evidence in violation of his due process right to a fair trial, and that two search warrants failed to designate all of the items to be seized with adequate particularity, making the warrants unconstitutionally vague. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) even if Appellant made the threshold showing that the evidence at issue was lost or destroyed, he did not demonstrate that any of the evidence had apparent exculpatory value at the time the items were returned to their owners; and (2) the search warrants identified the items to be seized with as much particularity as was possible under the circumstances. View "State v. Winchester" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals denying Defendant’s appeal from the circuit court’s order revoking twenty years of Defendant’s suspended sentence and resuspending fifteen years after finding that Defendant was in violation of the conditions of his probation, holding that the admission of hearsay evidence in the probation revocation proceeding did not violate Defendant’s right to confront witnesses against him under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Defendant was convicted of rape. After he was released on probation, the circuit court issued a capias for Defendant’s arrest on the ground that he had violated the conditions of his probation. At a probation revocation hearing, the circuit court ruled that certain hearsay evidence was admissible. The circuit court ultimately determined Defendant to be in violation of the conditions of his probation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not violate Defendant’s right to confront witnesses against him. View "Johnson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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A jury found defendant Eric Jones guilty of multiple counts of second degree burglary of a vehicle and additional offenses arising from a series of car break-ins throughout San Francisco that occurred over a 17-month period. The trial court instructed the jury that if it found Jones committed one or more of the charged auto burglaries (along with one uncharged auto burglary) by a preponderance of the evidence, it could consider that evidence in deciding identity and intent to commit theft for the other charged crimes. The instruction reminded the jury that the prosecution had to prove each charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Jones argued on appeal this instruction had the effect of lowering the prosecution’s burden of proof, and was structural error requiring automatic reversal. The Court of Appeal concluded the instruction should not have been given, but there was no structural error. Any error in giving the instruction was harmless. View "California v. Jones" on Justia Law