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On September 26, 2014, plaintiff filed suit against the school district, alleging discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation claims (Welsh I). On December 16, 2014, the school district filed a plea to the jurisdiction in Welsh I, wherein the school district maintained, inter alia, that plaintiff's claims were barred by the statute of limitations because she filed her lawsuit more than two years after she filed her charge. The state district court granted the plea and dismissed the claims in Welsh I. On May 12, 2005, plaintiff filed this case against the school district (Welsh II), alleging claims for discrimination under Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), as well as retaliation claims. The Fifth Circuit held that the only claims in Welsh II that were barred under res judicata were those that were mature at the time that plaintiff filed her petition in Welsh I. The court vacated and remanded because the parties have not brief this issue under this framework and because at least some facts supporting plaintiff's alleged claims clearly were not extant at the time Welsh I was filed such that a claim could not have been mature based upon those facts. View "Welsh v. Fort Bend Independent School District" on Justia Law

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Halbach disappeared on Halloween 2005. Her family contacted police after she did not show up at the photography studio where she worked and her voice mailbox was full. Officers focused on the Avery Auto Salvage yard in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, the last place she was known to have gone. Avery, the son of the business owner, lived on the property. That day, Avery called Auto Trader magazine, for whom Halbach worked, to request that she photograph a minivan that he wished to sell. The police suspected that Avery’s 16‐year‐old nephew, Dassey, who also lived on the property, might have information about Halbach’s murder and called Dassey into the police station. After many hours of interrogation over several days, Dassey confessed that he, with Avery, had raped and murdered Halbach and burned her body. Before trial, Dassey recanted his confession. The state failed to find any physical evidence linking him to the crime. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. After unsuccessful state appeals and post‐conviction proceedings, Dassey sought federal habeas relief, claiming that he did not receive effective assistance of counsel and that his confession was not voluntary. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court in granting relief. The state court did not apply the proper standard; juvenile confessions require more care. “If a state court can evade all federal review by merely parroting the correct Supreme Court law, then the writ of habeas corpus is meaningless.” View "Dassey v. Dittmann" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the constitutionality of a Mississippi statute, HB 1523, asserting that the state government disapproves of and is hostile to same-sex couples, to unmarried people who engage in sexual relations, and to transgender people. HB 1523 provides that the state government shall not take any discriminatory action against persons who act in accordance with certain beliefs in an enumerated set of circumstances. The district court issued a preliminary injunction against the implementation of HB 1523. The Fifth Circuit reversed the preliminary injunction and rendered a judgment of dismissal for want of jurisdiction, holding that plaintiffs did not have standing. In regard to Establishment Clause injury, the court held that the religious display cases did not provide a basis for standing to challenge the endorsement of beliefs that exist only in the text of a statute. Furthermore, neither the religious exercise cases generally, nor Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000), provide support for plaintiffs' standing. In the alternative, plaintiffs have failed to show an injury in fact. The court also held that plaintiffs did not have taxpayer standing to challenge HB 1523 and the Barber plaintiffs did not have standing under the Equal Protection Clause. View "Barber v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a putative class action under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12132, alleging that the City had systematically failed to comply with federal and state disability access laws, seeking declarative and injunctive relief. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that the City's public right-of-way, pools, libraries, parks, and recreation facilities were not readily accessible to and usable by mobility-impaired individuals. The Ninth Circuit held that the plaintiff class has standing for claims related to all facilities challenged at trial; the district court’s credibility determinations were based on legal errors and its interpretation of the Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) was erroneous; and the district court properly rejected plaintiff's program access claims. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for reevaluation of the extent of ADAAG noncompliance. View "Kirola v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against department of correction officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983 after their son died while in custody. In this appeal, defendants challenged a jury verdict in favor of plaintiffs. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of judgment as a matter of law, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support a reasonable inference sustaining the award of damages for pain and suffering. The court affirmed the denial of plaintiffs' motion for a new trial, holding that the close-observation policy in this case was ministerial and defendants were not entitled to official immunity; evidence of what medical staff thought but did not disclose was irrelevant and inadmissable; and defendants waived further evidentiary arguments. View "Letterman v. Lammers" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's application of a tort-reform act, the Nebraska Hospital Medical Liability Act, to reduce the verdict by 90% in a case where a jury awarded $17 million to a child born with severe brain damage. The court held that notice was not a requirement for qualification under the Act, but rather a requirement imposed on those already qualified; Bellevue did not lose the Act's protections even if it failed to properly post notice; and Nebraska's cap did not violate the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial nor the Fifth Amendment; the child failed to show a denial of access to the courts; the Act did not violate the child's right to equal protection of the laws; and the district court did not err in rejecting the child's substantive due process challenge. The court affirmed the district court's denial of Bellevue's motion for a new trial and rejected Bellevue's challenges to the district court's jury instructions and verdict. View "S.S. v. Bellevue Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Under the circumstances of this case, where a sworn juror repeatedly and unambiguously stated that she was unable to render an impartial verdict based solely on the evidence and the law, the trial court erred in failing to discharge the juror as “grossly unqualified to serve” pursuant to N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 270.35(1). After a jury trial, Defendant was acquitted of murder in the second degree and convicted of manslaughter in the first degree. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed and ordered that Defendant receive a new trial, holding that the sworn juror at issue in this case, a juror who purportedly stated that she could not “do what the law require[d] [her] to do,” was incapable of rendering an impartial verdict as required by her oath as a sworn juror. Therefore, section 270.35(1) mandated her discharge. View "People v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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When petitioner was tried, the Massachusetts courtroom could not accommodate all potential jurors. During jury selection, a court officer excluded any member of the public who was not a potential juror, including petitioner’s mother and her minister. Defense counsel neither objected at trial nor raised the issue on direct review. Petitioner was convicted of murder. Five years later, he sought a new trial, arguing that his attorney had provided ineffective assistance by failing to object to the closure. The Supreme Court affirmed the state courts in rejecting the argument. In the context of a public trial violation during jury selection, where the error is neither preserved nor raised on direct review but is raised later via an ineffective-assistance claim, the defendant must demonstrate prejudice to secure a new trial. A public trial violation is a structural error, which “affect[s] the framework within which the trial proceeds,” but does not always lead to fundamental unfairness. If an objection is made and the issue is raised on direct appeal, the defendant generally is entitled to automatic reversal. If the defendant does not preserve a structural error on direct review but raises it later in an ineffective-assistance claim, the defendant generally bears the burden to show “a reasonable probability that . . . the result of the proceeding would have been different” but for attorney error or that the violation was so serious as to render the trial fundamentally unfair. Petitioner has not shown a reasonable probability of a different outcome or that the trial was fundamentally unfair and is not entitled to a new trial. His trial was not conducted in secret or in a remote place; closure was limited to voir dire; venire members who did not become jurors observed the proceedings; and the record indicates no basis for concern. View "Weaver v. Massachusetts" on Justia Law

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Defendants were indicted for the kidnapping, robbery, and murder of Catherine Fuller. The prosecution argued that Fuller was attacked by a large group, producing the testimony of two men who confessed to participating in a group attack and cooperated in return for leniency. Other witnesses corroborated aspects of their testimony. The prosecution played a videotape of defendant Yarborough’s statement to detectives, describing how he was part of a large group that carried out the attack. None of the defendants rebutted the witnesses’ claims that Fuller was killed in a group attack. Long after their convictions became final, seven defendants discovered that the government had withheld evidence: the identity of a man seen running into the alley after the murder and stopping near the garage where Fuller’s body had already been found; statements of a passerby who claimed to hear groans coming from a closed garage; and evidence tending to impeach three witnesses. The Supreme Court affirmed the D.C. courts in rejecting their Brady claims, finding the withheld evidence not material. Evidence is material when there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed, the result of the proceeding would have been different, given the context of the entire record. An argument that, had defendants known about the withheld evidence, they could have raised an alternative theory, that a single perpetrator (or two) had attacked Fuller “is too little, too weak, or too distant from the main evidentiary points to meet Brady’s standards.” The undisclosed impeachment evidence was largely cumulative of impeachment evidence already in use at trial. View "Turner v. United States" on Justia Law

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Defendant, David J. Widi, Jr. appealed a superior court order denying his petition for a writ of coram nobis. In February 2004, the defendant filed a notice of intent to plead guilty to a charge of misdemeanor reckless conduct in exchange for a negotiated sentence. Almost four years later, defendant was charged with the federal offense of being a felon in possession of a firearm, with his felony reckless conduct conviction serving as the predicate felony. In 2010, the defendant filed in the trial court a “Motion to Correct the Record.” In that motion, the defendant asserted that it “ha[d] recently come to [his] attention that the [m]ittimus” for his conviction reflected that he was convicted of felony reckless conduct. He further asserted that a felony indictment for reckless conduct — instead of a misdemeanor information for reckless conduct - “was erroneously submitted at sentencing . . . causing the misclassification of [his] conviction in the [m]ittimus.” Consequently, he requested that the mittimus for his reckless conduct conviction be “correct[ed]” to reflect that he had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless conduct, not felony reckless conduct. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion. In 2014, defendant filed this petition for a writ of coram nobis. He argued that the trial court erred by denying his petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. The New Hampshire Supreme Court held that the common law writ of coram nobis existed in New Hampshire. This case presented the distinct issue of whether a trial court may deny a defendant’s petition for a writ of coram nobis without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Court held that a trial court may deny a petition for a writ of coram nobis without holding an evidentiary hearing if the record clearly demonstrates that the defendant is not entitled to coram nobis relief. Here, because the record clearly demonstrates that no sound reason exists for the defendant’s failure to seek earlier relief, the trial court did not err when it denied the defendant’s petition without a hearing. View "New Hampshire v. Widi" on Justia Law