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Plaintiff appealed the probate court's order striking her petition to enforce a no contest clause in a trust under the anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16, and denying her motion to recover attorney fees. The Court of Appeal agreed with the probate court, and with a recent decision by Division Five of this district, that the anti-SLAPP statute applies to a petition such as plaintiff's seeking to enforce a no contest clause. However, the court held that plaintiff adequately demonstrated a likelihood of success under the second step of the anti-SLAPP procedure. In this case, defendant's judicial defense of the 2007 Amendment to the Trust that she procured through undue influence met the Trust's definition of a contest that triggered the no contest clause. Furthermore, under sections 21310 and 21311, that clause was enforceable against defendant. The court also held that plaintiff provided sufficient evidence that defendant lacked probable cause to defend the 2007 Amendment. The court held that the findings of the probate court concerning defendant's undue influence, which this court affirmed, provided a sufficient basis to conclude that plaintiff has shown a probability of success on her No Contest Petition. Finally, the court held that plaintiff had the contractual right to seek reimbursement of her attorney fees incurred in resisting defendant's appeal of the probate court's ruling invalidating the 2007 Amendment. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Key v. Tyler" on Justia Law

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In 1991, 70-year-old Cary was shot and killed as she made a night deposit of the receipts from the liquor store where she worked. Davis, Taylor, Shackelfoot, and Lawless had planned the robbery. Davis attempted the robbery and shot Cary while the others waited in a car driven by Taylor. A jury convicted Taylor of first-degree felony murder and found that the killing occurred in the commission of an attempted robbery that he aided and abetted “as a major participant” and “with reckless indifference to human life,” a special circumstance requiring a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole (Penal Code 190.2(d)). The reckless indifference finding was based on the fact that after the shooting, Taylor simply drove off, later stating, “Fuck that old bitch.” In 2018, Taylor sought habeas corpus relief to have the special circumstance vacated under the California Supreme Court’s “Banks” and “Clark” decisions, which clarified what it means for an aiding and abetting defendant to be a major participant who acted with reckless indifference to human life. A defendant acts with reckless indifference to human life when he “knowingly creat[es] a ‘grave risk of death.’” The court of appeal granted his petition. Evidence of a defendant’s actions after a murder betraying an indifference to the loss of life does not, alone, establish that the defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death. There was no other evidence that Taylor had such intent. . View "In re Taylor" on Justia Law

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Cabrera, born in the Dominican Republic in 1979, was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in 1988. Two years later, he was adopted by a natural born U.S. citizen, Attenborough. Had he been Attenborough’s biological child, 8 U.S.C. 1409, would have provided him a pathway to automatic derivative citizenship. As an adopted child, the statute does not apply to him and his road to citizenship is more difficult. In 2014, Cabrera pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin and was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment. Upon his release, Cabrera was served with notice of removal proceedings based on conviction of an aggravated felony, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), and conviction of a controlled substance offense, section 1227(a)(2)(B)(i). Cabrera argued, on constitutional grounds, that he was entitled to derivative citizenship through his adoptive father and could not be removed. The Immigration Judge held that he lacked jurisdiction to hear the constitutional claim and ordered Cabrera removed. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed. The Third Circuit denied a petition for review, rejecting Cabrera’s argument disparate treatment between adopted and biological children violates the guarantee of equal protection under the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. View "Cabrera v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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CAI filed suit against state prosecutors, seeking to enjoin the enforcement of state unauthorized practice of law (UPL) statutes against it. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, holding that the UPL statutes did not unconstitutionally restrict CAI's associational rights. In this case, like the solicitation statute in Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Ass'n, 436 U.S. 447 (1978), North Carolina's UPL statutes only marginally affected First Amendment concerns and did not substantially impair the associational rights of CAI. The court also held that the UPL statutes did not unlawfully burden CAI's freedom of speech. Determining that intermediate scrutiny was the appropriate standard for reviewing conduct regulations that incidentally impact speech, the court held that barring corporations from practicing law was sufficiently drawn to protect clients. The court also held that the UPL statutes did not deny CAI due process, were not unconstitutionally vague, and did not violate the state constitution's Monopoly Clause. Finally, CAI's commercial speech claim was not an independent basis for granting relief and the state may forbid CAI from advertising legal services barred by law. View "Capital Associated Industries v. Stein" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint against her former employers, alleging that she was fired because of her sexual orientation (heterosexual) and Defendant Huber's reaction to plaintiff's pro-heterosexual speech. Plaintiff, the manager of PNP's human resources department, made a Facebook post criticizing a man wearing a dress and noting his ability to use the women's bathroom and/or dressing room. The court held that plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claim failed because Title VII does not protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and, even if it did, the district court did not err in finding that plaintiff could not have reasonably believed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was a prohibited practice. The court also held that the district court correctly dismissed the state claim because none of defendants were state actors and were therefore not covered by the the restrictions of Article 1, section 7 of the Louisiana constitution. View "O'Daniel v. Industrial Service Solutions" on Justia Law

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Defendant Lucio Lozano was charged with involvement in a multi-year cocaine trafficking conspiracy between individuals in Mexico and Colorado. In October 2017, defendant pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He was subsequently sentenced to 180 months imprisonment and five years supervised release. He challenged the district court’s application of two sentencing enhancements: (1) a two-level guidelines increase for maintaining a premise for the purpose of distributing a controlled substance, and (2) a three-level aggravated role enhancement. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence. View "United States v. Lozano" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit dismissed this insurance dispute case, holding that Gerber, as assignee of the insured, did not have standing to bring a declaratory judgment class action against GEICO. In this case, the action did not assert any claims for money damages and there was no substantial likelihood that the insured would suffer a future injury. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint for lack of standing. View "A&M Gerber Chiropractic LLC v. Geico General Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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This case arose when a member of the House of Representatives asked the House-appointed Chaplain, Father Patrick J. Conroy, to invite Daniel Barker—a former Christian minister turned atheist—to serve as guest chaplain and deliver a secular invocation. After Conroy denied the request, Barker filed suit alleging that Conroy unconstitutionally excluded him from the guest chaplain program because he is an atheist. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Barker's Establishment Clause claim. The court held that, although Barker had Article III standing to challenge his exclusion from the program, he failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court held that Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983), and Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. 565, 570 (2014), leave no doubt that the Supreme Court understands our nation's longstanding legislative-prayer tradition as one that, because of its "unique history," can be both religious and consistent with the Establishment Clause. The court noted that, although the Supreme Court has warned against discriminating among religions or tolerating a pattern of prayers that proselytize or disparage certain faiths or beliefs, it has never suggested that legislatures must allow secular as well as religious prayer. Therefore, in the sui generis context of legislative prayer, the court held that the House does not violate the Establishment Clause by limiting its opening prayer to religious prayer. View "Barker v. Conroy" on Justia Law

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Petitioner James Burke sought post-conviction relief (PCR) alleging that his trial counsel, Attorney Daniel Maguire, provided ineffective assistance because of a conflict of interest. Burke was arrested in 2005 for sexual assault; he was arraigned in 2005, and his trial commenced in 2010. During the time between his arraignment and trial, petitioner filed nearly 200 motions, the vast majority of which were filed pro se in writing and orally on the record. These included motions to disqualify three trial court judges, a motion to disqualify a prosecutor, and nineteen motions for sanctions. Petitioner also expressed discontent with various appointed counsel at multiple points in pretrial proceedings. During discovery, he requested, was provided with, and then dismissed appointed counsel. Then, midway through depositions in 2009, petitioner once again requested and was provided with appointed counsel. Attorney Maguire ultimately represented petitioner at trial. Throughout pretrial proceedings, the trial court reprimanded petitioner many times for his disruptive language and behavior. In April 2008, defendant allegedly threatened the deputy state’s attorney after a day of depositions and was arrested for obstruction of justice. During a hearing in 2009 when petitioner again sought to dismiss his appointed counsel, the trial court questioned whether petitioner was competent to proceed pro se. Based in part on psychiatric evaluations in 2004 and 2006, the trial court ultimately determined that petitioner was competent to stand trial. However, it concluded that given his previous misconduct, it would be “naive to expect that [petitioner] would control himself were he to represent himself during trial.” And because the right to self-representation is not absolute, the trial court found that petitioner had forfeited his right to represent himself through his continued disruptive behavior. During jury draw, outside of potential jurors’ presence, Attorney Maguire expressed his desire to withdraw as petitioner’s counsel, citing threats of physical violence to himself and his family. The trial court denied Attorney Maguire’s motion to withdraw, but allowed a deputy sheriff, described as a legal assistant, to be seated between Attorney Maguire and petitioner throughout the trial. Petitioner was ultimately convicted and sentenced to eighteen to twenty years to serve. Petitioner filed his pro se motion for postconviction relief in February 2013. In March 2015, Attorney Paul Volk, an expert appointed by the trial court and compensated by the Defender General, filed an expert-opinion report with the PCR court after an independent legal review wherein he explained that he found ineffective counsel for some, but not all, of the reasons alleged in petitioner’s original petition. However, the post-conviction court denied relief. The Vermont Supreme Court found no reversible error in the PCR court's judgment and affirmed. View "In re James Burke" on Justia Law

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Devin Arrington was indicted by grand jury for armed robbery. After jury selection, Arrington requested a continuance to allow him to retain new counsel, which was denied. During his attorney’s opening statement, Arrington interrupted and declared that he did not want his counsel to continue representing him. After a jury trial, Arrington was found guilty. Arrington filed a Motion for J.N.O.V. or, in the Alternative, Motion for New Trial. Both motions were denied. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Arrington’s conviction for armed robbery. Arrington abandoned each of his arguments on appeal by failing to make them: failing to cite authority, or failing to identify the arguments for review. "Even if Arrington’s claims were not abandoned, Arrington’s arguments are either without merit or are based on facts not fully apparent from the record." View "Arrington v. Mississippi" on Justia Law