Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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Tavis Crane’s estate and the passengers of Crane’s car sued Arlington Police Officer (Officer) and the City of Arlington for the use of excessive force during a traffic stop in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The district court dismissed the passengers’ claims, finding that they could not bring claims as bystanders, and granted summary judgment to the Officer and the City after determining that the Officer was entitled to qualified immunity.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the passengers’ claims and vacate the grant of summary judgment as to Crane’s claims and dismiss the appeals of those claims for want of jurisdiction. The court explained that there is no express requirement for a physical injury in an excessive force claim,80 but even if the passengers stated a plausible claim for psychological injuries, the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. “Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it.” Here, there was no unreasonable use of force against the passengers, so no constitutional injury occurred. View "Crane v. City of Arlington" on Justia Law

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California law requires notification to “a local law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction in which the theft or loss occurred” when a gun is lost or stolen. (Penal Code 25250(a)), within five days of the time when the owner or possessor knew or reasonably should have known that the firearm had been stolen or lost. Morgan Hill adopted its own missing firearm reporting requirement, requiring notification to the Police Department within 48 hours of discovering a gun is missing if the gun owner lives in Morgan Hill, or the loss occurs there.A Morgan Hill resident and the California Rifle & Pistol Association sued, asserting the ordinance is preempted by the state law's five-day reporting requirement. The trial court found no preemption and granted the city summary judgment. The court of appeal affirmed. Local governments are free to impose stricter gun regulations than state law. If it is possible to violate the ordinance without violating state law, as it is here, there is no duplication. The ordinance does not contradict state law. Given the significant local safety interests at stake, cities are allowed to impose more stringent firearm regulations than state law prescribes. View "Kirk v. City of Morgan Hill" on Justia Law

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This appeal arises from a legislative invocation given by an invited, guest speaker before the opening of a Jacksonville City Council meeting. A City Council member  Anna Brosche, and a then-mayoral candidate, invited Plaintiff to give the invocation at the March 12, 2019, City Council meeting. When Plaintiff transitioned to levying criticisms against the City’s executive and legislative branches, the president of the City Council at the time, A.B., interrupted Plaintiff and later cut off his microphone.  Plaintiff brought suit against both the City and A.B. in his personal capacity. In his first two counts, actionable under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, Plaintiff alleged that both the City and Mr. Bowman violated his First Amendment rights under the Free Exercise Clause (Count I) and the Free Speech Clause (Count II) of the United States Constitution. The district court granted the Defendants’ motion to dismiss in part and denied it in part.   The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred in deeming Plaintiff’s invocation to be private speech in a nonpublic forum, the court affirmed the district court’s orders on the alternative ground that the invocation constitutes government speech, not subject to attack on free speech or free exercise grounds. The court explained that he did not bring a claim under the Establishment Clause. And since his invocation constitutes government speech, his speech is not susceptible to an attack on free speech or free-exercise grounds. View "Reginald L. Gundy v. City of Jacksonville, Florida, et al" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed the district court’s denial of a motion to suppress evidence obtained by federal agents after a hotel manager opened the door to a room containing Defendant. Defendant moved to suppress the fruits of the hotel-room search, arguing that the hotel manager was acting as a Government agent and that the Government lacked a warrant that authorized the search. The district court held a suppression hearing and denied the motion. Defendant thereafter pleaded guilty to illegal reentry under 8 U.S.C. Section 1326, reserving his right to challenge the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court properly found that this search was a private search. As private searches do not implicate the Fourth Amendment, the district court correctly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained from the search in question.   The court explained that the district court correctly found that the Government did not affirmatively encourage the hotel manager to open the door and thus did not acquiesce to the manager’s search. These findings are supported by the record and, given that the district court was in the best position to evaluate the credibility and context of witness statements, are not clearly erroneous. View "USA v. Cordova-Espinoza" on Justia Law

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The Alaska Legislature created and funded the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) to provide annual grants and scholarships to students pursuing post-secondary education in Alaska. The HEIF later was identified as potentially eligible for a sweep of its unappropriated funds. After the Legislature failed in 2021 to garner a supermajority vote required to prevent the sweep, a group of students (the Students) sued the Governor in his official capacity, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Department of Administration (collectively the Executive Branch), alleging that the HEIF was not sweepable. The superior court agreed with the Executive Branch, and the Students appealed. Because a previous case interpreting the constitutional provision governing the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR) controlled, the Alaska Supreme Court declined to reject that precedent, and affirmed the superior court's determination that the HEIF was sweepable. View "Short, et al. v. Alaska Office of Management & Budget" on Justia Law

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This case was a dispute over who could run for Chief Magistrate Judge of Douglas County, Georgia in the November 2022 election. After the incumbent successfully challenged the qualifications of the only person who qualified to run for the Democratic nomination, the Douglas County Democratic Party Executive Committee purported to name a replacement. That led to another challenge, this one by the incumbent’s husband (a registered voter eligible to vote in the election), contending that the substitution was improper. The superior court agreed that the Douglas County Board of Elections and Registration (the “Board”) was not legally authorized to allow the substitution, but ruled that the statutory vehicle through which the challenge was asserted — OCGA § 21-2-6 — covered only challenges to a candidate’s qualifications to hold office, not whether the candidate fulfilled the necessary prerequisites to seek office. The Georgia Supreme Court granted an application for expedited consideration in the light of the rapidly approaching election, and reversed. "Code section 21-2-6 allows the challenge here because 'qualifications,' as that term is used in the statute, includes all of the prerequisites for seeking and holding office. The substitute candidate did not properly qualify to seek office, so the Board lacked authority to put him on the ballot. And because electors have an interest in having the community’s government offices filled by duly qualified officials, the Board’s decision allowing an unqualified candidate on the ballot violated a substantial right of an elector." View "Camp v. Williams, et al." on Justia Law

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The State appealed a family division’s order granting juvenile E.S.’s motion to suppress a statement given to law enforcement in this delinquency proceeding. In July 2021, the state’s attorney filed a delinquency petition alleging E.S. engaged in behavior designated as the crime of lewd or lascivious conduct with a child. E.S. subsequently moved to suppress statements he made during an interview with law enforcement, arguing that he was in custody during the interview and therefore should have been provided with Miranda warnings and the ability to consult with an independent interested adult. The State opposed the motion. The family division granted E.S.’s motion, concluding that he was in custody during the interview because a reasonable juvenile in his circumstances would not have felt free to terminate the interview and leave. The State argued on appeal of the suppression motion that the family court used the wrong standard to determine whether E.S. was in custody during the interview. E.S. argued 13 V.S.A. § 7403(c) did not provide a right for the State to appeal an order granting a motion to suppress in a juvenile delinquency proceeding. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed with E.S. and dismissed this appeal. View "In re E.S., Juvenile" on Justia Law

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Baby Boy Moore appealed his conviction of aggravated assault, arguing both that the verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence and that the prosecutor erred by using Moore’s past convictions as impeachment evidence. Because Moore’s claims lacked merit, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and sentence. View "Baby Boy Moore a/k/a Lavell v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union, sought an injunction compelling the Texas Attorney General to release the names of certain individuals who were suspected of being non-citizens but were registered to vote. The case arose when the Texas Attorney General began matching Department of Public Safety data against voter registration rolls on a weekly basis and intended to notify county election officials of voters identified as potential non-citizens. Through their claim under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, Plaintiffs obtained an injunction from the district court requiring the State of Texas to provide the names and voter identification numbers of persons suspected of being noncitizens though registered to vote.The Fifth Circuit reversed, finding that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring a case under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, finding that they did not suffer injury in fact because "an injury in law is not an injury in fact." View "Campaign Legal Center v. Scott" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a Texas Justice of the Peace, opened his courtroom with a prayer every morning. The plaintiffs, a group of litigants appearing before the judge, sought an injunction preventing Defendant from doing so. The district court granted Plaintiff's request for an injunction, which the Fifth Circuit stayed pending resolution on the merits.In resolving the merits, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment and entered judgment for Defendant. The court concluded that as long as Defendant 1.) has a policy of denominational nondiscrimination and that (2) anyone may choose not to participate and suffer no consequences, Defendant's practice is non-coercive. Defendant allowed anyone to participate in the prayer and would select attendees to lead the prayer without regard to their beliefs. View "Freedom From Religion v. Mack" on Justia Law