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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his defamation and false light claims against the New York Times (NYT) and two of its authors, under Louisiana's anti-SLAPP statute (Article 971). Plaintiff, an economics professor, alleged that the NYT misrepresented his statements in an article that attributed racist views to libertarian scholars. The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that plaintiff has created a genuine issue of material fact as to the falsity of the NYT article; dismissal for failure to create a fact issue as to actual malice was premature; and dismissal for failure to create a genuine fact issue as to whether the article had a defamatory meaning was premature. View "Block v. Tanenhaus" on Justia Law

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Farmer was convicted of armed bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. 2113(a) and (d), and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, section 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). Farmer drove the getaway car and was not in the bank during the robbery. Her convictions were premised on an accomplice theory under 18 U.S.C. 2. In 2014 the Supreme Court held (Rosemond) that a section 924(c) conviction under an accomplice theory requires proof that the accomplice had “foreknowledge that his confederate [would] commit the offense with a firearm.” The jury at Farmer’s 2012 trial was not instructed on a foreknowledge requirement. In a motion under 28 U.S.C. 2255, after Rosemond was decided, Farmer argued that her trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to object to the section 924(c) instruction. The district judge denied relief because Farmer failed to establish that she was prejudiced by that failure to object. On appeal, she attempted to raise the Rosemond issue directly rather than through trial counsel’s ineffectiveness. The Seventh Circuit held that Farmer procedurally defaulted that claim and must establish cause and actual prejudice to excuse the default. She did not do so. The government presented plenty of evidence that Farmer had advance knowledge that a gun would be used, so the Rosemond error was not grave enough to cause actual prejudice. View "Farmer v. United States" on Justia Law

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To establish a concrete injury for purposes of Article III standing, the plaintiff must allege a statutory violation that caused him to suffer some harm that actually exists in the world. There must be an injury that is "real" and not "abstract" or merely "procedural." On remand from the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging willful violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681 et seq. In this case, plaintiff alleged that Spokeo failed to follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information in his consumer report. The panel was satisfied that plaintiff had alleged injuries that were sufficiently concrete for the purposes of Article III; the alleged injuries were also sufficiently particularized to plaintiff and they were caused by Spokeo's alleged FCRA violations and were redressable in court; and therefore plaintiff had adequately alleged the elements necessary for standing. Accordingly, the court remanded. View "Robins v. Spokeo, Inc." on Justia Law

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Martin pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1); (b)(1)(B)(iii). The parties agreed that Martin’s advisory Guidelines range was 70-87 months’ imprisonment and that a sentence of 87 months was appropriate. According to the Probation Office, Martin’s Guidelines range was 188-235 months’ because Martin was a career offender. At sentencing, the district court stated that Martin was a career offender, noting crimes of aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and fleeing a police officer. After considering the 18 U.S.C. 3553 factors, the Court sentenced Martin to 87 months’ imprisonment. Martin did not appeal. In 2014, the Sentencing Commission promulgated Guidelines Amendment 782, retroactively reducing the base offense for many drug quantities, including the drug quantity associated with Martin’s offense. Martin sought a reduction of sentence under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2), citing Amendment 782. The district court found him ineligible for relief because his Guidelines range was based on his status as a career offender rather than the drug quantity. The Third Circuit affirmed. Martin’s status as a career offender meant that he was not eligible for a reduced sentence. View "United States v. Martin" on Justia Law

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In 1998, Tibbetts was convicted of murder, aggravated murder, and aggravated robbery and was sentenced to death. Tibbetts filed his first habeas petition in 2003, challenging “the administration of the death penalty by lethal injection.” A Magistrate determined found the claim meritless. Tibbetts did not object to this ruling, abandoning that claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the petition. Tibbetts filed his second habeas petition in 2014, listing 10 grounds for relief, all relating to execution by lethal injection under Ohio law. The district court determined that this was a second-or-successive petition, over which it lacked jurisdiction, and transferred it to the Sixth Circuit, which dismissed. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act limits the authority of federal courts to grant relief to individuals who previously filed a habeas petition; petitioners challenging state court judgments must seek authorization in a federal appeals court before filing a “second or successive” petition in district court, 28 U.S.C. 2244(b). A second-or-successive petition stating claims that were presented in a prior petition “shall be dismissed.” Tibbetts argued that he could not raise his lethal-injection challenge until the state adopted the revised execution protocol. Tibbetts raised such a general claim in his first petition, none of the newly arising circumstances identified in his second petition are necessary to a general claim that his sentence to death by lethal injection is unconstitutional. View "In re: Tibbetts" on Justia Law

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Tanner, convicted of murder in 2000, unsuccessfully sought habeas relief, arguing that the Michigan Supreme Court unreasonably applied Supreme Court precedent when it upheld the denial of funding for a defense serology or DNA expert, and when it held that there was sufficient evidence to convict Tanner. The Sixth Circuit granted relief. Tanner was convicted based on insufficient evidence. The inculpatory evidence establishes, at best, “reasonable speculation” that Tanner was in the crime scene’s parking lot around the time of the murder and that she was last in possession of the murder weapon approximately a month before the murder. The court noted contradictory testimony; the lack of evidence that Tanner entered the building or that the knife was in her possession near the time of the murder. The blood found at the scene matched Tanner’s blood type and PMG subtype. Millions of people share Tanner’s blood type and PGM subtype and there is no way of knowing whether the blood belonged to the perpetrator or to one of the people who gathered after the murder. An unidentified woman’s blood was on the victim’s shirt. The victim was killed during a struggle and the blood did not come from Tanner or from any of her hypothesized accomplices. View "Tanner v. Yukins" on Justia Law

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After pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, defendant-appellant Larry Pam was sentenced to a fifteen-year term of imprisonment consistent with a plea agreement entered into pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C). Pam’s fifteen-year sentence exceeded the ten-year statutory maximum generally applicable to violations of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), but the district court accepted the Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement and imposed the agreed-upon sentence with the understanding that Pam was an armed career criminal under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) and therefore subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years’ imprisonment. Pam unsuccessfully challenged his conviction and sentence on direct appeal and collateral attack, but in light of the United States Supreme Court’s decisions in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), and Welch v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1257 (2016), the Tenth Circuit granted Pam authorization to file a second or successive motion for post-conviction relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255. Pam then filed a pro se section 2255 motion, contending his sentence had been unconstitutionally enhanced under the ACCA. The district court dismissed the motion, determining that the new constitutional rule announced in Johnson was inapplicable to Pam’s sentence and, in the alternative, that the collateral attack waiver contained in Pam’s plea agreement barred him from bringing the section 2255 motion. Pam appealed the district court’s decision and the Tenth Circuit granted him a Certificate of Appealability (“COA”) as to whether: (1) “the district court erred in holding that [Mr.] Pam was not entitled to relief under Johnson,” and (2) “the district court erred in holding that [Mr.] Pam’s claims were barred by the collateral attack waiver contained in his plea agreement.” The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court, but on different grounds: Pam’s crimes did not fall within the enumerated offenses listed in the ACCA, and was only subject to the ACCA’s fifteen-year minimum sentence if those convictions had as an element, the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against another. The Court determined Pam’s three felony convictions qualified under the ACCA, making the sentence he received lawful and an alternative ground for the district court’s dismissal of his 2255 motion. View "United States v. Pam" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiffs’ constitutional and statutory claims against the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services and two Department employees. Plaintiffs alleged the same facts in an earlier action filed in federal court arising out of the same allegedly wrongful acts. The federal court dismissed all claims against the Commission for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and dismissed the claims against one of the employees for Plaintiffs’ failure timely to serve her. Approximately one year later, Plaintiffs filed this action. The superior court dismissed all of Plaintiffs’ claims, concluding that the claims against all three defendants were barred by the claim preclusion component of the doctrine of res judicata. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court did not err by dismissing Plaintiffs’ claims against the two employees on claim preclusion grounds because the employees had a sufficiently close relationship to the Commissioner to satisfy the requirement of claim preclusion of “sufficient identically between the parties in the two actions.” View "Estate of Paul F. Treworgy v. Commissioner, Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an African-American, filed suit against DHS, alleging that the Department's decision to give a promotion for which he was qualified to a Caucasian female employee just four weeks after he had complained of race and age discrimination was unlawful retaliation. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of his retaliation claim for failure to exhaust remedies, holding that plaintiff expressly raised the non-promotion retaliation claim in his equal employment opportunity complaint. The record at this early procedural juncture showed that plaintiff came forth with sufficient factual allegations and inferences to require, at a minimum, that he be afforded discovery before summary judgment proceedings. Because the record contained a number of plausible factual disputes pertaining to plaintiff's claims of retaliation that could not be resolved on a motion for summary judgment, the court remanded those claims to the district court for further proceedings. View "Coleman v. Duke" on Justia Law

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In 2015, defendant Travis Paige led police on a high-speed vehicle chase. Defendant disregarded stop signs and nearly struck a cyclist and a minivan before losing control of the vehicle after passing through a covered bridge and crashed into a ditch. The vehicle came to rest on the passenger side. Leaving his girlfriend in the passenger seat of the vehicle, defendant climbed out of the driver’s side window and fled on foot into the woods. The police officer on scene chose not to pursue, opting instead to help the girlfriend get out of the car, which was smoking. Defendant was ultimately arrested and indicted on three counts of felony reckless conduct with a deadly weapon. Ordinarily, reckless conduct was an unspecified misdemeanor. However, it becomes a class B felony when a deadly weapon is used in the commission of the offense. Defendant also was charged by informations with two misdemeanor offenses, one alleging that he disobeyed a police officer, and the other alleging that he resisted arrest. The State filed notice it was electing to prosecute both misdemeanor offenses as class A misdemeanors. Defendant was thereafter tried by jury. The trial court instructed the jury on the elements of felony reckless conduct and, over the State’s objection, on the elements of the lesser-included misdemeanor reckless conduct offense. The jury acquitted defendant of all three felony reckless conduct charges, but convicted him of three counts of misdemeanor reckless conduct. The jury also convicted defendant of resisting arrest and disobeying an officer. For the charges of resisting arrest and disobeying an officer, the court sentenced defendant to consecutive twelve-month terms of incarceration; for each misdemeanor reckless conduct convictions, it imposed suspended twelve-month sentences that were concurrent with each other but consecutive to the stand committed sentences. Defendant appealed the sentences. Finding no error in sentencing, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Paige" on Justia Law