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Garcia was convicted of distributing a kilogram of cocaine to co-defendant Cisneros, 21 US.C. 841. The government offered no direct evidence that Garcia possessed or controlled cocaine, drug paraphernalia, large quantities of cash, or other unexplained wealth. There was no admission of drug trafficking by Garcia, nor any testimony from witnesses that Garcia distributed cocaine. Instead, the government secured this verdict based upon a federal agent’s opinion testimony purporting to interpret several cryptic intercepted phone calls between Garcia and Cisneros, a known drug dealer. In those calls, the defendants talked about "work" and a "girl" in a bar, and made statements like “the tix have already walked more that, that way.” The Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that: This case illustrates the role trial judges have in guarding the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases. While the government’s circumstantial evidence here might have supported a search warrant or perhaps a wiretap on Garcia’s telephone, it simply was not sufficient to support a verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for distributing cocaine. View "United States v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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Based upon an informant’s tip and some “largely unproductive surveillance activity,” two Wilmington police detectives applied for a warrant to search Lamont Valentine’s apartment and automobile for evidence that Valentine, a convicted violent felon, was in possession of a firearm or ammunition. A magistrate issued the warrant, and when the officers conducted the search, they found marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and ammunition in the apartment and a firearm in the vehicle. These discoveries and other information provided by another resident of the apartment building resulted in numerous criminal charges against Valentine, including possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, drug dealing, aggravated possession of marijuana, terroristic threatening, and conspiracy. Valentine moved to suppress the fruits of the search on the grounds that the warrant affidavit and application did not establish probable cause that he had committed or was committing the offense of unlawfully possessing a firearm or that evidence of that crime was likely to be found in his apartment or car. The Superior Court denied the motion, and Valentine was eventually convicted of drug dealing, aggravated possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and endangering the welfare of a child. He appealed to challenge the Superior Court’s denial of his suppression motion. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court agreed with Valentine that the warrant application was insufficient to support a finding of probable cause that he had committed or was committing the crime identified in the warrant, or that a firearm was in his apartment or car. Accordingly, Valentine’s convictions were reversed. View "Valentine v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a federal civil rights action against defendants, alleging numerous federal constitutional violations and a disparate impact claim under the Fair Housing Act. Almost simultaneously, the city filed a nuisance complaint in state court against plaintiffs and the city filed a motion for abstention, or in the alternative, a motion to dismiss the federal action. The county filed a nearly identical motion the next day. The district court granted both the city and the county's motions, concluding that abstention was appropriate under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Determining that it had jurisdiction over the appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court properly abstained under Younger in every aspect, except with respect to the allegedly unreasonable search, which must be severed from the other claims. In this case, Younger abstention was appropriate as to all claims except the unreasonable search claim, because success by plaintiffs on such claims would invalidate the code enforcement proceeding. In regard to the unreasonable search claim, the district court erred in abstaining because the relief sought on alleged Fourth Amendment violations did not meet the Court's requirement that the relief have the practical effect of enjoining the state court proceeding. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Herrera v. City of Palmdale" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting the officers' motion for summary judgment in an action alleging that police officers violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when they stole plaintiffs' property after conducting a search and seizure pursuant to a warrant. The panel held that it need not, and did not, decide whether the officers violated the Constitution. Rather, the panel held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because, at the time of the incident, there was no clearly established law holding that officers violate the Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment when they steal property that is seized pursuant to a warrant. The panel noted that five other circuits had addressed the issue of whether the theft of property covered by the terms of a search warrant and seized pursuant to that warrant violates the Fourth Amendment. However, in the absence of binding authority or a consensus of a persuasive authority on the issue, the panel held that it was not clearly established that the officers' alleged conduct violated the Fourth Amendment. Likewise, plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment claim failed. View "Jessop v. City of Fresno" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Philadelphia police found drugs and a gun in an apartment that they thought was Randall’s. They arrested Randall. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged him but dropped all the charges in August 2015. When he was arrested in Philadelphia, he was already on probation in New Jersey and Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Hearing about his arrest, both jurisdictions issued detainers for him. After dropping the charges, Pennsylvania released Randall into New Jersey’s custody. He remained in custody, first in New Jersey and then in Delaware County, until December 24, 2015. On December 26, 2017, Randall sued the Philadelphia Law Department and the police officers who had arrested him under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed Randall’s claims as time-barred. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting Randall’s “continuing-violation” argument. Section 1983 borrows the underlying state’s statute of limitations for personal-injury torts. In Pennsylvania, that period is two years. When a Section 1983 claim accrues is a matter of federal law, under which a malicious-prosecution claim accrues when criminal proceedings end in the plaintiff’s favor. For Randall, that happened in August 2015, so he had until August 2017 to file his suit unless something tolled the statute of limitations. The continuing-violation doctrine focuses on continuing acts, not continuing injury. No Philadelphia defendant detained Randall beyond August 2015. View "Randall v. Philadelphia Law Department" on Justia Law

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Appellee Juan Martinez, Jr. was indicted for intoxication manslaughter. He moved to suppress evidence, challenging the State’s seizure and search of vials of his blood which were previously drawn at a hospital for medical purposes. The trial court granted the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that because, under the facts of this case, Appellee had a privacy interest in the private facts contained in his blood and because the State’s acquisition and subsequent testing of the blood went beyond the scope of the hospital’s blood draw, Appellee’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was violated, and the trial court correctly granted his motion to suppress. View "Texas v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought class action claims against Google, claiming violations of the Stored Communications Act; they alleged that when an Internet user conducted a Google search and clicked on a hyperlink listed on the search results, Google transmitted information (referrer header) including the terms of the search to the server that hosted the selected webpage. The Act prohibits “a person or entity providing an electronic communication service to the public” from “knowingly divulg[ing] to any person or entity the contents of a communication while in electronic storage by that service” and creates a private right of action. The district court denied a motion to dismiss, citing a Ninth Circuit holding (Edwards) that an Article III injury exists whenever a statute gives an individual a statutory cause of action and the plaintiff claims that the defendant violated the statute. The parties negotiated a classwide settlement that allowed the continued transmission of referrer headers but required Google to include disclosures on three of its webpages and to pay $8.5 million. None of those funds would be distributed to absent class members; most of the money would be distributed to cy pres recipients. In a class action, cy pres refers to distributing settlement funds not amenable to individual claims or meaningful pro rata distribution to nonprofit organizations whose work indirectly benefits class members. The balance would be used for administrative costs, given to the named plaintiffs, and awarded as attorney’s fees. In the meantime, the Supreme Court (Spokeo) held that “Article III standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation,” rejecting the "Edwards" premise. The Ninth Circuit affirmed approval of the settlement without addressing Spokeo. The Supreme Court vacated. Although the Court granted certiorari to decide whether a class action settlement that provides a cy pres award but no direct relief to class members is “fair, reasonable, and adequate,” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 23(e)(2), the Court concluded that there is a substantial open question about whether any named plaintiff had standing. A court cannot approve a proposed class settlement if it lacks jurisdiction over the dispute, and federal courts lack jurisdiction if no named plaintiff has standing. When the district court ruled on the motion to dismiss, it relied on precedent that was subsequently abrogated in Spokeo. View "Frank v. Gaos" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint, alleging malicious prosecution based on defendants falsely charging him with violating a condition of his probation. The court held that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity, because it was objectively reasonable for them to believe that there was probable cause that plaintiff violated his condition of his probation. In this case, defendants' determination that plaintiff's interaction with a law enforcement officer was reportable, such that his failure to report violated a condition of his probation, was objectively reasonable, not having been clearly established as incorrect in state law by the identification of a stricter questioning requirement. The court refrained from deciding whether plaintiff failed to overcome a presumption of probable cause that arose from the facts underlying his subsequently vacated conviction. View "Dettelis v. Sharbaugh" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the university and others, alleging in part that defendants violated his procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment when they placed him on involuntary leave and later terminated his employment. The Second Circuit held that the district court erred in denying summary judgment to the then-President of the University, John Schwaller, on the ground of qualified immunity. The court held that failure to comply with a state procedural requirement—such as the New York Civil Service Law—does not necessarily defeat a claim for qualified immunity under federal law. Because the district court based its holding almost exclusively on Schwaller's failure to comply with the New York State Civil Service Law, it legally erred by not accessing whether his conduct violated the procedural guarantees of the federal Due Process Clause. The court held that plaintiff's placement on involuntary leave was not a deprivation of a property interest sufficient to trigger due process requirements. Therefore, Schwaller's conduct did not violate clearly established federal law and he was entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded with instructions to dismiss the due process claim against Schwaller. View "Tooly v. Schwaller" on Justia Law

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Wanjiku pled guilty to transportation of child pornography, 18 U.S.C. 2252A, retaining his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress photographs and videos recovered from his cell phone, laptop, and external hard drive during a warrantless border search at O’Hare International Airport. Wanjiku was caught up in a law enforcement investigation targeting men with prior criminal histories, traveling alone, and returning from countries known for “sex tourism” and sex trafficking. Wanjiku met the criteria and was chosen for a search before his plane landed; he was evasive and nervous during primary questioning. While searching his luggage, agents found syringes, condoms, medication for treating low testosterone, and oxycodone. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction. The agents acted in good faith when they searched the devices with reasonable suspicion to believe that a crime was being committed, at a time when no court had ever required more than reasonable suspicion for any search at the border. That reasonable suspicion is measured at the time of the search. Although the Supreme Court has recently granted heightened protection to cell phone data, its holdings have not addressed searches at the border where the government’s interests are at their zenith nor have they addressed data stored on other electronic devices. View "United States v. Wanjiku" on Justia Law