Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting and committing Defendant for one count of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree child abuse, holding that there was no prejudicial error in this case.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the trial justice (1) did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress the statement he made while at the police station after concluding that Defendant was not seized without probable cause prior to giving his statement; (2) did not err in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss all counts of the indictment as unconstitutionally vague; and (3) did not overlook or misconceive material evidence in denying Defendant's motion for new trial. View "State v. Jimenez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated in part the judgment of the superior court reversing the decision of the Board to revoke Plaintiff's pension, ordering the permanent reinstatement of the pension, and declaring the pension revocation ordinance of the Town of Narragansett to be unconstitutionally vague, holding that the Board failed to make findings of fact or conclusions of law to support its decision.Plaintiff was a police officer with the Narragansett Police Department for twenty-eight years prior to his retirement. After Plaintiff pled guilty to transferring obscene matter to a person under the age of sixteen years the Board voted to revoke his pension under the pension revocation ordinance. Plaintiff and his wife sued. The trial justice concluded that the Board had violated Plaintiffs' due process rights in several respects and erred in declaring the pension revocation ordinance to be unconstitutionally vague. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment in part and remanded the case, holding that the trial court failed to make competent factual findings on which to base an as-applied analysis of the constitutionality of the pension revocation ordinance. View "Riley v. Narragansett Pension Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting Defendant's motion to suppress the statements he made to police at the scene of an automobile collision, holding that the superior court did not abuse its discretion in granting the suppression motion.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial justice correctly determined that Defendant was in custody when he made incriminating statements to the law enforcement officer at the scene of the arrest and therefore correctly suppressed the statements Defendant made to the officers at the time; and (2) the state's second contention on appeal was not properly before the Court. View "State v. Corcoran" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss all electronic, wire, or oral communications obtained through the use of wiretaps and any subsequently-obtained evidence in these consolidated cases, holding that the trial justice did not err.In granting Defendants' motion to suppress, the trial justice found that an associate justice of the superior court had no authority to issue the wiretap orders. The State appealed this ruling and argued, alternatively, that the trial justice erred in concluding that suppression of the evidence derived from the wiretap orders was warranted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court correctly concluded that the associate justice was not vested with the statutory authority to administer and sign the wiretap orders and, therefore, that those orders were in violation of R.I. Gen. Laws 12-5.1, the Interception of Wire and Oral Communications Act. View "State v. McGuire" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiffs' claims based on lack of standing, holding that there was no error.In 2019, the General Assembly enacted the Reproductive Privacy Act, R.I. Gen. Laws chapter 4.13 of title 23 (RPA), effectively granting a right to abortion in line with Roe v. Wade. 410 U.S. 113 (1973). Plaintiffs initiated this action seeking to halt the passage of House Bill 5125, Substitute B, which later became the RPA. The trial justice denied relief. Plaintiffs then filed a complaint challenging the General Assembly's authority to enact the RPA. The trial court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring their claims. View "Benson v. McKee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, and other crimes, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on her allegations of error.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial justice erred in denying her motion to suppress the evidence found at her apartment, denying her motion to suppress the evidence found in her vehicle, and violating her right to confront a witness. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no error in the trial justice's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress the evidence obtained in the apartment based on insufficient probable cause; (2) the trial justice did not clearly err in denying Defendant's request for a Franks hearing; (3) the warrantless seizure of Defendant's vehicle did not violate her rights under either the State or Federal Constitution; and (4) Defendant's Confrontation Clause argument was waived. View "State v. Hudgen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of one count of first-degree robbery and other firearm-related offenses, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on cross-racial identification and that he was denied his right to due process when the trial court denied his motion to dismiss the State's habitual offender notice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not err or abuse his discretion in failing to give Defendant's requested instruction regarding cross-racial identifications; and (2) the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss the State's habitual offender notice as untimely under R.I. Gen. Laws 12-19-21. View "State v. Hampton-Boyd" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against Defendants - Brown University and two of its officials - seeking damages and equitable relief arising out of Defendants' response to Plaintiff's sexual assault allegations, holding that the trial court did not err.Plaintiff brought his suit pursuant to the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act, chapter 112 of title 42 of the general laws (RICRA) and article 1, section 2 of the Rhode Island Constitution. The hearing justice granted Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, concluding that issue preclusion foreclosed the claims under RICRA based on a previous decision of the federal courts and that article 1, section 2 did not grant Plaintiff a private right of action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice did not err in dismissing Plaintiff's complaint. View "Doe v. Brown University" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of five counts related to conduct stemming from a drive-by shooting, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) there was no need to reach the merits of Defendant's belatedly raised double jeopardy contention; (2) the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress an eyewitness identification; (3) the trial justice did not err by summarily denying Defendant's motion to recuse; (4) Defendant was not denied his constitutional right to self-representation; and (5) Defendant's remaining arguments were not properly preserved for appellate review. View "State v. Segrain" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the family court convicting Defendant of cruelty to or neglect of a child and sentencing her to a one-year suspended term of imprisonment, with probation, holding that a new trial was required.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial justice erred by proceeding with a bench trial without obtaining a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of Defendant's right to a jury trial and erred in finding habitual neglect in this case. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below, holding that because there was nothing in the record indicating that the trial justice was assured by Defendant that her waiver of a jury trial was made intelligently and with full knowledge of the consequences of her waiver, the case must be remanded for a new trial. View "State v. Michaud" on Justia Law