Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

by
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion to suppress approximately twenty pounds of methamphetamine that a postal inspector delivered in two United States Postal Service Priority Mail Express packages, as well as the fruits of the packages' search, holding that the warrant authorizing one package's search was valid and that the warrantless search of the other package was constitutional. The district court assumed arguendo that Defendant held a reasonable expectation of privacy in the searched packages then concluded that neither search was unconstitutional. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the warrant authorizing the search of one package was not facially invalid despite the government's attachment of the incorrect attachment because the error was a mere technical error and the package was described with sufficient particularity and there was no reasonable probability of another package being searched; and (2) the warrantless search of the second package was justified by both the private search doctrine and the consent of the package's addressee. View "United States v. Moss" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint in part and otherwise vacated the judgment, holding that the University of Massachusetts at Amherst violated Plaintiff's federal constitutional right to due process in suspending him for five months without prior notice or a fair hearing but did not violate his rights in expelling him after providing a fair expulsion hearing. After the university suspended and then expelled Plaintiff, Plaintiff brought this action seeking compensatory damages, declaratory relief, and an injunction preventing the university from enforcing the expulsion. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims challenging the adequacy of his expulsion hearing, Plaintiff's section 1983 claims for money damages against the university officials acting in their official capacities, and Plaintiff's Title IX claim; but (2) vacated for the entry of nominal monetary damages the dismissal of Plaintiff's section 1983 claims challenging the constitutionality of the manner in which the university suspended Plaintiff without prior notice or an adequate hearing. The Court then remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Haidak v. University of Massachusetts-Amherst" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendants' convictions of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; aiding and abetting violent crimes in aid of racketeering, namely murder or attempted murder under Puerto Rico law; conspiring to engage in drug trafficking; and other offenses, holding that Defendant's challenges to their convictions were unavailing. The three defendants in this case were members of a vicious Puerto Rican gang called La ONU. Defendants appealed their convictions, bringing a variety of claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in denying a motion to suppress a cache of guns and drugs seized during a warrantless search of a house; (2) the judge did not err in finding that no courtroom closure occurred during the proceedings; (3) the judge did not err in denying Defendants' motion for a mistrial; and (4) the remainder of Defendants' arguments on appeal did not entitle them to reversal of their convictions. View "United States v. Lanza-Vazquez" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court's partial denial of Defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized from Defendant's home on the day of his arrest on drug and money laundering charges, holding that the district court properly determined that certain items were lawfully seized but that it could not be determined on the record that other items were lawfully seized. The district court concluded that federal law enforcement agents validly relied on exceptions to the warrant requirement when they searched Defendant's home, a cargo van inside Defendant's garage, and a minivan parked in Defendant's driveway. The First Circuit held (1) the district court correctly determined that certain items were lawfully seized from the first floor; (2) it could not be determined whether items on the second floor and in the cargo van were lawfully seized, and therefore, remand was required for further findings concerning the duration and scope of the purported protective sweep; (3) remand was required for reconsideration of the issue of application of the automobile exception to the cargo van based on the court's conclusions regarding the sweep; and (4) as to items seized from the minivan, remand was necessary for a determination whether the minivan was within the curtilage of Defendant's home. View "United States v. Hernandez-Mieses" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, the Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts and the Town's chief of police, and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint filed under 42 U.S.C. 1983, holding that Plaintiff could not reasonably have expected privacy in his phone service provider's cell and home phone records. In 2015, the chief of police opened an internal investigation concerning Plaintiff, a police officer with the Town. In 2017, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint alleging that Defendants compelled Plaintiff to turn over his phone records in connection with the investigation and that this constituted an illegal warrantless search in violation of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that a phone subscriber has no reasonable expectation of privacy in the phone service provider's records of the numbers that the subscriber has dialed and from which the subscriber as received calls, and Defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the records simply because he asked for a copy of the records at issue. View "Johnson v. Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Harold Shurtleff's request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the City of Boston from denying him a permit to temporarily raise a "Christian flag" on a government-owned flagpole in front of its City Hall, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Shurtleff's request for a preliminary injunction. Shurtleff, in his role as director of Camp Constitution, a volunteer organization, organized an event to be held at the plaza in front of City Hall to celebrate the Christian community's contributions to the City and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Shurtleff sought a permit from the City to raise a Christian flag on one of the City Hall Plaza flagpoles during the celebration. The City denied Shurtleff's flag-raising request. Shurtleff and Camp Constitution filed suit raising Establishment Clause, Free Speech and Equal Protection claims and seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the City from denying them a permit to raise the flag. The district court denied the injunction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to establish a likelihood of success on their claims against the City. View "Shurtleff v. City of Boston" on Justia Law

by
In this Title III adversary proceeding the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Ambac Assurance Corporation's constitutional and statutory challenges to measures the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has taken to block payments to holders of Puerto Rico Highways and Transportation Authority (HTA) bonds, holding that the Title III court lacked the authority to grant the declaratory and injunctive relief that Ambac sought. Ambac, a financial guaranty insurer and individual holder of HTA bonds, commenced this adversary action in the so-called Title III court within the context of HTA's debt-adjustment proceedings pursuant to the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act. Ambac brought Contracts Clause, Takings Clause, Due Process Clause, preemption, and statutory challenges to the Commonwealth's actions and sought a negative injunction preventing the Commonwealth from continuing to impair the flow of HTA revenues to bondholders. The Title III court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the Title III court was barred from granting Ambac declaratory or injunctive relief in this case. View "Ambac Assurance Corp. v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" on Justia Law

by
After a divided panel of the First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Mark Eves's equitable claims against Paul LePage and dismissed his 42 U.S.C. 1983 damages claims on the basis of qualified immunity, the First Circuit granted Eves's petition for rehearing en banc and held that LePage was entitled to qualified immunity. In 2016, the panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the First Amendment retaliation suit brought by Eves, then-speaker of Maine's House of Representatives, against LePage, then-Governor of Maine, in which Eves alleged that LePage leveraged discretionary state funding in a yet unpasted state budget to coerce an organization to terminate Eves's upcoming employment as its president. In his en banc petition, Eves pursued only his damages claim against LePage for alleged political affiliation discrimination. The First Circuit en banc court held that, under the facts of this case, LePage was entitled to qualified immunity because a reasonable governor in the position of LePage could have believed Eves's position as the new president of the organization to be a policymaking position for which political affiliation was relevant. The Court then reinstated in part its prior panel opinion and affirmed the dismissal of this action. View "Eves v. LePage" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction based on his guilty plea for production of child pornography, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea. After entering his guilty plea, Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his plea, arguing that his counsel, in advising him with respect to the guilty plea, had provided him with ineffective assistance of counsel by not having moved pursuant to the Fourth Amendment to suppress certain evidence. Acknowledging that Defendant would be entitled to withdraw his guilty plea if his counsel had failed to file a meritorious suppression motion, the district court held a hearing. The court denied Defendant's motion, concluding that Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights had not been violated. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Defendant failed to show that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. View "United States v. Powell" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court for San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz and the municipality of San Juan, Puerto Rico on the Comite Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian, Inc.'s (the Comite) trademark-infringement and First Amendment retaliation, political discrimination, and religious discrimination claims, holding that the district court did not err in entering summary judgment for the government defendants on these claims. The Comite, a non-profit corporation that promotes and helps run the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian festival in San Juan, brought this lawsuit after it received a diminished assigned role as vendor and presenter at the 2015 festival. The district court granted summary judgment for the government defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) this Court had jurisdiction to consider the Comite's appeal; and (2) the district court properly granted summary judgment disposing of the Comite's claims. View "Comite Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian, Inc. v. Cruz" on Justia Law