Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
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The First Circuit affirmed the convictions received by Defendants, three former employees of the New England Compounding Center (NECC), for a number of federal offenses related to aspects of NECC's operation that were identified in the course of a federal criminal investigation into NECC's medication, holding that there was no prejudicial error.In 2012, patients across the country began falling ill after having been injected with a contaminated medication compounded by NECC. After many of these patients died, a federal criminal investigation ensued. A jury found Stepanets, Svirskiy, and Leary each guilty of committing multiple federal crimes. The First Circuit affirmed Defendants' convictions and Stepanets' sentence, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions; (2) it was not clear or obvious error under the Eighth Amendment for the district court to impose the sentence that Stepanets received; (3) Svirskiy's challenges to his convictions were without merit; and (4) Leary's arguments on appeal were unavailing. View "United States v. Stepanets" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction in the United States District Court for the District of Maine for possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a hearing under Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978).After he was charged, Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence discovered during a search of his home due to what he claimed were false statements and omissions in the affidavit supporting the application for the search warrant. The district court denied the suppression motion, including Defendant's request for an evidentiary hearing. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's Franks motion. View "United States v. Alexandre" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, the City of Framingham and Brian Simoneau, in this lawsuit raising Massachusetts Whistleblower Act claims and speech retaliation claims under Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), holding that the district court did not err.Vincent Stuart, a former Framingham police officer, brought this action alleging that the termination of his employment was in retaliation for his speech. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants on both the First Amendment speech-retaliation and the Massachusetts Whistleblower Act claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that there was not a triable question that Stuart's complaint was a substantial or motivating factor in his suspension and termination. View "Stuart v. City of Framingham, Massachusetts" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of unlawful possession of a firearm, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.Law enforcement officers stopped Defendant as he drove by in a vehicle that the officers believed matched the description of a vehicle that had just been involved in a shooting. The officers arrested Defendant and then deployed a firearm-detecting dog to inspect the outside of the vehicle. The dog sniff results where then used to obtain a search warrant for the vehicle. Based on the results of the search, Defendant was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err by denying Defendant's motion to suppress; and (2) Defendant was not entitled to a new trial due to certain evidentiary rulings because there was no error, either individually or cumulatively. View "United States v. Centeno-Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the decision of the district court granting Defendant's motion to suppress the evidence discovered during an inventory search of a vehicle that a Massachusetts State Police trooper stopped on a highway, holding that the trooper had reasonable suspicion to make the stop.In his motion to suppress, Defendant argued that the warrantless search of his vehicle violated the Fourth Amendment. In response, the government argued that the inventory search fell within the community caretaking function. The district court disagreed, holding that there was no non-investigatory reason to conduct the inventory search. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the district court erred in granting Defendant's motion to suppress. View "United States v. Rivera" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court revoking Defendant's supervised release and sentencing him to six months of imprisonment and an additional eight years of supervised release, holding that Defendant's constitutional rights were not violated.On appeal, Defendant argued that the revocation of his release violated his privilege against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment and that his suspension from treatment violated his Fifth Amendment due process right. The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) a court in this circuit can impose mandatory periodic polygraph examinations in connection with sex offender treatment programs as a condition of supervised release, where the condition prohibits basing revocation in any way on the defendant's assertion of his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination; (2) in this case, no penalty was attached to Defendant's potential invocation of the Fifth Amendment privilege, and therefore, his privilege was not violated; and (3) Defendant's suspension from sex offender treatment did not violate his Fifth Amendment right to due process. View "United States v. Rogers" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that the police officers had reasonable suspicion to approach the vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger and direct its occupants to exit.Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence of cash and drugs that were recovered from him and the other occupant of the car after officers instigated an investigatory motor vehicle stop. The district court denied the motion, holding that reasonable suspicion existed to support the traffic stop. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the police officers had reasonable suspicion that the vehicle's occupants were involved in illegal drug activity, and therefore, the officers' decision to approach the car and search Defendant did not violate the Fourth Amendment. View "United States v. Tom" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction and sentence imposed after he pled guilty to six counts stemming from a robbery of a federal confidential informant during a guns-for-cash deal, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error.Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) Defendant's challenge based on Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019), to his conviction for possession of a firearm by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g), was without merit; (2) Defendant's challenge to the plea colloquy failed; (3) Defendant's challenge based upon United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019), to the acceptance of his plea to aiding and abetting the use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2, 924(c), failed on plain error review; (4) the prosecutor did not breach plea agreement; and (5) Defendant's sentence of 198 months' imprisonment was neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Farmer" on Justia Law

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In this civil action brought by plaintiffs seeking to enjoin policies governing searches of electronic devices at the United States' borders, the First Circuit found no violations of either the Fourth Amendment or the First Amendment.The border search policies challenged her allow border agents to perform basic searches of electronic devices without reasonable suspicion and advanced searches with reasonable suspicion. The First Circuit joined the Eleventh Circuit in holding that advanced searches of electronic devices at the border do not require a warrant or probable cause and joined the Ninth and Eleventh Circuits in holding that basic border searches of electronic devices are routine searches that may be performed without reasonable suspicion. The Court then affirmed in part, reversed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the district court, holding that the court erred in narrowing the scope of permissible searches of electronic devices at the border. View "Alasaad v. Wolf" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of committing, or aiding and abetting others in committing, the crimes of RICO conspiracy, drug conspiracy, and other crimes, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error.After Defendant was originally convicted the First Circuit vacated the convictions, concluding that the police lacked probable cause to search Defendant's house, and therefore, the seized evidence should have been suppressed. On remand, a jury again convicted Defendant of the relevant charges. Defendant appealed, claiming trial error and sentencing issues. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's claims of trial error were without merit; (2) there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions; (3) the trial court did not err in instructing the jury; (4) there was no abuse of discretion in the denial of Defendant's motion for a new trial; and (5) Defendant's sentence was not procedurally unreasonable. View "United States v. Cruz-Ramos" on Justia Law