Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions of drug offenses and failure to appear for arraignment, holding that, contrary to Defendant’s argument on appeal, Defendant’s counsel did not suffer from a conflict of interest arising from violation of attorney-client privilege and a local rule of professional conduct. The Court held that, under the rules set forth in Cuyler v. Sullivan, 446 U.S. 335, 348 (1980), and United States v. Soldevila-Lopez, 17 F.3d 480, 486 (1st Cir. 1994), Defendant failed to show an actual conflict of interest that adversely affected his lawyer’s performance. Further, “any tension in the lawyer’s mind between client loyalty and professional self-preservation” would have been addressed by a stipulation joined by Defendant, and the following colloquy demonstrated that Defendant understood his rights and the consequences of proceeding as he chose to do. View "United States v. Tirado" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment to Defendants - the Town of Abington, Massachusetts and leaders of the Abington Police Department (Department) - on Plaintiff’s federal and state law claims in which he alleged that Defendants retaliated against him while he was an officer in the Department. The Court held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment as to (1) Plaintiff’s claims that he brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for retaliation against him for exercising his First Amendment rights; (2) Plaintiff’s other section 1983 claim that Defendants impermissibly retaliated against him for his protected union activity; and (3) Plaintiff’s pendent Massachusetts law claims. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the Massachusetts Office of Attorney General’s motion to quash a deposition subpoena. View "Delaney v. Town of Abington" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions of arson, wire fraud, and the use of fire in furtherance of a federal felony, holding that any alleged errors during trial were, whether individually or collectively, harmless. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecution violated his Confrontation Clause rights when an investigator testified that the cause of the fire was incendiary, rather than electrical, because the investigator relied on conclusions drawn by Defendant’s insurer’s electrical expert without calling that expert to the stand. Defendant also argued that this was a violation of Fed. R. Evid. 703. The First Circuit held (1) any such violation, if one occurred at all, of Defendant’s Confrontation Clause rights was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) any error under Fed. R. Evid. 703 was harmless. View "United States v. Saad" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court determining that probable cause existed for the arrest of Appellant and refusing to suppress evidence seized during a warrant-back search of Appellant’s hotel room, despite the officers’ earlier unlawful entry into that room. The Court held (1) the district court did not err in determining that Appellant’s de facto arrest comported with the strictures of the Fourth Amendment; and (2) the district court did not err in applying the independent source doctrine to validate the warrant-backed search of Appellant’s hotel room, thus permitting the government to use the evidence obtained as a result of that search, notwithstanding the earlier warrantless entry into that room. View "United States v. Flores" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in all respects Defendant’s conviction of distribution and possession of child pornography and his sentence of seventeen years of imprisonment followed by ten years of supervised release. The Court held (1) Defendant waived his argument that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence seized as a result of a search warrant; (2) the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress (i) statements he made to the police during his arrest because his statements were not the product of an interrogation, (ii) statements he made during a police interview at the station house because Defendant’s Miranda waiver and consent were knowing and intelligent and made voluntarily, and (iii) statements he made during an interview because Defendant did not unambiguously request counsel; (3) the district court did not err in admitting certain evidence under Fed. R. Evid. 414(a); (4) the district court’s decision to give an aiding and abetting instruction was not in error; and (5) Defendant’s sentence was constitutional. View "United States v. Sweeney" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions for conspiring to commit access-device fraud, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress wiretap evidence and that Defendant’s sentence was both procedurally and substantively reasonable. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to suppress court-approved wiretaps, authorized during a separate investigation into a drug trafficking organization, which exposed Defendant’s involvement in a scheme to produce and make purchases with fraudulent credit cards because the affidavits supporting the wiretap applications provided facts that were minimally adequate to support the wiretap authorizations; and (2) Defendant’s sentencing challenges were unavailing. View "United States v. Delima" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions for tampering with a witness by attempting to kill him and making false statements to a federal agent, holding that the trial court did not commit plain error. The Court held (1) the district court did not violate Defendant’s constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury trial when it failed individually to question all prospective jurors about potential racial bias; (2) the government’s fingerprint expert did not make a prejudicial false statement; and (3) the district court did not commit plain error in admitting testimony as to Defendant’s physically abusive treatment of the prostitutes who worked for him. View "United States v. Casanova" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress drug evidence as having resulted from an unlawful search under the Fourth Amendment, holding that the search was constitutional. At issue was whether, after completing a license check that is usual when a car is stopped for a driving offenses, the police had reasonable suspicion that a drug offense was being committed so as to justify a further period of detention while a drug detection dog repeatedly circled Defendant’s car, and whether the added time exceeded the permissible duration for the dog’s investigation. The First Circuit held (1) probable cause justified the search that led to discovery of the drugs; and (2) the approximately three minutes from the beginning of the dog’s reconnaissance to the dog’s response fell within the zone considered reasonable under the Terry rationale. View "United States v. Favreau" on Justia Law

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Amendment 794 to the U.S. Sentencing Commission Guidelines clarifies the Sentencing Commission’s original intent regarding section 3B1.2 of the Sentencing Guidelines and therefore applies retroactively. Defendant pleaded guilty to two cocaine-related charges under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA). On appeal, Defendant challenged the constitutionality of the MDLEA and section 3B1.2 and argued that he should be resentenced under the Sentencing Commission’s amended guidance in Amendment 794. The First Circuit vacated Defendant’s sentence and remanded for resentencing, holding (1) Congress did not exceed its constitutional authority in promulgating the MDLEA; (2) section 3B1.2 is not void for vagueness; but (3) Amendment 794 is clarifying, not substantive, and is therefore retroactively applicable. View "United States v. Sarmiento-Palacios" on Justia Law

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Here, the First Circuit clarified its circuit’s emergency aid doctrine, holding that police officers seeking to justify their warrantless entry into homes need only demonstrate an objectively reasonable basis for believing that a person within the house is in need of immediate aid. See Michigan v. Fisher, 558 U.S. 45, 47 (2009). The court thus modified its previous pronouncements in United States v. Martins, 413 F.3d 139 (1st Cir. 2005), and its progeny, clarifying that police officers need not establish that their belief approximated probable cause that such an emergency existed. In this case, the district court entered judgment for Defendants, police officers and the City of Taunton, concluding that the officers did not commit a Fourth Amendment violation because their conduct fell within the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement. The First Circuit took the opportunity in this case to clarify its emergency aid doctrine to bring its case law in line with Supreme Court precedent. The court then affirmed on the basis that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity and no claim was stated against the City. View "Hill v. Walsh" on Justia Law