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 decision of the district court granting Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from his residence, holding that the fruits of the search of the residence were properly suppressed. The district court found that the warrant affidavit, reformed after a hearing under Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), did not establish probable cause to search either Defendant's business or his home. The government appealed, arguing that the district court erred in its probable cause determination as to Defendant's residence. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the reformed affidavit failed to establish probable cause to search Defendant's residence, and therefore, the fruits of the search of the residence were properly suppressed. View "United States v. Roman" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Petitioner's petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus alleging a violation of his right to confrontation and a violation of due process, holding that the district court, given the confines of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. 2254, correctly determined that Petitioner was not entitled to relief. Petitioner appealed his second-degree murder conviction to the Massachusetts Appeals Court (MAC), but the appeal was unavailing. Petitioner later sought a writ of habeas corpus in the federal district court, arguing violations of his right to confrontation, based on the admission of a videotaped deposition testimony premised on an erroneous unavailability determination, and of due process, based on what he characterized as prejudicial misstatements of evidence during closing arguments. The district court dismissed the petition. The First Circuit affirmed based on the strictures of AEDPA, holding (1) the district court correctly concluded that the MAC reasonably determined that the constitutional violation in admitting the deposition testimony was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) the MAC's determination that the prosecutor's misstatements were not prejudicial was not contrary to clearly established federal law, nor did the misstatements violate Petitioner's right to due process. View "Dorisca v. Marchilli" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the forfeiture order entered by the district court in the amount of over $14 million, the sum Defendant obtained from some of his clients through a fraudulent scheme for which he was convicted of nineteen counts of mail and wire fraud, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error. Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to enter the forfeiture order when it did; (2) the sum forfeited was not in error; (3) the forfeiture order did not violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment; and (4) the imposition of the forfeiture order by the district court did not violate his right to a jury trial under the Sixth Amendment. View "United States v. Carpenter" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint seeking to invalidate a Maine statute that governs collective bargaining between the state's university system and its faculty on the ground that the statute violates the First Amendment, holding that the statute is not unconstitutional. Plaintiff, an economics professor at the University of Maine at Machias, brought this action challenging the University of Maine System Labor Relations Act, Me. Stat. tit. 26. 1021-1037. The district court dismissed Plaintiff's suit under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) section 1025(2)(E) is not properly read to designate the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine as Plaintiff's personal representative, as he argued; and (2) the Supreme Court's decision in Minnesota State Board for Community Colleges v. Knight, 465 U.S. 271 (1984), which the Court cited favorably in response to a similar challenge in D'Agostino v. Baker, 812 F.3d 240, disposes of Plaintiff's contention that the distinction between having a union represent a bargaining unit as an entity in collective bargaining and having it represent the employees within the unit individually is immaterial. View "Reisman v. Associated Faculties of the University of Maine" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant for disclosure of social security numbers and aggravated identity theft, holding that the district court did not commit clear or obvious error in refusing to ask prospective jurors about racial bias. On appeal, Defendant argued that there was a reasonable possibility that racial bias might have affected the jury because she requested that the district court ask the prospective jurors as a group a question during voir dire about whether any of them harbored racial bias and the district court denied that request. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendant objection to the district court's failure to ask a question about racial bias during voir dire was at least forfeited; and (2) it was not clear or obvious error for the district court to refuse to ask such a question. View "United States v. Cezaire" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the order of the district court dismissing the indictment against Defendants after a first trial ended in a mistrial, holding that the district court erred in concluding that Defendants were protected from a retrial by double jeopardy principles. Four defendant were charged with multiple counts of wire fraud, honest-services wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit both species of wire fraud. After trial began, one juror was diagnosed with a brain tumor requiring immediately surgery. The government was unwilling to consent to a reduced jury, and the court subsequently declared a mistrial. Defendants moved to preclude retail and to dismiss the indictment under the Double Jeopardy Clause on the ground that the government could not establish manifest necessity for its decision to force the mistrial. The court granted the motion to dismiss the indictment. The First Circuit reversed as to three of the four defendants, holding that the district court's decision to declare a mistrial rested on manifest necessity, and because the mistrial was not the produce of any purposeful instigation or other government misconduct, double jeopardy principles did not prohibit the government from retrying the defendants. View "United States v. Garske" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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