Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
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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

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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

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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

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of an administrative order of removal, holding that Petitioner's arguments challenges to the removal order were unavailing. Petitioner was an Irish citizen who entered the United States as a child and had been living here for more than seven years when he was apprehended by immigration officials. The government charged him with having been admitted to the United States via the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and having stayed here beyond the ninety-day period permitted by the visa that he secured through the VWP. The government then issued a final order of removal. The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review, holding (1) the government presented sufficient evidence of Petitioner's removability; and (2) Petitioner's procedural due process challenge to the removal order failed. View "O'Riordan v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the district court's denial of prison officials' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's lawsuit alleging the use of excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment, holding that the district court failed to fulfill its obligation to follow the law as set forth in controlling precedent. The prison officials moved for summary judgment arguing that they were entitled to qualified immunity. The district court denied the motion. The record contained two versions of the relevant interaction between Plaintiff and prison officials. Under Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 377 (2007), the district court's job was to decide whether the prison officials' evidence blatantly contradicted Plaintiff's version of events. The district court, however, rejected the teaching of Scott and denied the qualified immunity defense. The First Circuit held that the court's denial of qualified immunity was predicated on its error of law and remand to another district court judge for further proceedings consistent with the law was required. View "Underwood v. Barrett" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of Petitioner's petition for postconviction relief, holding that trial counsel's failure to consult with Petitioner about an appeal deprived Petitioner of an appeal that he otherwise would have taken. This appeal required the First Circuit to apply the presumption of prejudice set forth in Roe v. Flores-Ortega, 528 U.S. 470 (2000), in circumstances in which a defense attorney violates his or her duty to consult with a client about an appeal when the defendant reasonably demonstrated that he or she was interested in appealing or when a rational defendant would want to appeal. In the instant case, Petitioner previously executed a plea agreement containing a waiver-of-appeal provision. Petitioner filed a pro se petition to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2255, claiming that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a notice of appeal. The district court held that Flores-Ortega's presumption of prejudice was inapposite because Petitioner had executed an appeal waiver. The First Circuit reversed, holding that trial counsel did not properly discharge his duty to consult and that counsel's constitutionally deficient performance prejudiced Petitioner by depriving him of an appeal that he otherwise would have taken. View "Rojas-Medina v. United States" on Justia Law

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In this suit brought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts seeking to enjoin the enforcement of two federal Interim Final Rules (IFRs), the First Circuit vacated the district court's determination that Massachusetts lacked standing to challenge the IFRs, holding that the Commonwealth had standing to challenge the rules. The IFRs at issue in this case were promulgated by the United States Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury and permitted employers with religious or moral objections to contraception to obtain exemptions from providing health insurance coverage to employees and their dependents for FDA-approved contraceptive care. The district court determined that the Commonwealth failed to establish standing because it had not set forth specific facts establishing that it would likely suffer future injury from the Departments' conduct. After the Commonwealth filed its appeal, the Departments issued final rules superseding the IFRs. The First Circuit held (1) the Commonwealth's substantive challenges to the federal regulations were not moot, but its procedural challenge to the IFRs was mooted by the promulgation of the final rules; and (2) the Commonwealth had Article III standing to challenge the Departments' actions. View "Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Puerto Rico Ports Authority (the PRPA) on Plaintiffs' suit alleging that the PRPA violated the First Amendmen and Puerto Rico law by terminating Plaintiff's employment, holding that Plaintiffs' claims were barred by res judicata. Daniel Grajales, his wife, their children brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Puerto Rico law against the PRPA alleging that Grajales was transferred to a new job location and subsequently terminated from his employment because of both his political affiliation and his reporting of alleged safety violations by PRPA employees. Just before Grajales filed his federal complaint, the Secretary of Labor and Human Resources of Puerto Rico filed a civil complaint against the PRPA in the Puerto Rico Court of First Instance, which entered judgment for the PRPA. The PRPA moved for summary judgment in the federal case on res judicata grounds in light of the Court of First Instance's ruling. The district court ruled in favor of the PRPA. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly found that the two actions shared a "common nucleus of operative fact"; (2) Grajales's claims were barred by res judicata; and (3) the derivative claims of Grajales's family members necessarily failed. View "Grajales v. Puerto Rico Ports Authority" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this case involving a constitutional challenge to a Massachusetts law proscribing the sale, transfer, and possession of certain semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines (LCMs), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, 121, 131M (the Act), holding that the Act withstands intermediate scrutiny. In their constitutional challenge to the Act, Plaintiffs claimed that they had an "unfettered" Second Amendment right to possess the proscribed LCMs and assault weapons in their homes for purposes of self-defense. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) even if the proscribed weapons have some degree of protection under the Second Amendment, and even if the Act implicates the core Second Amendment right of individuals to bear arms in self-defense, the Act minimally burdens that right; and (2) the Act withstands intermediate scrutiny. View "Worman v. Healey" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for two prison officers on an inmate's claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging violations of his federal constitutional rights, holding that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. In his complaint, the inmate alleged (1) one of the officers pushed him against a pillar, allegedly causing him to hit his head on it, in violation of the Eighth Amendment; and (2) the other officer sprayed pepper spray into his cell, in violation of both the First Amendment and the Eighth Amendment. The district court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that no genuine dispute of material fact existed as to whether the officers violated either the First or the Eighth Amendment. View "Staples v. Gerry" on Justia Law