Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion for relief from his first-degree murder conviction, holding that there was no merit to any of Appellant's claims on appeal.In his section 2255 petition, Appellant claimed that he was deprived of the effective assistance of trial counsel (IAC). The Sixth Circuit granted a certificate of appealability on Appellant's IAC claim concerning an alleged conflict of interest, a Brady claim, an IAC claim regarding the investigation at the guilt stage, and a final IAC claim regarding the presentation of mitigation evidence at the penalty phase. The district court denied the petition. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief on any of his claims of error. View "Gabrion, II v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part and vacated in part the district court's denial of Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that, in Tennessee, ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel can establish cause to excuse a defendant's procedural default of a substantive claim of ineffective assistance at the motion-for-a-new-trial stage of the proceedings.Appellant was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder, aggravated kidnapping, rape of a child, and criminal impersonation. The jury sentenced Appellant to death. The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed. Appellant later filed a habeas petition, which the district court denied. The Sixth Circuit (1) affirmed the district court with respect to the guilt phase of Defendant's trial; (2) held that Appellant's counsel rendered ineffective assistance at the sentencing phase, requiring remand with instructions to grant habeas on this claim as to the penalty phase; and (3) vacated the district court's findings that Appellant failed to overcome his procedural default on certain claims; and (4) reversed the court's finding that the Martinez-Trevino exception to procedural default cannot excuse a procedural default when the underlying ineffective assistance occurred in a motion for a new trial. View "Rogers v. Mays" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the City of Powell, Ohio and dismissing Golf Village North LLC's claims brought under 28 U.S.C. 1983 for violating its procedural and substantive due process rights, holding that there was no error.Golf Village, a developer, sought to build a "residential hotel" on its property in Powell, Ohio but never filed the required zoning application. Instead, Golf Village requested that the City confirm the residential hotel was a permitted use of the property. The City directed Golf Village to file an appropriate application for "zoning Certificate approval" to receive an answer. Rather than reply, Golf Village sued the City. The district court granted summary judgment for the City. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that Golf Village's procedural due process and substantive due process rights were not violated in this case. View "Golf Village North, LLC v. City of Powell, Ohio" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court denying the motion filed by Protect the Peninsula, Inc. to intervene as a matter of right in an action brought by a group of wineries and an association representing their interests (collectively, the Wineries) against a Michigan municipality over several zoning ordinances that regulate vineyards, holding that the district court erred.Protect the Peninsula, Inc., a local advocacy group, moved to intervene in this action brought against Peninsula Township challenging the zoning ordinances regulating the vineyards' activities as unconstitutional and in violation of state laws. Protect the Peninsula moved to intervene under Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2), but the district court denied the motion. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that Protect the Peninsula satisfied each of Rule 24(a)(2)'s requirements. View "Wineries of the Old Mission Peninsula Ass'n v. Township of Peninsula, Michigan" on Justia Law

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Jarvela drank several rum-and-cokes, then drove his Silverado to a Shell station to buy cigarettes. Afterward, the store clerk called the police to report that “a drunk guy" had just left driving a black Silverado. In a nearby police cruiser, Officer Trevino spotted the Silverado, speeding and drifting over the road’s center line. Trevino activated his lights and pursued the truck. Jarvela led Trevino on an extended chase. After about five minutes, the road turned to gravel and the Silverado struck a tree. Jarvela fled on foot into a darkened wooded area. Trevino called for backup. Deputy Houk and his service dog, Argo, arrived and began searching with Argo leashed. After about five minutes, Argo found clothing. Moments later Jarvela was visible in the weeds, wrestling with Argo, who was clinging to Jarvela’s arm. Jarvela tried to injure Argo. Houk delivered seven blows to Jarvela's back, yelling “Let go of the fucking dog.” Trevino shot his taser at Jarvela, who rolled onto his back. Trevino again deployed his taser.In Jarvela’s excessive force suit, 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Sixth Circuit held that Houk had no constitutional duty to shout out a warning to Jarvela before searching for him with the dog and was entitled to summary judgment. View "Jarvela v. Houk" on Justia Law

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After a decade in state prison for gross sexual imposition and kidnapping, Sharp was released on parole with conditions that required him to refrain from unsupervised contact with minors; obtain his parole officer’s approval of any adult who might supervise his contact with minors; and submit to “warrantless search[es]” of his person and property “at any time.” Under Ohio law, a parole officer may search a parolee without a warrant if he has “reasonable grounds” to suspect that the parolee has violated the law or a parole condition. During his parole, a woman told police that, 10 days earlier, Sharp had sexually assaulted her at his house while her children slept nearby and that Sharp had been assisting her children with transportation. Sharp’s parole officer concluded that Sharp had violated his parole. Nearly three weeks after the alleged assault, officers arrested Sharp, transported Sharp to his home, then conducted a warrantless search and found a loaded firearm.Sharp was charged with possessing a firearm as a felon. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion to suppress the gun. Under the special-needs framework, a parolee search is reasonable under the totality of the circumstances if it was supported by reasonable suspicion. Bailey reasonably suspected that he would find evidence of a parole violation at Sharp’s home. A parolee’s search conditions factor into the reasonableness balance. View "United States v. Sharp" on Justia Law

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Myers, a Centerville Police Department detective sergeant, Myers reported to then-Lieutenant Brown and then-Police Chief Robertson, that Lieutenant Lavigne possessed and “possibl[y] disseminat[ed]” sexually explicit photos of minors that he obtained while investigating a “sexting" complaint at Centerville High School. Myers continued to pursue that allegation to no avail. Three years later, Myers sought whistleblower protection and met with City Manager Davis to report new allegations against Robertson, and to repeat the allegation against Lavigne, then met with an outside attorney appointed by Davis. After learning of the investigation, Robertson retired. Myers was interviewed but not hired for the vacant chief post, which went to Brown; the hiring panel included Lavigne. Myers was also passed over for two lieutenant positions. He was admitted to the FBI National Academy but Quantico rescinded that offer after its background investigator spoke to Lavigne. Myers was disciplined for writing a “character letter” for another city employee; the letter was critical of the city. He was later terminated for recording a meeting.Myers sued. alleging First Amendment retaliation under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion claiming qualified immunity. The district court erred by failing to meaningfully analyze the assertions of immunity by Brown and Davis at the pleadings stage, but Myers plausibly alleged First Amendment retaliation, and the defendants are not yet entitled to qualified or statutory immunity. View "Myers v. City of Centerville, Ohio" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, operators of bowling alleys and roller-skating rinks in Michigan, sued Michigan Governor Whitmer, former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Gordon, and the Department alleging that various orders limiting the use of Plaintiffs’ properties early in the COVID-19 pandemic constituted an unconstitutional taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article X of the Michigan Constitution.The district court found that the defendants were entitled to immunity under the Eleventh Amendment and dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause does not abrogate sovereign immunity. To accept Plaintiffs’ argument that states waived their sovereign immunity in suits that invoke a right incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment would destroy the protection the Eleventh Amendment was specifically ratified to provide; future plaintiffs could claim any right incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment is no longer subject to Eleventh Amendment immunity. Because Plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages, the ultra vires theory of skirting Eleventh Amendment immunity is inapplicable. View "Skatemore, Inc. v. Whitmer" on Justia Law

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The University of Kentucky investigated two dentistry professors for entering false data about whether they, or their students, had performed services for patients at a university clinic and who should be paid for those services. The professors had earned more for treating patients than they earned in salary; they had circumvented the University’s system for determining who performed services. While the investigation proceeded, the professors were barred from seeing patients in the clinic but performed their other duties. After the investigation, both professors left the University. The professors sued, alleging violations of their due process rights and retaliation in violation of the First Amendment.The Sixth Circuit reversed the denial of summary judgment to the administrators on the due process claims involving the suspension of their clinical duties and one claim of constructive discharge. Because the administrators did not violate clearly established law, qualified immunity protects them. Even if the professors had a property interest in their clinical duties, the administrators did not violate any clearly established due process right when they suspended them from working in the clinic and allowed them to continue working in other roles. The court affirmed summary judgment for the administrators on a due process claim involving the early end to one professor’s appointment and on the professors’ First Amendment retaliation claims. View "Cunningham v. Blackwell" on Justia Law

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To dispute a property tax assessment under Detroit ordinances and Michigan state law, taxpayers “make complaint on or before February 15th" before the Board of Assessors. Any person who has complained to the Board of Assessors may appeal to the Board of Review. For the Michigan Tax Tribunal to have jurisdiction over an assessment dispute, “the assessment must be protested before the board of review.” On February 14, 2017, Detroit mailed tax assessment notices to Detroit homeowners, including an “EXTENDED ASSESSORS REVIEW SCHEDULE” that would conclude on February 18, just four days later. At a City Council meeting on February 14, the city announced: “The Assessors Review process will end this year February the 28th.” News outlets reported the extension and that Detroit had waived the requirement of appearance before the Board of Assessors so residents could appeal directly to the Board of Review. Detroit did not distribute individualized mailings to so inform homeowners.Plaintiffs filed a class action, alleging violations of their due process rights; asserting that Michigan’s State Tax Commission assumed control of Detroit’s flawed property tax assessment process from 2014-2017 so that its officials were equally responsible for the violations; and claiming that Wayne County is “complicit” and has been unjustly enriched. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, citing the Tax Injunction Act and the principle of comity. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that a state remedy is uncertain. View "Howard v. City of Detroit" on Justia Law