Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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Hill’s death penalty sentence was imposed in 1986. Hill brought a habeas petition, arguing that he may not be executed because he is “intellectually disabled,” as defined in subsequent Supreme Court cases. In 2002 the Sixth Circuit remanded for consideration of the Supreme Court’s opinions on the subject. The Sixth Circuit subsequently concluded that the Ohio courts unreasonably applied the Supreme Court’s three-part standard, which requires three separate findings for a diagnosis of intellectual disability: the individual exhibits significant deficits in intellectual functioning—indicated by an IQ score “approximately two standard deviations or more below the mean,” roughly 70; the individual exhibits significant adaptive skill deficits—such as “the inability to learn basic skills and adjust behavior to changing circumstances” in specified skill sets; and the deficits arose while the individual was still a minor. Hill’s IQ ranges from 48 to 71; his disability was documented before he reached age 18. Ohio courts gave undue weight to Hill’s behavior in prison. Hill was universally considered to be intellectually disabled by teachers, administrators, and the juvenile court system. Hill consistently performed very poorly in school; there was consistent documentation that he had trouble maintaining proper hygiene despite reminders; he had trouble making friends and responding appropriately to authority figures; he was described as vulnerable to exploitation. View "Hill v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Caudill and Goforth broke into White’s home and beat her to death with a hammer when she refused to give them money to buy drugs. After ransacking her home, they loaded her body in the trunk of her car, drove to an empty field, doused the car with gasoline, and set it on fire. A Kentucky jury convicted the two of murder, robbery, burglary, arson, and tampering with evidence. The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed Caudill’s convictions and death sentence and denied collateral relief. The district court denied Caudill’s federal habeas petition. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding that the state courts reasonably rejected her Batson claim and that her lawyers did not provide ineffective assistance by choosing not to call additional witnesses during the penalty phase. Caudill’s claim made too much of Batson’s “sensitive” inquiry language. The Supreme Court has never directed courts to make detailed findings or to solicit the defense attorney’s views before ruling on a Batson motion. Caudill’s jury selection lasted several days. The judge was there the entire time. He observed the demeanor of the jurors and heard their answers. He listened to the prosecutor’s questions, watched the strikes, and considered the prosecutor’s race-neutral explanations. The state judge could have explained more fully why those explanations convinced him that no discrimination was involved but the ruling did not violate clearly established law. View "Caudill v. Conover" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion brought by Ohio death-row inmates to enjoin their pending executions. The inmates claimed that Ohio’s midazolam-based, three-drug execution protocol presents a constitutionally unacceptable risk of pain and suffering. The court found that they had not established “likelihood of success on the merits.” The plaintiffs have “fallen well short” of proving a risk that Ohio’s execution protocol is sure or very likely to cause serious pain and needless suffering. Psychological pain or mental suffering cannot, alone, make a method of execution unconstitutional; Ohio is not required to prove midazolam’s effectiveness in rendering an inmate impervious to the pain from the two injections that follow. Nor did the inmates identify an available, feasible, and readily implemented alternative that will significantly reduce the risk of pain. View "In re: Ohio Execution Protocol Litig." on Justia Law

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Superior, a nonprofit corporation, operates 21 Michigan radio broadcast stations. The City of Riverview owns a 320-foot broadcast tower. With an FCC permit to operate a low-powered FM radio broadcast station, Superior contracted to operate broadcasting equipment on the city-owned tower. Superior installed a single-bay antenna at 300 feet and a transmitter in the equipment shelter. The agreement limited modifications to Superior’s equipment; upgrades required the city’s prior approval. Without the city’s knowledge, Superior obtained a modification of its FCC permit to allow a significant increase in broadcast power. In response to Superior’s request, the city engaged a consultant, who reported that the proposed four-bay antenna would cause Superior’s equipment to occupy 30 feet of tower space instead of its current three feet of space; would expose individuals around the tower to unsafe levels of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation; and might create radio interference with other tower tenants. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the city, rejecting arguments under the Telecommunications Act, 47 U.S.C. 151. The Agreement unambiguously granted the city the right to refuse Superior’s requested upgrade, which the city properly exercised. The city did not enact a “regulation” within the meaning of the Act but acted in its proprietary capacity and had a rational basis for its actions, so that Superior’s constitutional claims failed. View "Superior Communications v. City of Riverview" on Justia Law

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Black was convicted of conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 846, and escape or attempted escape from custody, 18 U.S.C. 751(a). He was sentenced to an effective term of life in prison. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Black unsuccessfully sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255. Black then moved for relief under FRCP 60(b). The district court determined that his grounds for relief were second or successive claims under section 2255 and transferred them to the Sixth Circuit, which denied relief. The transferred grounds raise successive claims. Black’s arguments that the district court “applied the wrong standard” to his arguments about counsel’s conflicts of interest and ineffective assistance are "prototypical attacks" on the court's previous resolution. His claim that the Assistant U.S. Attorney “perpetrated fraud on the Court” does not question “the integrity of the federal habeas proceedings.” Black did not argue that the allegedly fraudulent conduct at trial s tainted the assessment of his habeas petition. Because Black presented these claims in a prior application, they “shall be dismissed,” 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(1). Black did not cite “a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court” or “newly discovered evidence” that would establish that “no reasonable factfinder would have found [him] guilty.” View "In re: Black" on Justia Law

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In 1988, an ALJ awarded Smith supplemental security income (SSI). Smith received benefits until 2004 when he was found to be over the resource limit. Smith filed another SSI application in 2012, alleging additional medical conditions. The application was denied on March 26, 2014. Smith claims that he mailed a request for review on April 24, 2014. On September 21, Smith faxed a correspondence to the Social Security Administration, inquiring about the status of his appeal, with a copy of his request, dated April 24, 2014. A representative informed Smith that his request was not in the “electronic folder,” that if the Council had received the request, it would have mailed a receipt, and that his appeals request was filed as of October 1, 2014. The Council dismissed the request as untimely, finding no good cause to extend the deadline because Smith could not provide evidence that it was sent within the appropriate time. The district court determined that there was no judicial review available because the dismissal did not constitute a final decision and Smith made no colorable constitutional claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that Smith suffered due process violations because his request was timely submitted, different ALJs presided over his hearing and signed his decision, and the ALJ referenced the 1988 decision but failed to attach a copy as an exhibit. View "Smith v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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A jeweler and a coin dealer brought facial and as-applied Fourth Amendment challenges to warrantless search provisions in Ohio’s Precious Metals Dealers Act (PMDA). Section 4728.05(A) allows the state to “investigate the business” of licensees and non-licensees with “free access to the books and papers thereof and other sources of information with regard to the[ir] business[es].” Section 4728.06 requires licensees to maintain records, at the licensed premises in a state-approve form, open to inspection by the head of the local police department and, “upon demand,” to show authorities any precious metal within their possession that is listed in these records. Section 4728.07 requires licensees to keep separate records, available to local police “every business day.” Ohio Administrative Code 1301:8-6-03(D), allows the state to inspect “at all times” all sources of information "with regard to the business of the licensee” and requires that licensees maintain their records and inventory at the licensed location. The Sixth Circuit held that the warrantless searches authorized by O.R.C. 4728.05(A) are facially unconstitutional, as not necessary to furthering the state’s interest in recovering stolen jewelry and coins; nor do they serve as adequate warrant substitutes because they are overly broad. The Sixth Circuit upheld sections 4728.06 and 4728.07 as facially constitutional. The state has a substantial interest in regulating precious metals; the provisions are narrowly tailored to address the state’s proffered need to curb the market in stolen precious metals. The court dismissed as-applied challenges to sections 4728.06 and 4728.07 as not ripe. View "Liberty Coins, LLC v. Goodman" on Justia Law

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Lee pleaded guilty to three crimes in Tennessee state court, served his sentences, and was released from state custody in 1998. While serving time in federal prison for a subsequent crime, 20 years later, Lee sought permission to file a second 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition attacking his state convictions. The Sixth Circuit denied his motions. Federal courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction over Lee’s petition regardless of whether he can meet sections 2244(b)’s requirements. Section 2254(a), authorizing district courts to entertain state prisoners’ habeas petitions expressly limits their jurisdiction to petitions filed by persons “in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court.” Lee is no longer in custody, nor on supervised release, pursuant to the state judgment he seeks to attack. That Lee’s state convictions resulted in an enhanced federal sentence does not affect that analysis. View "In re: Lee" on Justia Law

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Peffer, a caregiver, grew marijuana for medical-marijuana patients and sold the excess to Beemer’s Medical Marijuana Dispensary. Beemer became a confidential informant. Driving to meet Beemer, Peffer was stopped by Officer Coon, who found marijuana in Peffer’s vehicle. Peffer was arrested. Months later, Child Services and the School District received letters, purportedly from Coon, expressing concern for Beemer’s children. Coon thought Peffer was responsible. Investigating officers had other suspects. Later, Trooper Glentz, investigating the letters, received what appeared to be marijuana seeds in mailed packages. Fliers identifying Beemer as a confidential informant, with an ostensibly official list of charges against Beemer, were mailed to businesses. Various factors pointed to Peffer. Sergeant Stephens obtained a warrant for the Peffer house, authorizing the search of electronic devices, electronic communications, and mailing items. Stephens asserted that the house “may contain evidence of the crime of Impersonating a Police Officer and Witness Intimidation.” After investigation of items seized in the search, prosecutors declined to pursue charges against Peffer. Peffer sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Stephens. The warrant was supported by probable cause. That the affidavit did not allege that Peffer owned a computer or that he kept one at his residence is immaterial because the averment that he used one in the commission of a crime created the presumption that it would be found at his residence. Stephens was entitled to qualified immunity. Even if sending the letters were not criminal under Michigan law, the law on this point was not clearly established. View "Peffer v. Stephens" on Justia Law

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Herald-Leader sells and distributes Community News, a weekly four- to six-page non-subscription publication, containing local news and advertising for Lexington, Kentucky and the surrounding area. Herald-Leader delivers Community News free of charge to more than 100,000 households each week, including by driveway delivery. Lexington adopted an ordinance that permits the delivery of “unsolicited written materials” only: to a porch, nearest the front door; securely attached to the front door; through a mail slot; between an exterior front door and an interior front door; in a distribution box on or adjacent to the premises, if permitted; or personally with the owner, occupant, or lessee. Before the law went into effect, Herald-Leader obtained a preliminary injunction to prevent its enforcement. The Sixth Circuit reversed and vacated the injunction, finding that Herald-Leader had not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its First Amendment claim. The ordinance is narrowly tailored to further the city’s goals of reducing visual blight and reducing litter. The court rejected an overbreadth argument and stated that, in determining whether the law leaves adequate alternative methods of communication, the district court failed to balance expense against the harms that can arise when cheap and efficient methods of circulating written materials are abused. View "Lexington H-L Services, Inc. v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government" on Justia Law