Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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State Trooper King saw Lott’s vehicle slow down on I-75 as it came into view; Lott was driving with “arms locked out.” King interpreted that as a sign of nervousness. King followed Lott for three-fourths of a mile in the left lane while vehicles passed on the right, then pulled Lott over. King stated that he was not going to issue a citation but ran Lott’s driver’s license for outstanding warrants and flagged down Trooper Reams, who had a K-9 in tow. Based on Lott’s nervousness and proximity to the roadway, King asked him to step out of the vehicle. King did not check the warrant search. Lott refused King’s request for consent to search his vehicle. King stated that “we’re going to utilize the K-9.” According to King, Lott responded, “I have a little bit of marijuana in the console.” The K-9 alerted after a “free air sniff.” King located marijuana in the console, then searched the vehicle. In the trunk, King found heroin, other drugs, and money. The Troopers estimated that five-10 minutes elapsed between the stop and the K-9 sniff. Lott was charged under 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1). The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of his motion to suppress. The traffic stop was initiated constitutionally and was not impermissibly extended. Lott did not dispute that he was impeding traffic; the marijuana admission occurred within the temporal scope of the tasks incident to the traffic stop. View "United States v. Lott" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s father is a Pakistani citizen, previously a legal permanent resident, who was removed from the United States. Plaintiff sought a declaration that his father’s removal was unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiff and violated international treaties and a declaration that the interview of Plaintiff and his mother during his father’s removal proceeding was unconstitutional because ICE agents made racially discriminatory comments to Plaintiff and his mother. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint, finding that it did not have jurisdiction over claims brought under the international treaties, which are not self-executing. The court also stated that it “is well-settled that lawfully removing a parent from the United States does not deprive a United States citizen child of a constitutional right.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that it had no information about the removal of Plaintiff’s father. Under 8 U.S.C. 1252(b)(9), no federal court has the authority to review” Plaintiff’s father’s order of removal to determine whether Plaintiff’s constitutional rights might render the order of removal invalid; no court would be able to grant the relief that Plaintiff seeks. The court found that it lacked jurisdiction to review a selective enforcement claim brought by Plaintiff on behalf of his father under 8 U.S.C. 1252(g). View "Butt v. Barr" on Justia Law

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A family of two parents and five children alleged that social workers employed by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services violated their Fourth Amendment rights by subjecting the children to warrantless in-school interrogations without reasonable suspicion of child abuse. They also claimed violations of their Fourteenth Amendment rights by requiring adherence to a “Prevention Plan,” which constrained the mother’s ability to be alone with her children for approximately two months without any question as to her parental fitness and without any procedural protections. The Sixth Circuit reversed the denial of qualified immunity on the Fourth Amendment claims. The law governing in-school interviews by social workers was not clearly established at the time of the relevant conduct. The Fourth Amendment does govern a social worker’s in-school interview of a child pursuant to a child abuse investigation; at a minimum, a social worker must have a reasonable suspicion of child abuse before conducting an in-school interview when no other exception to the warrant requirement applies. The court affirmed the denial of qualified immunity on the procedural and substantive due process claims. The complaint alleged that the supervision restrictions were imposed for approximately two months after there was no longer any question as to parental fitness without any procedural protections; they abridged the parents’ clearly established right to the companionship and care of their children without arbitrary government interference. View "Schulkers v. Kammer" on Justia Law

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Craig was involved in a high-speed shootout in the streets of Akron, Ohio and was apprehended wearing a shoulder holster and with gunshot residue on his hands. His DNA was identified on a firearm discovered in the backseat of one of the vehicles. Craig was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Craig admitted that he possessed a firearm while being a felon but testified that he possessed the gun only long enough to defend himself and his friends during the firefight. On cross-examination, the prosecution played for the jury a video depicting a masked individual (allegedly Craig) rapping and wielding a firearm that was similar to the gun for which he was charged. Craig denied that he was the individual in the video. The prosecution did not attempt to introduce the video into evidence. The district court never issued a limiting instruction about whether or how to consider the video. The prosecution referenced the video in closing arguments. The Sixth Circuit vacated Craig’s conviction. The prosecution had no legal basis to publish the unadmitted and unauthenticated exhibit to the jury, and the error was not harmless. The prosecution did not have a “‘good faith basis’ for cross-examination under Rule 608(b).” View "United States v. Craig" on Justia Law

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Recover Agents went to the home of Jiries and Yasmeen Abu-Joudeh to repossess their car. An altercation ensued. According to Yasmeen, an agent pushed her. The agents say that Jiries asked Yasmeen to get a gun and hit her when she refused. The agents called the police. The Abu-Joudehs moved their car into the garage and shut the door. Capac Police Chief Schneider and Michigan State Trooper Sebring arrived. Yasmeen let the officers into the house. More police cars arrived. One officer, whom Yasmeen called the “third officer,” entered the house and kept her seated. Schneider’s police report suggests that this third officer was Memphis Police Chief Sheets. Yasmeen’s physical description of the third officer fit Sheets. The third officer, with the repossession agents, attempted to pry open the garage's main electric door, then went around to the side door, which one of them opened. The agents loaded the vehicle onto their tow truck and hauled it away. AbuJoudeh filed suit, claiming Sheets broke into the garage, violating his right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Sheets submitted an affidavit saying he “did not open Plaintiff’s garage without consent, did not enter Plaintiff’s garage without consent, and did not enter Plaintiff’s vehicle or participate in its repossession.” The district court granted Sheets summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The evidence suggesting that Sheets was the officer who broke into his garage creates a genuine issue of material fact. View "Abu-Joudeh v. Schneider" on Justia Law

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Allen was convicted of aggravated robbery and murder for the death of 84-year-old English, whom he knew through a prison ministry. Allen’s thumbprint was found on England’s glasses. Cigarette butts consistent with Allen’s brand and saliva were found in English’s trash. The coroner put English’s time of death between before six a.m. on January 25, 1991. A bus driver remembered picking up Allen near English’s home around six a.m. that day. Allen was sentenced to death. The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed. State courts denied post-conviction relief. Allen claimed he was denied due process because a juror, Worthington, initially indicated that she was not sure that she could be impartial. Worthington stated her brother had been killed two years earlier, that the man charged with the murder was acquitted, and she did not feel justice was done. The judge asked whether she could reach a verdict based solely on the evidence; Worthington said she could. Allen’s counsel stated that witnesses from the coroner’s office who testified at her brother’s trial would testify at Allen’s trial. Worthington stated that she was a bit anxious but denied that her reaction might substantially impact her ability to concentrate on Allen’s case. The Ohio Supreme Court held that the finding that Worthington was unbiased was supported by her testimony and that the judge could legitimately validate her statements because he saw and heard her. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of federal habeas relief. The determination of whether to seat a juror is an exercise of discretion by the trial court. The Ohio Supreme Court did not unreasonably apply established Supreme Court precedent. View "Allen v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

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McKinney reported that she had returned home to find her ex-boyfriend, Jones, inside her house, refusing to leave. Jones chased her outside, throwing items. McKinney was hit by a bottle of dish soap. McKinney saw Snipes drive Jones away in a white “Tahoelike vehicle.” Paducah Officer Parrish took steps to corroborate McKinney’s story. McKinney stated that Jones had threatened to kill her and could easily obtain a gun. She repeatedly stated that she planned to get an emergency protective order and that she feared Jones would return once the officers left. Parrish stayed in his car near the house and saw two black males in a white Chevy Suburban at the nearby intersection. Parrish stopped the vehicle. A pat-down of Jones revealed nothing. Parrish arrested him for assault (a fourth-degree misdemeanor) and placed him in the back of his squad car. Jones yelled that the cuffs were too tight. When Parrish checked the cuffs, he spotted a firearm in the back of his cruiser that he had not seen before. Jones, a convicted felon, was indicted for unlawful possession of a firearm. The district court suppressed the firearm, reasoning that the Fourth Amendment bars investigatory stops prompted by a completed misdemeanor. The Sixth Circuit reversed: the Fourth Amendment contains no such rule. The court noted the problems inherent in requiring officers to make the bright-line distinction. The proper inquiry looks at the nature of the crime, how long ago it was committed, and the ongoing risk to public safety. View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Howse claims Officers Hodous and Middaugh stopped in front of his home in an unmarked vehicle. Middaugh asked Howse if he lived there, got out of the vehicle, and told Howse to put his hands behind his back. Howse disobeyed and began screaming. Howse claims Middaugh grabbed Howse and threw him down. The officers tried to handcuff Howse, who resisted, “stiffening up” his body. The officers claim they saw Howse lingering suspiciously at a house that appeared to be boarded up. Middaugh suspected that Howse might be engaged in criminal activity and, when Middaugh reached the porch, Howse clenched his fists and assumed a fighting stance. The officers allege that Howse struck Hodous in the chest and tried to rip off Middaugh’s flashlight and handcuff case, so Middaugh used a leg sweep to take Howse down to arrest him. Middaugh charged Howse with assaulting a police officer. The stated eventually dismissed the charges. Howse sued the officers and the city, 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. It is not clearly established that officers cannot tackle a non-compliant suspect and use additional force if he resists arrest, so the officers are entitled to qualified immunity. Howse admitted that he tried to make it difficult for the officers to arrest him, which provided probable cause. View "Howse v. Hodous" on Justia Law

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Detective Yasenchack saw Williams enter and then exit Gilbert's Jeep Cherokee within a few seconds at an intersection known for drug activity, shoving a plastic bag into his shorts as he exited. Yasenchack stopped Williams and recovered half a pound of cocaine. Williams pleaded guilty to state drug-trafficking charges. Two weeks later, Yasenchack saw Gilbert driving the Jeep and conducted a traffic stop. He smelled marijuana but his search only turned up a large amount of cash. Yasenchack later learned that Gilbert had convictions for drug possession, trafficking, and possessing a weapon while under disability. Yasenchack began surveilling Gilbert and searching the trash outside Gilbert’s residence. He found scale weights, a vacuum-sealed bag and zip-lock bags. Gilbert moved. Yasenchack searched the trash at Gilbert’s new residence but found nothing suggestive of trafficking. Yasenchack again searched Gilbert’s trash and discovered a vacuum-sealed bag containing “crumbs” later confirmed to be marijuana. An Ohio judge authorized a warrant for Gilbert’s home, which officers executed the following day. Officers discovered four kilograms of heroin (some laced with fentanyl), a handgun, $119,000 in cash, and drug-trafficking tools. After a Franks hearing and denial of his motion to suppress, Gilbert pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute heroin, possession with intent to distribute a mixed drug and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A reasonably well-trained officer in these circumstances would not know to disregard a judicial determination that probable cause existed, so the good-faith exception applies. View "United States v. Gilbert" on Justia Law

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Paulus, a cardiologist at KDMC, was first in the nation in billing Medicare for angiograms. Audits indicated that in multiple cases Paulus reported a higher degree of blockage in his patients’ arteries than their angiograms reflected, inserted a stent, and billed insurers. Before Paulus was indicted, the government informed him that its consultants had reviewed 496 of Paulus’s procedures and concluded that 146 were unnecessary and that KDMC’s consultants had reviewed a random selection of Paulus’ procedures and found 75 angiographic films with minimal blockage. A jury convicted Paulus of healthcare fraud and making false statements relating to healthcare. Before sentencing, the government disclosed to Paulus for the first time the “Shields Letter,” indicating that KDMC's independent experts had reviewed 1,049 of Paulus’s cases and flagged 75 procedures as unnecessary. KDMC offered to refund Medicare for those procedures. Paulus knew that KDMC had identified 75 of his procedures as problematic but did not know that KDMC had reviewed 974 other procedures that it apparently found non-problematic. The government had planned to use the Letter at trial but KDMC objected. After an ex parte hearing, the district court held that the information was inadmissible and ordered that the parties not disclose any more information about the KDMC Review. The district court denied Paulus’s motion for a new trial, sentenced Paulus to five years’ imprisonment, and ordered him to pay $1,156,102.23 in restitution. The Sixth Circuit vacated. KDMC's attorney-client privilege claims did not justify and ex parte hearings and the evidence withheld from Paulus violated his Fifth Amendment rights under “Brady.” The Letter had “potential exculpatory value” and Paulus lacked a readily available means to get the missing details. Paulus was prejudiced and “it doesn’t matter how blameless” the prosecution was. View "United States v. Paulus" on Justia Law