Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs, tenants living in substandard conditions in a "Section 8" housing project, filed suit seeking to compel HUD to provide relocation assistance vouchers. The Fifth Circuit held that, because 24 C.F.R. 886.323(e) mandates that HUD provide relocation assistance, its alleged decision not to provide relocation vouchers to plaintiffs is not a decision committed to agency discretion by law and is therefore reviewable. Furthermore, the agency's inaction here constitutes a final agency action because it prevents or unreasonably delays the tenants from receiving the relief to which they are entitled by law. Therefore, the district court has jurisdiction over plaintiffs' Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA) claims and erred in dismissing those claims.However, the court agreed with the district court that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted on their Fifth Amendment equal protection claim. In this case, plaintiffs failed to state a plausible claim of intentional race discrimination. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hawkins v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development" on Justia Law

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Defendant Tevita Kaihea was convicted by jury of first degree murder and other offenses involving a crime spree preceding the murder. The trial court sentenced defendant to an aggregated prison term of 111 years and court months to life. On appeal defendant challenged: (1) the admission of certain gang evidence as cumulative and highly prejudicial; (2) the court’s failure to instruct the jury on the defense of mistake of fact and transferred intent; and (3) the court’s instruction that the jury could consider gang evidence in deciding whether defendant acted in self-defense and heat of passion. Defendant contended those errors were cumulatively prejudicial. He also (4) challenged the imposition of a gang enhancement sentence to his murder conviction; (5) contended the trial court improperly calculated custody credits; and (6) contended the court improperly deducted actual days served credit for his jail behavior. Both defendant and the State separately noted (7) the trial court erroneously awarded conduct credit. In the published portion of its opinion,the Court of Appeal rejected defendant’s third contention and concluded the standard instruction, CALCRIM No. 1403, was legally correct as it related to the use of gang evidence for the purpose of deciding whether a defendant actually believed in the need to defend himself or acted in the heat of passion. Furthermore, the Court concluded defendant failed to show ineffective assistance of counsel grounded on the failure to request the modification because the failure did not prejudice defendant. In the unpublished portion of its opinion, the Court conclude d that some of defendant’s other contentions had merit. The Court struck the 10-year gang enhancement, directed the trial court to award an additional 213 days of credit, and struck the award of conduct credits. The Court also directed the trial court to correct several errors in the abstract of judgment. In all other respects, judgment was affirmed. View "California v. Kaihea" on Justia Law

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Canton’s 2006 Tree Ordinance prohibits the unpermitted removal, damage, or destruction of trees of specified sizes, with exceptions for agricultural operations, commercial nurseries, tree farms, and occupied lots smaller than two acres. If Canton issues a permit, the owner must replace removed trees on its own or someone else’s property or pay into Canton’s tree fund. For every landmark tree removed, an owner must replant three trees or pay $450. For every non-landmark tree removed as part of larger-scale tree removal, an owner must replant one tree or pay $300.In 2016, Canton approved the division of F.P.'s undeveloped property, noting the permitting requirement. The parcels were bisected by a county drainage ditch that was clogged with fallen trees and debris. The county refused to clear the ditch. F.P. contracted for the removal of the trees and debris and clearing other trees without a permit. Canton determined that F.P. had removed 14 landmark trees and 145 non-landmark trees. F.P. was required to either replant 187 trees or pay $47,898. F.P. filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983.The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for F.P. on its as-applied Fifth Amendment claim; although the ordinance, as applied to F.P., was not unconstitutional as a per se physical taking, it was unconstitutional as a regulatory taking and as an unconstitutional condition. Canton has not made the necessary individualized determination; the ordinance fails the “rough proportionality” required by Supreme Court precedent. View "F.P. Development, LLC. v. Charter Township of Canton" on Justia Law

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Giron, a Colombian national federal prisoner acting pro se, sought compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of his motion. The application notes for U.S.S.G. 1B1.13 identify four general categories of “extraordinary and compelling reasons” justifying a sentence reduction: medical, age, family, and a “catch-all ‘other reasons’ category.” Section 1B1.13 constrains district courts’ authority to identify when extraordinary and compelling reasons exist and any sentence reduction must be “consistent with applicable policy statements.” Under the governing policy statement, medical conditions rise to the level of extraordinary and compelling only if the medical condition is a terminal illness or “substantially diminishes the ability of the defendant to provide self-care within” prison. The court found that Giron’s high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease were manageable in prison, despite the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court was not required to analyze 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing factors; the finding of no “extraordinary and compelling reasons” was sufficiently supported. View "United States v. Giron" on Justia Law

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Americans and co-conspirators based in China schemed to obtain EB-1C work visas fraudulently for Chinese nationals. Their clients each deposited about $300,000 into a client-owned American bank account. The government did not prosecute the Chinese clients but sought forfeiture of the funds. The Chinese nationals filed claims for the funds.The State Department denied visa requests to allow certain Chinese nationals to attend the forfeiture trial. The U.S. Attorney unsuccessfully worked with their attorney and DHS to obtain parole letters granting them entry without a visa. The Chinese argued that their inability to attend violated the Due Process Clause by preventing them from presenting an “innocent owner” defense, 18 U.S.C. 983(d)(1). The district court denied the motion, noting other means to present their testimony, such as by video conference, and that counsel could present their defenses. All the Chinese were represented by counsel at trial; four attended and testified. The court instructed the jury that the government bore the burden of proving that the “funds made the . . . visa fraud scheme easy or less difficult or ensured that the scheme would be more or less free from obstruction or hindrance.”The jury found that the government had satisfied its burden of proof as to all the funds, that five Chinese nationals—four of whom had testified—had proved that they were innocent owners, and rejected the remaining innocent-owner defenses. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, finding no due process violation. View "United States v. Approximately $281,110.00 Seized from an East-West Bank Account, ending in the number 2471" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of two counts of interfering with an officer, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. 53a-167a(a), holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.At issue on appeal was whether the trial court erred in denying Defendant's pretrial motion to suppress on the grounds that he was seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment when a marked police cruiser blocked the egress of his vehicle, which was parked with its engine running and Defendant asleep in the driver's seat. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that no violation of the Fourth Amendment occurred because the responding officer was checking on Defendant's well-being pursuant to the officer's community caretaking function and was not engaged in an investigatory stop involving criminal activity. View "State v. Pompei" on Justia Law

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Mobility’s patent, titled “System, Apparatus, and Methods for Proactive Allocation of Wireless Communication Resources,” is “generally directed to the allocation of communication resources in a communications network.” The Patent Trial and Appeal Board determined that five claims of the patent were unpatentable as obvious.Mobility sought a remand under the Supreme Court's 2021 Arthrex decision, challenged the merits of the Board’s decision, and raised for the first time several constitutional challenges, including a challenge to the structure of the Board. Mobility argued that Board members have an interest in instituting AIA proceedings to generate fees to fund the agency and ensure future job stability and that individual administrative patent judges (APJs) have a personal financial interest in instituting AIA proceedings in order to earn better performance reviews and bonuses.Federal Circuit held that Mobility’s constitutional arguments are without merit. The President, not the agency, submits the budget, and Congress sets the USPTO budget and controls whether the USPTO has access to surplus funds. A remand of the “Appointments Clause” challenge is required under the Arthrex decision to allow the Acting Director to review the final written decision of the APJ panel pursuant to newly established USPTO procedures. View "Mobility Workx, LLC v. Unified Patents, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of three counts of first degree sexual assault and three counts of risk of injury to a child, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the prosecutor did not engage in prosecutorial impropriety in her questioning of the victim; (2) the prosecutor did not engage in prosecutorial impropriety during closing and rebuttal arguments; and (3) the trial court did not violate Conn. Gen. Stat. 54-84(b) or infringe on Defendant's constitutional right to remain silent when it denied his request to instruct the jury that he elected not to testify and instead referred to his failure to testify. View "State v. Michael T." on Justia Law

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Ordinances banning “land uses in support of” new oil and gas wells and “land uses in support of” wastewater injection in unincorporated areas of Monterey County were enacted as part of Measure Z, an initiative sponsored by PMC and passed by Monterey County voters.The trial court upheld, in part, a challenge to Measure Z by oil companies and other mineral rights holders. The court of appeal affirmed. Components of Measure Z are preempted by state laws. Public Resources Code section 3106 explicitly provides that the State of California’s oil and gas supervisor has the authority to decide whether to permit an oil and gas drilling operation to drill a new well or to utilize wastewater injection in its operations. Those operational aspects of oil drilling operations are committed by section 3106 to the state’s discretion and local regulation of these aspects would conflict with section 3106. View "Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. County of Monterey" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Tyrus Jenkins was convicted by jury of first-degree burglary of a residence with a person present, second degree burglary of a car, attempted unlawful taking of the car, and misdemeanor possession of burglary tools. The court sentenced him to a total of 13 years. Jenkins appealed, contending his conviction for attempted unlawful taking of a vehicle should have been reversed because the court permitted, over his objection, a police detective to testify to the car’s estimated value obtained from the Kelley Blue Book’s Web site. Jenkins claimed this was hearsay evidence that should have been excluded, and absent this testimony, there was no evidence establishing the car was worth more than $950, an element of the felony offense. Jenkins also contended his conviction for vehicular burglary also had to be reversed because the evidence was insufficient to prove the car was locked at the time of his entry. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court properly admitted the Blue Book evidence under Evidence Code section 1340, the published compilation exception to the hearsay rule. And the Court found substantial circumstantial evidence established the car was locked. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "California v. Jenkins" on Justia Law