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After child abuse investigators removed seven minor children from plaintiffs' home, plaintiffs brought a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against DHS and others. On appeal, a civilian investigator for the Crimes Against Children Division appealed the district court's denial of her motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that the facts plausibly alleged that the investigator could be liable if the children were removed from their parents' home without reasonable suspicion of child abuse. Furthermore, it was clearly established at the time the investigator acted that reasonable suspicion was required to remove the children from their home and their parents' custody. View "Stanley v. Finnegan" on Justia Law

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On October 12, Gomes, a 52-year-old Indian national, was arrested for failing to appear for jury duty. A non-citizen, Gomes, was actually ineligible for jury duty. Gomes pulled away from the officer and was charged with resisting arrest. At Lake County Jail, Gomes was placed on suicide watch. On October 14, Gomes was transferred to ICE custody. She was released within days. On December 14, after failing to appear on the resisting-arrest charge, Gomes was back in the Jail. Her physical and mental health were deteriorating. She refused to eat and drink. Medical providers did little other than monitoring. Gomes died. The administrator of Gomes’s estate filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Lake County, Jail officials, and CCS, the Jail’s contract medical provider, and its employees. The court dismissed the County defendants and granted the medical defendants FRCP 50(a) judgment on some claims. The Estate prevailed on another claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part. Nothing in the record justifies a finding of personal liability against the County defendants, who received assurances that CCS staff were regularly monitoring Gomes. Medical providers stated that Gomes was stable and promised to send her to the hospital if necessary. The Estate presented no evidence that some feature in the Jail’s policy caused Gomes’s death. Rule 50(a) judgment, however, was premature. The record contains ample evidence from which a jury could infer that the doctors’ inaction diminished Gomes’s chances of survival. View "Miranda v. County of Lake" on Justia Law

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Two Panamanian men designated as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers by the OFAC, filed suit claiming that they had insufficient post-deprivation notice of the bases of their designation in violation of their due process rights. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the government, holding that plaintiffs failed to make out a viable claim under the relevant due process framework. The court explained that the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act’s asset-freezing provision unquestionably raised many due process concerns. However, in this case, without questioning the government's assertion that disclosing any more of the underlying evidence or the sources of that evidence would have calamitous consequences, plaintiffs asked the court to direct the agency to turn over the evidence itself, or to identify its sources, compromising the very sensitivity they leave unchallenged. Such an argument was forecosed by precedent. The court noted that other avenues remain for plaintiffs should they elect to use them to challenge their designation in the future. View "Fares v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Department of Defense in an action brought by plaintiff, a former instructor, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act against the National Defense University's College of International Security Affairs. The court held that the Department failed to provide a consistent and sufficient explanation for plaintiff's discharge, and plaintiff provided evidence that a supervisor directly involved in the decisionmaking process made repeated discriminatory remarks. In this case, a reasonable jury could credit plaintiff's version of events given, inter alia, the evidence that he used to support his prima facie case, the gaps and variations in the College's proffered explanation for the firing, his ultimate replacement by a younger employee, the hiring of several other younger faculty members within the same year as his budgetary termination, and the comments overtly hostile to older employees made by his front-line supervisor who was directly involved in discussions about his termination. View "Steele v. Mattis" on Justia Law

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In this habeas proceeding, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court holding that defense counsel’s delay in presenting to Petitioner a favorable plea offer from the prosecutor during trial amounted to deficient performance pursuant to Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Petitioner was convicted of felony murder. Petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus claiming that her trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance when he delayed presenting to her a favorable plea offer, an offer that the prosecutor later withdrew before it could be accepted. The habeas court agreed and concluded that Petitioner was prejudiced by counsel’s deficient performance. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances, the habeas court and Appellate Court properly determined that counsel’s delay in conveying the plea offer to Petitioner amounted to deficient performance. View "Helmedach v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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An Oklahoma jury convicted Tremane Wood of first-degree felony murder for the killing of Ronnie Wipf during a botched robbery. The jury found Oklahoma had proved three aggravating circumstances associated with the murder, and the mitigating circumstances did not outweigh them. The jury accordingly sentenced Wood to death. Wood directly appealed his conviction to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing primarily: (1) his trial counsel performed ineffectively at the sentencing stage; and (2) the “heinous, atrocious, or cruel” aggravating circumstance could not be constitutionally applied to this case given the dearth of evidence that Wipf suffered before death. The OCCA ordered an evidentiary hearing on the ineffectiveness issue, but ultimately affirmed Wood’s conviction and death sentence. Wood then filed an application for post-conviction relief in state court, claiming his appellate counsel performed ineffectively on direct appeal, including at the evidentiary hearing. The OCCA again denied relief. Wood then applied for habeas relief, which was denied. The Tenth Circuit granted Wood certificates of appealability on whether his trial and appellate counsel performed ineffectively. During the course of this appeal, the Tenth Circuit decided Pavatt v. Royal, 859 F.3d 920 (10th Cir. 2017), opinion amended and superseded on denial of rehearing on July 2, 2018 by Pavatt v. Royal, 894 F.3d 1115 (10th Cir. 2017), a challenge to Oklahoma’s application of the heinous, atrocious, and cruel (HAC) aggravator in that case. Based on Pavatt, the Court granted an additional COA on whether the HAC aggravating circumstance could be constitutionally applied to the facts of this case. And after review, the Tenth Circuit concluded Wood was not entitled to relief on any of his claims and affirmed denial of habeas relief. View "Wood v. Carpenter" on Justia Law

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After the United States Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Supreme Court affirming the circuit court’s summary judgment in favor of Defendants, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment and remanded the case for proceedings consistent with the United States Supreme Court’s opinion. In 2017, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that the statutory scheme requiring internet sellers with no physical presence in South Dakota to collect and remit sales tax violated the Commerce Clause. The United States Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded the case. The State subsequently filed a motion requesting the Supreme Court to remand the matter for further proceedings. Defendants filed no response. Accordingly, the Supreme Court dispositively remanded this case for further proceedings not inconsistent with the United States Supreme Court’s opinion. View "State v. Wayfair Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from the Hinds County, Mississippi Circuit Court’s order granting in part Richard Chapman’s motion for post-conviction relief (PCR), following the Mississippi Supreme Court’s mandate in Chapman v. Mississippi, 167 So. 3d 1170 (Miss. 2015) (Chapman IV). In a five-to-four decision, a majority of the Court found that no direct appeal was taken from Chapman’s 1982 conviction for rape and life sentence, and ordered the trial court to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine if the record and transcript from the jury trial still existed, and if not, whether something equivalent could be reconstructed. The parties reconstructed much of the record on remand, and the trial court granted Chapman leave to file an out-of-time appeal from his 1982 rape conviction and life sentence. Chapman appealed that ruling, claiming: (1) the record was less than adequate to allow an acceptable appeal to be prepared. Chapman maintains his trial counsel was constitutionally deficient for failing to file an appeal, or even a notice of appeal, even though Chapman claimed he paid counsel to do so; and (2) a life sentence imposed on a sixteen-year-old for a crime that was not a homicide constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Chapman argued his 1982 rape conviction should be reversed and the case dismissed or, in the alternative, remanded for a new trial. Having reviewed the reconstructed record, the Supreme Court found Chapman was not entitled to an out-of-time appeal. The Court confirmed: (1) Chapman’s trial record was not destroyed, as Chapman claimed throughout his multiple PCR petitions; and (2) Chapman had three years from April 17, 1984, when Mississippi’s Uniform Post-Conviction Collateral Relief Act (UPCCRA) went into effect, to petition for an out-of-time appeal but failed to do so. View "Richard Chapman v. State of Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Rickie Omar Smith was indicted on one count of armed robbery and one count of burglary of a dwelling. The jury found Smith guilty on both counts, and the circuit court sentenced Smith to thirty years for armed robbery and twenty-five years for burglary of a dwelling, with the sentences to run concurrently. Following the denial of Smith’s post trial motions, he appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the jury’s verdict for armed robbery. Because the evidence was sufficient to sustain the jury’s verdict for armed robbery, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Virginia's regulation of the consumption, purchase, manufacture, and sale of alcohol through a series of interconnecting provisions found in Title 4.1 of the Virginia Code did not qualify as cruel and unusual punishment because it criminalizes plaintiffs' status as homeless alcoholics and did not violate Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962). Robinson held that, although states may not criminalize status, they may criminalize actual behavior even when the individual alleges that addiction created a strong urge to engage in a particular act. In this case, it is the act of possessing alcohol—not the status of being an alcoholic—that gave rise to criminal sanctions. The interdiction statute was a preventative tool and the state could use this sort of prophylactic device to identify those at the highest risk of alcohol problems and put them on notice that subsequent behavior could be subject to punishment. The Fourth Circuit also held that the interdiction provision did not violate plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment right to due process where interdiction carried no threat of imprisonment and therefore did not result in a loss of liberty. Finally, the interdiction provision did not violate plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. The court applied rational basis review and held that the law was rationally related to Virginia's legitimate interest in discouraging alcohol abuse and its attendant risks to public safety and wellbeing. View "Manning v. Caldwell" on Justia Law