Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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In May 2014, George Gonzalez pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of using his premises without a permit or variance, and one count of maintaining an unauthorized encroachment. The trial court placed Gonzalez on probation for three years, subject to various stipulated conditions, including that he must bring all properties up to code. Gonzalez violated probation on five separate occasions; each time, the court revoked and then reinstated Gonzalez’s probation, with terms to which Gonzalez expressly agreed, including stayed terms of custody of increasing lengths. During a hearing on the third of these violations, Gonzalez agreed to additional specific probation conditions relating to property that he owned on Aldine Drive. Gonzalez specifically agreed to a probation condition that required he sell the Aldine Property for fair market value if he failed to comply with various probation conditions mandating that he undertake specified corrective work on the property. In March 2017, after admitting a fourth probation violation, Gonzalez agreed to an extension of the probationary period and to modify the stayed term of custod. After a hearing concerning the Aldine Property, the trial court found Gonzalez in violation of probation for a fifth time. Gonzalez was again given an opportunity to cure the violations prior to the next hearing; when conditions were not cured, the court ordered Gonzalez to sell the Aldine Property. Gonzalez challenged the order to sell the Aldine Property, arguing, among other things, the order to sell the Aldine Property was invalid because it was entered after the expiration of the maximum three-year probation period as authorized by his 2014 guilty plea, and an order directing the sale of real property was not specified as a potential punishment for municipal code violations in the San Diego Municipal Code. The Court of Appeal determined: (1) the order to sell the Aldine Property was a condition of probation, not a punishment; (2) Gonzalez’s takings claim was without merit; and (3) Gonzalez forfeited any challenge to the reasonableness of the probation condition by failing to raise such a challenge in the trial court or in his opening brief on appeal. The trial court’s order directing the sale of the Aldine Property was affirmed. View "California v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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After being informed he was not eligible for early parole consideration, Luther Haynes filed a petition for habeas corpus, alleging he was unlawfully precluded from Proposition 57 parole consideration because of his status as a sex offender registrant. Haynes was required to register as a sex offender due to: (1) two prior felony convictions for sex offenses committed in the 1980’s; and (2) a felony conviction for annoying or molesting a child, for which he presently was serving an indeterminate third strike sentence. The trial court granted the habeas petition, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) appealed. Whether the CDCR may exclude from Proposition 57 parole consideration otherwise eligible inmates, who have prior convictions requiring sex offender registration, was under review by the California Supreme Court. The Court of Appeal concluded that based on the language of article I, section 32 of the California Constitution, Proposition 57 parole consideration had to be based on Haynes' current offense, not past convictions. Haynes did not show the challenged regulations were unconstitutional as applied to an offender whose sole current offense was a Penal Code section 647.6 conviction. The Court declined to resolve the broader issue of whether the CDCR could categorically exclude from eligibility for early parole consideration of all inmates currently serving sentences of having prior convictions for any offense requiring sex offender registration "because there are unquestionably violent crimes which require sex offender registration." The Court reversed the trial court's order granting Haynes' habeas petition. View "In re Haynes" on Justia Law

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When Hall was pulled over for a vehicle equipment violation in 2018, a police officer observed in the car “a clear plastic baggie” of what appeared to be marijuana. Based on this observation, two police officers searched Hall’s car and found a gun in a closed backpack, resulting in criminal charges against Hall for carrying a loaded firearm in a public place, carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle, and having no license plate lamp.The trial court denied Hall’s motion to suppress the evidence found in the search. The court of appeal reversed that denial. Since the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, it has been legal for persons 21 years of age and older to possess and transport small amounts (up to 28.5 grams) of marijuana, Health & Saf. Code 11362.1(a)(1). The lawful possession of marijuana in a vehicle does not provide probable cause to search the vehicle. Under Proposition 64, a driver is not permitted to “[p]ossess an open container or open package of cannabis or cannabis products” but there was no evidence in this case that the plastic baggie observed by the officers was an “open container.” View "People v. Hall" on Justia Law

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Defendant Donovan Silva contended the district court erred in arriving at his sentence for possessing a firearm as a previously convicted felon under the Sentencing Guidelines by concluding a prior assault conviction was a crime of violence. He argued the assault conviction was too old to have independently received criminal-history points under USSG sections 4A1.1 and 4A1.2 n.3(a). To this, the Tenth Circuit agreed: the Guidelines did not permit a section 2K2.1(a)(4)(A) enhancement. The error met all four prongs of the plain-error analysis. Therefore, the Court reversed sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Silva" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Folajtar pled guilty to a federal felony: willfully making a materially false statement on her tax returns, which is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000, 26 U.S.C. 7206(1). She was sentenced to three years’ probation, including three months of home confinement, a $10,000 fine, and a $100 assessment. She also paid the IRS over $250,000 in back taxes, penalties, and interest. Folajtar was then subject to 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), which prohibits those convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year in prison from possessing firearms.Folajtar sued, asserting that applying section 922(g)(1) to her violated her Second Amendment right to possess firearms. The district court dismissed, finding that Folajtar did not state a plausible Second Amendment claim because she was convicted of a serious crime. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting the general rule that laws restricting firearm possession by convicted felons are valid. There is no reason to deviate from this long-standing prohibition in the context of tax fraud. View "Folajtar v. Attorney General of the United States" on Justia Law

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North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum petitioned the State Supreme Court to exercise its original jurisdiction and issue declarations and a writ of mandamus concerning who appoints the replacement after the pre-election death of a candidate for an office in the Legislative Assembly. Four candidates appeared on the 2020 general election ballot for two available seats for the office of State Representative for District Eight. The prior officeholder died in October 2020, twenty-nine days before the election, and after ballots were printed and early voting had begun. The North Dakota Secretary of State requested an advisory opinion from the state Attorney General on what to do about votes cast for the deceased candidate. The Attorney General responded stating that the North Dakota legislative assembly would follow the procedure codified in N.D.C.C. 16.1-13-10: "Upon the application of state law and the ‘American’ rule, it is my opinion that this would be the appropriate method to fill a vacancy." Election day totals showed Dave Nehring received the most votes and David Andahl received the second most votes. In accordance with the Attorney General's Opinion, the election results were certified but no certificate of election was issued to Andahl because of his death. Officials for the District Eight Republican Committee announced their intention to appoint an individual to fill the office. Kathrin Volochenko received the third most votes. She intervened in this case and claimed no vacancy in office would exist because she was elected to the office. On December 1, 2020, Nehring was set to fill one of the seats because he received the most votes. Andahl received the second most votes, and he presumably would have filled the other seat but died and will not do so. Therefore, as a matter of law, a vacancy would exist on December 1, 2020. When a vacancy in office occurs, the Governor’s constitutional authority to fill it is contingent upon there being “no other method” provided by law. A governor does not have authority to fill a legislative branch vacancy unless the gap-filling authority of N.D. Const. art. V, section 8 permits it. The Supreme Court declared a vacancy in office would exist on December 1, 2020, and the Governor did not have statutory or constitutional authority to make an appointment to fill the vacancy in this case. "He has not established a clear legal right to performance of the acts he seeks. Therefore, a writ of mandamus is not warranted. We deny the requested relief." View "Burgum v. Jaeger, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding Defendant's convictions in a second appeal, holding that Defendant's right to a speedy trial was violated after his case was remanded to the trial court for retrial.The trial court convicted Defendant of two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the matter. On remand, Defendant pleaded no contest to the charges of having a weapon under disability and failing to comply with an order or signal of a police officer. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial was not violated during the trial court's remand proceedings. The Supreme Court reversed and vacated Defendant's convictions, holding that all four factors under Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972) weighed in Defendant's favor. View "State v. Long" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal without prejudice of T.B.'s discrimination claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. The court held, on the record before it, that T.B. seeks redress for denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and thus, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), he was required to exhaust his administrative remedies before bringing this claim to the district court. Because he has failed to do so, his complaint was properly dismissed. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying T.B.'s motion to reconsider or request to amend. View "T. B. v. Northwest Independent School District" on Justia Law

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The en banc court held that 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(23) does not give Medicaid patients a right to challenge, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, a State's determination that a health care provider is not "qualified" within the meaning of section 1396a(a)(23). The en banc court vacated the preliminary injunction issued by the district court prohibiting the termination of the Providers' Medicaid provider agreements.The Providers provide family planning and other health services to Medicaid patients, and each of the Providers is a member of Planned Parenthood. This case stemmed from a pro-life organization's release of video recordings of conversations at Planned Parenthood (PP) Gulf Coast headquarters. The videos depict two individuals posing as representatives from a fetal tissue procurement company discussing the possibility of a research partnership with PP Gulf Coast. The release of the videos prompted congressional investigations, which ultimately led to the OIG sending each Provider a Notice of Termination of its respective Medicaid provider agreement. The Providers and Individual Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the terminations violated rights conferred by section 1396a(a)(23) and sought relief under section 1983.The en banc court held that the Individual Plaintiffs may not bring a section 1983 suit to contest the State's determination that the Providers were not "qualified" providers within the meaning of section 1396a(a)(23). The en banc court rested its decision primarily on two independent bases: (1) the Supreme Court's decision in O'Bannon v. Town Court Nursing Center, 447 U.S. 773 (1980), and (2) the text and structure of section 1396a(a)(23), which does not unambiguously provide that a Medicaid patient may contest a State's determination that a particular provider is not "qualified." Rather, the court held that whether a provider is "qualified" within the meaning of section 1396a(a)(23) is a matter to be resolved between the State (or the federal government) and the provider. In so holding, the en banc court overruled Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast, Inc. v. Gee, 862 F.3d 445 (5th Cir. 2017), which held that a state agency or actor cannot legitimately find that a Medicaid provider is not "qualified" unless under state or federal law the provider would be unqualified to provide treatment or services to the general public, including Medicaid patients who paid for the care or services with private funds. View "Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Family Planning and Preventative Health Services, Inc. v. Kauffman" on Justia Law

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Anderson participated in an Illinois conspiracy to distribute heroin that included a dealer, Mansini. In 2012, Reader, a 21-year-old addict, purchased and used heroin from another dealer. Later that day, Reader purchased an additional half-gram of heroin from Mansini, who had obtained it from Anderson. Reader used that heroin and was found dead that evening. According to the coroner’s report, the cause of death was “opiate intoxication.” The report did not attribute Reader’s death to one particular heroin dose or make findings on the incremental effects of other drugs. Anderson and others were charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), 846. Three defendants, including Anderson, pleaded guilty. Anderson admitted to distributing the heroin that resulted in Reader’s death, which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Anderson concurred with the plea agreement’s factual statements but told the court that he might have a factual defense to Reader’s death because Reader had bought heroin from other sources and used prescription drugs. The court sentenced him to 223 months’ imprisonment.Anderson's 28 U.S.C. 2255 petition claimed ineffective assistance of counsel because his counsel did not adequately investigate the cause of Reader’s death and advise Anderson of the “but-for” causation standard articulated by the Supreme Court in 2014. Counsel responded that Anderson authorized her to proceed with plea negotiations without hiring a medical examiner and she was “not trained to interpret toxicology results” and “never discussed” the toxicology evidence with anyone who had relevant training. The Seventh Circuit vacated a denial of relief. Anderson was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. View "Anderson v. United States" on Justia Law