Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

by
William Hoehn appealed after he was convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and giving false information to law enforcement. Hoehn was in a relationship with Brooke Crews. Crews killed Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind by cutting open her abdomen and removing her pre-term baby. Hoehn arrived at the home he shared with Crews after Crews had killed Greywind and taken the baby. He then helped to clean up evidence of the crime, including hiding Greywind’s body in a closet, wrapped in garbage bags. Hoehn also helped Crews hide the baby from Greywind’s family and law enforcement. Hoehn carried the baby around in a book bag when in public. The district court found Hoehn had previously been convicted of a similar offense and sentenced him as a dangerous special offender to life in prison. On appeal, Hoehn argued the district court erred in its dangerous special offender finding, in applying a life expectancy table not authorized by statute, in failing to advise him of the maximum sentence prior to accepting his guilty plea, and in listing kidnapping rather than conspiracy to commit kidnapping on the amended judgment. Though the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, it vacated the sentence, and remanded for resentencing without application of the dangerous special offender statute. View "North Dakota v. Hoehn" on Justia Law

by
In 2009, a jury convicted Vance Thumm of aggravated battery or aiding and abetting aggravated battery and of being a persistent violator of the law. Thumm pursued a direct appeal, but was unsuccessful. In 2013, through counsel, Thumm petitioned for post-conviction relief. The State responded by filing a motion for summary disposition. The district court eventually granted the State’s motion and dismissed the post-conviction petition. Thumm appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, alleging: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel at trial, sentencing, and on appeal; (2) a Brady violation; (3) prosecutorial misconduct; and (4) cumulative error. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary disposition. View "Thumm v. Idaho" on Justia Law

by
John Casson appealed a criminal judgment entered after his conditional plea of guilty to possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress evidence. On appeal, Casson arged the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress because law enforcement lacked reasonable suspicion to detain him and unlawfully seized him by stating a K-9 unit would be called to complete a “sniff” of Casson’s vehicle. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded that although Casson was seized, sufficient reasonable suspicion existed to detain Casson. The district court judgment was affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Casson" on Justia Law

by
In 2018, a district court referee entered two temporary disorderly conduct restraining orders against Donna Kenny, which were sought by two of her neighbors. The neighbors lived in the same five-unit condominium complex. A deputy sheriff served Kenny with the orders on the same day. The orders prohibited Kenny from having any physical contact with or coming within 100 feet of the two neighbors. A hearing on the temporary orders was scheduled for October 8, 2018. On September 28, 2018, Kenny approached the two neighbors at a backyard fire to ask who had parked in her spot in the common parking lot of the condominium complex. According to the neighbors, they advised Kenny she was not allowed to speak to them. Both neighbors testified that Kenny replied with either “shove it up your ass” or “stick it up your ass.” The neighbors called the police, and Kenny was arrested for violating the restraining orders. The North Dakota Supreme Court found N.D.C.C. 12.1-31.2-01(5) did not violate Kenny’s constitutional right to due process, N.D.C.C. 12.1-31.2-01 was not unconstitutionally overbroad, and sufficient evidence existed to convict her of violating the disorderly conduct restraining orders. View "North Dakota v. Kenny" on Justia Law

by
Kanakai Poulor was convicted by jury of gross sexual imposition. After review of his appeal, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the State did not violate the Confrontation Clause when it presented a video recorded forensic interview with the 8-year old minor complainant; the court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the complainant’s out-of-court statements about sexual abuse into evidence; and sufficient evidence supported the conviction for gross sexual imposition. View "North Dakota v. Poulor" on Justia Law

by
In 2014, Lorry Van Chase was convicted by jury of gross sexual imposition. He appealed to the North Dakota Supreme Court, and the conviction was affirmed. In 2016, Chase applied for post-conviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel. After an evidentiary hearing, the court denied the application, making findings on each specific allegation of ineffective assistance. Chase appealed the post-conviction court’s denial of relief again to the Supreme Court, and the order was summarily affirmed based on Chase’s failure to supply a transcript of the evidentiary hearing. In 2018, Chase filed a N.D.R. Civ.P. 60(b) motion for relief from judgment, seeking relief from the order denying him post-conviction relief. In 2019, relief was again denied, finding Chase’s motion was actually a second application for post-conviction relief, and therefore barred by res judicata and misuse of process. The Supreme Court determined the district court did not err in treating Chase’s Rule 60(b) motion as a successive application for post-conviction relief. However, the Court found summary dismissal of Chase’s original application for post-conviction relief was not appropriate, and reversed and remanded for further proceedings as to that point. The Court determined all other issues raised were without merit or otherwise unnecessary to its opinion here. View "Chase v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

by
After plaintiff was arrested for simple battery following an altercation with her sister, she filed suit against Deputy McDonough, alleging the violation of her Fourth Amendment rights. The district court granted summary judgment for the deputy. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed and held that the deputy had ample probable cause to arrest plaintiff where the underlying information indicating that she had battered her sister was credible and his investigation was sufficient. The court also held that the deputy did not use excessive force in making the arrest by pulling plaintiff's arms, cinching the handcuffs too tight, or tugging on her fingers and arms to remove her rings. View "Huebner v. Bradshaw" on Justia Law

by
In this medical negligence action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court rendered in accordance with the court's granting of Defendants' motions to dismiss and for summary judgment, holding that the Court could not reach the merits of Plaintiff's claim that Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-190a is unconstitutional. Plaintiff brought this case against the State and numerous superior court judges, a psychiatrist and his employer, and business entities after his wife committed suicide. The trial court granted judgment for Defendants. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that section 52-190a, which requires a plaintiff to append a good faith certificate and supporting opinion letter to the complaint in cases of medical negligence, is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff failed to challenge the trial court's threshold conclusions that his claims against Defendants were barred by, among other things, the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, this Court could not address the single substantive issue that Plaintiff raised and that the judgment of the trial court must be affirmed. View "Traylor v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit denied the motion for stay of execution pending appeal, holding that the district court rightly dismissed petitioner's current petition as second or successive under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3)(A). In this case, petitioner failed to obtain authorization from this court before filing the petition. The court rejected petitioner's remaining three claims as to why his petition should not be dismissed, and held that petitioner failed to show a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his appeal. View "Bowles v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

by
Simon was stopped for failing to signal sufficiently ahead of turning. A drug-sniffing dog alerted on Simon’s car. Officers searched it. They did not find drugs, but found a gun. The government charged Simon as a felon-in-possession. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Simon’s motions for recusal, suppression, and supplementation. The court rejected an argument that the judge should have recused himself because, before he was a judge, he supervised a prior prosecution of Simon. The district court properly assessed credibility and found that the officers had probable cause to initiate the traffic stop and did not prolong the stop to allow for the dog sniff. The mere absence of drugs does not undermine the probable cause to search for drugs, provided there was probable cause in the first place. The judge conducted the proper Harris evaluation and concluded the dog’s satisfactory certification and training provide sufficient reason to trust his alert. The judge did not abuse his discretion in denying a motion to supplement the record, after the denial of the suppression motion, with a nighttime video. The nighttime video would not capture the actual visual capabilities of the officers, who credibly testified about how close Simon was to the intersection when he signaled. View "United States v. Simon" on Justia Law