Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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Defendants Orlando Cortez-Nieto and Jesus Cervantes-Aguilar were convicted by a jury of four methamphetamine offenses committed within 1,000 feet of a playground. After their convictions Defendants moved for judgment of acquittal. The district court granted the motions in part, setting aside the convictions on the ground that there was insufficient evidence that any of the offenses of conviction occurred within 1,000 feet of a playground, but entering judgments of conviction on lesser-included offenses (the four offenses without the proximity element). In their consolidated appeal, Defendants argued: (1) that a jury instruction stating that the jury should not consider the guilt of any persons other than Defendants improperly precluded the jury from considering that two government witnesses were motivated to lie about Defendants to reduce or eliminate their own guilt, and the prosecutor improperly magnified this error by explicitly arguing that the jurors could not consider the witnesses’ guilt in assessing their credibility; (2) the district court should not have imposed judgments of conviction on the lesser-included offenses after determining that the original charges had not been proved because the jury had not been instructed on the lesser-included offenses; and (3) remand was necessary to correct a clerical error in the judgment forms. The Tenth Circuit determined only that the clerical error warranted correction. The Court affirmed the district court in all other respects. View "United States v. Cortez-Nieto" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit dismissed this interlocutory appeal from a district court order denying qualified immunity to a law enforcement officer because of disputed facts, holding that because Defendant did not bring a purely legal argument that did not depend on disputed facts, this Court lacked jurisdiction.Plaintiff brought this action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the City of Logansport and Defendant, alleging violations of his Fourteenth Amendment rights stemming from certain incidents involving the alleged use of excessive force. Defendant sought summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The district court denied qualified immunity based on a factual dispute precluding the grant of qualified immunity on summary judgment. Defendant appealed. The Seventh District dismissed the appeal, holding that this Court lacked jurisdiction to hear this appeal. View "Stewardson v. Biggs" on Justia Law

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In this case involving the fifty-year-old decision of a federal district court entering the 1972 "Shakman decree" precluding the Governor of Illinois and units of local government from conditioning governmental employment on political patronage the Seventh Circuit held that the power to hire, fire, and establish accompanying policies needs to return to the people of Illinois and the Governor they elected.In 2019, the Clerk of Cook County filed a motion to vacate the Shakman decree. The magistrate judge denied the motion, and the Clerk appealed. The Seventh Circuit court affirmed. Governor J.B. Pritzker then moved under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(5) to vacate the decree, claiming that the State had satisfied the requirements of the decree and that ongoing enforcement of the decree offended principles of federalism. The district court denied the motion. The Seventh District reversed and remanded with instructions to vacate the 1972 consent decree as it applied to the Illinois Governor, holding that Governor Pritzker had satisfied the objectives of the decree. View "Shakman v. Pritzker" on Justia Law

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Appellant was indicted for transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, attempted production of child pornography, and commission of a felony involving a minor by a person required to register as a sex offender. After a bifurcated jury and bench trial, Appellant was convicted on all counts.   On appeal, Appellant brings three challenges to his convictions. First, he contends that the district court abused its discretion by admitting the government’s expert testimony concerning the approximate locations of Appellant’s and the transported minor’s cell phones on the night of their meeting. Second, Appellant argues that the government should have been required to prove not just that he transported a minor to engage in sexual activity, but that he knew she was underage. Third, Appellant challenges the constitutionality of the Act that required him to register as a sex offender.   The DC Circuit affirmed Appellant’s convictions. The court held that the district court, in this case, did not abuse its discretion in admitting the expert’s testimony under Rule 702. The court explained that the district court justifiably concluded that concerns about the specific distances the expert drove should be considered by the jury in assessing the weight of the expert’s testimony and not by the court in its threshold admissibility determination. Further, the court explained that in light of the probative value of the expert’s testimony and the deference the Circuit Court affords district courts in making determinations under Rule 403, it cannot say that the district court abused its discretion in allowing the jury to hear from the expert. View "USA v. Charles Morgan, Jr." on Justia Law

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Nebraska requires persons who enter the State to register as sex offenders in Nebraska if they are obliged to register as sex offenders by another jurisdiction. This requirement applies to persons who committed their offenses as juveniles. Four Nebraska residents who committed sex offenses in other States as juveniles brought this action. They alleged that the registration requirement violated their rights to travel and to equal protection of the laws, because Nebraska does not impose a comparable requirement for persons who committed offenses as juveniles in Nebraska. The district court concluded that the registration requirement did not implicate the sex offenders’ right to travel, and that the requirement was rational and consistent with equal protection.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Nebraska has a legitimate interest in public safety and in limiting the number of potentially dangerous sex offenders who can avoid its registry. In furtherance of this interest, Nebraska requires offenders who must register in another State to register in Nebraska. The Does suggest that Nebraska should be required to conduct a “substantial equivalence” analysis for offenders who are required to register in another jurisdiction, and to eliminate the registration requirement for those whose offenses are not substantially equivalent to a Nebraska registration offense. But in opting to perform an intensive “substantial equivalence” inquiry only for offenders who are not required to register in another jurisdiction, the State permissibly chose to limit the resources devoted to individualized consideration. View "John Doe, I v. Doug Peterson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on any of his claims of error.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court's exclusion of polygraph evidence did not violate Defendant's constitutional right to present a complete defense; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion by allowing the State to amend the information; (3) although the admission of Defendant's videotaped confession to a previous offense may have been inflammatory, any error was harmless; and (4) cumulative error did not deny Defendant a fair trial. View "State v. White" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs submitted a petition to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York that contained information related to the September 11, 2001 attacks and requested that the Office present the petition to a grand jury. Over a year later, Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit, requesting (1) disclosure of grand jury records related to the petition and (2) a court order compelling defendants to present their petition to a grand jury if they have not yet done so. The district court dismissed the lawsuit for lack of standing and for failure to state a claim. On appeal, Plaintiffs challenge those findings.The Second Circuit affirmed finding no merit to Plaintiffs’ challenges. The court explained that fail to establish standing to pursue an order compelling Defendants to deliver their Petition to a grand jury under the Federal Mandamus Statute or the APA. Further, the court wrote that the First Amendment does not encompass the right to force a U.S. Attorney to present whatever materials a member of the public chooses to a grand jury. Accordingly, Plaintiffs have failed to show a cognizable injury under the First Amendment to establish standing to pursue Count 2. View "Lawyers' Committee v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Appellant Waterhouse Management Corp. is the property manager of Nomad Village Mobile Home Park (the Park), a 150- space mobile home park in Santa Barbara. Appellant Lazy Landing MHP, LLC, owns the long-term ground lease for the Park. Respondents are current and former lessees of mobile homes in the Park. They initially sued Appellants for violations of the Mobilehome Residency Law (Civ. Code, Section 798 et seq.) and the Mobilehome Parks Act (Health & Saf. Code, Section 18200 et seq.), alleging failure to properly maintain the Park. While Respondents’ lawsuit (the original lawsuit) was pending, Appellants filed a malicious prosecution action against Respondents.   One of the mentioned acts was appellants’ filing of the malicious prosecution action. Seizing on this reference to protected activity, appellants filed a special motion to strike respondents’ entire eleventh cause of action as a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation).   The Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s order denying Appellants’ special to strike the eleventh cause of action and imposing sanctions of $8,750 for making a frivolous motion. The court explained these allegations “merely provide context, without supporting a claim for recovery . . ..” Respondents’ claim for recovery arises out of their allegations of retaliation in violation of Civil Code section 1942.5, subdivision (d), which does not apply to a lessor’s retaliatory malicious prosecution action against a lessee. View "Alfaro v. Waterhouse Management Corp." on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision affirming Defendant's conviction did not reflect an unreasonable application of clearly established law.Defendant moved to suppress incriminating statements he made to a detective, arguing that his statement "I don't want to talk about this" expressed an unambiguous intention to cut off all further questioning and that the detective's continued questioning violated Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The trial court denied the motion, after which Defendant pleaded guilty to armed robbery and first-degree reckless injury. The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no abuse of Miranda. Thereafter, Appellant brought his habeas petition. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the petition, holding that the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision amounted to a reasonable application of the Supreme Court's Miranda line of cases. View "Smith v. Boughton" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion for relief from his first-degree murder conviction, holding that there was no merit to any of Appellant's claims on appeal.In his section 2255 petition, Appellant claimed that he was deprived of the effective assistance of trial counsel (IAC). The Sixth Circuit granted a certificate of appealability on Appellant's IAC claim concerning an alleged conflict of interest, a Brady claim, an IAC claim regarding the investigation at the guilt stage, and a final IAC claim regarding the presentation of mitigation evidence at the penalty phase. The district court denied the petition. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief on any of his claims of error. View "Gabrion, II v. United States" on Justia Law