Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Oregon State Bar, alleging First Amendment violations arising from the Oregon State Bar's (OSB) requirement that lawyers must join and pay annual membership fees in order to practice in Oregon. Specifically, plaintiffs contend that (1) the two statements from the April 2018 Bulletin are not germane; (2) compelling them to join and maintain membership in OSB violates their right to freedom of association; and (3) compelling plaintiffs to pay—without their prior, affirmative consent—annual membership fees to OSB violates their right to freedom of speech. Furthermore, the Crowe Plaintiffs alone contend that the Bar's constitutionally mandated procedural safeguards for objecting members are deficient, and the Gruber Plaintiffs alone continue to argue on appeal that OSB is not entitled to sovereign immunity from suit. The district court dismissed all of plaintiffs' claims.The Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court that precedent forecloses the free speech claim, but neither the Supreme Court nor this court has resolved the free association claim now before the panel. Even assuming both statements at issue were nongermane, the panel concluded that plaintiffs' free speech claim failed. As alleged, the panel also concluded that the OSB's refund process is sufficient to minimize potential infringement on its members' constitutional rights. However, the panel explained that plaintiffs may have stated a viable claim that Oregon's compulsory Bar membership requirement violates their First Amendment right of free association. On remand, the panel noted that there are a number of complicated issues that the district court will need to address. First, the district court will need to determine whether Janus v. Am. Fed'n of State, Cnty., & Mun. Emps., Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448, 2477, 2481 (2018), supplies the appropriate standard for plaintiffs' free association claim and, if so, whether OSB can satisfy its "exacting scrutiny standard." Given that the panel has never addressed such a broad free association claim, the district court will also likely need to determine whether Keller v. State Bar of California's, 496 U.S. 1, 13–14 (1990), instructions with regards to germaneness and procedurally adequate safeguards are even relevant to the free association inquiry. Finally, the panel concluded that the district court erred by determining that OSB was an arm of the state entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the district court with instructions. View "Crowe v. Oregon State Bar" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the convictions received by Defendants, three former employees of the New England Compounding Center (NECC), for a number of federal offenses related to aspects of NECC's operation that were identified in the course of a federal criminal investigation into NECC's medication, holding that there was no prejudicial error.In 2012, patients across the country began falling ill after having been injected with a contaminated medication compounded by NECC. After many of these patients died, a federal criminal investigation ensued. A jury found Stepanets, Svirskiy, and Leary each guilty of committing multiple federal crimes. The First Circuit affirmed Defendants' convictions and Stepanets' sentence, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions; (2) it was not clear or obvious error under the Eighth Amendment for the district court to impose the sentence that Stepanets received; (3) Svirskiy's challenges to his convictions were without merit; and (4) Leary's arguments on appeal were unavailing. View "United States v. Stepanets" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion for postconviction relief after an evidentiary hearing, holding that the district court did not err in finding that trial counsel was effective.In his motion for postconviction relief, Defendant argued that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to file a direct appeal at Defendant's direction. The district court denied the motion after holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not clearly err in finding that Defendant did not direct trial counsel to file a direct appeal, and therefore, trial counsel was not deficient in allegedly not filing the appeal. View "State v. Russell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of possession of a controlled substance and two counts of carrying a concealed weapon, holding that there was no merit to Defendant's claims on appeal.On appeal, Defendant contended that the district court erred in overruling his motion to suppress, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of carrying a concealed weapon. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because there was no Fourth Amendment violation the court properly overruled Defendant's motion to suppress; (2) there was sufficient evidence to support the verdict; and (3) trial counsel did not perform deficiently. View "State v. Lowman" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction in the United States District Court for the District of Maine for possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a hearing under Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978).After he was charged, Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence discovered during a search of his home due to what he claimed were false statements and omissions in the affidavit supporting the application for the search warrant. The district court denied the suppression motion, including Defendant's request for an evidentiary hearing. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's Franks motion. View "United States v. Alexandre" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint claiming failure to accommodate, gender discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation, holding that the circuit court did not err.In dismissing the complaint, the circuit court found that Plaintiff's claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata because they could have been raised in an earlier lawsuit between the same parties. Plaintiff appealed, arguing (1) she was foreclosed from raising her claims during the earlier proceeding because the deadline for amendments to the pleadings had passed, and (2) the claims were different from those raised in the earlier lawsuit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly found that res judicata was a bar to the litigation of Plaintiff's claims. View "Baker v. Chemours Co. FC, LLC" on Justia Law

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John Doe was expelled from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (CHM) for allegedly sexually assaulting two women, Roe 1 and Roe 2, on the night of the school’s formal dance. An outside consultant had determined that the evidence supported a finding that Doe had sexually assaulted the women. CHM convened a panel, which affirmed those findings without an in-person hearing. While this process was ongoing, the Sixth Circuit held that universities must offer an in-person hearing with cross-examination in cases where the fact-finder’s determination depends on witness credibility.CHM then gave Doe an in-person hearing, conducted over the course of three days before a Resolution Officer selected by the university. Doe was permitted to testify and, through his attorney, to cross-examine Roe 1 and Roe 2. The Resolution Officer did not require Roe 1 to answer every question that Doe’s attorney posed. Both Doe and his attorney were present throughout the entire hearing. After considering the credibility of the witnesses, the Resolution Officer again found that the evidence supported a finding that Doe had sexually assaulted the women.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Doe’s suit alleging violations of the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and Title IX. Doe received ample due process throughout the course of his three-day hearing. View "Doe v. Michigan State University" on Justia Law

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In 2004, Kimball was convicted of multiple drug-trafficking, weapons, money-laundering offenses, soliciting murder, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment plus 15 years. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. In April 2020, Kimball sought compassionate release, asserting that there were extraordinary and compelling reasons warranting compassionate release because he is at high risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 based on his age (67) and medical conditions (hypertension, heart problems, high cholesterol, and gout) and that the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors weighed in favor of release.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of relief, rejecting Kimball’s argument that the time he has already served—approximately 17 years—is sufficient to serve the section 3553(a) goals because his offense did not involve any “actual violence” and he is statistically unlikely to re-offend based on his age. The court noted that when it affirmed his effective life sentence, he was the “undisputed kingpin and mastermind” of a “massive cocaine-trafficking conspiracy.” The district court’s order noted that its decision rested at least in part on the section 3553(a) factors; courts may deny relief under those factors “even if ‘extraordinary and compelling’ reasons would otherwise justify relief.” Even if the district court “mistakenly limited itself to the commentary’s list of extraordinary and compelling reasons," that would not entitle him to relief. View "United States v. Kimball" on Justia Law

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Bethel is serving a capital sentence at CCI. Following Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections Policy, CCI officials implemented a policy prohibiting “orders for printed material placed by third parties through unapproved vendors.” An inmate’s family or friends could only place orders on their behalf through an approved vendor; orders from unapproved vendors had to “be initiated by the inmate and approved by CCI.” If an inmate received a package from an unapproved source, the inmate could return the package at the inmate’s expense or have it destroyed. Officials withheld books from Bethel that were not ordered by Bethel; he received notices explaining why the books were withheld and offering him the option of having the books returned or destroyed. Bethel later learned that other inmates had received religious books, which were initially withheld for being ordered by a third party but were exempted after being reviewed by the chaplain.Bethel filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an Establishment Clause claim but remanded Free Speech and Procedural Due Process claims and later affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The “publisher only” policy was neutral and supported by the legitimate penological interest of preventing the entry of contraband into the prison; there were reasonable alternative means for Bethel to acquire these books. Bethel received sufficient process following the withholding of his books through written notice, the grievance procedure, and the ability to return the book. The defendants were entitled to qualified immunity in their individual capacities because they did not violate Bethel’s clearly established rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. View "Bethel v. Jenkins" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Petitioner claims that since he was restrained without adequate and on-the-record justification by the district court, his trial counsel should have objected and that the failure to object constituted inadequate assistance.The court concluded that, even if Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), could excuse petitioner's procedural default, he has failed to show actual prejudice under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), and therefore has not presented a "substantial claim" that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance. In this case, given the strong evidence of his guilt, there is no reasonable probability that the jury seeing petitioner in shackles affected his conviction. Nor is there any reasonable probability that seeing petitioner in shackles affected the jury's decision to recommend the death penalty. View "Clark v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" on Justia Law