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The Court of Appeal affirmed Defendant’s conviction of reckless driving, holding that there was sufficient evidence that Defendant acted with wanton disregard for safety, that there was no trial error warranting reversal, and that any error in imposing Defendant’s sentence was harmless. Defendant was convicted of reckless driving after causing a head-on collision that resulted in significant injuries to two victims. The superior court sentenced Defendant to an aggregate term of six years incarceration - the high term of three years for the conviction plus three years for a great-bodily-injury enhancement, to run consecutively. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding (1) substantial evidence supported Defendant’s conviction; (2) the superior court did not deny Defendant his constitutional right to present a defense by barring him from cross-examining an officer about the details of other accidents near the collision site; (3) a great-bodily-injury enhancement may attach to felony reckless driving; (4) the superior court did not abuse its discretion in deciding to impose the high term in this case; and (5) any error in assessing Defendant’s presumptive probation eligibility was harmless. View "People v. Escarcega" on Justia Law

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Dhinsa is serving six life sentences for multiple convictions concerning his leadership role in a racketeering enterprise. Dhinsa’s habeas corpus petition challenged two convictions, on counts of murdering a potential witness (18 U.S.C. 1512(a)(1)(C). The Second Circuit vacated the denial of relief. Although habeas relief would not affect the length of his incarceration, Dhinsa had standing based the $100 special assessment that attached to each conviction--a concrete, redressable injury. Dhinsa did not, however, satisfy the jurisdictional prerequisites for a 28 U.S.C. 2241 habeas petition under section 2255(e)'s savings clause, which is available if “the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” Dhinsa asserted his innocence under the Supreme Court’s 2011 “Fowler” decision, which requires the government to show in a section 1512(a)(1)(C) prosecution that the murder victim was “reasonably likely” to have communicated with a federal official had he not been murdered. Dhinsa’s extensive racketeering enterprise represents a type of criminal activity that is commonly investigated and prosecuted by federal officials. A juror could reasonably find that each of Dhinsa’s victims was “reasonably likely” to have communicated with federal officials. Because this test is jurisdictional, however, the court erred in denying the petition on the merits and should have dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. View "Dhinsa v. Krueger" on Justia Law

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NRP made preliminary arrangements with the City of Buffalo to build affordable housing on city‐owned land and to finance the project in part with public funds. The project never came to fruition, allegedly because NRP refused to hire a political ally of the mayor. NRP sued the city, the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, the mayor, and other officials The district court resolved all of NRP’s claims in favor of defendants. The Second Circuit affirmed. NRP’s civil RICO claim against the city officials is barred by common‐law legislative immunity because the mayor’s refusal to take the final steps necessary to approve the project was discretionary legislative conduct, and NRP’s prima facie case would require a fact-finder to inquire into the motives behind that protected conduct. NRP’s “class of one” Equal Protection claim was properly dismissed because NRP failed to allege in sufficient detail the similarities between NRP’s proposed development and other projects that previously received the city’s approval. NRP’s claim for breach of contract was properly dismissed because the city’s “commitment letter” did not create a binding preliminary contract in conformity with the Buffalo City Charter’s requirements for municipal contracting. NRP fails to state a claim for promissory estoppel under New York law, which requires proof of “manifest injustice.” View "NRP Holdings LLC v. City of Buffalo" on Justia Law

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Timbs pleaded guilty in Indiana state court to dealing in a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit theft. The police seized a Land Rover SUV Timbs had purchased with money he received from an insurance policy when his father died. The state sought civil forfeiture of Timbs’s vehicle, charging that it had been used to transport heroin. Observing that Timbs had recently purchased the vehicle for more than four times the maximum $10,000 monetary fine assessable against him for his drug conviction, the trial court denied that request. The Indiana Supreme Court reversed. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated. The Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause is an incorporated protection applicable to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, which incorporates and renders applicable to the states Bill of Rights protections “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty,” or “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” The Excessive Fines Clause carries forward protections found in sources from Magna Carta to the English Bill of Rights to state constitutions from the colonial era to the present day. Excessive fines undermine other liberties. They can be used to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies. In considering whether the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates a Bill of Rights protection, the question is whether the right guaranteed—not every particular application of that right—is fundamental or deeply rooted. The Excessive Fines Clause is incorporated regardless of whether application of the Clause to civil in rem forfeitures is itself fundamental or deeply rooted. View "Timbs v. Indiana" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that Moore did not have an intellectual disability and was eligible for the death penalty. The Supreme Court vacated the decision. The appeals court reconsidered but reached the same conclusion in 2018. The Supreme Court again reversed, noting evidence that “Moore had significant mental and social difficulties beginning at an early age. At 13, Moore lacked basic understanding of the days of the week, the months of the year, and the seasons; he could scarcely tell time or comprehend the standards of measure or the basic principle that subtraction is the reverse of addition ... because of his limited ability to read and write, Moore could not keep up with lessons. … Moore’s father, teachers, and peers called him ‘stupid’ for his slow reading and speech. After failing every subject in the ninth grade, Moore dropped out of high school ... survived on the streets, eating from trash cans.” The court of appeal employed the correct legal criteria, examining: deficits in intellectual functioning—primarily a test-related criterion; adaptive deficits, “assessed using both clinical evaluation and individualized . . . measures”.; and the onset of these deficits while the defendant was still a minor. The court focused on adaptive deficits and found the state’s expert witness more credible and reliable than the other experts The Supreme Court held that the opinion repeated the analysis previously found improper; it relied, in part, on prison-based development, considered “emotional problems, ” and employed some “lay stereotypes of the intellectually disabled.” Moore has shown he is a person with intellectual disability. View "Moore v. Texas" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, on Plaintiff’s claims asserting violations of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701 et seq., and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FLMA), 29 U.S.C. 2601, et seq., holding that summary judgment was proper as to the Rehabilitation Act and FMLA retaliation claims but was not warranted as to Plaintiff’s FMLA interference claim. Plaintiff, a former employee of Defendant, asserted that Defendant discriminated against her and violated the FMLA by not hiring her for a permanent position following her completion of a five-year term. After exhausting her administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant on all counts. The Fourth Circuit held (1) the district court properly granted summary judgment as to Plaintiff’s Rehabilitation act and FMLA retaliation claims; but (2) summary judgment as to Plaintiff’s FMLA interference claim was precluded because a genuine issue of material fact remained as to whether Plaintiff provided notice of her disability and interest in FMLA leave sufficient to trigger Defendant’s duty to inquire. View "Hannah P. v. Coats" on Justia Law

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The 2011 Virgin Islands Economic Stability Act (VIESA) sought to reduce government spending by reducing payroll while continuing to provide necessary public services. VIESA offered some of the government’s most expensive employees (with at least 30 years of credited service) $10,000 to chose to retire within three months. Those declining to retire had to contribute an additional 3% of their salary to the Government Employees Retirement System starting at the end of those three months. Two members of the System with over 30 years of credited service who chose not to retire claimed that the 3% charge violated federal and territorial laws protecting workers over the age of 40 from discrimination based on their age. The Third Circuit found the provision valid because it did not target employees because of their age under the Supreme Court’s 1993 decision in Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggin; its focus on credited years of service entitles the government to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)’s reasonable-factor-other-than-age defense. The Third Circuit concluded that the Virgin Islands Supreme Court would deem the provision consistent with existing territorial anti-discrimination statutes. View "Bryan v. Government of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law

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In1998, police responded to a call at Hayslip’s apartment, where Hayslip’s boyfriend, Cain, was arguing with Thompson, Hayslip’s ex-boyfriend. They let Thompson leave. Three hours later, Thompson returned and shot Cain, killing him. Thompson shot Hayslip in the face, threw the gun into a creek, and went to Zernia's house. Hayslip died days later. Thompson later described the shootings to Zernia, then called his father, who took him to the police. In detention, Thompson talked with inmates Reid and Humphrey, about arranging for Zernia’s death using the Hayslip murder weapon Thompson drew a map of the weapon’s location, and asked Reid to pass the information to a contact. Reid relayed the information to the police. Divers were unable to locate the gun. Although Thompson’s right to counsel had attached, officers instructed Reid to tell Thompson his contact had been unable to find the weapon, and would visit for better directions. Posing as Reid’s outside contact, Investigator Johnson visited Thompson and recorded their conversation. Thompson offered Johnson $1,500 to retrieve the weapon and murder Zernia. The police then recovered the gun. Thompson later spoke with inmate Rhodes, to solicit the murder of witnesses. Thompson was convicted of capital murder; the court imposed the death penalty. After direct appeal and collateral review in Texas state court, he unsuccessfully sought federal habeas corpus relief. The Fifth Circuit grant a Certificate of Appealability on whether Thompson has established a Brady violation in the state’s nondisclosure of its past relationship with Rhodes and whether the introduction of Rhodes’s testimony constituted a “Massiah” violation, which requires determination of whether the informant was promised, reasonably led to believe, or actually received a benefit in exchange for soliciting information from the defendant and whether he acted pursuant to state instructions or otherwise submitted to the state’s control. View "Thompson v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Dispatchers received calls about a man on a rural street, shooting a pistol and yelling “everyone’s going to get theirs.” Dispatchers relayed descriptions of a black male wearing a brown shirt. Officers arrived and observed a suspect matching that description, who fired at them, then disappeared into the trees. The suspect re-appeared 100-500 yards away. The officers advanced but again lost sight of the suspect. They began ordering him to drop his weapon and come out. After a few minutes, the officers spotted a figure on a bicycle, wearing a blue jacket, not a brown shirt, over 100 yards away. All of the officers claim the rider was armed. The rider was Gabriel, not the suspect. His father, Henry, claims that Gabriel was “unarmed” and did not move his hands in any way that might have suggested that he was reaching for something. An officer yelled “put that down!” Officers fired 17 shots within seconds of spotting Gabriel. Hit, Gabriel fled. While Henry was attempting to help Gabriel in their yard, officers advanced. Henry stated that the only gun they had was a toy, which he tossed toward the officers. When the officers attempted to cuff Henry and Gabriel, both resisted. Officers tased them. EMS pronounced Gabriel dead at the scene. In the family's civil rights suit, the court granted the officers summary judgment on limitations and qualified immunity defenses. The Fifth Circuit affirmed that claims against two officers were time-barred but reversed in part. With respect to qualified immunity, the district court erred in excluding Henry’s affidavit. Genuine issues of material fact remain with respect to whether the use of deadly force was objectively reasonable. View "Winzer v. Kaufman County" on Justia Law

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The panel opinion, special concurrence, and dissent previously issued in this case were withdrawn, and the following opinions were substituted in their place. Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, BNSF, for disability discrimination and retaliation after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and later placed on medical leave. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to BNSF on plaintiff's disability discrimination claim because there was a fact issue as to whether BNSF discriminated against plaintiff. However, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the retaliation claim and held that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of an unlawful retaliation. View "Nall v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law