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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Father’s parental rights to his child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(iv), holding that Father failed to present a prima facie case of ineffective assistance of counsel and that the record evidence supported the court’s findings and discretionary determinations. On appeal, Father argued that his counsel’s withdrawal two months before the termination hearing amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that Father did not demonstrate prejudice from counsel’s performance. View "In re Child of Stephen E." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of assault, holding that Defendant was not denied a fair trial because one of the jurors reported that she had felt pressured to return a guilty verdict. After the court informed the parties of the juror’s statement and invited the parties to be heard, the court concluded that there was no evidence of juror misconduct and that the guilty verdict would stand. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Defendant was not deprived of a fair trial because there was no evidence of outside influence, bias, or misconduct, and therefore, the juror’s statement that she felt pressured to return a guilty verdict fell within the categories of evidence prohibited from use by Me. R. Evid. 606(b)(1). View "State v. Leon" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for a new trial in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that a police officer used excessive force by slamming plaintiff's head into the bars and wall of his holding cell. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied plaintiff's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a) motion for a new trial when it determined that the jury's verdict could be harmonized and thus plaintiff was not entitled to compensatory damages as a matter of law. The court also held that, when attempting to harmonize a seemingly inconsistent verdict, the court was not limited to the specific theories of the case presented by the parties, but may adopt any reasonable view of the case that was consistent with the facts and the testimony adduced at trial. In this case, the jury's causation finding was ambiguous and might have referred only to the de minimus injuries that plaintiff suffered while being forced into the holding cell. View "Ali v. Kipp" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s convictions for unlawful imprisonment in the second degree and abuse of family or household members, holding that the prosecutor’s statements during closing argument amounted to an unwarranted attack on the person character of defense counsel and, by extension, Defendant, and the misconduct warranted vacating Defendant’s convictions. At issue on appeal was the propriety of the prosecutor’s remarks suggesting that opposing counsel attempted to induce the complaining witness to give false testimony during cross-examination. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the judgment, holding that there was no reasonable possibility that the prosecutor’s comment contributed to Defendant’s convictions. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the nature of the prosecution’s remarks during closing argument, the lack of any effective curative instruction, and the relative weight of the evidence, considered collectively, made clear that there was a reasonable possibility that the error might have contributed to Defendant’s convictions; and (2) the improper remarks did not clearly deny Defendant a fair trial, and therefore, the protections of double jeopardy were not implicated. View "State v. Underwood" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree and other offenses, affirmed the trial judge’s order denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial, and declined to reduce or set aside Defendant’s convictions under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. During trial, the defense attorney failed to adhere to the judge’s courtroom rules, made inappropriate comments in the presence of the jury, and interrupted the judge on multiple occasions. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the judge’s admonishments to defense counsel were well within the judge’s authority, and the judge’s jury instructions mitigated any potential prejudice that might have resulted from the jury observing the disputes; (2) the reconstruction of a missing portion of the record was proper and adequate; (3) there was no evidentiary error; and (4) any purported error in the Commonwealth’s closing statement was not prejudicial. Further, the Court declined to exercise its section 33E power based on friction generated as a result of the judge having to rein in defense counsel’s inappropriate courtroom conduct. View "Commonwealth v. Imbert" on Justia Law

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Hawaii’s use tax, Haw. Rev. Stat. 238-2, does not violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution notwithstanding that the 2004 amendment to the statute eliminated the application of the tax to in-state unlicensed sellers. CompUSA Stores, L.P. filed claims for refund of its 2006, 2007, and 2008 use tax payments. The Department of Taxation (Department) denied the request. CompUSA appealed, arguing that the tax discriminates against out-of-state commerce, cannot be justified by a legitimate local purpose, and thus violates the Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. The Tax Appeals Court granted the Department’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the current version of the use statute establishes a classification between in-state and out-of-state sellers; but (2) the statute satisfies rational basis review because the classification of out-of-state sellers bears a rational relationship to the legitimate state interest of leveling the economic playing field for local businesses subject to the general excise tax. View "CompUSA Stores, L.P. v. State" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for an officer based on qualified immunity in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging excessive force. The panel held that the district court did not err by raising the issue of qualified immunity sua sponte and by addressing it on summary judgment. The panel also held that, in viewing the record in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the officer's use of deadly force was objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. In this case, the officer could have reasonably feared that plaintiff had a gun and was turning to shoot him when the officer shot plaintiff following a traffic stop. View "Easley v. City of Riverside" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a devout Christian, alleged violations of his right to religious liberty under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc-1, and the denial of due process. In this case, plaintiff committed a disciplinary violation and was terminated from his kitchen assignment job after he refused to work on a religious holiday. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff's two inmate letters did not exhaust his administrative remedies, but that he exhausted administrative remedies through the disciplinary process. The panel held that defendants did not consider plaintiff's request for accommodation and RLUIPA mandated consideration of the requested accommodation. Finally, in regard to the district court's dismissal of certain defendants at the screening stage under 28 U.S.C. 1915A, the panel held that plaintiff's complaint did not explain how the dismissed defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment or RLUIPA. Therefore, the panel reversed the district court's ruling that plaintiff failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies; affirmed the section 1915A screening decision; and remanded for consideration of the merits of plaintiff's First Amendment and RLUIPA claims. View "Fuqua v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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Defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article 2, section 8 of the Arizona Constitution were not violated when law enforcement officers followed Defendant’s vehicle onto a private driveway to complete a traffic stop that began on a public road. Defendant was found guilty of possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and transporting methamphetamine for sale. Defendant appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized from him and his vehicle. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Constitution does not protect a driver that declines to stop on a public road and retreats onto private property; and (2) the officers’ actions in this case comported with Fourth Amendment standards because Defendant impliedly consented to the location of the stop where he led the officers in his vehicle. View "State v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s conviction of one count of sexual assault in the first degree, holding that Appellant’s trial counsel did not provide ineffective assistance. The jury in this case concluded that Appellant committed sexual intrusion upon a non-consenting victim whom Appellant knew or had reason to believe was physically helpless. On appeal, Appellant argued that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to object to inadmissible evidence, failing to adequately advance her theory of the case, and failing to suppress the statements made by Appellant when under investigative detention. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that trial counsel was not ineffective in her representation of Appellant. View "Bruckner v. State" on Justia Law