Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions for one count of conspiracy and one count of structuring the export of monetary transactions, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. Defendant's convictions arose from his role in assisting the leader of conspiracy in smuggling cash through the Logan International Airport in Boston and onto a plane headed to Portuguese islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The First Circuit affirmed the convictions, holding (1) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress certain evidence against him; (2) the district court did not err by admitting into evidence certain statements that the leader made to undercover agents and to admit records of Defendant's phone contacts with the leader; (3) there was no merit to Defendant's argument that the district court erred by refusing to issue certain jury instructions that Defendant argued he requested; and (4) Defendant's remaining allegations of error were without merit. View "United States v. Melo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioners' Rule 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter of law, Rule 59(a) motion for a new trial, and Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend the judgment, as provided for by the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure, holding that the circuit court did not err. Respondent filed a complaint alleging that Petitioners, two correctional officers, used excessive force against him. The jury found that Petitioners used excessive force on Respondent and committed the civil tort of battery on Respondent. The jury award compensatory damages of $0 and punitive damages of $4,500. Petitioners filed a Rule 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter of law and motions pursuant to Rules 59(a) and (e) for a new trial and/or to alter or amend the judgment, arguing that there was no reasonable relationship between the compensatory damages and punitive damages award. The circuit court denied the motions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) allowing punitive damages to be recovered by Respondent without an accompanying award of compensatory or nominal damages; and (2) failing to apply the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. 1997e, to Petitioners. View "Lunsford v. Shy" on Justia Law

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Recover Agents went to the home of Jiries and Yasmeen Abu-Joudeh to repossess their car. An altercation ensued. According to Yasmeen, an agent pushed her. The agents say that Jiries asked Yasmeen to get a gun and hit her when she refused. The agents called the police. The Abu-Joudehs moved their car into the garage and shut the door. Capac Police Chief Schneider and Michigan State Trooper Sebring arrived. Yasmeen let the officers into the house. More police cars arrived. One officer, whom Yasmeen called the “third officer,” entered the house and kept her seated. Schneider’s police report suggests that this third officer was Memphis Police Chief Sheets. Yasmeen’s physical description of the third officer fit Sheets. The third officer, with the repossession agents, attempted to pry open the garage's main electric door, then went around to the side door, which one of them opened. The agents loaded the vehicle onto their tow truck and hauled it away. AbuJoudeh filed suit, claiming Sheets broke into the garage, violating his right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Sheets submitted an affidavit saying he “did not open Plaintiff’s garage without consent, did not enter Plaintiff’s garage without consent, and did not enter Plaintiff’s vehicle or participate in its repossession.” The district court granted Sheets summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The evidence suggesting that Sheets was the officer who broke into his garage creates a genuine issue of material fact. View "Abu-Joudeh v. Schneider" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of a petition for federal habeas relief brought by petitioner, challenging his California state murder conviction and death sentence. Petitioner alleges that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel at the penalty phase because his lawyers failed to present additional evidence of his family history and social background. The panel held that reasonable jurists could conclude that admission of this evidence would not have led to a reasonable probability of a different sentence and thus petitioner was not prejudiced by any deficiency in counsel's performance. The panel granted petitioner's motion to expand the certificate of appealability as to four additional claims. The panel held that the state court reasonably concluded that a mens rea defense theory would not have been reasonably probable to persuade the jury to acquit. Even assuming that counsel rendered deficient performance in failing to conduct further investigation, it was eminently reasonable for the court to conclude that petitioner failed to show that the omission of this argument adversely affected the outcome. Finally, the panel held that petitioner was not prejudiced by his counsel's failure to obtain a transport order and funding authorization for EEG tests and a PET scan during the guilt or penalty phase. View "Berryman v. Wong" on Justia Law

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Appellant sought habeas corpus relief, arguing that he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel because the defense lawyer who represented him in his child molestation trial in Arizona state court was ineffective. After the jury reported that it was deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial, the jury requested permission to resume deliberations. Appellant's counsel did not object and the jury convicted appellant on all grounds. The Ninth Circuit held that appellant's counsel was not ineffective because, on the facts of this case, it was a reasonable prediction that appellant had a better chance of a more favorable verdict from the existing jury on the existing trial record than he would from a retrial. View "May v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against UND Law under Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), alleging that UND Law discriminated against him because of his mental illness when it rejected his admission application. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to UND Law, holding that plaintiff failed to show that UND Law's legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for rejecting plaintiff's application was pretext for discrimination. The court reasoned that UND Law's holistic approach to application reviews did not discriminate against plaintiff in determining that he would not be a good fit for UND Law. In this case, plaintiff had dropped out of law school three times, had a very low undergraduate GPA, and submitted out-of-date recommendation letters. View "Power v. University of North Dakota School of Law" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding the trial court's grant of summary judgment without addressing its legal merit, holding that the trial court's recital in its final summary judgment order that it considered "the pleadings, evidence, and arguments of counsel" included a late-filed response and attached evidence. Plaintiff sued Defendant alleging that she had been sexually assaulted at work. Defendant moved for summary judgment, presenting traditional and no evidence grounds. The trial court granted the motion. On remand from the Supreme Court, the court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Plaintiff failed to file a timely response to the no-evidence motion and that the trial court did not consider the late-filed response. The court of appeals declined to consider the evidence that Defendant had attached to its combined motion because no timely response pointed out a fact issue raised by that evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court's recital that it considered the "evidence and arguments of counsel," without limitation, was an "affirmative indication" that the trial court considered Plaintiff's response and the evidence attached to it; and (2) therefore, the court of appeals should have considered that evidence as well in its review of the trial court's summary judgment. View "B.C. v. Stake N Shake Operations, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Defendant's appeal of the denial of his plea in bar, holding that because Defendant's plea in bar did not present a colorable double jeopardy claim this Court lacked appellate jurisdiction. Defendant was charged with one count of first degree sexual assault and one count of third degree sexual assault of a child. The alleged victim of both crimes was T.K. Defendant filed a plea in bar asserting that he entered guilty pleas to certain criminal charges as part of an agreement in which the State agreed not to bring any charges alleging that he sexually assaulted T.K. Defendant argued that by filing criminal charges it had previously agreed not to bring the State violated his double jeopardy protections. The district court overruled the plea in bar. The Supreme Court dismissed Defendant's appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that Defendant did not present a colorable double jeopardy claim, and therefore, the order overruling his plea in bar was not a final, appealable order. View "State v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's sentence for witness tampering but otherwise affirmed Defendant's convictions and the sentence imposed for Defendant's sexual assault conviction, holding that Defendant's sentence for witness tampering should have been an indeterminate rather than a determinate sentence. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the Court will not consider Defendant's assignment of error alleging ineffective assistance of counsel because Defendant failed to comply with this Court's pronouncement regarding the specificity required for assignments of error alleging ineffective assistance of counsel; (2) when a defendant challenges a sentence imposed by the district court as excessive and the State believes the sentence to be erroneous but has not complied with Neb. Rev. Stat. 29-2315.01 or 29-2321, the State may not assert such error via a cross-appeal; (3) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress, failing to grant his motion for mistrial based on prosecutorial misconduct, and failing to grant a directed verdict; (4) the sentence for the sexual assault conviction was not sentence; and (5) the trial court plainly erred by imposing a determinate sentence for witness tampering. View "State v. Guzman" on Justia Law

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Worman mailed his supervisor a pipe bomb, which the Postal Service intercepted. Worman was convicted of mailing an explosive device (18 U.S.C. 1716), possessing an unregistered destructive device (26 U.S.C. 5861(d), 5845(f)), transporting an explosive device (18 U.S.C. 844(d)), and possessing and using a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence (18 U.S.C. 924(c)). Worman’s mailing of a bomb constituted the predicate crime of violence for the section 924(c) charge, which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment consecutive to any sentence imposed on another count. Worman was sentenced to 360 months for the 924(c) offense and one month for the other offenses. The judge explained that Worman would not be released until he was 84 and lacked any criminal history. The Eighth Circuit vacated; its precedent prohibited judges from considering a mandatory consecutive sentence when granting a downward variance. The court resentenced Worman to 168 months for the pipe‐bomb offenses and 360 mandatory, consecutive months for the 924(c) offense. In 2016, Worman filed an unsuccessful pro se motion for a new sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, based on the Supreme Court’s 2015 “Johnson” decision. In 2017, the Supreme Court held, in “Dean,” that a sentencing court may use its discretion when calculating an appropriate sentence for a felony serving as the basis for a section 924(c) conviction. Worman sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief, despite recognizing that Dean provided Worman a basis for a sentencing reduction. Worman does not meet either exception authorizing a second habeas motion. Dean was a decision of statutory law, not an interpretation of the Constitution, and does not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review. View "Worman v. Entzel" on Justia Law