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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claims against numerous government officials for alleged illegal intrusions into plaintiffs' electronic devices to conduct unlawful surveillance, and against certain corporate entities for allegedly facilitating those intrusions. The court affirmed the dismissals of Defendant Holder and Donahoe with prejudice for failure to present a cognizable claim under Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents. The court held that plaintiffs' claims did not present a new Bivens context, because Holder and Donahue held much higher ranks than the line-level FBI agents sued in Bivens; a claim based on unlawful electronic surveillance presents wildly different facts and a vastly different statutory framework from a warrantless search and arrest; and plaintiffs sought to hold high-level officials accountable for what they themselves frame as policy-level decisions to target internal leaks to the media. Moreover, various special factors identified in Ziglar v. Abbasi did not support recognizing a Bivens claim here. In regard to plaintiffs' Electronic Communications Privacy Act claim, the court held that, to the extent Holder and Donahoe procured any wrongful interception, use, or disclosure of plaintiffs' electronic communications, they did not violate a clearly established right. Finally, the court affirmed the dismissal of the amended complaint and the parties named therein with prejudice, as well as the dismissal of the unnamed John Doe agents without prejudice. View "Attkisson v. Holder" on Justia Law

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On petition for rehearing, the Eleventh Circuit held, as an initial matter, that a meaningful comparator analysis must be conducted at the prima facie stage of McDonnell Douglas's burden-shifting framework, and should not be moved to the pretext stage. With regard to the McDonnell Douglas standard, the court held that the proper test for evaluating comparator evidence is neither plain-old "same or similar" nor "nearly identical," as the court's past cases have discordantly suggested. The court held that a plaintiff asserting an intentional-discrimination claim under McDonnell Douglas must demonstrate that she and her proffered comparators were "similarly situated in all material respects." Because the plaintiff in this case failed to do so, the court remanded to the panel for further proceedings. View "Lewis v. City of Union City" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court dismissing on demurrer Plaintiff’s complaint filed under 42 U.S.C. 1983 claiming that prison officials had violated his due process rights during a prison disciplinary proceeding that resulted in a $10 fine, holding that there was no violation of Plaintiff’s due process rights. Plaintiff, an inmate in a Virginia prison, filed this action against several prison officials alleging deprivations of his due process rights. The circuit court granted Defendants’ demurrer, finding that the disciplinary proceeding had not deprived Plaintiff of any due process rights and that all of the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in holding that Plaintiff’s allegations did not state a viable due process claim. View "Anderson v. Warden" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for first-degree robbery and aiding, abetting, or advising first-degree robbery stemming from two separate cases, holding that any error in the proceedings below was harmless. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court did not by denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictments for violation of his statutory and constitutional rights to a speedy trial; (2) Defendant’s waiver of Miranda rights and subsequent statements were voluntary, knowing, and intelligent; and (3) although Defendant invoked his right to an attorney, his unambiguous request occurred after he had confessed to the crimes, and therefore, the detectives’ error in continuing the interview after that point was harmless, and the circuit court’s failure to exclude Defendant’s post-invocation statements was also harmless. View "State v. Two Hearts" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendants’ convictions of murder in the first degree by reason of extreme atrocity or cruelty and felony-murder and declined to exercise its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to grant a new trial or to reduce the verdicts, holding that no prejudicial error occurred. The defendants in this case were Alexander Gallett and Michel St. Jean. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed their convictions, holding (1) the motion judge did err in failing to suppress statements that Gallett made to police during his interrogation; (2) there was sufficient evidence to support St. Jean’s murder conviction; (3) St. Jean was not prejudiced by the admission of statements from Gallett’s redacted police interrogation; (4) the judge did not err in denying St. Jean’s requests for various jury instructions; (5) the trial judge did not improperly invoke juror sympathy; (6) there was no prejudicial error in limiting the cross-examination of certain witnesses; and (7) it was not reversible error for the judge to decline to give a humane practice jury instruction. View "Commonwealth v. Gallett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of offense of partner or family member assault, holding that the district court abused its discretion in denying Defendant’s motion to excuse a prospective juror for cause. In this case, a prospective juror spontaneously asserted that she would have a “hard time,” a personal “problem,” and a “real problem” with requiring the State to prove an essential element of the charged offense. The Supreme Court held that where the prospective juror’s multiple spontaneous statements were consistent, clear, unequivocal, and emphatic and where the record unequivocally manifested the juror’s bias, the district court abused its discretion in denying Defendant’s motion to disqualify the prospective juror for cause. Further, the error was structural, requiring automatic reversal. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court upholding the denial of Defendant’s motion to dismiss her driving under the influence (DUI) charge, holding that Montana’s statutory protections against double jeopardy did not bar Defendant’s charge. In 2016, Defendant pleaded guilty to careless driving. After reviewing Defendant’s toxicology report, the Helena Attorney’s Office additionally charged Defendant with DUI. Defendant moved to dismiss her DUI charge as a subsequent prosecution barred by Mont. Code Ann. 46-11-504(1). The municipal court denied the motion to dismiss. The district court upheld the denial of Defendant’s motion to dismiss. Thereafter, Defendant pleaded guilty to negligent endangerment pursuant to a plea agreement, preserving her right to appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Mont. Code Ann. 46-11-503 applied in this case; but (2) because no probable cause existed to charge Defendant with DUI before resolution of her careless driving charge, section 46-11-503 did not bar the subsequent DUI charge from prosecution. View "City of Helena v. O'Connell" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a federal civil rights action against defendants, alleging numerous federal constitutional violations and a disparate impact claim under the Fair Housing Act. Almost simultaneously, the city filed a nuisance complaint in state court against plaintiffs and the city filed a motion for abstention, or in the alternative, a motion to dismiss the federal action. The county filed a nearly identical motion the next day. The district court granted both the city and the county's motions, concluding that abstention was appropriate under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Determining that it had jurisdiction over the appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court properly abstained under Younger in every aspect, except with respect to the allegedly unreasonable search, which must be severed from the other claims. In this case, Younger abstention was appropriate as to all claims except the unreasonable search claim, because success by plaintiffs on such claims would invalidate the code enforcement proceeding. In regard to the unreasonable search claim, the district court erred in abstaining because the relief sought on alleged Fourth Amendment violations did not meet the Court's requirement that the relief have the practical effect of enjoining the state court proceeding. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Herrera v. City of Palmdale" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting the officers' motion for summary judgment in an action alleging that police officers violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when they stole plaintiffs' property after conducting a search and seizure pursuant to a warrant. The panel held that it need not, and did not, decide whether the officers violated the Constitution. Rather, the panel held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because, at the time of the incident, there was no clearly established law holding that officers violate the Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment when they steal property that is seized pursuant to a warrant. The panel noted that five other circuits had addressed the issue of whether the theft of property covered by the terms of a search warrant and seized pursuant to that warrant violates the Fourth Amendment. However, in the absence of binding authority or a consensus of a persuasive authority on the issue, the panel held that it was not clearly established that the officers' alleged conduct violated the Fourth Amendment. Likewise, plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment claim failed. View "Jessop v. City of Fresno" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Philadelphia police found drugs and a gun in an apartment that they thought was Randall’s. They arrested Randall. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged him but dropped all the charges in August 2015. When he was arrested in Philadelphia, he was already on probation in New Jersey and Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Hearing about his arrest, both jurisdictions issued detainers for him. After dropping the charges, Pennsylvania released Randall into New Jersey’s custody. He remained in custody, first in New Jersey and then in Delaware County, until December 24, 2015. On December 26, 2017, Randall sued the Philadelphia Law Department and the police officers who had arrested him under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed Randall’s claims as time-barred. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting Randall’s “continuing-violation” argument. Section 1983 borrows the underlying state’s statute of limitations for personal-injury torts. In Pennsylvania, that period is two years. When a Section 1983 claim accrues is a matter of federal law, under which a malicious-prosecution claim accrues when criminal proceedings end in the plaintiff’s favor. For Randall, that happened in August 2015, so he had until August 2017 to file his suit unless something tolled the statute of limitations. The continuing-violation doctrine focuses on continuing acts, not continuing injury. No Philadelphia defendant detained Randall beyond August 2015. View "Randall v. Philadelphia Law Department" on Justia Law