by
Plaintiff filed suit alleging that North Carolina prison officials imposed a substantial burden on his religious exercise by refusing his request to celebrate four annual Rastafarian holy days, in violation of his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the First Amendment. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for defendants based on different reasons than the ones given by the district court. The court held that plaintiff failed to show that defendants' policies caused a substantial burden on his exercise of religion. In this case, plaintiff failed to identify any Rastafarian inmate in the North Carolina prison system who would attend his proposed gatherings. View "Wright v. Lassiter" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of habeas relief as to the penalty phase, because petitioner's counsel rendered ineffective assistance by not investigating and presenting mitigating evidence at the penalty phase. Applying de novo review, the panel held that counsel did not properly investigate petitioner's background, and thus the trial court at the penalty phase was not presented with substantial mitigation evidence regarding petitioner's education and incarceration, his diffuse brain damage, and his history of substance abuse. The panel held that this raised a reasonable probability that, had the trial court been presented with the mitigation evidence in the first instance, the outcome would have been different. In this case, petitioner may have been spared the death penalty and been imprisoned for life instead. Accordingly, the panel remanded with instructions to grant relief against the death penalty. View "Washington v. Ryan" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to prison officials in his 42 U.S.C. 1983 action for excessive force, failure to intervene, deliberate indifference, and retaliation claims arising from use of force during his confinement. Liberally construing plaintiff's appellate contentions and reviewing de novo, the Fifth Circuit held that Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and its progeny did not bar plaintiff's excessive force claims. In this case, plaintiffs excessive force claims implicated neither the validity of his underlying conviction nor the duration of his sentence. In regard to whether defendants were entitled to qualified immunity, the court held that there was a genuine dispute of material fact concerning what occurred during the use of force. Therefore, the court remanded for further consideration. View "Bourne v. Gunnels" on Justia Law

by
In the underlying actions, the People asserted claims under Business and Professions Code section 17501 against real parties in interest and alleged that real parties sold products online by means of misleading, deceptive or untrue statements regarding the former prices of those products. The trial court sustained real parties' demurrer without leave to amend on the ground that the statute was void for vagueness as applied to real parties. The Court of Appeal granted the petition for writ of mandate seeking relief from the ruling regarding the section 17501 claims, and held that real parties failed to demonstrate any constitutional defect on demurrer. Regarding real parties' challenge to section 17501 as an unconstitutional regulation of free speech, as a preliminary matter, the court rejected petitioner's contention that the statute targets only false, misleading or deceptive commercial speech; the plain language of the statute restricts protected commercial speech and thus, the statute was subject to the test for constitutional validity set forth in Central Hudson Gas & Elec. v. Public Serv. Comm'n (1980) 447 U.S. 557, 566; and, because the undeveloped record was inadequate to apply the test, real parties' "free speech" challenge necessarily failed on demurrer. The court also rejected real parties' contention that section 17501 was void for vagueness, and rejected the facial and as-applied challenges. View "People v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

by
After plaintiffs were arrested and detained by ICE under 8 U.S.C. 1226(a), pending removal for being in the United States without inspection or admission, they filed suit against ICE and DHS, challenging their transfer or anticipated transfer from ICE's detention facility to an out of state facility. Plaintiffs alleged a violation of their substantive due process right to family unity and procedural due process right to notice and an opportunity to be heard, because such transfers separated them from their children and made it impossible for children to have access to their parents or to visit them. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the government's motion to dismiss and held that plaintiffs did not have a due process right to family unity in the context of immigration detention pending removal. Furthermore, the court did not have the authority to create a new substantive due process right in view of Supreme Court decisions cautioning courts from innovating in this area. Likewise, the court held that, because plaintiffs right to family unity did not exist, their procedural due process claim failed. View "Reyna v. Hott" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the motion court overruling Appellant's Mo. R. Crim. P. 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief alleging several claims of ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel, holding that Appellant's claims of error were unavailing. After a jury trial, Appellant was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder for the death of a Missouri highway patrolman. The jury was unable to agree whether to recommend a sentence of death or life imprisonment. The circuit court subsequently conducted an independent review of the facts and imposed a death sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed on appeal. Thereafter, Appellant filed his Rule 29.15 motion. The motion court denied the motion after an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding, among other things, that counsel were not ineffective in failing to question Juror 58 during voir dire about the provocative and violent novel he admitted writing and in failing to call other jurors in support of Appellant's motion for new trial. View "Shockley v. State" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, alleging unconstitutional censorship on the Hunt County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) Facebook page. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the individual defendants because the only claims against the individual defendants were plaintiff's individual-capacity claims for monetary damages and her official-capacity claims for equitable relief, which she did not appeal. However, the court vacated the dismissal of plaintiff's claims against Hunt County, because plaintiff sufficiently pleaded an official policy of viewpoint discrimination on the HCSO Facebook page. In this case, the complaint alleged that Hunt County had an explicit policy of viewpoint discrimination on the HCSO Facebook page. The court also held that, to the extent the district court determined that plaintiff's declaratory judgment claims against Hunt County were redundant of her claims for injunctive relief, this conclusion was inconsistent with the purposes of the Declaratory Judgment Act and therefore an abuse of discretion. Furthermore, plaintiff's request for declaratory relief was not duplicative of her claims for compensatory damages. Finally, the court vacated the district court's preliminary injunction order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Robinson v. Hunt County" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's federal application for post-conviction relief where he was sentenced to death for killing his great aunt. The court held that the Director did not waive her statute of limitations defense; the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining whether to equitably toll the limitations period; the state court did not abuse its discretion by holding that petitioner's confession was taken in contravention of Miranda v. Arizona, but that its admission was harmless error under the Supreme Court's decision in Chapman v. California; and the district court did not improperly deny petitioner investigative funding under 18 U.S.C. 3599(f). View "Jones v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying Citizens' motion for attorney's fees, expert fees, and costs stemming from a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action that successfully challenged a 2015 state law that redrew Greensboro City Council districts. The court held that civil rights fee-shifting statutes, such as those at issue here, are not meant to punish defendants for a lack of innocence or good faith but rather to "compensate civil rights attorneys who bring civil rights cases and win them." The court explained that "innocence" or a "lack of responsibility" for the enactment of an unconstitutional law was therefore not an appropriate criterion to justify denying a fee award against the party responsible for and enjoined from enforcing the unconstitutional law. View "Brandon v. Guilford County Board of Elections" on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint with prejudice as a sanction for misrepresenting his litigation history. The court held that district courts may conduct limited inquiries into whether a litigant's fear of imminent danger under 28 U.S.C. 1915(g) is plausible. In this case, the district court did not err by concluding that plaintiff's claim of imminent danger was "without foundation" where plaintiff's explanation for why he was in imminent danger was both circular and completely conclusory. Furthermore, plaintiff unquestionably received adequate notice, and had an opportunity to be heard, before the district court dismissed his action. View "Shepherd v. Commissioner Annucci" on Justia Law