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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the City violated certain ordinances and selectively applied others in issuing the permit for a fence separating two neighbors while denying plaintiffs' permit for a deck they had built. The City filed a special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP statute), because plaintiffs' complaint targeted "protected speech" where the City's decisions followed official government proceedings. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of the special motion, holding that section 425.16 does not protect a governmental entity's decisions to issue or deny permits. The court agreed with the trial court that granting a special motion to strike in these circumstances would chill citizens' attempts to challenge government action. View "Shahbazian v. City of Rancho Palos Verdes" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Dufresne of three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) and six counts of third-degree CSC, based upon sexual acts that Dufresne committed against his then-girlfriend, Wiertalla, with whom he shared a son. Wiertalla reported the acts after Dufresne left her and traveled to Florida with their son. Dufresne belonged to the “Creativity Movement,” which was considered by law enforcement to be a white-supremacist group. The trial court sentenced Dufresne to 50-75 years of imprisonment on the first-degree CSC counts and 25-50 years on the third-degree counts. Following a hearing on the effectiveness of trial counsel’s assistance, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed rejection of an ineffective assistance claim. After rejection of his state court motion for relief from judgment, Dufresne filed a federal habeas petition, alleging: trial counsel performed ineffectively; the trial court erred by granting a motion to exclude evidence and the prosecutor intimidated crucial witnesses; appellate counsel failed to raise meritorious issues; repeated references to his post-arrest, post-Miranda silence; and repeated references to his ties to the Creativity Movement. The district court denied habeas relief, concluding that Dufresne procedurally defaulted grounds one and two and was not entitled to habeas relief on the merits of grounds three through five. The Sixth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability, calling the evidence of guilt “overwhelming.” View "Dufresne v. Palmer" on Justia Law

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As many as 50,000 stray dogs roam Detroit’s streets, sometimes in packs. An ordinance allows animal control officers to capture and impound stray dogs owned in violation of licensing and vaccination provisions and to euthanize them under some circumstances. It makes it unlawful to refuse to surrender an animal that has attacked or bitten a person or other animal. It allows officers to enter “real property ... for the purpose of capturing, collecting, or restraining any animal,” without a warrant. Violations are misdemeanors. Detroit Animal Control officers seized each of the plaintiff’s dogs because the dogs were running loose off of the owners’ property, attacked a person or other animal, or during evictions. In their suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court granted the plaintiffs an injunction with respect to the warrantless search-and-seizure claim but granted the defendants judgment as a matter of law as to other claims because the plaintiffs could not show any constitutional violations. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the rejection of the Fourteenth Amendment and several Fourth Amendment claims but reversed rejection of two Fourth Amendment claims. Most of the plaintiffs cannot show that a Detroit policy or custom directly caused the alleged search-and-seizure violations, and all of them cannot show a cognizable due-process violation. View "Hardrick v. City of Detroit" on Justia Law

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Frentz, a long-time alcoholic who was taking medication to deal with delirium tremens, was arrested for the murder of his housemate. He claimed to be suffering hallucinations and filed notice that he would pursue a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. After consulting with an expert, his attorney did not pursue the defense. Frentz was convicted of the murder and associated drug charges. The Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed. His state postconviction petition alleged ineffective assistance of counsel for not pursuing the insanity defense. The Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of his petition. Frentz sought habeas relief, 28 U.S.C. 2254. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. The Indiana court did not unreasonably apply federal law in denying Frentz’s postconviction petition. Counsel’s decisions were consistent with researching and deciding for strategic reasons not to pursue the insanity defense: Frentz changed his story several times, suggesting attempts to fabricate a cover story, rather than confusion or an inability to remember what had happened. The testimony of jailhouse informants, if credited, indicated a callous disregard for the victim's life and suggested that Frentz had attempted to conceal his crime, beginning almost immediately after the shooting when he reportedly drove his truck up and down the road (as corroborated by other witnesses). A jury could have relied on this evidence in disbelieving any claim of mental incapacity. View "Frentz v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 after Jeremy W. Vann was shot and killed by police in a retail parking lot when he was maneuvering his car in an effort to escape. The district court granted summary judgment for the police officers and the city. The Fifth Circuit held that there were genuine disputed issues of material fact regarding Sergeant Logan's actions, and thus the court vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment to Logan. In this case, the central disputed fact was whether Logan ran to the opening and shot Vann to stop him from fleeing or whether Logan ran between the cars to get out of Vann's way and then shot Vann because Vann was going to hit him. The court affirmed the district court's judgment as to the remaining defendants. View "Vann v. City of Southaven" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion for panel rehearing, granted defendants' motion for publication of the opinion, vacated its prior opinion, and substituted the following opinion. Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1988 and Florida law, alleging claims of excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, battery/unnecessary force, and malicious prosecution, arising from Lieutenant Smith's arrest of plaintiff. A jury returned a verdict for defendants and the district court denied plaintiff's motion for new trial. The court held that the district court abused its discretion in not asking the jury plaintiff's proposed voir dire question, which was: "Do you harbor any biases or prejudices against persons who are gay or homosexual?" Given the pretrial documentation concerning plaintiff's homosexual relationships, and the characterization of the altercation that led to his arrest as a domestic dispute, the risk that latent, undiscovered prejudices may have influenced the jury's verdict was substantial. Furthermore, the error was not harmless. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "Berthiaume v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity in an action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that UMKC's decision not to renew plaintiff's contract was in retaliation of his free speech rights as a public employee. The court held that plaintiff's speech regarding the school's preferential treatment of student athletes was unprotected speech done pursuant to his duties as a lecturer. Plaintiff failed to show, using the particularized inquiry required, that his right to make this speech in these circumstances was clearly established. In this case, defendants could reasonably conclude that plaintiff spoke solely as an aggrieved lecturer in asking the Chancellor to investigate grading policies for student athletes. View "Lyons v. Vaught" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of threatening a judicial officer and disorderly conduct arising from statements Defendant made in the Minnehaha County Courthouse. At the conclusion of a court trial, the circuit court ruled that Defendant’s statements were “true threats” rather than speech protected by the First Amendment. Defendant appealed, arguing that his statements were protected speech and therefore could not be the basis for criminal conduct. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Defendant’s statements at the courthouse were not protected speech but, rather, constituted true threats under the relevant factors. View "State v. Draskovich" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review to determine whether the General Assembly abrogated high public official immunity when it enacted Section 6111(i) of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act (UFA), 18 Pa.C.S. sections 6101-6187. Appellees John Doe 1, John Doe 2, John Doe 3 and Jane Doe 1 were adult individuals residing in Franklin County who each applied for a license to carry a firearm (LTCF) by submitting an application to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department. Subsequently, appellees filed the underlying eight-count class action complaint against Franklin County officials, pertinent here, Sheriff Dane Anthony (Sheriff Anthony, collectively, appellants), claiming, inter alia, violations of the confidentiality provision of Section 6111(i) and seeking damages. Appellees alleged they and several other applicants received notification of the approval, renewal, denial or revocation of their LTCF applications from appellants via postcards sent through the United States Postal Service (USPS), and the postcards were not sealed in an envelope. Appellees alleged, inter alia, appellants’ use of postcards to notify LTCF applicants of the status of their applications resulted in the notices being “visible [to] all individuals processing, mailing and serving the mail, as well as, [to] any individual receiving the postcard at the address, who may or may not be the applicant or license holder.” Appellees claimed these actions constituted “public disclosure” in violation of Section 6111(i). Central to this appeal is Count III of the Complaint, in which appellees specifically alleged Sheriff Anthony, in his management and leadership of the Sheriff’s Office, “instituted and directed the disclosure of confidential LTCF application information to the public, employees of the County and Sheriff’s Office not authorized under the UFA, [USPS] employees and other third parties at the same address who use the same mailbox as the LTCF applicant in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. §6111(i).” With regard to Count III, appellants sought dismissal of all claims against Sheriff Anthony on the basis that he was immune from suit as a high public official for any actions he took in his official capacity as Sheriff of Franklin County. The trial court sustained most of the preliminary objections and dismissed the entire complaint. Relevant here, the court concluded Sheriff Anthony qualified as a high public official, and was therefore immune from liability for any acts performed in his official capacity as sheriff. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held the General Assembly did not abrogate high public official immunity through Section 6111(i), and thus reversed the Commonwealth Court on this issue. View "John Doe v. Franklin Co. Sheriff's Office" on Justia Law

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Although the Second Circuit agreed with the district court that defendant's substantive due process rights were violated when prison officials assigned plaintiff, who was then a pretrial detainee, to Administrative Segregation, the court held that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. In this case, defendant was discharged from Administrative Segregation and released, arrested again on new drug-related offenses, and then re-admitted into Administrative Segregation. The court held that the law was not clearly established at the time that a substantive due process violation would result from plaintiff's placement in Administrative Segregation based solely on his prior assignment to (and failure to complete) that program. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's judgment for plaintiff. View "Allah v. Milling" on Justia Law