by
JRE filed suit against defendants in an action stemming from a dispute concerning a television production based on the life of the Mexican-American celebrity Jenni Rivera. JRE filed suit against Rivera's former manager, the program's producers, and the program's broadcaster. JRE alleged that the manager breached a nondisclosure agreement by disclosing information to the producers and the broadcaster. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying the producers' special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, holding that JRE satisfied its burden to demonstrate a prima facie case, with reasonable inferences from admissible evidence, that the producers had knowledge of the nondisclosure agreement before taking actions substantially certain to induce the manager to breach the agreement. However, the court held that the First Amendment protected the broadcaster's use and broadcast of the information in the series, and the court reversed the trial court's order denying the broadcaster's special motion to strike. In this case, although First Amendment protection for newsgathering or broadcasting does not extend to defendants who commit a crime or an independent tort in gathering the information, it was undisputed that the broadcaster did not know of the nondisclosure agreement at the time it contracted with the producers to broadcast the series, and JRE did not show that the broadcaster engaged in sufficiently wrongful or unlawful conduct after it learned of the nondisclosure agreement to preclude First Amendment protection. View "Jenni Rivera Enterprises, LLC v. Latin World Entertainment Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

by
LeRoy Guillory and 11 other plaintiffs appealed the denial of their 42 U.S.C. 1988 motion for attorney fees as prevailing parties in their civil rights claim against defendant Orange County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Michele Hill. In 2007, following a huge Halloween party, 100 special weapons and tactics (SWAT) officers raided the mansion where the party had taken place. The SWAT team forcibly detained plaintiffs and restrained their hands behind their backs with zip ties. About an hour later, Hill and a team of around 40 officers entered the mansion to conduct a warrant-based search for evidence of illegal gaming. Hill coordinated the search. At various times that day, she interviewed and released each plaintiff separately. Plaintiffs sued Hill and other defendants for allegedly violating plaintiffs’ civil rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Eventually, “several defendants including the various SWAT teams, unnamed ‘Doe’ police officers, and County of Orange defendants dropped out, either by plaintiffs’ failure to name the ‘Doe’ defendants or by settlement or summary adjudication,” leaving Hill as the sole remaining defendant. At the close of evidence, the trial court granted Hill’s motion for a directed verdict. On appeal from the first trial, the Court of Appeal reversed the directed verdict solely as to plaintiffs’ “section 1983 claims based on the prolonged detention of the plaintiffs” after the search ended. The Court affirmed, however, the directed verdict on plaintiffs’ other constitutional claims, “including the SWAT team and other officers’ allegedly excessive force in entering and securing the premises” and “restraining the detainees with excessive force before Hill questioned them.” The jury awarded damages to nine plaintiffs; the jury found in Hill’s favor on the three remaining plaintiffs. Plaintiffs contended the trial court abused its discretion when it denied their request for attorney fees. The Court of appeal found, "in light of plaintiffs’ minimal success and inflated fee request," the trial court properly exercised its discretion to deny their section 1988 motion. Plaintiffs originally sought over $1 million in damages but ultimately obtained an award of less than $5,400. Plaintiffs then moved for almost $3.8 million in attorney fees in a 392-page motion containing, in the trial court’s words, “bloated, indiscriminate,” and sometimes “‘cringeworthy’” billing records. View "Guillory v. Hill" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the labor and industrial relations commission affirming the award of the administrative law judge (ALJ) determining that Douglas Cosby was not entitled to permanent total disability (PTD) or permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits from the second injury fund pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.220.3, holding that the commission did not err and that section 287.220.3, as applied to Cosby, does not violate the open courts provision or Cosby's due process and equal protection rights. Cosby injured his knee during the course of his employment. Cosby filed a workers' compensation claim against his employer and the second injury fund alleging that he was disabled as a result of his knee injury combined with his preexisting disabilities. An ALJ denied benefits, and the commission affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the commission properly interpreted section 287.220 to find that Cosby was not entitled to PPD benefits from the fund because his knee injury occurred after January 1, 2014; and (2) interpreting section 287.220.3(2) to not provide PPD benefits from the fund does not violate the Missouri open courts provision or Defendant's due process or equal protection rights. View "Cosby v. Treasurer of the State" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division affirming Defendant's conviction, holding that the People violated their constitutional obligation to disclose a surveillance video that captured the scene at the time of the shooting, and there was a reasonable probability that the disclosure of the video would have produced a different result at trial. Defendant was convicted of murder for shooting Ruben Alexandre outside an apartment building. The surveillance video of the scene in this case included images of the victim and a key prosecution witness. After receiving the video, Defendant moved to vacate his conviction, arguing that the People's failure to disclose the video violated their obligations under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The trial court denied the motion. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that where the video was withheld from the defense and the jury was told it did not exist, the aggregate effect of the suppression of the evidence undermined confidence in the verdict, and therefore, Defendant was entitled to a new trial. View "People v. Ulett" on Justia Law

by
In 2009, Beason pled guilty as a felon in possession of a firearm. He received a 15‐year mandatory minimum under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e), based on his Wisconsin juvenile adjudication for armed robbery and two Wisconsin drug offenses. The Seventh Circuit dismissed Beason’s appeal in 2012, reasoning that it was enough that his drug offense carried a maximum penalty of at least 10 years and that Beason’s juvenile adjudication was a “violent felony” although Wisconsin armed robbery could be committed without a gun, knife, or explosive. In 2013 he unsuccessfully challenged his juvenile adjudication as a qualifying violent felony (28 U.S.C. 2255), making no arguments about the drug offenses. Four years later, Beason filed a 28 U.S.C. 2241 petition, arguing that neither of his drug offenses carried a sentence long enough to qualify as a “serious drug offense” and that his juvenile adjudication could not count as a “violent felony.” The district court agreed with Beason on the merits but concluded that Beason's section 2255 petition precluded section 2241 relief because he could have raised the exact arguments in his earlier petition. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Beason’s argument about his drug convictions was foreclosed to him at the time of his section 2255 motion; the Seventh Circuit subsequently addressed Wisconsin’s bifurcated sentencing system and held that only the term of initial confinement—not the term of extended supervision—counted towards ACCA’s threshold of 10‐years’ imprisonment for a “serious drug offense.” View "Beason v. Marske" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of appellant's motion under 28 U.S.C. 2255 to vacate his conviction on the ground that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment. In this case, appellant's attorney erroneously advised him that, if he pleaded guilty to the lesser included offense of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, deportation was a mere possibility that he could fight in immigration court. Rather, conspiracy to distribute cocaine was an "aggravated felony" under the Immigration and Nationality Act and a noncitizen convicted of such a crime was subject to mandatory deportation. Therefore, counsel's performance was deficient. Furthermore, the court held that appellant was prejudice based on counsel's deficient performance, because the evidence demonstrated a reasonable probability that, had appellant known the true and certain extent of the consequences of his guilty plea, he would have refused it. View "United States v. Murillo" on Justia Law

by
J.M., a minor, was adjudged a ward of the court and placed on probation with various terms and conditions after he made a false report that a bomb or other explosive device would be placed in his school. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that J.M.'s words were not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Penal Code section 148.1, subdivision (c) is not unconstitutionally overbroad. The court held that subdivision (c) of section 148.1 criminalizes the malicious communication of knowingly false information about placement of a bomb or other explosive, and such utterances are not constitutionally protected speech. View "People v. J.M." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for three counts of first degree murder and three counts of first degree attempted murder arising from two shootings committed by Defendant on the same day and Defendant's sentence of death, holding that only one error occurred during the proceeding, and the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically, the Court held (1) none of Defendant's claims of error at the guilt phase had merit, and therefore, there was no cumulative error requiring reversal of his convictions; and (2) during the penalty phase, the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury that a witness's prior conviction of a felony bore on his credibility, but the error was harmless, and therefore, there was no cumulative error requiring reversal of Defendant's penalty of death. View "People v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals upholding the suppression hearing court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that evidence of an out-of-court identification procedure, through which the victim of an alleged assault identified Defendant as the perpetrator of the crime, contained sufficient indicia of reliability to withstand a motion to suppress. At the conclusion of a suppression hearing, the presiding judge concluded that the second photo array identification procedure at issue in this case was admissible because she found it reliable by clear and convincing evidence. Ultimately, the jury found Defendant guilty of attempted robbery, second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed, holding that the identification had sufficient indicia of reliability to overcome the procedure's suggestiveness. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the identification contained sufficient indicia of reliability to overcome the suggestive nature of the pretrial identification procedures. View "Small v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit reversed the district court's grant of habeas relief to petitioner under 28 U.S.C. 2254 from a state murder conviction. The court held that there are no categorical limits on the types of evidence that can be offered to demonstrate actual innocence and therefore the district court did not err in considering impeachment evidence; the district court did not clearly err in finding some of the new evidence petitioner offered to support his actual innocence claim credible; and even deferring to that credibility finding, however, on de novo review, petitioner failed to make a compelling showing of actual innocence necessary for merits review of his procedurally barred Sixth Amendment claim. In this case, the credible new evidence showed only that a recanting trial witness did not view the shootout at issue in the charged crimes, not that petitioner did not or could not have committed those crimes. Furthermore, under the totality of the evidence, the court could not conclude that it was more likely than not that no reasonable juror would find petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Hyman v. Brown" on Justia Law