Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentence for robbing an individual of a United States passport, brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error. Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Defendant's request for substitution of counsel; (2) Defendant's conviction under 18 U.S.C. 2112 for robbery properly served as the predicate "crime of violence" for Defendant's sentence for brandishing a firearm under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(A); and (3) under a plain error standard, Defendant did not establish a prima facie nonfrivolous double jeopardy claim. View "United States v. Almonte-Nunez" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants' motions to suppress all evidence obtained directly by a pole camera, holding that the doctrine of stare decisis controlled this case and required reversal of the district court. At issue was whether the Supreme Court's opinion in Carpenter v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 2206 (2018), a cell phone location automatic tracking technology case, provided a basis for departing from otherwise binding First Circuit precedent in United States v. Bucci, 582 F.3d 108 (1st Cir. 2009) and Supreme Court precedent on which Bucci was based. The First Circuit held that, by departing from that precedent in granting Defendants' motions to suppress, the district court violated the vertical rule of stare decisis. The Court thus remanded with instruction to deny the motions to suppress. View "United States v. Moore-Bush" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentence for possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes and of possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base, holding that Defendant was not entitled to reversal on any of his claims. Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the evidence of Defendant's guilt was sufficient to support the jury's verdict; (2) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress the statements he provided to law enforcement or the evidence seized from the residence; (3) the district court did not clearly err in imposing the sentencing enhancement for obstruction of justice because Defendant perjured himself; and (4) the district court did not err in rejecting Defendant's request for a reduction in his offense level based on his claimed minimal participation in the offenses. View "United States v. Mendoza-Maisonet" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant's federal and state civil rights claims and state wrongful death claims against the City of Lewiston, the Lewiston School Department (collectively, the City Defendants), and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF), holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error. Appellant brought this suit after his seventh-grade son died while on a Lewiston school field trip to a state park. The complaint alleged due process violations and wrongful death claims. DACF filed a motion to dismiss. The district court granted the motion, holding that sovereign immunity insulated DACF from Appellant's claims in federal court. The court then granted the City Defendants' motion to dismiss after construing Appellant's due process violation claim as a substantive due process claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Maine Civil Rights Act, Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 5, 4682. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Appellant waived any challenge to the dismissal of his claims against DACF; and (2) Appellant's allegations were insufficient to state a constitutional tort claim against the City Defendants. View "Abdisamad v. City of Lewiston" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction for production of child pornography, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress a video on his cellphone under the private search doctrine. When Defendant's wife was looking through pictures on Defendant's cellphone she discovered a video of the couple's daughter masturbating Defendant. The wife brought the cellphone to law enforcement authorities and directed their attention to the video. Defendant was subsequently indicted on a charge of production of child pornography. Defendant moved to suppress the video and his ensuing confession, arguing that the officers violated the Fourth Amendment by accessing the video without a warrant and prior to obtaining his consent. The district court denied the motion to suppress. Defendant was subsequently convicted and sentenced to a 360-month term of immurement. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) under the circumstances, the officers initially could not be said to have conducted a "search" of Defendant's cellphone, and two reexaminations of the video fell within the protections of the private search doctrine; and (2) there was no procedural error at Defendant's sentencing, and the sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Rivera-Morales" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiff's age discrimination and Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) claims, holding that Plaintiff's OWBPA-compliant waiver and release were knowing and voluntary under federal common law. Plaintiff, a former Winchendon police officer, decided to resign with a pension after the Defendants determined that he had made several threats against his former girlfriend. Plaintiff resigned instead of facing termination and the possibility of losing his pension and being criminally charged. Plaintiff signed a separation agreement agreeing to waive and release any claims he had against Defendants up and through signing the agreement. Plaintiff later brought a complaint alleging age discrimination, retaliation, and defamation, alleging that the waiver and release in his separation agreement violated the OWBPA and were thus invalid. The district court granted summary judgment on the age discrimination and OWBPA claims for Defendants, and a jury found for Defendants on the retaliation and defamation claims. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment, holding (1) the waiver and release did not violate the OWBPA and were knowing and voluntary; and (2) Defendant's argument that the district court abused its discretion in withdrawing an exhibit at trial was meritless. View "Geoffroy v. Town of Winchendon" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiff's claim under the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621-634, holding that Defendant put forward a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment. Plaintiff was let go from his position after a new, consolidated position went to another employee and because Plaintiff's performance ratings had declined over time. Plaintiff brought an age discrimination claim under the ADEA and under analogous Puerto Rico law. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss the Puerto Rico law claims and granted summary judgment for Defendants on the ADEA claim. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff did not put forth evidence that sufficed to create a genuine issue of disputed material fact as to whether Defendant's proffered reason for selecting the other employee over him for the new, consolidated position was a pretext for age discrimination. View "Zabala-de Jesus v. Sanofi Aventis PR, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court entering summary judgment against Plaintiff and dismissing her complaint asserting claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) for discrimination and retaliation, holding that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment as to the ADA and ADEA claims and in dismissing the claims under analogous Puerto Rico laws. Plaintiff, a teacher at the Robinson School in Puerto Rico, sued the school and two school administrators alleging that the school had discriminated and retaliated against her because of her age and perceived disability. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants as to the ADA and ADEA claims and dismissed without prejudice the discrimination and retaliation claims under the analogous Puerto Rico laws against the school upon declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err. View "Lopez-Lopez v. Robinson School" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of possessing with intent to distribute controlled substances in a protected area and conspiring to distribute controlled substances in a protected area, holding that the district court did not plainly err with respect to any of Defendant's challenges. Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the district court did not commit plain error in admitting evidence of the conspiracy's activities occurring after he withdrew from the conspiracy or, alternatively, in not instructing the jury to ignore such evidence; (2) the district court did not plainly err in admitting evidence of a drug trafficking organization's violent acts; and (3) the delay between Defendant's indictment and arrest did not violate his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. View "United States v. Perez-Couvertier" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that, under the highly deferential standard prescribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act for federal habeas review of state criminal convictions, Appellant's claims to habeas relief failed. Appellant was convicted in a Massachusetts superior court of murder in the first degree and related crimes. The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) affirmed the convictions. Appellant subsequently petitioned the District Court for the District of Massachusetts for a writ of habeas corpus. The district court denied the petition but granted a certificate of appealability. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) sufficient evidence supported Appellant's conviction for first-degree murder as a joint venturer, and the SJC's sufficiency determination was not unreasonable; and (2) the SJC reasonably determined that the trial court's admission into evidence of certain items did not constitute error. View "Gomes v. Silva" on Justia Law