Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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The First Circuit remanded this case for further proceedings, holding that the district court abused its discretion in failing to rule on the merits of Appellant’s ineffective assistance claim prior to sentencing. Appellant was charged with several counts related to a drug distribution conspiracy. Appellant was originally represented by court-appointed counsel, but after seven months Defendant retained private counsel Prior to sentencing, Appellant raised his ineffective assistance of counsel claim, arguing that his prior counsel allegedly failed to provide him with effective assistance throughout plea negotiations. The district court declined to rule on Appellant’s claim, finding it to be “premature.” Appellant ultimately pled guilty to a high plea offer negotiated by his new counsel. The First Circuit disagreed with the district court’s ruling, holding that, at times, it may be imperative for a district court to rule on a claim of ineffective assistance prior to the defendant seeking post-conviction relief, and such was true in this case. View "United States v. Ortiz-Vega" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of the state prosecution of Vladek Filler for five counts of gross sexual assault and two counts of assault. After two trials and two appeals Filler was convicted only of one misdemeanor assault count. Filler subsequently filed a civil action against several defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for malicious prosecution, including a claim against the prosecuting attorney, Mary Kellett, for malicious prosecution. Kellett filed a motion to dismiss Filler’s malicious prosecution claim for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), alleging, among other claims, that she was entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity. The district court concluded that Kellett was entitled to absolute immunity for actions associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process but denied the rest of Kellett’s motion to dismiss. Kelley brought an interlocutory appeal from the district court’s order. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that that, while Filler’s claim against Kellett was not clearly foreclosed by absolute immunity, the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the immunity issue. View "Filler v. Kellett" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendants Abraham Walker-Couvertier (Walker) and Dean Lugo-Diaz (Lugo) were found guilty of numerous drug-related crimes. The trial court sentenced Walker to concurrent 192-month terms of immurement on the drug counts and a consecutive sixty-month term of immurement on a firearms count. The court sentenced Lugo to concurrent 121-month terms of immurement on the various counts of conviction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendants’ belated challenge to the requirement, as applied in the District of Puerto Rico, that jurors be proficient in English failed; (2) Walker’s challenge to the propriety of a traffic stop was not preserved for appellate review; (3) contrary to Defendants’ arguments, several statements made by the prosecutor during closing argument were not prejudicial; (4) there was no plain error in the challenged jury instructions; (5) the evidence was sufficient to support Lugo’s conspiracy conviction; and (6) Defendants’ claims of sentencing error were unavailing. View "United States v. Walker-Couvertier" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a Nigerian citizen by birth, pleaded guilty to making a material false statement in a matter within the jurisdiction of the United States government. Because of his conviction, Petitioner was permanently barred from obtaining lawful permanent resident status and was subject to deportation at any moment. Nearly a decade after his probationary sentence ended, Petitioner sought a writ of error coram nobis that vacates or allows him to revise the factual basis of his conviction. As grounds for the writ, Petitioner alleged that the performance of his attorney was constitutionally deficient under Sixth Amendment standards, and therefore, his conviction arose from fundamental error. The district court denied a writ of error coram nobis. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Petitioner’s counsel was not constitutionally ineffective in any way. View "Williams v. United States" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute more than 1,000 grams of marijuana, among other charges. Defendant moved to suppress evidence taken from a warrantless search of his truck. The district judge denied the motion. Defendant later conditionally pled guilty, reserving his right to challenge the denial of his suppression motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the questioning of Defendant was within the permissible scope of a traffic stop, and the questions did not impermissibly extend the duration of the stop; (2) the initial search of the truck was permissible in light of Defendant’s voluntary consent; (3) the continuation of the search after Defendant withdrew his consent was permissible because probable cause existed; and (4) there were no constitutional violations during the traffic stop. View "United States v. Dion" on Justia Law