Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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In 2015, Yost was charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder in connection with the fatal stabbing of his former girlfriend, Randall. After Yost was convicted, he notified the court that he had just learned that his appointed counsel, Rau, had represented Randall in a past case; he requested a new trial. Rau also filed a motion for a new trial but did not reference Yost’s allegations of a conflict of interest. The court denied the motion and sentenced Yost to 75 years’ imprisonment. After conducting a preliminary inquiry on remand, the trial court concluded that the allegations had merit and appointed new counsel, Lookofsky, to investigate. Yost’s amended motion for a new trial alleged that Rau had represented Randall, on two prior occasions in an unrelated case. Yost waived any conflict of interest based on Lookofsky’s prior hiring of Rau on an unrelated civil matter and any conflict-of-interest claims based on the judge’s prior representation of Yost’s family members.The court concluded that there was no per se conflict of interest, which would have required automatic reversal of the conviction, absent a waiver. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. Illinois now recognizes three per se conflicts of interest: when defense counsel has a contemporaneous association with the victim, the prosecution, or an entity assisting the prosecution; when defense counsel contemporaneously represents a prosecution witness; and when defense counsel was a former prosecutor who was personally involved in the defendant's prosecution. Yost did not claim an actual conflict of interest. View "People v. Yost" on Justia Law

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The Kankakee County State’s Attorney authorized the secret recording of a controlled drug purchase between a confidential informant and another individual. Davis was not the person to be recorded. When the informant went to the target’s home, he could not locate him. The informant walked to the porch of a different home and conducted a drug transaction with Davis, which was recorded by a hidden device. At the hearing on Davis’s motion to suppress, the parties agreed that the audio portion of the recording violated the eavesdropping statute. The circuit court granted the motion, finding that there was an illegal overhear conversation between Davis and the informant that took place before the drugs were seen in the video so that the video recording was the fruit of the poisonous tree that must be suppressed and the informant could not testify concerning the drug transaction.The Appellate Court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The informant was a participant in the conversation, so his knowledge of that conversation was not derived from the illegal audio recording; the video recording was made simultaneously with the audio recording and could not have been derived from the audio recording. Because neither the informant’s testimony nor the video recording was obtained as a result of the illegal audio recording, the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine does not apply. The evidence was admissible. View "People v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The 2012 Cook County Firearm Tax Ordinance imposed a $25 tax on the retail purchase of a firearm within Cook County. A 2015 amendment to the County Code included a tax on the retail purchase of firearm ammunition at the rate of $0.05 per cartridge for centerfire ammunition and $0.01 per cartridge for rimfire ammunition. The taxes levied on the retail purchaser are imposed in addition to all other taxes imposed by the County, Illinois, or any municipal corporation or political subdivision. The revenue generated from the tax on ammunition is directed to the Public Safety Fund; the revenue generated from the tax on firearms is not directed to any specified fund or program.Plaintiffs alleged that the taxes facially violate the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Illinois Constitution concerning the right to bear arms and the uniformity clause, and are preempted by the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act and the Firearm Concealed Carry Act. The trial court rejected the suit on summary judgment. The appellate court affirmed.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. To satisfy scrutiny under a uniformity challenge, where a tax classification directly bears on a fundamental right, the government must establish that the tax classification is substantially related to the object of the legislation. Under that level of scrutiny, the firearm and ammunition tax ordinances violate the uniformity clause. View "Guns Save Life, Inc. v. Ali" on Justia Law

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The Illinois State Police obtained warrants to search a personal computer owned by Peoria Police Officer McCavitt, for digital evidence of two unrelated incidents: an aggravated criminal sexual assault and the unauthorized video recording and live video transmission of an unnamed victim. McCavitt was tried and acquitted of the alleged sexual assault before the unauthorized video recording was investigated. Following his acquittal, without seeking a new warrant, the Peoria Police Department searched a copy of the computer’s hard drive, uncovering evidence of the unauthorized video recording. The digital search also uncovered child pornography, which was not mentioned in the warrant. Based on the images, McCavitt was convicted of several counts of child pornography.The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the denial of McCavitt’s motion to suppress. Under the unique facts of this case, the search that uncovered child pornography did not violate McCavitt’s Fourth Amendment rights. The warrant at issue diminished McCavitt’s reasonable expectation of privacy in the images and videos he stored on his computer. When he was acquitted of the sexual assault, his reasonable expectation of privacy in his data relating to that offense was restored. However, the acquittal did not resolve the portion of the warrant that authorized a search for digital evidence of the unauthorized video recording. The post-acquittal computer examination was reasonably directed at obtaining that evidence and the child pornography found during the search was admissible because it was found in plain view. View "People v. McCavitt" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of three drug trafficking offenses after law enforcement officers discovered cocaine and heroin inside of his vehicle, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress.In his motion to suppress, Defendant argued that the officers stopped his vehicle without reasonable suspicion, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and therefore, the drugs found inside of the vehicle were inadmissible as evidence. The district court denied Defendant's motion to suppress. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the officers had probable cause to arrest Defendant when they conducted the vehicle containment in this case. View "United States v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Augustin asked Jordan to “find somebody” who sold cocaine. “Hoss,” subsequently sold Augustin six ounces of cocaine for $5,100. The deal went bad and Augustin kidnapped Jordan at gunpoint. Augustin’s associate released Jordan. Augustin was arrested. From prison, Augustin tried to arrange for a hitman to kill Jordan. The district court ultimately sentenced Augustin to a 380-month term for seven counts of conviction plus a consecutive 120-month term under 18 U.S.C. 924(c) for using a firearm during a crime of violence. After an unsuccessful appeal, Augustin unsuccessfully moved to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255.Later, Augustin filed a second or successive section 2255 motion, arguing that his section 924(c) conviction was unlawful under the Supreme Court’s 2019 “Davis” decision. The district court agreed. Rather than resentencing Augustin, the court corrected his sentence by vacating the section 924(c) conviction and its consecutive 120-month sentence. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Augustin’s section 924(c) sentence played no role in the district court’s calculation of his other sentences. View "United States v. Augustin" on Justia Law

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Muhammad, serving a 210-month sentence at FCI Loretto based on his convictions for conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing cocaine base, sought a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A), asserting that his increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 due to his age and medical conditions (chronic hypertension and cardiac arrhythmia) constituted extraordinary and compelling circumstances supporting his immediate release. Muhammad filed his motion for a sentence reduction 149 days after asking the warden to file the motion on his behalf and 132 days after the warden denied his request. Muhammad did not appeal the warden’s denial through the Bureau of Prison’s administrative remedy program. The district court held that because the warden responded to the request within 30 days, Muhammad had to exhaust his administrative remedies before he could file a motion on his own behalf.The Fourth Circuit vacated the dismissal. The district court erred in its interpretation of section 3582(c)(1)(A), which plainly provides that a defendant may file a motion on his own behalf 30 days after the warden receives his request, regardless of whether the defendant exhausted his administrative remedies. Moreover, section 3582(c)(1)(A)’s threshold requirement is non-jurisdictional and subject to waiver. View "United States v. Muhammad" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Rodriguez was charged in two criminal cases. In 2018, the court found Rodriguez not competent and signed an order committing Rodriguez. The order stated the “maximum term is 3 years minus 0 days actual credit” Later, the court found Rodriguez’s competency restored and reinstated the criminal proceedings. Rodriguez was present in court and waived time for trial. Almost four months later, the court again declared a doubt about Rodriguez’s competency and suspended the proceedings. The court later found Rodriguez not competent and ordered that Rodriguez be committed for placement in a locked psychiatric facility.Rodriguez claimed that, although certification of his mental competency had been filed, he had reached the two-year maximum period for an incompetency commitment under Penal Code 1370(c)(1) before a judicial hearing on the certification had been held, so that the trial court lacked authority to hold such a hearing. The court of appeal concluded that Rodriguez’s maximum commitment period has not yet run. View "Rodriguez v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellants' request for a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of a regulation promulgated by Maine's Center for Disease Control requiring all workers in licensed healthcare facilities to be vaccinated against COVID-19, holding that the district court did not err.Under Maine law, a healthcare worker may claim an exemption from the vaccination requirement only if a medical practitioner certifies that vaccination "may be medically inadvisable." Appellants - several Maine healthcare workers and a healthcare provider - brought this action alleging that the vaccination requirement violated their rights under 42 U.S.C. 1985 and the Free Exercise Clause, Supremacy Clause, and Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. The district court denied Appellants' motion for a preliminary injunction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that Appellants were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims. View "Does v. Mills" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion to suppress illegal drug evidence seized as a result of a protective pat-down search for weapons and in a subsequent search of his vehicle, holding that the district court erred in concluding that the protective pat-down search of Defendant was justified.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court erroneously held that the pat-down search of Defendant was justified under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968) and Mont. Code Ann. 46-5-401(2)(b), whether incident to a valid Terry investigative stop or analogous community caretaker doctrine stop, but did not err in concluding that the exclusionary rule did not apply to the illegal drug evidence seized in the warrantless pat-down and vehicle searches at issue; and (2) therefore, the district court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence found in his coat pocket as a result of the initial pat-down search but correctly denied Defendant's motion to suppress evidence found in the subsequent consent search of his vehicle. View "State v. Laster" on Justia Law