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The First Circuit vacated the district court's denial of prison officials' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's lawsuit alleging the use of excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment, holding that the district court failed to fulfill its obligation to follow the law as set forth in controlling precedent. The prison officials moved for summary judgment arguing that they were entitled to qualified immunity. The district court denied the motion. The record contained two versions of the relevant interaction between Plaintiff and prison officials. Under Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 377 (2007), the district court's job was to decide whether the prison officials' evidence blatantly contradicted Plaintiff's version of events. The district court, however, rejected the teaching of Scott and denied the qualified immunity defense. The First Circuit held that the court's denial of qualified immunity was predicated on its error of law and remand to another district court judge for further proceedings consistent with the law was required. View "Underwood v. Barrett" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of Petitioner's petition for postconviction relief, holding that trial counsel's failure to consult with Petitioner about an appeal deprived Petitioner of an appeal that he otherwise would have taken. This appeal required the First Circuit to apply the presumption of prejudice set forth in Roe v. Flores-Ortega, 528 U.S. 470 (2000), in circumstances in which a defense attorney violates his or her duty to consult with a client about an appeal when the defendant reasonably demonstrated that he or she was interested in appealing or when a rational defendant would want to appeal. In the instant case, Petitioner previously executed a plea agreement containing a waiver-of-appeal provision. Petitioner filed a pro se petition to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2255, claiming that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a notice of appeal. The district court held that Flores-Ortega's presumption of prejudice was inapposite because Petitioner had executed an appeal waiver. The First Circuit reversed, holding that trial counsel did not properly discharge his duty to consult and that counsel's constitutionally deficient performance prejudiced Petitioner by depriving him of an appeal that he otherwise would have taken. View "Rojas-Medina v. United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the federal district court denying Appellant's request for a declaratory judgment asserting that a protective order that remained in effect in his now-closed state criminal case was unconstitutional, holding that the state court judge was protected from this lawsuit by the doctrine of judicial immunity. Appellant filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that the protective order violated his First Amendment rights. Appellee, the state court judge, responded with a motion to dismiss, arguing that she was protected by judicial immunity. The federal district court granted Appellee's motion to dismiss. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellee's actions were shielded from attack by judicial immunity. View "Zenon v. Guzman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant's habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254, holding that the district court did not err in determining that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) acted reasonably in concluding that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction. Appellant was convicted in state court of first-degree murder. The SJC affirmed Appellant's convictions and found that the evidence was constitutionally sufficient to support the first-degree murder conviction. Appellant later filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in a federal district court, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence grounding his murder conviction. The district court denied the petition. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the SJC's rejection of Appellant's sufficiency claim was objectively reasonable. View "Roman v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In this removed diversity suit, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss for insufficient timely service of process, holding that Defendant did not evade service or conceal the defect in service and that the court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Plaintiff had not shown good cause. Mass. R. Civ. P. 4(j) requires a plaintiff to effect service of process within ninety days of filing suit. Plaintiff failed to meet that deadline when bringing her claims for negligence and wrongful death. The district court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss and denied Plaintiff's motion to extend time to perfect service of process under Mass. R. Civ. P. 6(b). The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly granted Defendant's motion to dismiss and Defendant's motion for an extension of time to perfect service of process. View "Crossetti v. Cargill, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Defendants, the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training and the State, on Plaintiff's complaint alleging discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2, holding that summary judgment was properly granted. In his complaint, Plaintiff claimed that the Department's promotion practices had a disparate impact on minority employees and that the Department declined to promote her because she is black. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) because Plaintiff could not show a disparate impact in the absence of statistical and statistically significant evidence, the district court correctly granted summary judgment to Defendants on Plaintiff's claim of disparate impact; and (2) Plaintiff failed to present enough evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that Defendants' stated reason for failing to promote her was pretextual. View "Luceus v. State" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the sentence imposed by the district court in connection with Appellant's plea of guilty to sex trafficking crimes pursuant to a plea agreement, holding that Appellant's claims on appeal failed. Appellant pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement and was sentenced to 216 months of imprisonment. Appellant appealed, seeking a new sentencing hearing partially on the grounds that the prosecution breached the plea agreement by providing information to Probation and the court regarding victims of sex trafficking who were either covered by counts that were dismissed as part of the plea agreement or who were never included in any counts in the indictment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Appellant's breach claim fell within the plain language of the exemption from the appellate waiver in the plea agreement; (2) the government did not breach the plea agreement; and (3) the appellate waiver in the plea agreement barred Appellant's appeal on the issue of inadequate notice regarding victim statements presented at the sentencing hearing. View "United States v. Davis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In this dispute over who was the first-to-file relator in a case brought under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq., the First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court ruling that the first-to-file rule was jurisdictional, holding, for the first time in this circuit, that the first-to-file rule is not jurisdictional and that the Court had jurisdiction over Mark McGuire's crossclaim. The FCA's first-to-file rule prohibits relators other than the first to file from bringing a related action based on the facts underlying the pending action. In this case, the government successfully intervened in several qui tam suits against Millennium Health. Millennium settled with the government, setting aside fifteen percent of the settlement proceeds as a relator's share. McGuire brought a crossclaim for declaratory judgment that he was the first to file and was thus entitled to the fifteen-percent share. The district court dismissed the crossclaim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, finding that the first-to-file rule was jurisdictional. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the first-to-file rule is not jurisdictional, and therefore, the district court had subject-matter jurisdiction over McGuire's crossclaim; and (2) McGuire was the first-to-file relator and has stated a claim that he is entitled to the relator's share of the settlement. View "McGuire v. Estate of Robert Cunningham" on Justia Law

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In this suit brought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts seeking to enjoin the enforcement of two federal Interim Final Rules (IFRs), the First Circuit vacated the district court's determination that Massachusetts lacked standing to challenge the IFRs, holding that the Commonwealth had standing to challenge the rules. The IFRs at issue in this case were promulgated by the United States Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury and permitted employers with religious or moral objections to contraception to obtain exemptions from providing health insurance coverage to employees and their dependents for FDA-approved contraceptive care. The district court determined that the Commonwealth failed to establish standing because it had not set forth specific facts establishing that it would likely suffer future injury from the Departments' conduct. After the Commonwealth filed its appeal, the Departments issued final rules superseding the IFRs. The First Circuit held (1) the Commonwealth's substantive challenges to the federal regulations were not moot, but its procedural challenge to the IFRs was mooted by the promulgation of the final rules; and (2) the Commonwealth had Article III standing to challenge the Departments' actions. View "Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of possessing child pornography and transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction of possessing child pornography and that Defendant waived his argument that the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing argument. On appeal, Defendant argued that that the government did not adequately prove that he possessed images of minors and that the photos could be not considered child pornography because the the government failed to show they were "lascivious." The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) with the evidence presented, a rational jury could find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the images admitted into evidence contained minors, and a jury reasonably could deem the photos were "lascivious"; and (2) Defendant waived his argument that the prosecutor's comments during summation were so improper and prejudicial as to require a new trial. View "United States v. Charriez-Rolon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law