Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The First Circuit affirmed the entry of a jury verdict awarding over $1.3 in compensatory damages and $1.3 million in punitive damages to Plaintiff, a black female former employee of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), who claimed that her supervisors at the MBTA conspired to terminate her employment because of her race. The Court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the compensatory damages award for wrongful termination and to justify the punitive damages amount; (2) the trial judge committed clear error in imposing a sanction for removing the entry of default, but the MBTA failed to show that it was prejudiced by the default sanction order; (3) MBTA failed to show that it was prejudiced when the trial judge allowed a hostile work environment theory not explicitly pled in the complaint to go to the jury; and (4) MBTA waived its claim that it should be able to take advantage of Buntin v. City of Boston, 857 F.3d 69 (1st Cir. 2017), decided while this case was on appeal. View "Dimanche v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated Virgilio Diaz-Jimenez’s (Diaz) conviction and remanded the cause for further proceedings, holding that the search of Diaz’s home was unconstitutional, and the error was prejudicial. Diaz and Hector Serrano-Acevedo (Serrano) were convicted of armed bank robbery and possession of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. On appeal, Diaz argued that the government’s warrantless search of his home violated his Fourth Amendment rights and that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence uncovered during the search. Serrano argued that certain statements made during trial were impermissible hearsay. The First Circuit vacated Diaz’s conviction and affirmed Serrano’s conviction, holding (1) the district court erred by denying Diaz’s motion to suppress, and the error was not harmless; and (2) if there was any error in the admission of the statements challenged by Serrano, it was harmless. View "United States v. Serrano-Acevedo" on Justia Law

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On the facts of the case, the constitutional speedy trial clock began to run from the date of the original indictment rather than from the date of an additional charge first brought in a superseding indictment. A federal grand jury indicted Defendant on twelve counts of wire fraud. Approximately six years later, the government filed a superseding indictment containing the same twelve wire-fraud counts as the original indictment and adding a new count for bank fraud. The district court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss the original indictment and the added bank-fraud count on Sixth Amendment speedy trial grounds. The government appealed, arguing that, with respect to the bank-fraud charge, the district court should have measured the period of delay from the filing of the superseding indictment, not from the filing of the initial indictment. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that the bringing of an additional charge does not reset the Sixth Amendment speedy trial clock to the date of the superseding indictment where the additional charge and the charge for which the defendant was previously accused are based on the same act or transaction, or common scheme or plan, and where the government could have, with diligence, brought the additional charge at the time of the prior accusation. View "United States v. Handa" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated in part the district court’s grant of summary judgment in Defendants’ favor on Plaintiffs’ claims seeking compensatory damages, declaratory relief, a permanent injunction, and expungement of disciplinary proceedings from a student’s university records. John Doe was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow Boston College student. In 2012, Boston College held disciplinary proceedings against Doe, and an Administrative Hearing Board found Doe responsible for the lesser offense of indecent assault and battery. In 2014, Boston College conducted an independent review of the disciplinary proceedings and determined that the Board’s finding was proper. Doe and his parents filed a lawsuit against Trustees of Boston College and several university officials. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all counts. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim for the 2014 review and Title IX, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims; and (2) vacated the grant of summary judgment as to Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim for the 2012 disciplinary proceedings, where there were genuine issues of material fact on this claim, and basic fairness claim, where the grant of summary judgment on this claim rested on the court’s analysis as to Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim. View "Doe v. Trustees of Boston College" on Justia Law

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The district court correctly granted summary judgment to the Defendant regarding Plaintiff’s hostile work environment and retaliation claims but erred in analyzing Plaintiff’s disparate treatment claim. After Plaintiff was transferred and replaced by one male employee and then by a second male employee, Plaintiff filed this Title VII gender discrimination action against her employer, the Corrections Department of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendant on all of Plaintiff’s claims. The First Circuit vacated in part the grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings on Plaintiffs’ disparate treatment claim. The Court held (1) the district court erred in interpreting this Court’s decision in Johnson v. University of Puerto Rico, 714 F.3d 48 (1st Cir. 2013), to prohibit Plaintiff from relying on evidence highly relevant to the similar qualifications element of her prima facie case; and (2) Plaintiff established a prima facie case of gender discrimination that her employer failed to rebut, and therefore, summary judgment was incorrectly granted in the Department’s favor. View "Caraballo-Caraballo v. Correctional Administration" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions of drug offenses and failure to appear for arraignment, holding that, contrary to Defendant’s argument on appeal, Defendant’s counsel did not suffer from a conflict of interest arising from violation of attorney-client privilege and a local rule of professional conduct. The Court held that, under the rules set forth in Cuyler v. Sullivan, 446 U.S. 335, 348 (1980), and United States v. Soldevila-Lopez, 17 F.3d 480, 486 (1st Cir. 1994), Defendant failed to show an actual conflict of interest that adversely affected his lawyer’s performance. Further, “any tension in the lawyer’s mind between client loyalty and professional self-preservation” would have been addressed by a stipulation joined by Defendant, and the following colloquy demonstrated that Defendant understood his rights and the consequences of proceeding as he chose to do. View "United States v. Tirado" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment to Defendants - the Town of Abington, Massachusetts and leaders of the Abington Police Department (Department) - on Plaintiff’s federal and state law claims in which he alleged that Defendants retaliated against him while he was an officer in the Department. The Court held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment as to (1) Plaintiff’s claims that he brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for retaliation against him for exercising his First Amendment rights; (2) Plaintiff’s other section 1983 claim that Defendants impermissibly retaliated against him for his protected union activity; and (3) Plaintiff’s pendent Massachusetts law claims. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the Massachusetts Office of Attorney General’s motion to quash a deposition subpoena. View "Delaney v. Town of Abington" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions of arson, wire fraud, and the use of fire in furtherance of a federal felony, holding that any alleged errors during trial were, whether individually or collectively, harmless. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecution violated his Confrontation Clause rights when an investigator testified that the cause of the fire was incendiary, rather than electrical, because the investigator relied on conclusions drawn by Defendant’s insurer’s electrical expert without calling that expert to the stand. Defendant also argued that this was a violation of Fed. R. Evid. 703. The First Circuit held (1) any such violation, if one occurred at all, of Defendant’s Confrontation Clause rights was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) any error under Fed. R. Evid. 703 was harmless. View "United States v. Saad" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions of arson, wire fraud, and the use of fire in furtherance of a federal felony, holding that any alleged errors during trial were, whether individually or collectively, harmless. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecution violated his Confrontation Clause rights when an investigator testified that the cause of the fire was incendiary, rather than electrical, because the investigator relied on conclusions drawn by Defendant’s insurer’s electrical expert without calling that expert to the stand. Defendant also argued that this was a violation of Fed. R. Evid. 703. The First Circuit held (1) any such violation, if one occurred at all, of Defendant’s Confrontation Clause rights was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) any error under Fed. R. Evid. 703 was harmless. View "United States v. Saad" on Justia Law

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Employee’s failure to accommodate claim and retaliation claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) failed. Employee, who was previously employed by Employer as an assistant manager of a Burger King, was attacked during the course and scope of his employment. In response to his diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression disorder, Employee requested that Employer provide him with a fixed work schedule and move him to a Burger King location in an area not prone to crime. When Employer did not comply, Employee brought this action alleging failure to accommodate under the ADA and hostile work environment. The district court concluded that Employee was not a qualified individual under the ADA and that the acts comprising his hostile work environment claim were insufficient to support his claim. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly concluded that being able to work rotating shifts was an essential function of the assistant manager job; and (2) Employee did not demonstrate from an objective standpoint that Employer’s actions were sufficiently severe or pervasive to sustain a retaliatory work environment claim. View "Sepulveda-Vargas v. Caribbean Restaurants, LLC" on Justia Law