Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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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 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 district court's grant of summary judgment to the Puerto Rico Ports Authority (the PRPA) on Plaintiffs' suit alleging that the PRPA violated the First Amendmen and Puerto Rico law by terminating Plaintiff's employment, holding that Plaintiffs' claims were barred by res judicata. Daniel Grajales, his wife, their children brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Puerto Rico law against the PRPA alleging that Grajales was transferred to a new job location and subsequently terminated from his employment because of both his political affiliation and his reporting of alleged safety violations by PRPA employees. Just before Grajales filed his federal complaint, the Secretary of Labor and Human Resources of Puerto Rico filed a civil complaint against the PRPA in the Puerto Rico Court of First Instance, which entered judgment for the PRPA. The PRPA moved for summary judgment in the federal case on res judicata grounds in light of the Court of First Instance's ruling. The district court ruled in favor of the PRPA. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly found that the two actions shared a "common nucleus of operative fact"; (2) Grajales's claims were barred by res judicata; and (3) the derivative claims of Grajales's family members necessarily failed. View "Grajales v. Puerto Rico Ports Authority" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this case involving a constitutional challenge to a Massachusetts law proscribing the sale, transfer, and possession of certain semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines (LCMs), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, 121, 131M (the Act), holding that the Act withstands intermediate scrutiny. In their constitutional challenge to the Act, Plaintiffs claimed that they had an "unfettered" Second Amendment right to possess the proscribed LCMs and assault weapons in their homes for purposes of self-defense. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) even if the proscribed weapons have some degree of protection under the Second Amendment, and even if the Act implicates the core Second Amendment right of individuals to bear arms in self-defense, the Act minimally burdens that right; and (2) the Act withstands intermediate scrutiny. View "Worman v. Healey" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Employer on this action brought by Employee under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 1210 et seq., and under various Rhode Island laws, holding that the district court properly granted summary judgment on all of Employee's claims. After Employer terminated Employee's employment on the basis of job abandonment Plaintiff filed this suit claiming that Employer terminated her on the basis of her disabilities, failed to provide her with reasonable accommodations, and retaliated against her. The district court granted Employer's motion for summary judgment, concluding that Employee had not met the requirements of Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corp., 526 U.S. 795 (1999). The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly granted Employer summary judgment as to all of Plaintiff's claims. View "Pena v. Honeywell International, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for two prison officers on an inmate's claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging violations of his federal constitutional rights, holding that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. In his complaint, the inmate alleged (1) one of the officers pushed him against a pillar, allegedly causing him to hit his head on it, in violation of the Eighth Amendment; and (2) the other officer sprayed pepper spray into his cell, in violation of both the First Amendment and the Eighth Amendment. The district court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that no genuine dispute of material fact existed as to whether the officers violated either the First or the Eighth Amendment. View "Staples v. Gerry" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motions to suppress evidence and to dismiss his indictment for outrageous government conduct, holding that the district court did not err in its judgment. Defendant was identified as a user of Playpen, an online forum that allowed users to upload, download, and distribute child pornography, and indicted for possession and receipt of child pornography. Defendant moved to suppress evidence resulting from an Network Investigative Technique warrant and also sought to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that the government engaged in outrageous conduct by running Playpen for two weeks after seizing its control. The district court denied the two motions. Defendant subsequently pled guilty to both charges. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly denied Defendant's motion to suppress for lack of probable cause; and (2) under the totality of the circumstances, there were no grounds to reverse the district court's denial of Defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment. View "United States v. Anzalone" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of one count of possessing child pornography, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motions to suppress the evidence. Defendant uploaded child pornography images to a digital album on Imgur, an image hosting website. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received a report about the images from an anonymous tipster and informed law enforcement of the images. In his motions to suppress, Defendant argued that the evidence was obtained pursuant to a warrantless search by Imgur, acting at the instigation of NCMEC, and that the computer was searched pursuant to a warrant that lacked probable cause. The district court denied the motions. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in determining (1) Defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the images he uploaded to Imgur or in his internet protocol address, and (2) the state's warrant to search Defendant's computer was supported by probable cause. View "United States v. Morel" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, eight counts of health care fraud, six counts of aggravated identity theft, and four counts of furnishing false or fraudulent information in prescriptions for controlled substances, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant's underlying convictions for aggravated identity theft; (2) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial; (3) the district court correctly denied Defendant's third motion for a judgment of acquittal as to the charges of furnishing false or fraudulent information for prescriptions in controlled substances; (4) Defendant's sentence was not substantively unreasonable; and (5) Defendant's pro se challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence for his conspiracy and health care fraud convictions and argument that an aspect of the trial violated his Sixth Amendment rights failed. View "United States v. Tull-Abreu" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence for bank robbery, Hobbs Act robbery, and a related firearms offense, holding that Appellant's argument that the district court impermissibly considered Appellant's gender as a factor in the sentencing calculus was without merit. The district court sentenced Appellant to a total of 108 months of incarceration. On appeal, Appellant argued that the district court (1) committed procedural error by failing to appreciate that it had discretion to consider the mandatory sentence on the firearms count when formulating the sentence for the grouped counts, and (2) violated his constitutional right to equal protection by engaging in gender stereotyping when formulating his sentence. The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) the district court in this case did not commit the same procedural error that the Supreme Court condemned in Dean v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1170, 1178 (2017); and (2) Appellant failed to make a plausible showing of any violation of his right to equal protection. View "United States v. Blewitt" on Justia Law