Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment dismissing Plaintiffs' lawsuit asserting race-based discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the suit for failure to state a claim.Plaintiffs represented a putative class of employees employed by Whole Foods and Amazon who were disciplined for wearing face masks with the message "Black Lives Matter." In their lawsuit, Plaintiffs alleged that the manner in which their employers enforced a previously unenforced dress code policy constituted race-based discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court dismissed all claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs did not adequately plead claims for racial discrimination and retaliation under Title VII. View "Frith v. Whole Foods Market, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the trial judge denying Defendants' motion for a new trial based on improper comments by the prosecutor, holding that the district court's denial of the new trial motions was plain error.Defendants Edward Canty, III and Melquan Jordan were prosecuted on charges that they had conspired to distribute and possess with intent to distribute both heroin and cocaine base. During their criminal trial, the prosecutor made four types of improper comments during the opening and closing statements and at rebuttal, to which Defendants did not object. After they were convicted Defendants moved for a new trial based on the improper comments by the prosecutor. The trial judge denied the motions under plain error review. The First Circuit vacated the decision below, holding that the fairness, integrity, and public reputation of the proceedings were seriously affected, requiring remand for a new trial. View "United States v. Canty" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction and sentence for one count of possession of child pornography, holding that Defendant suffered no prejudice from any claims deficient performance of his trial counsel.Pursuant to a plea agreement, Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography. The trial court sentenced him to an under-Guidelines-range sentence of forty-six months. Defendant appealed, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel during his sentencing proceedings because counsel failed to object to the four-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. 2G2.2(b)(4)(B) on constitutional grounds. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Defendant's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were unavailing. View "United States v. Messner" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's petition for habeas corpus, in which he alleged ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that Appellant failed to establish that his counsel's performance was deficient under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984).After a retrial, Appellant was convicted of two counts of attempting to kill a federal witness with intent to prevent testimony and communication with law enforcement. The First Circuit affirmed. Appellant later filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. 2255 to vacate his conviction based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied relief. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellant's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were unavailing. View "Watson v. United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied a writ of habeas corpus sought by Petitioner under 28 U.S.C. 2254 to vacate her conviction for murder in the first degree, holding that there was no error.Petitioner was convicted of first-degree murder based on deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Petitioner later filed a habeas petition claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied the petition. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was no prejudice on any of the alleged errors claimed by Petitioner. View "Field v. Hallett" on Justia Law

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Watkins was convicted of first-degree murder in Massachusetts state court in 2005 for a fatal 2003 shooting. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed his conviction. His federal habeas petition was denied.The First Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. The state courts made an error of fact in their decisions, rejecting a “Brady” claim that a withheld a police report could have been used for the impeachment of a witness (Rudolph), finding that the report did not show the investigating officers were aware that Rudolph was a witness against Watkins. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's deferential standard of review or applying de novo review, Watkins has not shown prejudice arising from the error or with respect to any of his other claims. There was an extensive examination of bias, and the failure to add onto any such evidence hardly would be prejudicial. Rudolph's motivation for reaching out to the police and the agreement that Rudolph later reached with the Commonwealth were discussed at trial and clearly informed Watkins and the jury that Rudolph sought an incentive in return for his cooperation and testimony. View "Watkins v. Medeiros" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions for receipt and possession of child pornography, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's pre-trial motion to suppress evidence obtained pursuant to a search warrant and did not abuse its discretion in excluding certain text-message evidence as inadmissible hearsay.On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress because the affidavit filed in support of the search warrant failed sufficiently to describe ether pornographic images to be found and that the court erred in excluding from his trial the text message evidence at issue. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) there was no error in the district court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress; and (2) the district court did not err in barring the text messages from Defendant's trial. View "United States v. Chiu" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the decision of the district court that the prosecutor in the underlying Rhode Island case transgressed the Batson rule in the course of jury selection but that Petitioner was not entitled to habeas corpus relief, holding that the decision of the Rhode Island Supreme Court could not withstand habeas review.Petitioner, a Rhode Island state prisoner and an African-American man who was convicted of murder and other crimes, claimed in his petition for writ of habeas corpus that the prosecutor violated Batson during jury selection. The federal district court concluded that Petitioner's rights under Batson were violated but that the Rhode Island Supreme Court did not abuse its discretion in finding sufficient race-neutral reasons for a peremptory challenge against the juror in question. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the prosecutor's explanation for his peremptory strike was not race-neutral on its face and thus violated Batson; and (2) the Rhode Island Supreme Court's decision rested on either an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law, an unreasonable determination of the facts, or both. View "Porter v. Coyne-Fague" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's claims challenging the termination of his employment on free speech grounds, holding that summary judgment was improper in this case.Plaintiff, a former bus driver for the Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA), brought this action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 claiming that Defendants violated his right to free speech under the First Amendment to the federal constitution and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (MCRA) when they terminated his employment following public comments that he made to a television network about proposed budget cuts to the WRTA. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The First Circuit remanded the case, holding (1) the district court erred in concluding that, as a matter of law, Plaintiff was not speaking "as a citizen" during the television interview; and (2) Defendants did not have an adequate justification for treating Plaintiff differently from other members of the general public by terminating him for his protected speech. View "Bruce v. Worcester Regional Transit Authority" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court denying Defendants' motion for entry of an automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. 922, incorporated into Title III of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), 48 U.S.C. 2101-2241, through 48 U.S.C. 2161(a), holding that Defendants were entitled to an automatic stay.Plaintiffs, who owned an operated the Integrand Assurance Company, sued Defendants, Puerto Rico government officials whose defense was assumed by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico pursuant to the Commonwealth's legal representation and indemnification statute, alleging, among other claims, that the government officials violated their First Amendment rights, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Due Process Clause. Defendants, who were granted legal representation under Law 9, filed a notice of automatic stay. The district court denied the motion, concluding that PROMESA did not stay the litigation. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the automatic stay provision in Title III of PROMESA applied to this action. View "Victor J. Salgado & Associates v. Cestero-Lopategui" on Justia Law