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

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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The First Circuit affirmed Defendants' convictions of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; aiding and abetting violent crimes in aid of racketeering, namely murder or attempted murder under Puerto Rico law; conspiring to engage in drug trafficking; and other offenses, holding that Defendant's challenges to their convictions were unavailing. The three defendants in this case were members of a vicious Puerto Rican gang called La ONU. Defendants appealed their convictions, bringing a variety of claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in denying a motion to suppress a cache of guns and drugs seized during a warrantless search of a house; (2) the judge did not err in finding that no courtroom closure occurred during the proceedings; (3) the judge did not err in denying Defendants' motion for a mistrial; and (4) the remainder of Defendants' arguments on appeal did not entitle them to reversal of their convictions. View "United States v. Lanza-Vazquez" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court's partial denial of Defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized from Defendant's home on the day of his arrest on drug and money laundering charges, holding that the district court properly determined that certain items were lawfully seized but that it could not be determined on the record that other items were lawfully seized. The district court concluded that federal law enforcement agents validly relied on exceptions to the warrant requirement when they searched Defendant's home, a cargo van inside Defendant's garage, and a minivan parked in Defendant's driveway. The First Circuit held (1) the district court correctly determined that certain items were lawfully seized from the first floor; (2) it could not be determined whether items on the second floor and in the cargo van were lawfully seized, and therefore, remand was required for further findings concerning the duration and scope of the purported protective sweep; (3) remand was required for reconsideration of the issue of application of the automobile exception to the cargo van based on the court's conclusions regarding the sweep; and (4) as to items seized from the minivan, remand was necessary for a determination whether the minivan was within the curtilage of Defendant's home. View "United States v. Hernandez-Mieses" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, the Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts and the Town's chief of police, and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint filed under 42 U.S.C. 1983, holding that Plaintiff could not reasonably have expected privacy in his phone service provider's cell and home phone records. In 2015, the chief of police opened an internal investigation concerning Plaintiff, a police officer with the Town. In 2017, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint alleging that Defendants compelled Plaintiff to turn over his phone records in connection with the investigation and that this constituted an illegal warrantless search in violation of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that a phone subscriber has no reasonable expectation of privacy in the phone service provider's records of the numbers that the subscriber has dialed and from which the subscriber as received calls, and Defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the records simply because he asked for a copy of the records at issue. View "Johnson v. Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of the Fay School, Inc. and Fay's Head of School as to Appellants' complaint alleging unlawful retaliation for demands for an accommodation for a certain condition of G., a twelve-year-old minor, holding that the district court correctly denied Appellants' claims. G., a former student of the Fay School, and her parents (collectively, Appellants) brought this suit against Fay after the school refused to remove wireless internet from its classrooms to accommodate G.'s alleged electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), a sensitivity to electromagnetic fields. Appellants alleged, among other claims, unlawful retaliation for an accommodation for G.'s condition, in violation of Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 49 U.S.C. 12203(a), breach of contract, and misrepresentation. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) damages are not an available remedy for a Title V retaliation claim premised upon an exercise of rights under Title III of the ADA; and (2) Appellants failed to raise triable issues of fact as to their contract and misrepresentation claims. View "G. v. Fay School" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Harold Shurtleff's request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the City of Boston from denying him a permit to temporarily raise a "Christian flag" on a government-owned flagpole in front of its City Hall, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Shurtleff's request for a preliminary injunction. Shurtleff, in his role as director of Camp Constitution, a volunteer organization, organized an event to be held at the plaza in front of City Hall to celebrate the Christian community's contributions to the City and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Shurtleff sought a permit from the City to raise a Christian flag on one of the City Hall Plaza flagpoles during the celebration. The City denied Shurtleff's flag-raising request. Shurtleff and Camp Constitution filed suit raising Establishment Clause, Free Speech and Equal Protection claims and seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the City from denying them a permit to raise the flag. The district court denied the injunction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to establish a likelihood of success on their claims against the City. View "Shurtleff v. City of Boston" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the magistrate judge rejecting Anne Kaczmarek's motion to dismiss this 42 U.S.C. 1983 action on grounds of absolute immunity, holding that Kaczmarek, a former Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General, was not entitled to absolute government attorney immunity. Plaintiff filed this action against seventeen defendants after the dismissal of his Massachusetts criminal conviction for drug distribution. Plaintiff alleged that Kaczmarek unlawfully withheld exculpatory evidence from Plaintiff's counsel, from the district attorney, and from the state court. The magistrate judge rejected Kaczmarek's motion to dismiss on grounds of absolute immunity. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Kaczmarek did not enjoy absolute prosecutorial immunity from Plaintiff's suit on any of her theories. View "Penate v. Kaczmarek" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights
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After a divided panel of the First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Mark Eves's equitable claims against Paul LePage and dismissed his 42 U.S.C. 1983 damages claims on the basis of qualified immunity, the First Circuit granted Eves's petition for rehearing en banc and held that LePage was entitled to qualified immunity. In 2016, the panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the First Amendment retaliation suit brought by Eves, then-speaker of Maine's House of Representatives, against LePage, then-Governor of Maine, in which Eves alleged that LePage leveraged discretionary state funding in a yet unpasted state budget to coerce an organization to terminate Eves's upcoming employment as its president. In his en banc petition, Eves pursued only his damages claim against LePage for alleged political affiliation discrimination. The First Circuit en banc court held that, under the facts of this case, LePage was entitled to qualified immunity because a reasonable governor in the position of LePage could have believed Eves's position as the new president of the organization to be a policymaking position for which political affiliation was relevant. The Court then reinstated in part its prior panel opinion and affirmed the dismissal of this action. View "Eves v. LePage" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment after treating the motion as a motion to dismiss pursuant too Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), holding that the district court applied the wrong legal standard in adjudicating Defendants' summary judgment motion. Plaintiff brought this action alleging that his employer had discriminated against him on the basis of his national origin and subjected him to retaliation. Defendants moved for summary judgment. The district court considered the motion as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a plausible claim and granted the motion. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the district court's attempt to transform Defendants' fully developed motion for summary judgment into a motion to dismiss was an abuse of discretion. View "Rios-Campbell v. U.S. Department of Commerce" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction based on his guilty plea for production of child pornography, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea. After entering his guilty plea, Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his plea, arguing that his counsel, in advising him with respect to the guilty plea, had provided him with ineffective assistance of counsel by not having moved pursuant to the Fourth Amendment to suppress certain evidence. Acknowledging that Defendant would be entitled to withdraw his guilty plea if his counsel had failed to file a meritorious suppression motion, the district court held a hearing. The court denied Defendant's motion, concluding that Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights had not been violated. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Defendant failed to show that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. View "United States v. Powell" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court for San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz and the municipality of San Juan, Puerto Rico on the Comite Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian, Inc.'s (the Comite) trademark-infringement and First Amendment retaliation, political discrimination, and religious discrimination claims, holding that the district court did not err in entering summary judgment for the government defendants on these claims. The Comite, a non-profit corporation that promotes and helps run the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian festival in San Juan, brought this lawsuit after it received a diminished assigned role as vendor and presenter at the 2015 festival. The district court granted summary judgment for the government defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) this Court had jurisdiction to consider the Comite's appeal; and (2) the district court properly granted summary judgment disposing of the Comite's claims. View "Comite Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian, Inc. v. Cruz" on Justia Law