Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to suppress and sentencing Defendant, holding that the evidence was not obtained in violation of Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights and that Defendant was properly sentenced. Defendant was convicted for producing six videos depicting him sexually assaulting a three-year-old child. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence recovered from his residence and statements he made to law enforcement at his residence and during a later interrogation. The district court concluded that Defendant knowingly and voluntarily consented to the search of his residence and that there was no Fourth Amendment violation. At sentencing, Defendant argued that the charges were multiplicitous because the videos were taken during one continuous sexual assault. The district court disagreed and sentenced Defendant to a fifty-year term of imprisonment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) even assuming that law enforcement committed a Fourth Amendment violation before encountering Defendant, any prior illegality did not influence Defendant’s subsequent consent to the search of his computer and hard drives, and Defendant’s consent to the search was knowing and voluntary; and (2) the proper unit of prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 2251(a), the federal child pornography statute, is each video depicting the victim. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction and sentence for two counts of conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base, holding, among other things, that the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motions to suppress two warrants obtained by law enforcement and evidence obtained from Defendant’s warrantless arrest. Specifically, the Court held (1) there was no error int he issuance of precise location information (PLI) warrants by a magistrate judge allowing monitoring of the locations of Defendant’s two cell phones; (2) the cell phones were not tracking devices under 18 U.S.C. 3117; (3) the PLI warrants did not violate Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(b); (4) the use of rebuttal testimony from a pretrial services officer to impeach a witness was proper; and (5) the sentencing court’s adoption of two sentencing enhancements was not procedurally unreasonable. View "United States v. Ackies" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to suppress incriminating evidence found during a search and seizure by a local police officer after approaching Defendant, who was seated in a car with his friend in a parking lot, and asking him several questions, holding that the search and seizure were lawful. Based on Defendant’s answers to the officer’s questions, the officer searched the vehicle, found drugs and drug paraphernalia, and arrested Defendant. After Defendant consented to the search of his backpack, further incriminating evidence was found. Defendant moved to suppress the government’s evidence, arguing that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate and continue the inquiries that led to the discovery of the contraband. The district court denied the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding no Fourth Amendment violation and denying Defendant’s motion to suppress. View "United States v. Tanguay" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to dismiss the indictment against him on double jeopardy and issue preclusion grounds, holding that the Double Jeopardy Clause had no application and that Appellant’s issue preclusion claim would fail on the merits even if it were not waived. In preliminary hearings, Puerto Rico courts concluded that Commonwealth weapons charges against Appellant were not supported by probable cause. Thereafter, Appellant plead guilty to equivalent federal charges based on the same conduct. Appellant later moved the district court to dismiss his indictment as a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause. After a magistrate judge made a report and recommendation, Appellant raised for the first time his issue preclusion claim. The district court denied Appellant’s motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief on his claims. View "United States v. Rosado-Cancel" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed an vacated the order of the district court granting Defendant’s motion to suppress identification evidence and giving preclusive effect to a Puerto Rico Court of Appeals’ order suppressing the same evidence in a local proceeding for different offenses, holding that the district court deviated from this Court’s precedent in so ruling. The district court concluded that because Puerto Rico and the United States are a single sovereign for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause, the court was bound by the local court’s judgment suppressing identification evidence, even where federal prosecutors did not participate in the proceedings. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the district court deviated from the holding in United States v. Bonilla Romero, 836 F.2d 39, 43-44 (1st Cir. 1987), that suppression of evidence by a Puerto Rico court does not require a federal court to suppress that same evidence unless federal prosecutors were a party, or were in privity with a party, to the suppression hearing in the Puerto Rico court; and (2) because there was no privity between the two prosecuting authorities in this case, collateral estoppel was inapplicable. View "United States v. Santiago-Colon" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction of interstate domestic violence and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence and sentence of life imprisonment, holding that there was no reason to vacate Defendant’s convictions or sentence on the grounds that he presented on appeal. Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions; (3) Defendant’s sentence was both procedurally and substantively reasonable; and (4) the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictment on double jeopardy grounds. View "United States v. Owens" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ complaint against the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico (Board) and its members and executive director alleging that the Board had exceeded its power under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) during the 2019 fiscal plan and territory budget development and certification processes, holding that the complaint was properly dismissed. The district court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim to relief. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the federal courts lacked jurisdiction the portion of the complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief; (2) the district court properly found that it lacked jurisdiction over the claims challenging the Board’s budget certification decisions; and (3) the district court properly dismissed for failure to state a claim for relief the claims that the Board exceeded its authority under PROMESA. View "Mendez-Nunez v. Financial Oversight & Management Board for Puerto Rico" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s entry of summary judgment for Defendants in this case, holding that an objectively reasonable police officer in May 2013 could have concluded that a single use of a Taser to quell a nonviolent, mentally ill person who was resisting arrest did not violate the Fourth amendment and that, in any case, the officer here was shielded by qualified immunity. Plaintiff, a mentally ill person who was tased after absconding from the hospital to which she had been involuntarily committed, sued the officer and the Town of Athol, Massachusetts asserting causes of action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12131-65, along with supplemental state-law claims for, inter alia, assault and battery and malicious prosecution. The magistrate judge found no violation of the Fourth Amendment under section 1983 and no viable state-law claims, that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity, and that there was no violation of the ADA. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to make out a jury question as to whether the officer used excessive force, but the officer was entitled to qualified immunity; and (2) Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on any of her remaining claims. View "Gray v. Cummings" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit held that members of the Financial Oversight and Management Board (Board Members) created by the 2016 Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) are “Officers of the United States” subject to the U.S. Constitution’s Appointments Clause and directed the district court to enter a declaratory judgment to the effect that PROMESA’s protocol for the appointment of Board Members is unconstitutional and must be severed. This matter arose from the restructuring of Puerto Rico’s public debt under PROMESA. May 2017, the Board exercised its authority under Title III of PROMESA to initiate debt adjustment proceedings on behalf of the Puerto Rico government. Appellants sought to dismiss the Title III proceedings, arguing that the Board lacked authority to initiate them because the Board Members were illegally appointed in contravention of the Appointments Clause. The district court rejected Appellants’ motions to dismiss. The First Circuit reversed in part, (1) the Territorial Clause does not displace the Appointments Clause in an unincorporated territory such as Puerto Rico; (2) Board Members are “Principal” “Officers of the United States” subject to the Appointments Clause; and (3) therefore, the process PROMESA provides for the appointment of Board Members is unconstitutional. View "Aurelius Investments, LLC v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and various state laws, holding that the district court properly dismissed Plaintiff’s claims under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff, a captain in the Chicopee Police Department, brought this action against the City, its police chief and mayor, a fellow police officer, and other defendants, alleging that his First Amendment rights were violated after Defendants improperly targeted him for “speaking out and participating in a government investigation.” The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s claimed under Rule 12(b)(6). The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court (1) properly dismissed Plaintiff’s First Amendment claim because al of Plaintiff’s speech was made within the scope of his official duties rather than as a citizen; and (2) did not err in dismissing the state law claims. View "Gilbert v. City of Chicopee" on Justia Law