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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants' motions to suppress all evidence obtained directly by a pole camera, holding that the doctrine of stare decisis controlled this case and required reversal of the district court. At issue was whether the Supreme Court's opinion in Carpenter v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 2206 (2018), a cell phone location automatic tracking technology case, provided a basis for departing from otherwise binding First Circuit precedent in United States v. Bucci, 582 F.3d 108 (1st Cir. 2009) and Supreme Court precedent on which Bucci was based. The First Circuit held that, by departing from that precedent in granting Defendants' motions to suppress, the district court violated the vertical rule of stare decisis. The Court thus remanded with instruction to deny the motions to suppress. View "United States v. Moore-Bush" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentence for possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes and of possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base, holding that Defendant was not entitled to reversal on any of his claims. Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the evidence of Defendant's guilt was sufficient to support the jury's verdict; (2) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress the statements he provided to law enforcement or the evidence seized from the residence; (3) the district court did not clearly err in imposing the sentencing enhancement for obstruction of justice because Defendant perjured himself; and (4) the district court did not err in rejecting Defendant's request for a reduction in his offense level based on his claimed minimal participation in the offenses. View "United States v. Mendoza-Maisonet" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction for production of child pornography, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress a video on his cellphone under the private search doctrine. When Defendant's wife was looking through pictures on Defendant's cellphone she discovered a video of the couple's daughter masturbating Defendant. The wife brought the cellphone to law enforcement authorities and directed their attention to the video. Defendant was subsequently indicted on a charge of production of child pornography. Defendant moved to suppress the video and his ensuing confession, arguing that the officers violated the Fourth Amendment by accessing the video without a warrant and prior to obtaining his consent. The district court denied the motion to suppress. Defendant was subsequently convicted and sentenced to a 360-month term of immurement. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) under the circumstances, the officers initially could not be said to have conducted a "search" of Defendant's cellphone, and two reexaminations of the video fell within the protections of the private search doctrine; and (2) there was no procedural error at Defendant's sentencing, and the sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Rivera-Morales" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning arbitration agreements, nursing homes, and wrongful death claims under Massachusetts law, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court compelling arbitration after first certifying two questions to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), holding that the SJC's decision compelled the First Circuit to affirmed the judgment compelling arbitration. The personal representative of a deceased former nursing home resident brought a state wrongful death action against a set of organizations that oversaw the nursing home (collectively, nursing home). The nursing home sued to compel arbitration. The federal court compelled arbitration. On appeal, the personal representative argued that she was not bound by the decedent’s agreement to arbitrate with the nursing home because her wrongful death right of recovery was independent of the decedent’s wrongful death claim. The First Circuit certified questions of law to the SJC. After the SJC answered that claims of statutory beneficiaries under the state's wrongful death statute are derivative of the decedent's own cause of action, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the SJC's decision required this Court to affirm the judgment compelling arbitration. View "GGNSC Chestnut Hill LLC v. Schrader" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of possessing with intent to distribute controlled substances in a protected area and conspiring to distribute controlled substances in a protected area, holding that the district court did not plainly err with respect to any of Defendant's challenges. Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the district court did not commit plain error in admitting evidence of the conspiracy's activities occurring after he withdrew from the conspiracy or, alternatively, in not instructing the jury to ignore such evidence; (2) the district court did not plainly err in admitting evidence of a drug trafficking organization's violent acts; and (3) the delay between Defendant's indictment and arrest did not violate his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. View "United States v. Perez-Couvertier" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that, under the highly deferential standard prescribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act for federal habeas review of state criminal convictions, Appellant's claims to habeas relief failed. Appellant was convicted in a Massachusetts superior court of murder in the first degree and related crimes. The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) affirmed the convictions. Appellant subsequently petitioned the District Court for the District of Massachusetts for a writ of habeas corpus. The district court denied the petition but granted a certificate of appealability. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) sufficient evidence supported Appellant's conviction for first-degree murder as a joint venturer, and the SJC's sufficiency determination was not unreasonable; and (2) the SJC reasonably determined that the trial court's admission into evidence of certain items did not constitute error. View "Gomes v. Silva" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the district court's order denying in part Defendants' motions to dismiss this suit brought Plaintiffs, a putative class of shippers who use the services of ocean freight carriers to import goods into Puerto Rico through the Port of San Juan, holding that Plaintiffs lacked standing to sue for a declaration that the collection of a fee from the carriers was unlawful. Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from a cargo scanning program implemented by the Puerto Rico Ports Authority (PRPA). Pursuant to that program, PRPA contracted with Rapiscan Systems, Inc. to provide the technology and services needed to scan all containerized inbound cargo. Rapsican assigned its rights and obligations to S2 Services Puerto Rico LLC (S2). PRPA charged ocean freight carriers a fee for their use of the of the scanning facilities at the maritime port. Plaintiffs sued PRPA, Rapiscan, and S2 (collectively, Defendants) alleging that, in response to the fee, the carriers were forced to be collection agents that collected fees from the shipper entities. The district court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motions to dismiss. The First Circuit remanded this case for dismissal on jurisdictional grounds, holding that Plaintiffs failed to set forth allegations that were sufficient to establish their standing. View "Dantzler, Inc. v. S2 Services Puerto Rico, LLC" on Justia Law

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In these cases against four defendants - Manuel De Jesus Rosario-Perez (Rosario), Jorge Gomez-Gonzalez (Gomez), Bryant Setiawan-Ramos (Setiawan), and Santiago Hernandez-Rosa (Hernandez) - the First Circuit affirmed the various drug and weapons charges as to Rosario, Gomez, and Hernandez but vacated Setiawan's convictions and remanded his case for a new trial, holding that Setiawan's convictions must be set aside on a cumulative error theory. Each defendant was indicted for conspiracy to distribute drugs within 1,000 feet of a school and possession with intent to distribute heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. The indictment also charged everyone but Rosario with carrying and using firearms in relation to drug trafficking. Each defendant was convicted of one or more counts. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) most of Defendants' claims were without merit; but (2) the district court's decision to admit evidence that Setiawan killed "Teton," a drug seller, while excluding evidence that a witness named "Cascote" killed Teton was improper, and the cumulative effect of the decision warranted a new trial. View "United States v. Rosario-Perez" on Justia Law

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In this lawsuit brought against three Boston police officers who were involved in breaking up a party and arresting Plaintiffs, the First Circuit reversed the judgment for Plaintiffs, holding that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity for entering through the open door of a house under the community care taking exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. Plaintiffs brought civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 12, 11H and 11I, as well as state tort claims for, among other things, false imprisonment. The jury reached a unanimous verdict in favor of Defendants on all counts. The district court, however, granted Plaintiffs' motion for a new trial, finding that the verdict was against the law as to the officers' warrantless entry into the home and that the warrantless entry on the facts as presented in the trial was not protected by qualified immunity. The court then amended its judgment so that it reflected a judgment in favor of Plaintiffs as to the section 1983 unlawful entry claim. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because, under the community caretaking exception, their entry through the home's open door did not violate Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. View "Castagna v. Jean" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit declared that exclusion of otherwise eligible residents of Puerto Rico from receiving the disability benefits that are granted to persons residing in the fifty States, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provisions of Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 1381-1383(f) is not rationally related to a legitimate government interest and is invalid. While residing in New York, Defendant became eligible and commenced receiving SSI disability benefits. The benefits were discontinued when the Social Security Administration became award that Defendant had moved to Puerto Rico. The United States subsequently brought suit against Defendant seeking to collect the amount the SSA claimed was owed by Defendant due to the allegedly improper payment of SSI benefits since Defendant's relocation to Puerto Rico. Defendant raised as an affirmative defense that the exclusion of Puerto Rico residents from the SSI program violated the Equal Protection Clause. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant, holding that Congress's actions in this case failed to pass rational basis constitutional muster. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the Fifth Amendment forbids the categorial exclusion of Puerto Rico residents from SSI coverage. View "United States v. Vaello-Madero" on Justia Law