Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the entry of a jury verdict awarding over $1.3 in compensatory damages and $1.3 million in punitive damages to Plaintiff, a black female former employee of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), who claimed that her supervisors at the MBTA conspired to terminate her employment because of her race. The Court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the compensatory damages award for wrongful termination and to justify the punitive damages amount; (2) the trial judge committed clear error in imposing a sanction for removing the entry of default, but the MBTA failed to show that it was prejudiced by the default sanction order; (3) MBTA failed to show that it was prejudiced when the trial judge allowed a hostile work environment theory not explicitly pled in the complaint to go to the jury; and (4) MBTA waived its claim that it should be able to take advantage of Buntin v. City of Boston, 857 F.3d 69 (1st Cir. 2017), decided while this case was on appeal. View "Dimanche v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated Virgilio Diaz-Jimenez’s (Diaz) conviction and remanded the cause for further proceedings, holding that the search of Diaz’s home was unconstitutional, and the error was prejudicial. Diaz and Hector Serrano-Acevedo (Serrano) were convicted of armed bank robbery and possession of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. On appeal, Diaz argued that the government’s warrantless search of his home violated his Fourth Amendment rights and that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence uncovered during the search. Serrano argued that certain statements made during trial were impermissible hearsay. The First Circuit vacated Diaz’s conviction and affirmed Serrano’s conviction, holding (1) the district court erred by denying Diaz’s motion to suppress, and the error was not harmless; and (2) if there was any error in the admission of the statements challenged by Serrano, it was harmless. View "United States v. Serrano-Acevedo" on Justia Law

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On the facts of the case, the constitutional speedy trial clock began to run from the date of the original indictment rather than from the date of an additional charge first brought in a superseding indictment. A federal grand jury indicted Defendant on twelve counts of wire fraud. Approximately six years later, the government filed a superseding indictment containing the same twelve wire-fraud counts as the original indictment and adding a new count for bank fraud. The district court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss the original indictment and the added bank-fraud count on Sixth Amendment speedy trial grounds. The government appealed, arguing that, with respect to the bank-fraud charge, the district court should have measured the period of delay from the filing of the superseding indictment, not from the filing of the initial indictment. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that the bringing of an additional charge does not reset the Sixth Amendment speedy trial clock to the date of the superseding indictment where the additional charge and the charge for which the defendant was previously accused are based on the same act or transaction, or common scheme or plan, and where the government could have, with diligence, brought the additional charge at the time of the prior accusation. View "United States v. Handa" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions of drug offenses and failure to appear for arraignment, holding that, contrary to Defendant’s argument on appeal, Defendant’s counsel did not suffer from a conflict of interest arising from violation of attorney-client privilege and a local rule of professional conduct. The Court held that, under the rules set forth in Cuyler v. Sullivan, 446 U.S. 335, 348 (1980), and United States v. Soldevila-Lopez, 17 F.3d 480, 486 (1st Cir. 1994), Defendant failed to show an actual conflict of interest that adversely affected his lawyer’s performance. Further, “any tension in the lawyer’s mind between client loyalty and professional self-preservation” would have been addressed by a stipulation joined by Defendant, and the following colloquy demonstrated that Defendant understood his rights and the consequences of proceeding as he chose to do. View "United States v. Tirado" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment to Defendants - the Town of Abington, Massachusetts and leaders of the Abington Police Department (Department) - on Plaintiff’s federal and state law claims in which he alleged that Defendants retaliated against him while he was an officer in the Department. The Court held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment as to (1) Plaintiff’s claims that he brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for retaliation against him for exercising his First Amendment rights; (2) Plaintiff’s other section 1983 claim that Defendants impermissibly retaliated against him for his protected union activity; and (3) Plaintiff’s pendent Massachusetts law claims. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the Massachusetts Office of Attorney General’s motion to quash a deposition subpoena. View "Delaney v. Town of Abington" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions of arson, wire fraud, and the use of fire in furtherance of a federal felony, holding that any alleged errors during trial were, whether individually or collectively, harmless. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecution violated his Confrontation Clause rights when an investigator testified that the cause of the fire was incendiary, rather than electrical, because the investigator relied on conclusions drawn by Defendant’s insurer’s electrical expert without calling that expert to the stand. Defendant also argued that this was a violation of Fed. R. Evid. 703. The First Circuit held (1) any such violation, if one occurred at all, of Defendant’s Confrontation Clause rights was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) any error under Fed. R. Evid. 703 was harmless. View "United States v. Saad" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions of arson, wire fraud, and the use of fire in furtherance of a federal felony, holding that any alleged errors during trial were, whether individually or collectively, harmless. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecution violated his Confrontation Clause rights when an investigator testified that the cause of the fire was incendiary, rather than electrical, because the investigator relied on conclusions drawn by Defendant’s insurer’s electrical expert without calling that expert to the stand. Defendant also argued that this was a violation of Fed. R. Evid. 703. The First Circuit held (1) any such violation, if one occurred at all, of Defendant’s Confrontation Clause rights was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) any error under Fed. R. Evid. 703 was harmless. View "United States v. Saad" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court determining that probable cause existed for the arrest of Appellant and refusing to suppress evidence seized during a warrant-back search of Appellant’s hotel room, despite the officers’ earlier unlawful entry into that room. The Court held (1) the district court did not err in determining that Appellant’s de facto arrest comported with the strictures of the Fourth Amendment; and (2) the district court did not err in applying the independent source doctrine to validate the warrant-backed search of Appellant’s hotel room, thus permitting the government to use the evidence obtained as a result of that search, notwithstanding the earlier warrantless entry into that room. View "United States v. Flores" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in all respects Defendant’s conviction of distribution and possession of child pornography and his sentence of seventeen years of imprisonment followed by ten years of supervised release. The Court held (1) Defendant waived his argument that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence seized as a result of a search warrant; (2) the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress (i) statements he made to the police during his arrest because his statements were not the product of an interrogation, (ii) statements he made during a police interview at the station house because Defendant’s Miranda waiver and consent were knowing and intelligent and made voluntarily, and (iii) statements he made during an interview because Defendant did not unambiguously request counsel; (3) the district court did not err in admitting certain evidence under Fed. R. Evid. 414(a); (4) the district court’s decision to give an aiding and abetting instruction was not in error; and (5) Defendant’s sentence was constitutional. View "United States v. Sweeney" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions for conspiring to commit access-device fraud, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress wiretap evidence and that Defendant’s sentence was both procedurally and substantively reasonable. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to suppress court-approved wiretaps, authorized during a separate investigation into a drug trafficking organization, which exposed Defendant’s involvement in a scheme to produce and make purchases with fraudulent credit cards because the affidavits supporting the wiretap applications provided facts that were minimally adequate to support the wiretap authorizations; and (2) Defendant’s sentencing challenges were unavailing. View "United States v. Delima" on Justia Law