Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The First Circuit vacated the district court’s denial of Defendants’ motion for a new trial based partly on a claim that one juror lied in filling out the written questionnaire given to prospective jurors prior to trial, holding that the district court’s investigation concerning the answers given by the juror was inadequate. After a jury trial, Defendants were convicted of charges arising out of a large-scale marijuana-farming operation. Defendants moved for a new trial, arguing that one juror lied in filling out a written questionnaire given to prospective jurors prior to trial. The district court denied the motion for a new trial. The First Circuit vacated the denial based on the possible bias of the juror and remanded for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the alleged bias of the juror presented a “colorable or plausible” claim of the type of juror misconduct that could require a new trial, and therefore, the district court was required to do more than it did before ruling on the new trial motion. View "United States v. Russell" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction stemming from an armed robbery committed in Puerto Rico and the sentence imposed, holding that armed robbery committed in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951, qualifies as a “crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. 924(c) and that Defendant's sentence was not an abuse of discretion. Defendant stood convicted of aiding and abetting a robbery committed in violation of the Hobbs Act and aiding and abetting felony murder in the course of using or carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Defendant’s conviction for felony murder rested on the proposition that his offense that led to a death - armed robbery in violation of the Hobbs Act - was a “crime of violence” under section 924(c). On appeal, Defendant argued that his armed robbery conviction did not qualify as a crime of violence and challenged the imposition of a restitution order. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) a conviction for Hobbs Act robbery categorically constitutes a “crime of violence” under section 924(c)’s force clause; (2) the district court did not err in ordering restitution; (3) the district court did not err in making Defendant’s Guidelines calculation; and (4) the district court was within its discretion to impose consecutive sentences for counts one and three. View "United States v. Garcia-Ortiz" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentence for federal carjacking and weapons counts, holding that Defendant’s arguments on appeal failed. Specifically, the Court held (1) the force clause in 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A), which defines a crime of violence, encompassed Defendant’s 18 U.S.C. 2119 convictions for carjacking; (2) Defendant’s arguments that section 924(c) is unconstitutional, both facially and as applied, were without merit; (3) the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; and (4) the district court did not err in instructing the jury as to what the government had to prove to sustain Defendant’s convictions. View "United States v. Cruz-Rivera" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court excluding certain evidence during trial in this case alleging violations of the Fourth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. 1983, holding that Plaintiff’s grounds for attacking one set of evidentiary rulings were not advanced below and that Plaintiff’s remaining challenge was moot. On appeal, Plaintiff challenged the district court’s rulings on her motions in limine, which resulted in the exclusion of evidence concerning the procurement and validity of a search warrant, and the district court’s refusal to admit her medical bills into evidence. The First Circuit held (1) Plaintiff’s first assignment of error was predicated on legal theories and arguments that were raised for the first time on appeal and thus could not be addressed on appeal; and (2) because the medical bills were relevant only to the issue of damages and the jury found no liability, all issues regarding damages were moot. View "Campbell v. Ackerman" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the sentence imposed in connection with the district court’s revocation of Defendant’s supervised release, holding that Defendant’s sentence did not violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and that the sentence was substantively reasonable. After he was released from federal custody following a drug trafficking conviction, Defendant pleaded guilty to felony drug possession in state court. The district court revoked Defendant’s supervised release and imposed a sentence of twenty-four months’ imprisonment, concluding that Defendant’s conduct violated his conditions of supervised release. On appeal, Defendant challenged the substantive reasonableness of his sentence and argued that because his drug addiction is a disease, sentencing him to a term of imprisonment for manifesting a condition of his disease was cruel and unusual punishment. The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) it is not “clear or obvious” that the practice of incarcerating defendants for drug use and possession is unconstitutional; and (2) Defendant’s two-year sentence is not substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Sirois" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction and sentence for participating in a conspiracy to bribe an agent of an organization receiving federal funds and of receiving a bribe, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the trial court proceedings. Defendant, a former Puerto Rico Superior Court Judge, was found guilty of both counts by a jury. Defendant was sentenced to sixty months of imprisonment for one count and 120 months of imprisonment for the other count, to be served concurrently. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence supporting Defendant’s convictions; (2) Defendant did not demonstrate that any alleged error in the government’s opening statement and closing argument or in the admission of certain testimony affected his substantial rights or that they impaired the fairness, integrity, or the public reputation of the judicial proceedings; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in upholding a witness’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege; and (4) any claimed sentencing error would be harmless. View "United States v. Acevedo-Hernandez" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s 28 U.S.C. 2255 petition, holding that Appellant’s three prior convictions were Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) predicates, and therefore, Appellant’s sentence as an armed career criminal was proper. On appeal, Appellant argued that his sentence under the ACCA was unconstitutional under Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), Supreme Court precedent decided after his earlier appeal from his conviction was rejected. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that three of Appellant’s convictions qualified as violent felonies under the ACCA’s force clause, and therefore, the district court did not err in dismissing Appellant’s section 2255 petition. View "Lassend v. United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Medina & Medina, Inc. in this employment discrimination lawsuit, holding that summary judgment was properly granted as to Plaintiff’s discriminatory wage disparity claims and gender-based hostile work environment claims but improperly granted as to Plaintiff’s federal and Puerto Rico age-based hostile work environment claims and retaliation claims. The district court held that Plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment as to any of her claims. The First Circuit held (1) based on the evidence proffered by both parties, summary judgment was appropriate on Plaintiff’s discriminatory wage disparity and and gender-based hostile work environment claims; (2) where Plaintiff produced evidence that she was taunted about her age nearly every single day for over two years, summary judgment was not appropriate as to Plaintiff’s age-based hostile work environment claim; (3) there was a genuine issue of fact that precluded summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims of retaliation; and (4) Plaintiff’s supplemental claims brought pursuant to Puerto Rico law were properly disposed of upon summary judgment. View "Rivera-Rivera v. Medina & Medina, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the bankruptcy court allowing The Patriot Group, LLC to amend its pleadings in its adversary complaint requesting denial of the discharge in bankruptcy of Steven Fustolo’s debt and denying Fustolo’s discharge pursuant to the newly added claim, holding that the allowance of this belated amendment failed to satisfy the prescripts of due process underlying Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(b)(2) and was therefore an abuse of discretion. Specifically, the Court held that Appellant did not receive adequate notice of an unpleaded claim and did not provide his implied consent. Therefore, the bankruptcy court’s order must be reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Fustolo v. Patriot Group LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of a complaint filed by George Gillis against William Chase in this third complaint against Chase, Gillis III, seeking to reopen Gillis I. Gillis was operating a truck at a construction site when he struck and fatally injured Edward Hansen. Gillis was charged with motor vehicle homicide in state court but was acquitted after a trial. Gillis then sought vindication by filing lawsuits. Gillis I asserted that William Chase, the police chief when Hansen’s death occurred, violated his constitutional rights by knowingly charging him with a crime without probable cause. The district court dismissed the case for failure to state a claim. In Gillis II, Gillis sued two different defendants, and the case was dismissed on summary judgment. Gillis III, against Chase alone, sought to reopen Gillis I. Gillis argued that Chase conspired to charge Gillis in the criminal case as the result of undue influence exerted by a defendant in Gillis II. The district court found that Gillis III was time barred and failed to state a claim. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court’s judgment was not in error. View "Gillis v. Chase" on Justia Law