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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of interstate transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress the confession he made during the second phase of his custodial interrogation. In support of his motion to suppress Defendant argued that the interrogation violated his Fifth Amendment rights as set forth in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), and Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981). The district court denied the motion, finding that Defendant initiated the second phase of the interview, that Defendant did not thereafter reinvade his right to counsel, and that Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights before confessing. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Defendant's confession was admissible at trial for all of the reasons determined by the district court. View "United States v. Carpentino" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed Defendant's conviction, holding that the district court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress seized evidence because law enforcement officers' warrantless entry into the house where Defendant was living, on the grounds that exigent circumstances existed, was unconstitutional, and there was no evidence demonstrating a different exception to the warrant requirement applied. Defendant was convicted of sixteen counts of production of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography involving prepubescent minors. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress, arguing that the warrantless entry into his mother's house, where he was living, was presumptively unreasonable and that no exception to the warrant requirement existed. The First Circuit agreed and remanded the case to the district court to determine whether consent to the entry was given, holding that entry into the home on the basis of exigency was unconstitutional and could not serve as justification for the search and seizure that followed. View "United States v. Rodriguez-Pacheco" on Justia Law

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In this case involving a dispute between Portland Pipe Line Corporation (PPLC) and the City of South Portland (the City) the First Circuit certified three questions to the Maine Law Court because this clash raised important questions of state law preemption doctrine and statutory interpretation that are unresolved and may prove dispositive. The parties to this dispute were PPLC, a Maine corporation engaged in the international transportation of oil, and the City, which enacted a municipal zoning ordinance prohibiting the bulk loading of crude oil onto vessels in the City's harbor. The ordinance prevented PPLC from using its infrastructure to transport oil from Montreal to South Portland via underground pipelines. PPLC appealed the district court's dismissal of its claims, arguing that the ordinance was preempted by Maine's Coastal Conveyance Act and was in conflict with federal constitutional law. The First Circuit declined to address the federal questions, concluding that the case lacked controlling precedent and presented difficult legal issues that warranted certification to the Law Court. View "Portland Pipe Line Corp. v. City of South Portland" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions and dismissed without prejudice Defendant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on her allegations of error. Defendant was convicted of twelve counts of making a materially false statement to a federal agency. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that she received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's convictions were supported by sufficient evidence; (2) Defendant was not denied her federal constitutional right to be present at any stage of the criminal proceeding; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in providing a so-called "nullification instruction" to the jury; (4) Defendant waived a duplicity challenge to certain counts; and (5) the record was not sufficiently developed to permit appellate consideration of Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of drug trafficking charges, including conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, and Defendant's sentence of 136 months in prison, holding that no reversible error occurred in the proceedings below. Pursuant to a search warrant, federal agents searched Defendant's apartment and found a stolen gun, more than $30,000 in cash, more than a kilo of heroin, and other narcotics and drug paraphernalia. Defendant pleaded guilty to several drug trafficking charges. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the trial judge did not err by (1) denying Defendant's motion to suppress the evidence from his apartment; (2) denying Defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea; (3) deciding not to appoint new counsel and to let Defendant handle his sentencing pro se; and (4) failing to set a lower guideline sentencing range. View "United States v. Gonzalez-Arias" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion to suppress his booking fingerprints as the fruit of what he argued was an unlawful arrest, holding that because the fingerprints were obtained for routine booking purposes there was no basis in the record for suppression of the fingerprint evidence. During a law enforcement scheme targeting a stolen identity refund fraud scheme, Defendant was administratively arrested for unlawful presence in the United States. Defendant was fingerprinted during a routine booking and later charged with multiple counts related to his involvement in the scheme. Defendant moved to suppress his booking fingerprints. The district court denied the motion, concluding that Defendant was arrested without probable cause but that the fingerprint evidence was admissible under the doctrine of inevitable discovery. The First Circuit affirmed, albeit on different grounds, holding that where the fingerprints were not obtained for any purpose other than routine booking the evidence could not be suppressed under the exclusionary rule. View "United States v. Cruz-Mercedes" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing for want of jurisdiction under the Tax Injunction Act (TIA) this lawsuit asking that the district court enjoin the collection of certain Rhode Island tolls as violative of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, holding that the TIA's prohibition stating that district courts shall not enjoin levy or collection of "any tax under State law" where a remedy may be had in state courts is inapplicable to the Rhode Island tolls. A Rhode Island statute authorized the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to collect from tractor-trailers certain tolls in order to pay for replacement, reconstruction, maintenance, and operation of Rhode Island bridges. Plaintiff trucking entities brought this lawsuit. The district court dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction under the TIA. The First Circuit reversed, holding the the tolls in this case were not a "tax" under the statute. View "American Trucking Ass'n v. Alviti" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed in part the magistrate judge's grant of summary judgment for Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's civil rights action, holding that the magistrate judge erred by granted summary judgment on the claims that police officers unlawfully searched Defendant's property and falsely arrested Defendant and that a jury could find that one police officer and the chief of police violated Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights. Defendant was arrested for theft after police officers obtained a warrant to search Defendant's home for certain property. Defendant later brought this action alleging that there was no probable cause for his arrest. A magistrate judge dismissed all of Defendant's claims on summary judgment. The First Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) the magistrate judge erred by granting summary judgment on the claims under the federal and state civil rights acts that the officers unlawfully searched Defendant's property; (2) the magistrate judge erred in granting summary judgment on Defendant's federal and state civil rights claims for false arrest; and (3) Defendant alleged sufficient facts that a jury might reasonably find the chief of police and one police officer liable on the Fourth Amendment claims, and the Court declined to affirm the judgment on qualified immunity grounds. View "Jordan v. Town of Waldoboro" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion for reconsideration of the denial of his motion to suppress certain evidence, holding that the district court erred in determining that Defendant's sister had either actual or apparent authority to consent to the search. Defendant filed a motion to suppress fentanyl obtained from within closed black garbage bags that were found in his sister's storage unit during a warrantless search. The district court denied the motion to suppress and denied Defendant's subsequent motion for reconsideration. Specifically, the district court concluded that Defendant's sister, who had apparent authority to consent to the search, gave it even if she did not have actual authority to give consent. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the government failed to meet its burden to show that Defendant's sister had either actual or apparent authority to consent to the search of the evidence at issue. View "United States v. Moran" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court granting a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Trustees of Boston College (BC) from imposing a suspension of one year on John Doe, a student, who was found to have engaged in the sexual assault of a female student, holding that the district court erred in finding a probability of success as to Doe's claim under Massachusetts contract law. The suspension decision in this case was the outcome of a disciplinary complaint filed against Doe, and the suspension decision was the outcome of the procedures set forth in BC's student sexual misconduct policy. In issuing the preliminary injunction the district court found Doe had shown a probability of success on the merits of the state law claim of violation of a contractual obligation of basic fairness. The First Circuit vacated the injunction, holding (1) to the extent the district court was attempting to base its ruling on a prediction of future developments in Massachusetts contract law, the court erred; and (2) where current Massachusetts law does not require the college discipline process Doe argues must be a part of a contractual obligation of basic fairness the court erred in granting the injunction. View "Doe v. Trustees of Boston College" on Justia Law