Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to vacate his consecutive sentence, holding that Appellant’s appeal from the district court’s ruling was foreclosed by the First Circuit’s recent decision in United States v. Ellison, 866 F.3d 32 (1st Cir. 2017). Appellant was convicted of federal armed bank robbery, conspiracy, and possession of a firearm by a felon, for which he received a 210-month prison sentence. Appellant was also convicted of use of a firearm during a crime of violence, for which he received a consecutive five-year mandatory minimum sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)(i). In moving to vacate his consecutive five-year sentence Appellant argued that the definition of “crime of violence” in 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(B) was unconstitutionally vague. The district court denied the motion, concluding that Defendant’s crime of federal armed bank robbery still qualified as a crime of violence under section 924(c)(3)(A) - the force clause. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that federal bank robbery, and a fortiori federal armed bank robbery, are crimes of violence under the force clause of section 924(c)(3). View "Hunter v. United States" on Justia Law

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While police officers conducted an unlawful search by testing a key in the lock of the unit in which he was staying, the district court properly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress because, in searching the apartment, the officers relied in good faith on a warrant issued to search that unit. The key was seized from Defendant during a search incident to his arrest. The police tried the key on doors to apartments inside a multi-family building outside which Defendant was arrested. The key opened the door to one of the units. When a warrant issued, police searched the unit and discovered a firearm and drugs. The district court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress. Defendant was subsequently convicted drug- and firearm-related crimes. The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction and sentence, holding (1) there was an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment, but the exclusionary rule should not apply in this case; (2) the district court did not err in admitting evidence that there was a credit-card-making machine in the unit; and (3) under plain error review, there was no error in the district court’s application of the fifteen-year-mandatory minimum sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act. View "United States v. Bain" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress drugs, a digital scale, and a firearm obtained following a traffic stop of the vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger. In his motion to suppress, Defendant argued that the evidence was obtained through an illegal search and pat-frisk. The district judge denied the motion after an evidentiary hearing, finding that the pat-frisk was warranted. Defendant then pled guilty to possession of heroin with intent to distribute, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding that the totality of the circumstances provided a particularized objective basis for the officer’s suspicion that Defendant was armed and dangerous, and therefore, the district court properly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress. View "United States v. Orth" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit dismissed portions of this interlocutory appeal for want of appellate jurisdiction and otherwise affirmed the district court’s ruling that Defendant was not entitled to qualified immunity at the summary judgment stage. Stephen McKenney died at the hands of Defendant, a police officer “who was trying to do his job.” Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Defendant’s use of deadly force transgressed McKenney’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures. Defendant filed an interlocutory appeal challenging a pretrial ruling in which the district court denied summary judgment for Defendant on qualified immunity grounds. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal in part for want of appellate jurisdiction and otherwise affirmed the district court’s denial of summary judgment, holding (1) certain aspects of the interlocutory order denying summary judgment were not appealable; and (2) while this court had jurisdiction to consider whether the contours of the relevant Fourth Amendment law were so blurred at the time Defendant shot McKenney that he was deserving of qualified immunity, the argument lacked force. View "McKenney v. Mangino" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Appellant’s convictions of five counts of wire fraud, five counts of engaging in unlawful monetary transactions, two counts of filing false tax returns, and one count of bank fraud. The court held (1) the district court acted within its discretion in conducting its inquiry into the colorable allegation of juror misconduct and did not err in finding that no juror misconduct occurred; (2) the district court did not deprive Appellant of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of choice by denying his continuance motion; and (3) even assuming that the bank fraud counts were improperly joined with the remaining counts, any misjoinder was harmless. View "United States v. Zimny" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Appellant’s sentence of ten years’ imprisonment imposed after Appellant pleaded guilty to one count of accessing child pornography with the intent to view it. On appeal, Defendant asked the First Circuit to declare the mandatory minimum sentence for accessing child pornography applicable to any individual who has a prior state conviction for abusive sexual conduct involving a minor unconstitutional as violative of the Due Process Clause. The First Circuit held (1) the mandatory minimum sentence established under 18 U.S.C. 2252A(b)(2) is consistent with the Due Process Clause; and (2) Defendant’s ten-year sentence was not grossly disproportionate to the crime that he committed and thus did not infringe on his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. View "United States v. Blodgett" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the summary judgment granted to Defendants as to all of Plaintiffs’ claims. Plaintiff, a Massachusetts property owner, brought this lawsuit against three police officers challenging the owner’s arrest for actions that he took in connection with his objection to the clearing of vegetation on his property by the work crew for an electrical utility that held an easement on the owner’s property. Specifically, the First Circuit (1) affirmed the entry of summary judgment as to the officers on Plaintiff’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim and the claims brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 12, 11I; (2) affirmed the entry of summary judgment as to one of the officers on the malicious prosecution and false arrest claims; and (3) vacated the entry of summary judgment as to two of the officers on the malicious prosecution and false arrest claims and as to all three officers on the false imprisonment claim and remanded with instructions that the district court remand those claims to state court, holding that contested state law issues prevented summary judgment. View "Wilber v. Curtis" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit granted the certification requested by Petitioner that Petitioner’s successive motion to vacate his federal sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 contains a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable. Petitioner sought to argue in the district court that the new rule announced in Johnson v. United States (Johnson II), 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), which was made retroactive to cases on collateral review in Welch v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1257 (2016), invalidates the residual clause of the career offender guideline applied at his sentencing, which occurred before United States v. Booker, 453 U.S. 220 (2055), made the guidelines advisory. For the reasons given in this opinion, the First Circuit certified that Petitioner’s successive motion satisfies 28 U.S.C. 2255(h)(2). View "Moore v. United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s orders denying Defendant’s motion to suppress wiretap evidence and denying Defendant’s two requests for evidentiary hearings in connection with the motion to suppress. Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, preserving his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress and his related requests for evidentiary hearings. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the wiretap orders were not so lacking in particularity as to demand suppression, the wiretap applications were more than minimally adequate to justify the wiretap orders, and suppression was not required due to minimization deficiencies; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to hold either a general evidentiary hearing or a Franks hearing. View "United States v. Gordon" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions of first degree murder. Defendant took a collateral challenge to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. The SJC affirmed Defendant’s conviction. A federal district court denied Defendant’s subsequent petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the SJC clearly understood and reasonably rejected Defendant’s claims on the merits in a manner consistent with federal constitutional law; and (2) to the extent that the SJC misapprehended Defendant’s argument regarding his Fifth Amendment rights, Defendant suffered no prejudice because his Strickland argument would not have prevailed. View "Johnston v. Mitchell" on Justia Law