Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress certain evidence, including a loaded firearm found when law enforcement searched Defendant’s home. Defendant pleaded guilty to being a prohibited person in knowing possession of a firearm or ammunition, reserving his right to challenge the denial of his motion to suppress. The First Circuit held (1) the protective sweep of Defendant’s residence was not lawful in light of the circumstances surrounding Defendant’s arrest; and (2) therefore, the evidence that was recovered during and following the sweep should have been excluded as the illegal fruit of that sweep. View "United States v. Delgado-Perez" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that was seized from Defendant’s apartment pursuant to a warrant. While law enforcement agents were seeking the warrant, other agents entered Defendant’s apartment, detained the individuals present in the apartment, and while securing the premises came upon some of the evidence that was later seized. The district court denied Defendant’s motion on independent-source grounds, concluding that there was no evidence that either the warrant or the decision to seek the warrant was tainted by what the officers saw during the initial entry. The First Circuit agreed, holding (1) the warrant was not based on information gleaned from the warrantless seizure and sweep of Defendant’s apartment; and (2) the officers’ conduct did not rise to a level that might arguably justify a departure from the normal rules governing suppression. View "United States v. Dent" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court’s conclusion that Plaintiff was likely to succeed on the merits of his contention that a provision of the Maine Civil Rights Act facially violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of the freedom of speech. The challenged provision bars a person from making noise that “can be heard within a building” when such noise is made intentionally, following an order from law enforcement to cease making it, and with the additional intent either to jeopardize the health of persons receiving health services within the building or to interfere with the safe and effective delivery of those services. The district court granted Plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction, concluding that the measure, as a content-based speech restriction, did not satisfy strict scrutiny. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that the noise provision was properly treated as a content-neutral time, place, or manner restriction that survived Plaintiff’s facial challenge under intermediate scrutiny. View "March v. Mills" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ third amended complaint in this federal-sector employment discrimination case in which Plaintiffs invoked “extravagant” theories of liability. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged deprivations of their First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and sought damages under the Bivens doctrine, see Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of FBN, 403 U.S. 388, 389 (1971). The complaint also proffered claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The district court dismissed the complaint and entered judgment in Defendants’ favor, ruling that Plaintiffs could not dodge the preclusive effect of the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) and Title VII by “creatively” pleading causes of action. The First Circuit agreed with the district court, holding that Plaintiffs’ theories ran “headlong into an impenetrable barrier” forged by the CSRA and Title VII. View "Gonzalez v. Otero" on Justia Law

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In this complaint by a former employee alleging violations of the American Disabilities Act (ADA) there was no error in the district court’s jury instructions. Plaintiff filed a complaint against his former employer alleging that his termination violated the ADA. Plaintiff was fired from his job in the Town of Brookline’s Department of Public Works for unjustified absences from work and failing to provide adequate documentation for his use of sick leave. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he had been suffering from sleep apnea and that the Town violated the ADA by discriminating against him on the basis of his sleep apnea disability, denying him a reasonable accommodation, and failing to engage in an interactive dialogue as required under the ADA. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that, contrary to Plaintiff’s contentions, the district court did not err in its instructions to the jury. View "McDonald v. Town of Brookline, Massachusetts" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were prevented from building a new home by the Cohasset Conservation Commission. Plaintiffs brought this action against Defendant, a Florida landscape design firm that was hired by the attorney representing the neighborhood association formed to oppose the construction of Plaintiffs’ proposed home. Defendant assisted in the association’s opposition by producing and presenting renderings of Plaintiffs’ proposed home to the Commission. The federal district court ruled in Defendant’s favor on all counts, granting Defendant’s special motion to dismiss under the Massachusetts anti-SLAPP statute and also granting, in the alternative, Defendant’s motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The First Circuit certified a question to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court regarding whether Defendant could avail itself of the special motion provision under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H. The court then held that, if the anti-SLAPP statute applies to Defendant, then Plaintiffs’ negligence, gross negligence, and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A claims must also be dismissed under the special motion, leaving only Plaintiffs’ defamation claim for further consideration by the district court under the special motion. View "Steinmetz v. Coyle & Caron, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff pleaded guilty to two firearms-related misdemeanors. When Plaintiff subsequently attempted to renew his Class A License to Carry, the Chief of Police of the Town of Northborough, Massachusetts denied Defendant’s applications, finding that Defendant’s prior convictions barred him from obtaining a Class A License under Massachusetts law. Plaintiff brought this action arguing that the denial of his application for a Class A License violated his constitutional right to possess a firearm for self-defense within the home and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Commonwealth. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the denial of a Class A License does not implicate Plaintiff’s Second Amendment right to possess a firearm in his home for self-defense because a Firearm Identification (FID) Card, in conjunction with a permit to purchase, allows one to acquire a firearm and to possess it in one’s home; (2) because Plaintiff failed to show a constitutional violation his section 1983 claim failed as well; and (3) Plaintiff lacked standing to challenge the constitutionality of the Massachusetts statutory scheme governing the issuance of FID Cards. View "Morin v. Leahy" on Justia Law

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In this excessive force case, the First Circuit sustained the district court’s post-verdict denial of qualified immunity to Defendant, a police officer on crowd-control duty who grabbed Plaintiff from behind by the collar and dragged him backward and downward to the pavement after seeing Plaintiff taunting K-9 dogs. A jury found that Defendant violated Plaintiff’s right to be free from excessive force under the Fourth Amendment. The district court then denied Defendant’s post-verdict motion for judgment as a matter of law, thus rejecting Defendant’s argument that he was entitled to qualified immunity. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Defendant’s actions not only violated Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment right but also fell outside the margin of error that qualified immunity provides. View "Ciolino v. Gikas" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit remanded this case for further proceedings, holding that the district court abused its discretion in failing to rule on the merits of Appellant’s ineffective assistance claim prior to sentencing. Appellant was charged with several counts related to a drug distribution conspiracy. Appellant was originally represented by court-appointed counsel, but after seven months Defendant retained private counsel Prior to sentencing, Appellant raised his ineffective assistance of counsel claim, arguing that his prior counsel allegedly failed to provide him with effective assistance throughout plea negotiations. The district court declined to rule on Appellant’s claim, finding it to be “premature.” Appellant ultimately pled guilty to a high plea offer negotiated by his new counsel. The First Circuit disagreed with the district court’s ruling, holding that, at times, it may be imperative for a district court to rule on a claim of ineffective assistance prior to the defendant seeking post-conviction relief, and such was true in this case. View "United States v. Ortiz-Vega" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of the state prosecution of Vladek Filler for five counts of gross sexual assault and two counts of assault. After two trials and two appeals Filler was convicted only of one misdemeanor assault count. Filler subsequently filed a civil action against several defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for malicious prosecution, including a claim against the prosecuting attorney, Mary Kellett, for malicious prosecution. Kellett filed a motion to dismiss Filler’s malicious prosecution claim for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), alleging, among other claims, that she was entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity. The district court concluded that Kellett was entitled to absolute immunity for actions associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process but denied the rest of Kellett’s motion to dismiss. Kelley brought an interlocutory appeal from the district court’s order. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that that, while Filler’s claim against Kellett was not clearly foreclosed by absolute immunity, the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the immunity issue. View "Filler v. Kellett" on Justia Law