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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The case concerns the appeal of Gilbert Perez, who sought to have his federal drug conviction overturned on the basis that the United States District Court for the District of Maine had incorrectly denied his motion to suppress the outcomes of a warrantless search of his backpack. Perez argued that the search was not justified under the search-incident-to-arrest exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The District Court, relying on a previous case (United States v. Eatherton), had upheld the search. Perez contended that subsequent Supreme Court decisions had undermined the validity of Eatherton.On the night of his arrest, Perez had been seen acting suspiciously in a McDonald’s parking lot in Lawrence, Massachusetts. When he left the lot, carrying a backpack, he was monitored by state troopers. He was seen exiting a taxi, and large quantities of cash were found in the vehicle, arousing suspicion that he had been involved in a drug transaction. When Perez returned to the McDonald’s lot, he was approached by Trooper Jason Conant, who identified himself as a state trooper. Perez ran but was caught, and the backpack was removed from him and searched. The search revealed it contained fentanyl and cocaine. Perez was subsequently indicted on a federal drug-related charge.In his appeal, Perez maintained that the backpack's search was a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit disagreed, affirming the judgement of conviction. It concluded that neither of the Supreme Court cases cited by Perez had invalidated the Eatherton ruling. The panel also rejected the notion that Perez's backpack could be considered separate from his person at the time of arrest. As such, it fell within the search-incident-to-arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. View "US v. Perez" on Justia Law

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Former executives of medical device manufacturer Acclarent, Inc., William Facteau and Patrick Fabian, were found guilty of multiple misdemeanor violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) for commercially distributing an adulterated and misbranded medical device. They appealed their convictions, claiming First Amendment violations, due process violations, and insufficiency of evidence. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected all of these claims and affirmed the convictions. The court held that the use of promotional speech as evidence of a device's intended use did not implicate the First Amendment. The court also found that the term "intended use" was not unconstitutionally vague and that Facteau and Fabian had fair warning of the conduct prohibited under the FDCA. Finally, the court found that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions and that Fabian's fine did not violate the Eighth Amendment. View "United States v. Facteau" on Justia Law

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In a drug trafficking case, the defendant, Amanda Cowette, appealed the district court's denial of her motion to suppress statements she made to law enforcement officers on July 16 and 17, 2018. Cowette argued that she unequivocally invoked her Fifth Amendment right to counsel and any subsequent questioning by law enforcement officers was in violation of that right. She contended that the district court's ruling to the contrary was in error. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit agreed with Cowette and held that she properly invoked her Fifth Amendment right to counsel. The court found that the phrase "I guess" used by Cowette did not create any ambiguity in her clear invocation of her right to counsel. The court vacated the decision of the district court in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "US v. Cowette" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the convictions of Rafael Cardona Sr. and Isaac Cardona for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin. Isaac Cardona was also convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering with intent to promote the carrying on of unlawful activity. The defendants raised several arguments on appeal.Rafael Cardona Sr. argued that his two convictions were multiplicitous in violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause. The court concluded that this argument was not reviewable because it was raised for the first time on appeal and not supported by good cause, as required under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(3) and 12(c)(3).Isaac Cardona argued that the money laundering statute under which he was charged is unconstitutionally vague. The court determined that this argument was not reviewable because it was not raised before trial, as required by Rule 12(b)(3). Isaac Cardona also argued that there was insufficient evidence to support his money laundering conviction and that the court gave erroneous jury instructions on this charge. The court found sufficient evidence to support the conviction and concluded that the erroneous instructions did not affect his substantial rights.The case arose from surveillance footage, recorded communications between the defendants and other co-conspirators, and other evidence showing that the defendants conspired to distribute cocaine and heroin and that Isaac Cardona conspired to commit money laundering by using the proceeds of cocaine distribution to procure and resell heroin. View "US v. Cardona" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment to Defendants, several city officials of the City of Gloucester, Massachusetts, in this First Amendment action brought by Plaintiff, the Harbormaster of the city, holding that Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.In his complaint, Plaintiff claimed that Defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment by retaliating against him for his giving expert testimony in a maritime tort dispute. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that they were entitled to qualified immunity. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that, at the time of the alleged retaliation, the law did not clearly establish that the value of Plaintiff's speech outweighed the city's interest in the efficient provision of public services by the Harbormaster's office. View "Ciarametaro v. City of Gloucester" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing the suit brought by Plaintiff seeking to enjoin the New Hampshire Secretary of State from "accepting or processing" the "ballot access documentation" brought by Donald Trump, the former President of the United States, for the 2024 Republican presidential primary in the state of New Hampshire, holding that Plaintiff lacked standing.Plaintiff, a United States citizen and Republican primary presidential candidate, brought this complaint alleging that section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment barred Tump from "holding" the office of President of the United States again on the ground that he "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against [the U.S. Constitution], or [gave] aid or comfort to the enemies thereof." The district court dismissed the lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds, concluding that Plaintiff lacked standing under U.S. Const. art. III, 2 and that his section 3 claim presented a nonjusticiable political question. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to show that he could satisfy the "injury-in-fact" component of Article III standing. View "Castro v. Scanlan" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court ruling that the underlying suit was time barred as to all defendants in this action brought by Plaintiff under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on behalf of her late son's estate on the six-year anniversary of his death, holding that the lawsuit was time barred.Plaintiff sued jail staff and a medical contractor (collectively, Defendants), alleging that while her son was detained in the Somerset County Jail, Defendants failed to recognize his serious mental illness, thus leading to his death following a suicide attempt. Defendants moved to dismiss the suit as time barred. The district court granted the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on her allegations of error. View "Martin v. Somerset County" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction for possession of child pornography, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress or to dismiss the indictment and that the government set forth sufficient evidence to support Defendant's conviction.On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the fruits of a warrantless search of his residence and in denying his motion to dismiss the indictment due to inadequate notice of the warrantless search. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) assuming that the search of Defendant's home was in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the facts gathered legally provided an independent and adequate source for the warrant application; (2) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment or suppress the fruits of the warrant due to insufficient notice; and (3) there was sufficient evidence to sustain Defendant's conviction under 18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(5)(B). View "United States v. Royle" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review challenging the denial of her application for asylum and withholding of removal, holding that Petitioner failed to establish a connection between her past persecution on account of a statutorily protected ground.Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) Petitioner failed to raise before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) her argument that the BIA's failure to address a procedural error in Petitioner's hearing before the IJ violated her right to due process under the Fifth Amendment, and therefore, this Court was precluded from addressing it now; and (2) the BIA erred by failing to evaluate the severity of Petitioner's mistreatment as a teenager through the eyes of a child, but the error did not warrant remand because Petitioner failed to link her mistreatment to a statutorily-protected ground. View "Varela-Chavarria v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendant on Plaintiff's claims for disability discrimination, in violation of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Mass Gen. Laws ch. 151B, and for age discrimination, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, holding that there was no error.The district court (1) concluded that Plaintiff had failed to carry her burden to make out a prima facie case that she was a "qualified individual" under the ADA and thus also failed to do so under chapter 151B; and (2) concluded that Plaintiff had failed to demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Defendant's proffered reason for her termination was pretextual. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendant was entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's ADA and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B disability discrimination claims; and (2) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment for Defendant on Plaintiff's claim of age discrimination under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B. View "Der Sarkisian v. Austin Preparatory School" on Justia Law