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 sentence for bank robbery, Hobbs Act robbery, and a related firearms offense, holding that Appellant's argument that the district court impermissibly considered Appellant's gender as a factor in the sentencing calculus was without merit. The district court sentenced Appellant to a total of 108 months of incarceration. On appeal, Appellant argued that the district court (1) committed procedural error by failing to appreciate that it had discretion to consider the mandatory sentence on the firearms count when formulating the sentence for the grouped counts, and (2) violated his constitutional right to equal protection by engaging in gender stereotyping when formulating his sentence. The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) the district court in this case did not commit the same procedural error that the Supreme Court condemned in Dean v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1170, 1178 (2017); and (2) Appellant failed to make a plausible showing of any violation of his right to equal protection. View "United States v. Blewitt" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of attempted coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity, holding that the district court did not err by denying Defendant's motion to suppress statements obtained from him during an interrogation and that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions. On appeal, Defendant challenged the district court's refusal to suppress his statements made during the interrogation after he received Miranda warnings, arguing that his mental capacity impeded his ability to waive his rights. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly found that Defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights; and (2) there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions. View "United States v. Rang" on Justia Law

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In this case brought by Puerto Rico general obligation bondholders (Bondholders), the First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Bondholders' complaint seeking injunctive and declaratory relief claiming that they possessed a priority and property interest over certain revenues of the Puerto Rico government, holding that the district court correctly dismissed the Bondholders' complaint. This case arose from the restructuring of Puerto Rico's public debt under Title III of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act of 2016 (PROMESA). The Bondholders sought declarations to confirm their property rights to certain revenues of the Puerto Rico government, determine that the diversion of the revenues constituted an unconstitutional taking, and specify appropriate uses for those revenues. The district court dismissed certain counts of the Bondholders' complaint as seeking improper advisory opinions, another count presenting a takings claim as unripe, and almost all the remaining counts as barred under section 305 of PROMESA. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly dismissed all counts. View "Aurelius Capital Master, Ltd. v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of conspiracy to deprive a person of civil rights and sentence of eighty-seven months in prison, holding that the evidence was sufficient to sustain Defendant's conviction and that there was no other reversible error. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motions for judgment of acquittal based on the insufficiency of the evidence; (2) the district court properly admitted testimony of two government witnesses under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b); (3) the district court did not violate Defendant's rights under the Sixth Amendment's Compulsory Process Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause; (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant's second motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence; and (5) Defendant's sentence was procedurally reasonable. View "United States v. Martinez-Mercado" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's request to challenge the reliability of his victim's testimony by cross-examining the victim at Defendant's resentencing hearing, holding that the district court did not violate Defendant's procedural due process rights by disallowing cross-examination of the victim at Defendant's resentencing. Defendant pleaded guilty to kidnapping for ransom. The First Circuit remanded the case for resentencing. On remand, the district court judge sentenced Defendant to eight months less than his previous sentence. On appeal, Defendant argued that his procedural due process rights were violated when the judge denied him the opportunity to contest misinformation about his treatment of the victim during the abduction by cross-examining the victim, which led to the imposition of a sentence based on inaccurate information. The First Circuit disagreed and affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's request to cross-examine the victim at Defendant's resentencing hearing. View "United States v. Berrios-Miranda" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated in part the district court's grant of Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint, holding that the warrantless search in this case violated the Fourth Amendment because the circumstances, including deception by law enforcement officers, vitiated the consent given by Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleged that he consented to FBI agents' entry into his home and search of his computers only because the officers lied about the true reason of why there were there and what they were looking for. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The First Circuit vacated in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) because the totality of the circumstances pointed to a situation involving beguilement, the government did not meet its burden to prove voluntariness, and therefore, the warrantless entry into Plaintiff's home and the search and seizure of his computer violated the Fourth Amendment; (2) Defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff's search-based Fourth Amendment claim because any reasonable officer would have recognized that the circumstances were impermissibly coercive; and (3) even if Plaintiffs' malicious prosecution claim had merit, Defendants would be entitled to qualified immunity. View "Pagan-Gonzalez v. Moreno" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to suppress and sentencing Defendant, holding that the evidence was not obtained in violation of Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights and that Defendant was properly sentenced. Defendant was convicted for producing six videos depicting him sexually assaulting a three-year-old child. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence recovered from his residence and statements he made to law enforcement at his residence and during a later interrogation. The district court concluded that Defendant knowingly and voluntarily consented to the search of his residence and that there was no Fourth Amendment violation. At sentencing, Defendant argued that the charges were multiplicitous because the videos were taken during one continuous sexual assault. The district court disagreed and sentenced Defendant to a fifty-year term of imprisonment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) even assuming that law enforcement committed a Fourth Amendment violation before encountering Defendant, any prior illegality did not influence Defendant’s subsequent consent to the search of his computer and hard drives, and Defendant’s consent to the search was knowing and voluntary; and (2) the proper unit of prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 2251(a), the federal child pornography statute, is each video depicting the victim. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction and sentence for two counts of conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base, holding, among other things, that the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motions to suppress two warrants obtained by law enforcement and evidence obtained from Defendant’s warrantless arrest. Specifically, the Court held (1) there was no error int he issuance of precise location information (PLI) warrants by a magistrate judge allowing monitoring of the locations of Defendant’s two cell phones; (2) the cell phones were not tracking devices under 18 U.S.C. 3117; (3) the PLI warrants did not violate Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(b); (4) the use of rebuttal testimony from a pretrial services officer to impeach a witness was proper; and (5) the sentencing court’s adoption of two sentencing enhancements was not procedurally unreasonable. View "United States v. Ackies" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to suppress incriminating evidence found during a search and seizure by a local police officer after approaching Defendant, who was seated in a car with his friend in a parking lot, and asking him several questions, holding that the search and seizure were lawful. Based on Defendant’s answers to the officer’s questions, the officer searched the vehicle, found drugs and drug paraphernalia, and arrested Defendant. After Defendant consented to the search of his backpack, further incriminating evidence was found. Defendant moved to suppress the government’s evidence, arguing that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate and continue the inquiries that led to the discovery of the contraband. The district court denied the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding no Fourth Amendment violation and denying Defendant’s motion to suppress. View "United States v. Tanguay" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to dismiss the indictment against him on double jeopardy and issue preclusion grounds, holding that the Double Jeopardy Clause had no application and that Appellant’s issue preclusion claim would fail on the merits even if it were not waived. In preliminary hearings, Puerto Rico courts concluded that Commonwealth weapons charges against Appellant were not supported by probable cause. Thereafter, Appellant plead guilty to equivalent federal charges based on the same conduct. Appellant later moved the district court to dismiss his indictment as a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause. After a magistrate judge made a report and recommendation, Appellant raised for the first time his issue preclusion claim. The district court denied Appellant’s motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief on his claims. View "United States v. Rosado-Cancel" on Justia Law