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

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Petitioner's petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus alleging a violation of his right to confrontation and a violation of due process, holding that the district court, given the confines of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. 2254, correctly determined that Petitioner was not entitled to relief. Petitioner appealed his second-degree murder conviction to the Massachusetts Appeals Court (MAC), but the appeal was unavailing. Petitioner later sought a writ of habeas corpus in the federal district court, arguing violations of his right to confrontation, based on the admission of a videotaped deposition testimony premised on an erroneous unavailability determination, and of due process, based on what he characterized as prejudicial misstatements of evidence during closing arguments. The district court dismissed the petition. The First Circuit affirmed based on the strictures of AEDPA, holding (1) the district court correctly concluded that the MAC reasonably determined that the constitutional violation in admitting the deposition testimony was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) the MAC's determination that the prosecutor's misstatements were not prejudicial was not contrary to clearly established federal law, nor did the misstatements violate Petitioner's right to due process. View "Dorisca v. Marchilli" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the forfeiture order entered by the district court in the amount of over $14 million, the sum Defendant obtained from some of his clients through a fraudulent scheme for which he was convicted of nineteen counts of mail and wire fraud, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error. Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to enter the forfeiture order when it did; (2) the sum forfeited was not in error; (3) the forfeiture order did not violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment; and (4) the imposition of the forfeiture order by the district court did not violate his right to a jury trial under the Sixth Amendment. View "United States v. Carpenter" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions of eleven offenses arising from a three-day carjacking spree, holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below. Defendant was convicted of four counts of carjacking, one of which resulted in the death of a person, four counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of those carjackings, two counts of possessing a stolen firearm, and one count of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendant failed to establish plain error as to the district court's decisions regarding his competency during the first trial; (2) any error in the admission of a forensic expert's testimony regarding DNA evidence presented at trial was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; (4) Defendant failed to establish plain error regarding the jury instructions; and (5) an officer's testimony in the second trial did not violate Defendant's rights under the Confrontation Clause. View "United States v. Velazquez-Aponte" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit vacated the decision of the district court dismissing for failure to state a claim this suit challenging the federal government's decision not to waive indefinitely the cabotage provision of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria, holding that Plaintiffs lacked standing and dismissal was required on jurisdictional grounds. In this suit, Plaintiffs challenged the provision of the Jones Act, which applies to Puerto Rico and prohibits foreign-flag vessels from transporting merchandise between United States coastwise points. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The First Circuit vacated the judgment below and remanded for the claims to be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, holding that Plaintiffs, each of whom owned real estate and/or personal property in Puerto Rico, failed to set forth allegations in their complaint that were sufficient to establish standing. View "Perez-Kudzma v. United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Defendant's and dismissing Plaintiffs' claim that the City of Fitchburg's refusal to exempt four sober houses Plaintiffs operated for recovering addicts from a legal requirement to install sprinklers in the sober houses violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that the requested accommodation was not reasonable. Plaintiffs brought this suit under the ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12101-12213, and the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601-3631, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA). The district court dismissed the suit on summary judgment, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to show that an exemption from the sprinkler requirement was either reasonable or necessary to allow recovering addicts to live in and benefit from the sober houses. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in entering summary judgment on Plaintiffs' ADA and FHAA reasonable accommodation claims. View "Summers v. City of Fitchburg" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting and sentencing Defendant of a variety of offenses, including conspiring to possess heroin with intent to distribute and possessing and distributing heroin, holding that nothing in the proceedings below rose to the level of reversible error. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that the judge erred by denying a motion for a mistrial based on the judge's allowing a government witness to retake the stand and recant some trial testimony and a second motion for a mistrial based on his codefendant supposedly offering a defense that was prejudicially antagonistic to his own. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the denial of Defendant's mistrial motions survived abuse-of-discretion scrutiny; and (2) contrary to Defendant's argument on appeal, the sentence was neither implausible or indefensible. View "United States v. Chisholm" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint seeking to invalidate a Maine statute that governs collective bargaining between the state's university system and its faculty on the ground that the statute violates the First Amendment, holding that the statute is not unconstitutional. Plaintiff, an economics professor at the University of Maine at Machias, brought this action challenging the University of Maine System Labor Relations Act, Me. Stat. tit. 26. 1021-1037. The district court dismissed Plaintiff's suit under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) section 1025(2)(E) is not properly read to designate the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine as Plaintiff's personal representative, as he argued; and (2) the Supreme Court's decision in Minnesota State Board for Community Colleges v. Knight, 465 U.S. 271 (1984), which the Court cited favorably in response to a similar challenge in D'Agostino v. Baker, 812 F.3d 240, disposes of Plaintiff's contention that the distinction between having a union represent a bargaining unit as an entity in collective bargaining and having it represent the employees within the unit individually is immaterial. View "Reisman v. Associated Faculties of the University of Maine" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction for one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and sentence of fifteen years' imprisonment, holding that the district court did not commit plain error convicting Defendant and properly sentenced him under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(A)(ii). On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court committed plain error because the government did not charge him with, and he did not plead guilty to, knowing the facts that made him a person prohibited from possessing a firearm. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendant failed to demonstrate that it was reasonably probable that he would not have pled guilty had the district court informed him that the government was required to prove that he knew when he possessed the gun that he had previously been convicted of an offense by more than one year in prison; and (2) selling a controlled substance under New Hampshire law, N.H. Rev. Stat. 318-B:2(I), is a "serious drug offense" as defined under the ACCA and therefore can be a predicate act for purposes of triggering the ACCA's mandatory minimum sentence. View "United States v. Burghardt" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of Defendant in this defamation case, holding that no reasonable jury could find that Defendant, a psychiatrist, abused the conditional privilege under which Defendant disseminated an allegedly libelous report to an employer about an employee's fitness to return to work after medical leave. Plaintiff took medical leave from work due to stress purportedly caused by derogatory remarks about Plaintiff's age. The Human Resources department required Plaintiff to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine his fitness to return to work. Defendant issued a written report concluding that Plaintiff would be unfit to return to work for at least three months. Plaintiff filed this complaint arguing that the report contained at least two libelous statements. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding that the challenged statements were conditionally privileged and that there was insufficient evidence to show that Defendant abused the conditional privilege. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly found Defendant's statements in the report conditionally privileged and that Plaintiff failed to establish sufficient evidence to show any abuse of that privilege. View "Zeigler v. Rater" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The First Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part Petitioner's petition for review from a ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) rejecting his request for deferral of removal pursuant to the Convention Against Torture (CAT), holding that this Court lacked jurisdiction to review the BIA's acceptance of the immigration judge's (IJ) adverse credibility finding and that Petitioner's remaining challenges were without merit. Before the First Circuit, Petitioner, among other things, challenged the standard of review that the BIA used to review the IJ's ruling. The First Circuit denied relief, holding (1) there was no evidence that the BIA used the incorrect standard of review to review the IJ's ruling; (2) because Petitioner had not contested the IJ's adverse credibility finding before the BIA, this Court lacked jurisdiction to review the BIA's acceptance of that finding; and (3) Petitioner failed to show that the record compelled a finding other than the one the IJ reached that Petitioner failed to show he was more likely than not to be tortured if he were removed to Guatemala. View "Samayoa Cabrera v. Barr" on Justia Law