Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted respondent's petition for rehearing en banc and withdrew the prior opinion, substituting the following opinion. The court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 application. The court held that, under Gonzalez v. Crosby, petitioner's purported Rule 59(e) motion was not an unauthorized successive section 2254 application and, if timely filed, would toll the deadline for filing a notice of appeal until the entry of the order disposing of the motion. In this case, petitioner's Rule 59(e) motion, which was delivered by petitioner's "next friend," was timely filed and tolled the deadline for filing a notice of appeal. Finally, the court held that petitioner was not entitled to section 2254 relief because the circumstances in this case did not rise to the level of the extreme situations wherein courts have previously imputed juror bias. View "Uranga v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was sentenced to death for the murder of a seventy-year old woman. The court held that petitioner was not intellectually disabled and not ineligible for execution under Atkins v. Virginia; he did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal and, even if counsel was deficient, petitioner could not establish prejudice; and his trial counsel was not ineffective by failing to conduct an adequate sentencing investigation or by failing to present an adequate mitigation case during the penalty phase of trial. View "Busby v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 and related state-law claims against the city and the police department after the police chief revoked plaintiff's city-issued towing permit. The revocation was based on a complaint by a competing tow company that plaintiff's state-issued licenses had lapsed. The court held that the district court acted within its discretion when it considered the city's motion before dismissing the amended complaint; plaintiff's class-of-one equal protection claim was properly dismissed where he was not treated differently than others similarly situated; and the false arrest claim was properly dismissed because plaintiff did not obey an officer's apparently lawful order to leave the site of a towed car and the officer was not objectively unreasonable in believing that he had probable cause to arrest plaintiff. View "Rountree v. Dyson" on Justia Law

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During a preliminary safety briefing before a firearms training exercise hosted by the Mississippi Gaming Commission, instructor and former Commission Special Agent Sharp forgot to replace his real firearm with a “dummy” firearm. Sharp accidentally discharged his real firearm against fellow instructor and Mississippi Gaming Commission Special Agent Gorman. Gorman subsequently died from the gunshot wound. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of Sharp’s motion for judgment on the pleadings based on qualified immunity. To defeat qualified immunity in a Fourth Amendment claim, the plaintiff must demonstrate both a bona fide Fourth Amendment violation and that the violation was clearly established at the time of the official’s conduct. Under established Supreme Court precedent, a Fourth Amendment seizure does not occur whenever there is a governmentally caused termination of an individual’s freedom of movement but only when there is a governmental termination of freedom of movement through means intentionally applied. "There is no question about the fundamental interest in a person’s own life, but it does not follow that a negligent taking of life is a constitutional deprivation." The shooting of Gorman, as tragic as it was, was not “willful[ly]” performed by Sharp.” View "Gorman v. State of Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and others filed a class action against the County under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the County's system of setting bail for indigent misdemeanor arrestees violated Texas statutory and constitutional law, as well as the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court denied the County's summary judgment motion and granted plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. The Fifth Circuit affirmed most of the district court's rulings, including its conclusion that plaintiff established a likelihood of success on the merits of its claims that the County's policies violated procedural due process and equal protection. However, the court held that the district court's definition of plaintiff's liberty interest under due process was too broad, and the procedures it required to protect that interest were too onerous; the district court erred by concluding that the County Sheriff could be considered a County policymaker under section 1983; and the district court's injunction was overbroad. Therefore, the court vacated the injunction and ordered the district court to modify its terms. View "ODonnell v. Harris County, Texas" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 action, alleging violation of her constitutional rights when defendants conducted increasingly instrusive body searches. The court held that plaintiff's substantive due process claims were not cognizable with her Fourth Amendment allegations; doctors and nurses were entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's claim that they violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by detaining her in order to conduct x-ray, pelvic, and rectal exams; because plaintiff did not demonstrate a clearly established right, it follows that her claims for deliberate indifference against the District also failed; the district court did not err by dismissing plaintiff's intentional torts claim against Doctor Solomin; and the district court did not err by declining to grant plaintiff's discovery requests because her claims could not overcome the clearly-established prong of the qualified immunity defense. View "Bustillos v. El Paso County Hospital District" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of habeas relief to a petitioner that was convicted of aggravated rape of a child under the age of thirteen. The court held that clearly established Supreme Court precedent demanded proof that the prosecution made knowing use of perjured testimony to establish a constitutional violation. In this case, the district court found no evidence to suggest that the State, or anyone else, knew that the victim was offering false testimony at trial. Therefore, the Louisiana Supreme Court decision denying relief was neither contrary to, nor involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Supreme Court precedent. View "Pierre v. Vannoy" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's due process claim, which alleged that plaintiff was deprived of his property interest in his job as superintendent. The court held that plaintiff has adequately stated a procedural due process claim because he did not receive a pre-termination hearing. The court affirmed with respect to plaintiff's remaining claims and remanded as to the property-based procedural due process claim. View "Greene v. Greenwood Public School District" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of petitioner's habeas petition and remanded with directions to issue the writ, holding that the verdict from petitioner's second trial necessarily determined that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted with specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm. Therefore, the State was constitutionally barred from prosecuting him for any crime having that same issue as an essential element. In this case, petitioner's second degree murder conviction from his third trial was thus invalid. Under clearly established Supreme Court precedent, second degree murder as defined in La. R.S. 14:30.1(A)(1) was not be a crime in which the State could constitutionally prosecute petitioner. View "Langley v. Prince" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion in order to eliminate reference to United States v. Gonzalez-Longoria, 831 F.3d 670 (5th Cir. 2016) (en banc), given that decision's abrogation by the Supreme Court in Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. 1204 (2018). The court upheld Senate Bill 4 (SB4), a Texas law that forbids "sanctuary city" policies throughout the state, and held that SB4's provisions, with one exception, did not violate the Constitution. The court held that none of SB4's provisions conflict with federal law where the assistance-cooperation, the status-inquiry, and the information-sharing provisions were not conflict preempted. The court affirmed the district court's injunction against enforcement of Section 752.053(a)(1) only as it prohibits elected officials from "endors[ing] a policy under which the entity or department prohibits or materially limits the enforcement of immigration laws." The court held that plaintiffs failed to establish that every seizure authorized by the ICE-detainer mandate violated the Fourth Amendment; the "materially limits" phrase had a clear core and was not void for vagueness; and plaintiffs' "commandeering" argument failed. Accordingly, the court vacated in large part the district court's preliminary injunction and remanded with instructions to dismiss the vacated provisions. View "City of El Cenizo v. Texas" on Justia Law