Justia U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Libertarian Party filed suit, claiming that Kentucky law unconstitutionally burdens First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to freedom of political association and equal protection by categorizing the Libertarian Party and Constitution Party as “political groups,” which must petition to list their candidates for state and local office on election ballots, rather than as “political parties” or “political organizations,” which enjoy “blanket” ballot access for all the candidates they nominate (Ky. Rev. Stat. 118.015). The district court concluded, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed, that Kentucky’s three-tiered ballot-access scheme is a constitutional means of exercising the Commonwealth’s power to regulate elections. The court found the burden imposed by the ballot-access scheme “less than severe,” so that strict scrutiny did not apply, but not so “minimal” as to warrant rational basis review. Engaging in “flexible scrutiny,” the court found that Kentucky has an important interest in ensuring that candidates demonstrate a “significant modicum of support,” strong enough to justify the scheme. View "Libertarian Party of Ky. v. Grimes" on Justia Law

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A Kentucky jury sentenced Foley to death for the 1991 shootings the Vaughn brothers. After exhausting all available appeals, Foley moved under 18 U.S.C. 3599(a)(2) and (f) for the district court to appoint counsel and grant funds to retain experts in anticipation of state clemency proceedings. Foley requested a neuropsychologist to evaluate the impact of multiple head injuries on his mental functioning. He also sought a ballistics and crime scene​ reconstruction expert to support his contention that he shot Rodney in self-defense and that someone else shot Lynn. The district court granted his motion to appoint counsel but denied expert funds as not reasonably necessary for Foley’s clemency bid. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding no abuse of discretion and noting that Foley is under additional death sentences for murdering four people in 1989. View "Foley v. White" on Justia Law

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Reyes entered the U.S. from Mexico, without inspection, in 1994; he became a lawful permanent resident in 1998. Reyes is married and has five children, all U.S. citizens. In 2015, Reyes was charged with removability under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii) for “hav[ing] been convicted of two crimes involving moral turpitude [CMT] not arising out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct.” The Notice listed three prior state (Ohio) criminal charges: in 2000, Reyes was convicted of soliciting; in 2003, Reyes was convicted in Hamilton for passing bad checks; in 2005, Reyes was convicted of resisting arrest The IJ found that Reyes’s prior charges for soliciting prostitution and passing bad checks were CIMTs and that solicitation of prostitution was a CIMT because it was “similar to other crimes the Board has previously found to be morally turpitudinous, including renting a room with knowledge that it will be used for prostitution, keeping a house for prostitution, and the act of prostitution.” The BIA affirmed. The Sixth Circuit denied relief. Although our society’s (and the BIA’s) views regarding prostitution and solicitation of prostitution may continue to “transform,” the BIA’s precedential opinions on prostitution are entitled to Chevron deference and they are not unreasonable. View "JReyes v. Lynch" on Justia Law

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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), overseen by the USDA, is administered by the states, 7 U.S.C. 2011–2036c. An individual is ineligible for SNAP benefits if he is “fleeing to avoid prosecution, or custody or confinement after conviction . . . for a crime, or attempt to commit a crime, that is a felony under the law of the place from which the individual is fleeing.” Michigan’s implementation barred assistance to anyone “subject to arrest under an outstanding warrant arising from a felony charge against that individual.” Michigan had an automated program that compared the list of public-assistance recipients with a list of outstanding felony warrants maintained by the Michigan State Police; when the program identified a match, it automatically closed the recipient’s file and generated a notice of the termination of benefits. In 2015 the Secretary of Agriculture promulgated 7 C.F.R. 273.11(n), clarifying disqualification of fugitive felons. Plaintiffs challenged Michigan's automatic disqualification and notice process. The court certified a class, held that Michigan policy violated the SNAP Act and the Constitution, and issued an injunction requiring Michigan to refrain from automatic disqualifications based solely on the existence of a felony warrant and to provide adequate notices of valid disqualification. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting claims that the plaintiffs lacked standing, of mootness, that there is no SNAP Act private right of action, and that Michigan's methods were valid. View "Barry v. Lyon" on Justia Law

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D.E., then 19 years old, took a wrong turn on his way to a Michigan summer camp and inadvertently ended up at the border with Canada. The toll-booth operator provided him with a laminated card, prepared by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that stated: You are being allowed to turn around without traveling to Canada. Please present this card, along with your identification to an open CBP inspection booth prior to departing. Thank you. The back stated: All persons, baggage, and merchandise arriving in the Customs territory of the United States or from places outside thereof are liable to inspection and search by a Customs official. The operator directed him to turn around without crossing the border and to merge into traffic containing motorists arriving from Canada. That lane funneled D.E. to a CBP inspection booth. Despite his explanation that he had not crossed the border, CBP officers searched his vehicle and discovered marijuana and drug paraphernalia. After pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge in state court, D.E. filed suit (42 U.S.C. 1983). The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal. A traveler’s subjective intent not to leave the country does not provide an exception to the government’s authority to conduct suspicionless searches of vehicles at the border. View "D.E. v. Doe" on Justia Law

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Michigan amended its Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), Mich. Comp. Laws 28.723, so that, in addition to the online public registry of sex offenders’ names, addresses, biometric data, and photographs, it prohibits registrants (with exceptions) from living, working, or “loitering” within 1,000 feet of a school and divides registrants into three tiers of “dangerousness,” based solely on the crime of conviction. Recent amendments also require all registrants to appear in person “immediately” to update information such as new vehicles or “internet identifiers” (new email accounts). Violations carry heavy criminal penalties. Registered offenders challenged SORA’s validity, asserting that parts are unconstitutionally vague; that it should not be construed as creating strict liability offenses; that SORA violates the First Amendment; that it violates the Fourteenth Amendment by imposing oppressive restrictions on their ability to parent, work, and travel; and that SORA’s retroactive application amounts to an unconstitutional Ex Post Facto punishment. The district court rejected most of the arguments but held that some of SORA’s provisions were unconstitutionally vague, that those required to register cannot be held strictly liable for violating its requirements, and that its retroactive requirement that offenders register on-line aliases for life violated the First Amendment. The Sixth Circuit reversed with respect to the Ex Post Facto argument. SORA does impose punishment and that retroactive application of SORA’s 2006 and 2011 amendments is unconstitutional. View "Does v. Snyder" on Justia Law

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One sitting judge and two aspiring Kentucky judges challenged the Commonwealth’s Code of Judicial Conduct clauses prohibiting “campaign[ing] as a member of a political organization,” “endors[ing] . . . a candidate for public office,” “mak[ing] a contribution to a political organization,” making any “commitments” with respect to “cases, controversies, or issues” likely to come before the court, making “false” or “misleading” statements. The sitting judge, previously appointed, made statements regarding being “re-elected,” and concerning penalties for heroin use. A candidate for the judiciary referred to himself as a Republic and his opponents as Democrats. The Third plaintiff wanted to publicly participate in Republican Party functions. The district court struck some of these provisions and upheld others. The Sixth Circuit found contributions, leadership, false statements and endorsement clauses valid. The campaigning, speeches, clauses are unconstitutional. The misleading statements prohibition is valid on its face, but may be unconstitutional as applied to one of the plaintiffs. View "Winter v. Wolnitzek" on Justia Law

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For six decades, the Fair family operated Fair Finance Company in Ohio. In 2002, Durham and Cochran purchased the Company in a leveraged buyout and transformed its factoring operation into a front for a Ponzi scheme, to fund their extravagant lifestyles and struggling business ventures. Textron allegedly assisted in the concealment and perpetuation of the Ponzi scheme. In 2009, the scheme collapsed. Durham, Cochran, and the Company’s CFO, were indicted for wire fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy. The Company entered involuntary bankruptcy. The Chapter 7 Trustee brought adversary proceedings on behalf of the estate for the Ponzi scheme’s unwitting investors. The district court granted Textron’s motion to dismiss. The Sixth Circuit reversed with respect to a claimed actual fraudulent transfer, holding that the Trustee sufficiently alleged facts to demonstrate an ambiguity in a 2004 financing and funding contract between the Company and Textron. The court held that the Trustee was not required to plead facts in anticipation of Textron’s potential in pari delicto affirmative defense to survive a motion to dismiss a civil conspiracy claim. In light of the reinstatement of those claims, the court reversed the dismissal of equitable subordination and disallowance claims. The court affirmed the dismissal of the Trustee’s constructive fraudulent transfer claim as time barred. View "Bash v. Textron Fin. Corp." on Justia Law

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The Ohio election regulation at issue, Senate Bill 238, amends Ohio Revised Code section 3509.01, to allow early in-person voting for 29 days before Election Day. The law previously allowed 35 days for early voting, including six days during which a person could both register and vote. In one of many pending challenges to the state’s election laws, the district court found the provision invalid. The Sixth Circuit reversed, calling Ohio “a national leader when it comes to early voting opportunities.” The law is facially neutral; it offers early voting to everyone. The Constitution does not require any opportunities for early voting and as many as 13 states offer only Election Day voting. The regulation was the product of a bipartisan recommendation, as amended pursuant to a subsequent litigation settlement. It is the product of collaborative processes, not unilateral overreaching by the political party that happened to be in power. While the challenged regulation may slightly diminish the convenience of registration and voting, it applies even-handedly to all voters, and, despite the change, Ohio continues to provide generous, reasonable, and accessible voting options to all Ohioans. There is no cognizable injury under the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. View "OH Democratic Party v. Husted" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs claim that, in a 2007 Detroit police raid on their home, Geraldine heard a loud boom and went upstairs where an officer put a gun to her face and said, “on the floor.” She explained that she had undergone two knee replacements. Another officer shoved her. She fell, hitting her head, shoulder, neck, and back against a table. Another officer walked on top of her body. When Geraldine’s adult daughter, Caroline, entered, an officer allegedly put a gun to her face and threw her onto the floor. Caroline yelled, “I’ve had back surgeries.” Another officer placed his foot on her back. The officers allegedly concealed their identities, wearing black clothing with their faces covered except for their eyes. The officers would only say that they were “Team 11,” from a multi-agency task force. It took two years for Wayne County to disclose a report that purportedly revealed the identities of the officers who executed the warrant. The federal defendants did not assert their lack of involvement during early discovery, but, after the limitations period had run, alleged that they did not participate in the raid. The Sixth Circuit reversed a directed verdict for the federal officers .On remand, the jury found that defendants did not participate in the raid. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part, upholding the district court’s decision not to “shift[] the burden of production onto the federal agents to establish their lack of involvement.” View "Burley v. Gagacki" on Justia Law