Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Logan was a drug courier in a cross-country drug ring from 2004-2007. In total, Logan transported over 150 kilograms of cocaine from California to Michigan. Logan received conflicting advice while considering whether to accept a plea offer with a 10-year sentencing cap. His counsel of record told him it was a very good deal that avoided the high risks of proceeding to trial. Logan signed the plea agreement. His second attorney (retained by Logan’s family but not counsel of record) subsequently persuaded Logan to withdraw from the plea agreement. Ultimately, Logan accepted another plea agreement that did not include a sentencing cap and received a much longer sentence than contemplated by the first agreement. Logan claimed ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court and Sixth Circuit rejected his argument. Counsel of record advised Logan about the risks of going to trial; Logan testified that he signed the plea agreement because he was guilty and was worried about facing a sentence of 30 years or more. He was aware of the risks of trial. Whether to accept the plea offer was ultimately Logan’s decision and that the fear of a higher sentence after trial was a valid concern. Logan received all the information needed to make an informed decision. View "Logan v. United States" on Justia Law

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Hill turned on the sink in a detox cell and let the water overflow. Jailor Hickman punched Hill, knocking him to the floor, severely injuring his jaw. Hickman and Asher kicked Hill while he laid curled on the floor; mocked Hill for soiling his pants; and stated, “We’re the law, dawg. We can do what we want.” They threw Hill into a restraint chair. Asher watched as Hickman pounded Hill’s face. Bruises on Hill’s wrists memorialized his attempts to free himself. The jailors left Hill in the restraints, sitting in his own feces. Hill woke up on the floor and asked to see a doctor. Hickman testified that he and Asher took Hill to another room, where a “doctor” looked at him and that the “doctor” was Asher in disguise. Hill filed a complaint. Hickman wrote a report stating that Hill was the aggressor. Asher signed Hickman’s report and later wrote a corroborating report, claiming that Hill slipped on the water and hit the wall. Asher was charged with depriving Hill of his civil rights, 18 U.S.C. 242, and falsifying a record to impede a federal investigation, 18 U.S.C. 1519.2. The court allowed the prosecution to introduce testimony that Asher had battered a different prisoner and concealed that crime. over Asher's objection and offer that if the jury believed that he committed the charged assault, he would admit intent. The Sixth Circuit vacated. The charged conduct provided a sufficient basis for the jury to find intent; the prior-act evidence had only incremental probative value. Evidence of Asher’s guilt was not overwhelming. Absent the prior-act evidence, Asher’s arguments that Hickman lied might have persuaded the jury. Hill testified that he could not remember much about Asher’s role. View "United States v. Asher" on Justia Law

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Deputies responding to a call about a disturbance on county property peered into the car in which Carter was sitting with C.C. and saw “a bag containing green leafy substance” and rolling papers. Believing the bag contained marijuana, and learning that C.C. was just 13, the deputies obtained Carter’s consent to search the car and found another bag of marijuana. Carter had an apparent anxiety attack. After an ambulance took Carter away, deputies resumed searching; one picked up what looked like a dictionary, shook it, and realized it was a disguised lockbox. The deputy broke the lock and found sexually explicit photographs of C.C. and DVDs. Carter consented to searches of his apartment and his computer, where more images of C.C. were found. Carter admitted to taking pictures of C.C. and knowingly exposing him to HIV. Carter used the pictures as blackmail to force C.C. into sexual acts. Tennessee charged Carter with child rape, criminal exposure to HIV, sexual exploitation of a minor, and possession of marijuana. After denial of motions to suppress, Carter pled guilty. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals declined to consider whether Carter had consented to the lockbox search. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of federal habeas relief, rejecting claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Carter cannot demonstrate prejudice. Even if Carter’s counsel had made different arguments, the end result would have remained the same. Seeing a bag of marijuana gave officers probable cause to search. The Supreme Court makes no distinction between searching a vehicle and searching a container within a vehicle. View "Carter v. Parris" on Justia Law

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Haddad sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging his employment was terminated by the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (MDIFS), for exercising his First Amendment rights. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the employer. Haddad argued that he was acting as a “virtual private citizen” because his duties as an MDIFS examiner required him to speak in the public interest and work to end the inclusion of intra-family exclusion clauses (IFEs) in insurance policies. By making this argument, however, Haddad acknowledged that he was acting pursuant to his official duties when he sought to end the use of IFEs through his examinations, the very activity that he claims was the basis for his termination. “[W]hen public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.” Haddad’s purpose was to further his official work to end what he believed to be an unfair insurer practice; his conduct was part of the performance of his job, and the district court did not err by concluding that Haddad was not speaking as a private citizen. View "Haddad v. Gregg" on Justia Law

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In 1982, a Tennessee jury convicted Miller of first-degree murder. The court sentenced him to death. In 2012, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of Miller’s federal habeas petition. In November 2018, Miller and other Tennessee capital prisoners sought injunctive relief preventing implementation of a recently-adopted lethal-injection protocol. Miller sought a preliminary injunction; his execution is currently scheduled for December 6, 2018. The district court denied a preliminary injunction to prevent the use of the lethal injection protocol. Miller sought a stay while the appeal is pending. The court was notified that Miller has elected to be executed by electrocution. The Sixth Circuit denied his motion. Miller has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits. Electrocution was the method of execution that existed at the time of Miller’s crime. A change in a State’s method of execution does not constitute an ex post facto violation if the evidence shows the new method to be more humane. Some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, no matter how humane; the Constitution does not guarantee a pain-free execution. Miller has not shown that the new protocol is “sure or very likely” to be less humane than electrocution but neither method violates the Constitution. View "Miller v. Parker" on Justia Law

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In 2006-2008, plaintiffs each applied, unsuccessfully, for Social Security disability benefits, 42 U.S.C. 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B). Each plaintiff retained Kentucky attorney Conn to assist with a subsequent hearing. Each plaintiff’s application included medical records from one of four examining doctors. In each case, ALJ Daugherty relied exclusively on the doctor's opinion to conclude, without a hearing, that plaintiffs were disabled and entitled to benefits. Daugherty took bribes from Conn to assign Conn’s cases to himself and issue favorable rulings. Nearly 10 years after the agency learned of the scheme, it initiated “redeterminations” of plaintiffs’ eligibility for benefits and held new hearings, disregarding all medical evidence submitted by the four doctors participating in Conn’s scheme. Plaintiffs had no opportunity to rebut the assertion of fraud as to this evidence. Each plaintiff was deemed ineligible for benefits as of the date of their original applications; their benefits were terminated. Plaintiffs sued, alleging violations of the Due Process Clause and the Social Security Act. The Sixth Circuit held that the plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment on their due-process claim and the agency is entitled to summary judgment on the Social Security Act claims. The agency must proffer some factual basis for believing that the plaintiffs’ evidence is fraudulent. Plaintiffs must have an opportunity to “rebut the Government’s factual assertions before a neutral decisionmaker.” Congress has already told the agency what to do when redetermination proceedings threaten criminal adjudications; the answer is not to deprive claimants of basic procedural safeguards. View "Griffith v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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In 1992-2006, Snider committed various crimes, including four convictions under Tennessee’s aggravated burglary statute. In 2007, he was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. 846; manufacturing and attempting to manufacture over 50 grams of methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 846; possessing equipment, chemicals, products, and materials that may be used to manufacture methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. 843(a)(6); possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony, 18 U.S.C 922(g); possessing a stolen firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(j); and possessing a firearm during and in relation to a drug-trafficking crime, 18 U.S.C. 924(c). Snider was sentenced as a career criminal offender based on three Tennessee aggravated burglary convictions deemed crimes of violence (USSG 4B1.1(b)(B)), which was defined to include “burglary of a dwelling.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of Snider’s motion (28 U.S.C. 2255) to vacate his sentence, rejecting his argument that its 2017 "Stitt" ruling that a conviction for Tennessee aggravated burglary is not a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e) required that it vacate his sentence as a career offender under the sentencing guidelines. Snider’s challenge to his advisory guidelines range is not cognizable under section 2255, which authorizes post-conviction relief only when a sentence “was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or . . . the court was without jurisdiction ... or . . . the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack.” View "Snider v. United States" on Justia Law

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In October 2014, Kentucky Educational Television (KET) hosted a debate between the candidates for one of Kentucky’s seats in the U.S. Senate. KET limited the debate to candidates who qualified for the ballot, had collected at least $100,000 in campaign contributions, and had an independent poll indicating that at least one in 10 Kentuckians planned to vote for them. The criteria excluded Patterson, the Libertarian Party candidate. The district court rejected a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 by Patterson and the Party, noting that, with relatively few limits, KET could invite to its debates whomever it wanted. KET was not required to create—let alone publish—any criteria at all. KET restricted who could appear in a televised debate, not on the ballot. The debate criteria had nothing to do with a candidate’s views; rather, they measured whether voters had shown an objective interest in hearing the candidate. View "Libertarian National Committee, Inc. v. Holiday" on Justia Law

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Williams filed a purported class action against Cleveland, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that intake procedures at its House of Corrections (HOC), consisting of strip searches and mandatory delousing, violated the Fourth Amendment. On remand, after extensive discovery, the court granted Williams summary judgment in part and permanently enjoined the city from reinstituting its previous delousing method and from conducting group strip searches without installation of privacy partitions to obstruct the view of other inmates. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Williams did not have standing to seek declaratory or injunctive relief; she was not in custody when she filed suit and it must be assumed that she will not return to the HOC. The fact that Williams returned to the HOC three times after filing the complaint does not confer standing because the relevant inquiry is whether she had a live, actionable claim for relief at the time she filed suit. Cleveland had discontinued its delousing policy by 2011, when Williams returned to the HOC. Allowing strip searches to be conducted in groups of two or three during busy periods, such as Williams’s time of intake, was reasonably related to Cleveland's legitimate penological interest of expediting the intake procedure; delousing detainees with a fine mist was reasonably related to its interest in maintaining the HOC's cleanliness and habitability. The need for delousing outweighed the admittedly substantial invasion of personal rights. View "Williams v. City of Cleveland" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged the validity of Ohio’s confirmation notices under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), 52 U.S.C 20507(b)(2). The district court denied plaintiffs a permanent injunction, except as regards a requirement that Ohio continue to use a confirmation notice with information for voters moving out of state on how to remain eligible to vote. Plaintiffs moved to enjoin Ohio, pending appeal, to implement the APRI Exception in the November 2018 election and not to remove any voter by the Supplemental Process if the voter was sent a confirmation notice before 2016. The APRI Exception requires Boards to count provisional ballots cast by voters purged under the Supplemental Process in 2011-2015 if the voter: cast the ballot at their early voting location or at the correct polling location on Election Day; continues to reside in the county where they were previously registered; and did not become ineligible by reason of felony conviction, mental incapacity, or death after the date on which their name was removed. The Sixth Circuit granted an emergency injunction pending appeal, requiring the implementation of the APRI Exception. Plaintiffs have a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the confirmation notice did not adequately advise registrants of the consequences of failure to respond, as the NVRA requires. The court denied an injunction that Ohio not delete any voters from the rolls under the Supplemental Process if the confirmation notice was sent before 2016. View "A. Philip Randolph Institute v. Husted" on Justia Law