Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Asgari came to the U.S. for education, earning a doctorate in 1997. He returned to Iran and became a professor at Sharif University. His work involves transmission electron microscopy. Asgari traveled to the U.S. in 2011, stating on his visa application that he planned to visit New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles. He traveled to Cleveland to see an Iranian-American friend at Case Western’s Swagelok Center. They began collaborating. Asgari returned to Iran and obtained another visa for “temp[orary] business[/]pleasure,” identifying his destination as his son’s New York address. He applied for a job at Swagelok. The FBI investigated. The Center’s director stated that Asgari was on a sabbatical from Sharif University; that the Center conducted Navy-funded research; and that an opening had emerged on the project. Agent Boggs obtained a warrant to search Asgari’s personal email account for evidence that Asgari made materially false statements in his visa application and that Asgari violated the prohibition on exporting “any goods, technology, or services to Iran.” Based on information uncovered from that 2013 search, the government obtained another warrant to search Asgari’s subsequent emails. Indicted on 13 counts of stealing trade secrets, wire fraud, and visa fraud, Asgari successfully moved to suppress the evidence. The Sixth Circuit reversed, applying the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The affidavit was not “so skimpy, so conclusory, that anyone ... would necessarily have known it failed to demonstrate probable cause.” The sanctions on Iran are broad; probable cause is a lenient standard. View "United States v. Asgari" on Justia Law

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Officer Minard pulled over Cruise-Gulyas for speeding. He wrote her a ticket for a lesser, non-moving violation. As she drove away, she made a vulgar gesture at Minard, who then stopped her again and changed the ticket to a speeding offense. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of Minard’s motion for dismissal of Cruise-Gulyas’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit, in which she alleged unconstitutional seizure, restriction of her liberty, and retaliation. Cruise-Gulyas did not break any law that would justify the second stop and at most was exercising her free speech rights. Qualified immunity protects police from personal liability unless they violate a person’s clearly established constitutional or statutory rights; the rights asserted by Cruise-Gulyas meet that standard. Minard’s authority to seize her in connection with the driving infraction ended when the first stop concluded. Cruise-Gulyas’s crude gesture could not provide that new justification. Any reasonable officer would know that a citizen who raises her middle finger engages in speech protected by the First Amendment. An officer who seizes a person for Fourth Amendment purposes without proper justification and issues her a more severe ticket clearly commits an adverse action that would deter her from repeating that conduct in the future. View "Cruise-Gulyas v. Minard" on Justia Law

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Enacted in 2016, Ohio Revised Code 3701.034 requires the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to ensure that all funds it receives through six non-abortion-related federal health programs are not used to contract with any entity that performs or promotes nontherapeutic abortions, or becomes or continues to be an affiliate of any entity that performs or promotes nontherapeutic abortions. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983. In 2018, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the entry of a permanent injunction, applying the “unconstitutional conditions” doctrine. Following rehearing, en banc, the Sixth Circuit reversed. While the Ohio law imposes a condition on the continued receipt of state funds that condition does not violate the Constitution because the opponents (Planned Parenthood affiliates) do not have a due process right to perform abortions. "Private organizations do not have a constitutional right to obtain governmental funding to support their activities. The State also may choose not to subsidize constitutionally protected activities. Just as it has no obligation to provide a platform for an individual’s free speech, say a Speaker’s Corner in downtown Columbus, it has no obligation to pay for a woman’s abortion." View "Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. v. Hodges" on Justia Law

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Chaney pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Because his criminal history included convictions for one “serious drug offense” and two “violent felon[ies],” Chaney was sentenced as an armed career criminal, subject to the Armed Career Criminal Act’s 15-year mandatory minimum, 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(1). On collateral review, Chaney argued that one of his three predicate convictions (a 1981 Michigan conviction for attempted unarmed robbery) did not qualify as a “violent felony” after the Supreme Court’s 2015 invalidation of the ACCA’s residual clause (Johnson). The Sixth Circuit rejected his argument, finding that Chaney’s conviction qualifies as an ACCA-enhancing violent felony under the elements clause, which continues to apply notwithstanding Johnson. Michigan unarmed robbery (as it existed in 1981) counts as a violent felony under the ACCA’s elements clause even though the statute extends to “putting [a victim] in fear,” because under Michigan law “putting in fear” means “putting in fear of bodily injury from physical force.” View "Chaney v. United States" on Justia Law

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Caldwell pleaded guilty to murder and an unrelated aggravated robbery in two separate cases in the same court on the same day. He initially filed an unsuccessful 28 U.S.C. 2254 habeas petition challenging his murder conviction. He then challenged both convictions in a second section 2254 petition. The district court transferred Caldwell’s petition to the Sixth Circuit, which held that the petition is second or successive only to the extent it re-attacks his murder conviction. To the extent it challenges his aggravated-robbery conviction for the first time, the court returned it to the district court for consideration as an initial petition. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act limits “second or successive” applications for habeas relief but Caldwell had no obligation to challenge both convictions in his initial habeas petition. A petition qualifies as second or successive only if it challenges a previously challenged judgment. The court declined to authorize Caldwell’s second petition, challenging his murder conviction; Caldwell did not identify a new rule of constitutional law supporting any of his claims nor did he identify any factual predicates for these claims that could not have been discovered previously and that would establish his actual innocence. View "In re Caldwell" on Justia Law

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Sampson is serving a life sentence in a Michigan prison. He sued Wayne County, state court officials, and private attorneys under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging they conspired to deprive him of trial transcripts, exhibits, and other records to frustrate his constitutional right to access the court. The district court dismissed Sampson’s pro se complaint, concluding that several defendants are immune from suit or are not state actors and that the Supreme Court’s 1994 holding, Heck v. Humphrey, bars his access-to-the-court claim because its success “would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Heck was intended to channel what amount to unlawful-confinement claims to the place they belong: habeas corpus; the reasoning applies to an access-to-the-court claim alleging state interference with a direct criminal appeal. Sampson could prevail on his claim only if he showed that the information he sought could make a difference in a nonfrivolous challenge to his convictions; he could win only if he implied the invalidity of his underlying judgment. A favorable judgment on Sampson’s access-to-the-court claim would necessarily bear on the validity of his underlying judgment, because that is exactly what he says the defendants kept him from contesting fairly. View "Sampson v. Garrett" on Justia Law

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Five federal prisoners filed habeas corpus petitions under 28 U.S.C. 2241, arguing that their respective sentences are too long under federal law. Each paid the $5 habeas filing fee in the district court and each lost his petition on the merits. Each man moved to proceed as a pauper on appeal, seeking to avoid prepaying the $505 appellate filing fee. The statute, 28 U.S.C. 1915(a)(1), says that a federal court “may authorize the commencement, prosecution or defense of any suit, action or proceeding, civil or criminal, or appeal therein, without prepayment of fees” by a person who “is unable to pay such fees.” After examining each petitioner’s financial status, the district courts granted the motions in part, requiring each petitioner to make a one-time, partial prepayment of the fee, ranging from $50 to $400. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Nothing in the statute deprives a district court of discretion to require partial prepayment of appellate filing fees, and nothing about it alters the pre-1996-amendment practice of doing so. View "Samarripa v. Ormond" on Justia Law

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Defendants, members of an FBI/Grand Rapids task force, were searching for Davison. Neither officer was wearing a uniform; both were wearing lanyards displaying their badges. Defendants knew that Davison was a 26-year-old white male, 5ʹ10″ to 6ʹ3″ tall, with glasses. Davison bought a soft drink from a particular gas station every afternoon. Davison’s driver’s license photo was seven years old. Defendants approached Plaintiff near the gas station. Plaintiff, a 21-year-old student, 5ʹ10″ to 6ʹ3″, and wearing glasses, claims Defendants never identified themselves. Defendants assert that Allen identified himself as a police officer. Plaintiff gave his name and followed' instructions to put his hands on his head because Defendants “had small badges.” Allen removed Plaintiff’s wallet. Plaintiff asked, “[a]re you mugging me?” and attempted to flee. Allen tackled him. Plaintiff yelled for passersby to call the police. Allen put Plaintiff in a chokehold. Plaintiff claims he lost consciousness. Plaintiff bit Allen. Allen started punching Plaintiff in the head and face. Bystanders called the police and began filming. Officers arrived and ordered them to delete their videos because they could reveal undercover FBI agents. One bystander stated, “They were out of control pounding him.” A 911 caller stated, “[t]hey’re gonna kill this man.” Emergency room doctors released Plaintiff with painkillers. Police then arrested him. Plaintiff spent the weekend in jail. A jury acquitted Plaintiff of all charges. The district court found that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claim against the United States, and granted Defendants summary judgment based on qualified immunity. With respect to Plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 or Bivens claims, the Sixth Circuit reversed. The FTCA judgment bar, 28 U.S.C. 2676, does not apply because the FTCA judgment was not on the merits. Defendants were not protected by qualified immunity. A jury could reasonably conclude that Plaintiff bears no resemblance to Davison’s photograph. Under clearly established law, removing Plaintiff’s wallet during a protective search was unreasonable. Clearly established law held that using a chokehold when Plaintiff was attempting to flee was objectively unreasonable. View "King v. United States" on Justia Law

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Sherman was incarcerated at the Trumbull County Jail where Drennan was a corrections officer. Drennen regularly patrolled the pod where Sherman lived with Rafferty, another female inmate. Three or four times, Sherman complied with Drennen's demand that Sherman expose her breasts to him. Once or twice, Sherman masturbated in Drennen’s presence “because he asked for it.” Sherman does not allege that Drennen ever touched her. Drennen never explicitly threatened Sherman. Sherman was deeply disturbed by Drennen’s demands. As a result of Drennen’s abuse, Sherman’s post-traumatic stress disorder worsened and her night terrors and flashbacks increased in severity. Sherman never reported Drennen to the jail administration because she felt intimidated. Sherman and Rafferty sued Drennen and county officials, alleging Fourth Amendment and Eighth Amendment claims against Drennen and Monell claims against the officials. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment on every claim except Sherman’s Eighth Amendment claim against Drennen, finding that Drennen was not entitled to qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Sherman satisfied the subjective component of her Eighth Amendment claim; a jury could conclude that Drennen acted with deliberate indifference or acted maliciously and sadistically for the purpose of causing her harm. When Drennen allegedly sexually abused Sherman, it was clearly established that such abuse could violate the objective prong of the Eighth Amendment. View "Rafferty v. Trumbull Cty" on Justia Law

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Maye became a member of the Nation of Islam—one of several Islamic sects— in 1992. Maye has been a devout, active Muslim for 20 years, including the years he spent incarcerated in Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) facilities. Eid al-Fitr is one of two annual religious feasts central to Islam. MDOC officials twice prevented Maye from participating in Eid. In 2013, Chaplain Serafin told Maye he could only attend Eid if he changed his religion from Nation of Islam to Al-Islam; Maye testified that Chaplain Taylor denied his request to participate in Eid in 2014 without offering any justification. Maye filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court denied Serafin and Taylor qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The court noted that, since 2006, MDOC has been embroiled in litigation regarding its policy of refusing to allow Muslim inmates to participate in Eid and that in July 2013, MDOC amended its Policy Directive to recognize Eid as a protected religious holy day. Maye sufficiently alleges the deprivation of his constitutional rights and a reasonable official would have known that the constitutional rights at issue were clearly established when faced with a court order specifically instructing MDOC officials to allow Muslim inmates to participate in Eid. View "Maye v. Klee" on Justia Law