Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Adams, 71, has been addicted to opiates for most of his life and has an extensive criminal history. In 2011, Adams pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, 21 U.S.C. 846 and 841(a)(1). After serving his custodial sentence, Adams began supervised release in July 2015. Starting in October 2015, Adams repeatedly tested positive for opiates.The Probation Office placed Adams in multiple drug-treatment programs, without success. After Adams tested positive for opiates three times between October 24 and November 15, 2016, the Probation Office filed another violation report. Following Adams’s failure of another drug test on November 30, it filed an amended report. At his hearing, Adams admitted that he unlawfully used controlled substances. The Guidelines range for the violation was incarceration of 21 to 27 months. After extensive discussion of Adams’s substance-abuse and the failure of treatment programs, the district court revoked Adams’s supervised release and sentenced him to 18 months of incarceration with no period of supervision to follow. The Sixth Circuit vacated the sentence. The court violated Adams’s due-process right when it based his sentence on unreliable information about rehabilitation and violated Supreme Court precedent, Tapia v. United States (2011), when it considered rehabilitation as a factor when calculating the length of incarceration. View "United States v. Adams" on Justia Law

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Doe met Roe on Tinder. They eventually met in person. Doe invited Roe to his apartment, where the two engaged in sex. Three weeks later, Roe reported to the University of Cincinnati’s Title IX Office that Doe had sexually assaulted her that evening. No physical evidence supports either student’s version. Five months later, UC cited Doe for violating the Student Code of Conduct. UC resolves charges of non-academic misconduct through an Administrative Review Committee hearing process. UC’s Code of Conduct does not require witnesses to be present. If a witness is “unable to attend,” the Code permits him to submit a “notarized statement” to the Committee. After considerable delay, UC held Doe's hearing. Despite Roe’s failure to appear, UC found Doe “responsible” for sexual assault, based upon Roe's previous hearsay statements to investigators. UC suspended Doe for a year after an administrative appeal. Doe argued that the denial of his right to confront his accuser violated his due process rights. In granting a preliminary injunction against Doe’s suspension, the district court found a strong likelihood that Doe would prevail on his constitutional claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Due Process Clause guarantees fundamental fairness to state university students facing long-term exclusion from the educational process. The Committee necessarily made a credibility determination and its failure to provide any form of confrontation of the accuser made the proceeding fundamentally unfair. View "Doe v. University of Cincinnati" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Conzelmann pleaded guilty to distributing cocaine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1); (b)(1)(C). The Sixth Circuit affirmed his sentence, as a career offender, to 188 months in prison. The Supreme Court denied his certiorari petition. Conzelmann filed his first 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion, asserting ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to challenge the career offender enhancement, and that government agents “compelled” him to sell drugs. The district court denied the motion. The Sixth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability. Conzelmann moved (FRCP 60(b)) for relief from judgment, arguing that his presentence report contained a factual error. The Sixth Circuit denied permission to file a second or successive 2255 motion. Conzelmann then moved for consideration under the Supreme Court’s 2016 “Mathis” decision, arguing that he should not have been classified as a career offender because his prior conviction for possessing chemicals to manufacture drugs no longer qualifies as a predicate conviction. The Sixth Circuit denied relief. A second or successive collateral attack is permissible only if it rests on newly discovered evidence or “a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable,” 28 U.S.C. 2255(h). Mathis did not announce a new rule of constitutional law made retroactive; the holding was dictated by precedent and merely interpreted the statutory word “burglary” in the Armed Career Criminal Act. View "In re: Conzelmann" on Justia Law

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While Richmond was incarcerated in the Wayne County Jail for about six weeks, she received treatment for a burn, resulting from Richmond setting her seatbelt on fire while trying to escape the police cruiser following her arrest. Richmond contends that she received constitutionally inadequate treatment for her burn wound, which necessitated skin grafting surgery shortly after her release, and that she was unconstitutionally deprived of her psychiatric medication for over two weeks while in custody. The district court below granted the defendants summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. A reasonable jury could find that one doctor was or should have been aware of Richmond’s serious need for psychiatric medication, as evidenced by a nurse’s notation, and that she failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that Richmond received her medication. There is evidence that psychiatric social workers knew or had reason to know that Richmond had serious psychiatric needs that required treatment; that there was a risk that she would begin experiencing symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder days before she could expect to receive any medication to treat those ailments; and that they disregarded that risk. There was also evidence that certain nurses and medical assistants disregarded Richmond’s medical needs. View "Richmond v. Huq" on Justia Law

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ICN, a religious nonprofit, operates a Nashville mosque and a school. In 2008, it began building a new school building, financed by an ijara agreement, to avoid “running afoul of the Islamic prohibition on the payment of interest.” The bank essentially bought the property, leased it back to ICN, and then sold it back to ICN, with the lease payments substituting for interest payments. The agreement lasted until October 2013; the property was “continuously occupied by [ICN] and physically used solely for exempt religious educational purposes.” The transfer of title prompted the tax assessor to return the property to the tax roll. In February 2014, ICN applied for a property tax exemption, seeking retroactive application. The Tennessee State Board of Equalization’s designee regranted ICN's exemption, but not for the time during which the bank had held title. An ALJ and the State Board’s Assessment Appeals Commission upheld the decision. ICN did not seek review in the chancery court, but filed suit in federal court under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act; the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act; the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act; and the Establishment Clause. The court dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, citing the Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. 1341. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Tennessee’s statutory provision for state-court appeal provides a plain, speedy, and efficient alternative to federal-court review, so the Tax Injunction Act bars ICN’s suit in federal court. View "Islamic Center of Nashville v. State of Tennessee" on Justia Law

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Beydoun and Bazzi, both U.S. citizens, alleged that as a result of being placed on the federal government’s “Selectee List,” which designates them for enhanced screening at the airport, they have missed flights and been humiliated. The Selectee List is a subset of the government’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). The Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) decides whether to accept the “nomination” of a person by the FBI or the National Counterterrorism Center to the TSDB or the Selectee List and decides whether to remove a name after it receives a redress request. Beydoun and Bazzi both claim to have attempted to use the procedure to challenge their inclusion on the List and to have received only generalized responses that neither confirmed nor denied their inclusion on the List. The district court dismissed their suits, which alleged violations of the Fifth Amendment and unlawful agency action. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs did not allege that any protected interest was violated; they may have been inconvenienced by the extra security hurdles they endured in order to board an airplane but those burdens do not amount to a constitutional violation. Plaintiffs have not been prevented from flying altogether or from traveling by other means. View "Bazzi v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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In 1998, a jury convicted Coley of attempted murder, two counts each of kidnapping and aggravated robbery, and three counts of aggravated murder (with the felony-murder aggravating circumstance attached to each count). He was sentenced to death. After unsuccessfully pursuing state-court relief, he unsuccessfully sought federal habeas relief in 2003. In 2017, Coley filed a new federal habeas petition. The Sixth Circuit denied Coley permission to file a second or successive petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254, based on his argument that the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision, Hurst v. Florida, rendered Ohio’s death-penalty scheme unconstitutional. Even if Hurst announced “a new rule of constitutional law,” the Supreme Court has not “made [Hurst] retroactive to cases on collateral review.” While not all second-in-time petitions are “second or successive,” it “cannot be that every new legal rule, including those not made retroactive on collateral review, also constitutes a new factual predicate,” and Coley has not shown that the facts underlying his claim “would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence” that no reasonable juror would have found him guilty. View "In re: Coley" on Justia Law

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Upon receiving an anonymous tip, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) investigated allegations of race-fixing, involving gamblers and harness-racing drivers. Plaintiffs, MGCB-licensed harness drivers, attended an administrative hearing but declined to answer questions, invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The MGCB immediately suspended their licenses, based on a requirement that license applicants “cooperate in every way . . . during the conduct of an investigation, including responding correctly, to the best of his or her knowledge, to all questions pertaining to racing.” MGCB later issued exclusion orders banning the drivers from all state race tracks and denied Plaintiffs’ applications for 2011, 2012, and 2013 licenses. Plaintiffs sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming violations of their procedural due process and Fifth Amendment rights. The Sixth Circuit held that the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity. The exclusion orders were issued about 30 months before a post-exclusion hearing; Plaintiffs identified a violation of a clearly established right. Under specific conditions, a public employee “may rightfully refuse to answer unless and until he is protected at least against the use of his compelled answers.” The Supreme Court has held that if a state wishes to punish an employee for invoking that right, “States must offer to the witness whatever immunity is required to supplant the privilege and may not insist that the employee ... waive such immunity.” Both rights were clearly established at the time of the violation. View "Moody v. Michigan Gaming Control Board" on Justia Law

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Three of Hand’s four wives died, two as victims of violent, unsolved home invasions. The death of Hand’s fourth wife, Jill, occurred while he was at home. Hand confronted and shot the intruder, who turned out to be his friend and employee Welch. An investigation revealed a plot between the men to kill all three women in order to receive life insurance proceeds. Hand was convicted of the aggravated murders of Jill and Welch, with death-penalty specifications, conspiracy to commit the aggravated murders, and an attempt to escape police custody after he was arrested. The jury recommended and the judge imposed the death penalty. After unsuccessful state appeals and post-conviction proceedings, Hand unsuccessfully sought federal habeas relief. The Sixth Circuit rejected several claims involving the adequacy of the voir dire at his trial to screen jurors because of pretrial publicity and ineffective assistance of counsel claims related to the voir dire; ineffective assistance claims related to mitigation evidence and the reintroduction of evidence of guilt during the sentencing phase; and the adequacy of evidence supporting the death penalty specifications. View "Hand v. Houk" on Justia Law

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The Jackson County Michigan Board of Commissioners begins its monthly meetings with a Christian prayer. Bormuth, a non-Christian resident, attended meetings because he was concerned about environmental issues. During the prayer, Bormuth was the only one in attendance who did not rise and bow his head. Bormuth felt isolated and worried that the Commissioners would hold his action against him. He raised the First Amendment issue during a public comment period. The Commissioners reacted with “disgust.” Bormuth filed suit asserting that this prayer practice violated the Establishment Clause. The Commissioners declined Bormuth’s application to serve on an environmental committee. The district court granted the County summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit initially reversed, but on rehearing, en banc, affirmed. “Since the founding of our Republic, Congress, state legislatures, and many municipal bodies have commenced legislative sessions with a prayer.” Jackson County’s invocation practice is consistent with the Supreme Court’s legislative prayer decisions and does not violate the Establishment Clause. View "Bormuth v. County of Jackson" on Justia Law