Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

by
In 2009, Clardy pled guilty to possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and to possessing over 50 grams of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute it. He signed a “Waiver of Appellate Rights,” stating that Clardy “knowingly waives the right to challenge the sentence imposed in any collateral attack, including, but not limited to, a motion brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2255 and/or 2241, and/or 18 U.S.C. 3582(c).” After ensuring that Clardy understood and had signed the agreement voluntarily, the court accepted his plea and sentenced him to 144 months' imprisonment. The Sentencing Commission later amended the Guidelines to reduce the offense levels for drug crimes. Clardy filed a motion under section 3582(c)(2), which allows a court to reduce a sentence that was based on a Guidelines range that has been lowered. The Seventh Circuit affirmed rejection of his motion. A defendant can waive “any right, even a constitutional right,” in a plea agreement. Clardy signed his agreement knowingly and voluntarily. By its plain terms, Clardy waived his right to file a 3582(c) motion. The specific terms within the agreement, not its general title, control its reach. References to specific statutes more clearly explain an agreement’s scope than do terms like “collateral attack.” View "United States v. Clardy" on Justia Law

by
Undercover officers attempting a controlled purchase of methamphetamine arrested Estrada upon finding meth in his pocket and a rifle and ammunition in his car. He pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of a controlled substance. Because of this conviction for an aggravated felony, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(E)(ii), Estrada—a green-card holder—was placed in removal proceedings. Estrada appeared later with counsel, who conceded Estrada’s removability. Noting the unavailability of other relief, the IJ ordered Estrada removed to Mexico. Estrada was deported in 2009. Six years later, law enforcement discovered Estrada in the United States. He was charged with illegal reentry following deportation, 8 U.S.C. 1326(a); (b)(2). Estrada moved to dismiss, by collateral attack on the underlying deportation order, arguing that the IJ violated his due process rights by failing to advise him of the possibility of discretionary relief from removal under section 212(h) and alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denials of Estrada’s motions to dismiss. A defendant charged with unlawful reentry may not challenge the validity of his deportation order unless he demonstrates that: he exhausted administrative remedies; the deportation proceedings improperly deprived him of the opportunity for judicial review; and the entry of the order was fundamentally unfair. Estrada had no constitutionally-protected liberty interest in securing discretionary relief and, therefore, cannot establish that the order was fundamentally unfair. View "United States v. Estrada" on Justia Law

by
A jury convicted Dufresne of three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) and six counts of third-degree CSC, based upon sexual acts that Dufresne committed against his then-girlfriend, Wiertalla, with whom he shared a son. Wiertalla reported the acts after Dufresne left her and traveled to Florida with their son. Dufresne belonged to the “Creativity Movement,” which was considered by law enforcement to be a white-supremacist group. The trial court sentenced Dufresne to 50-75 years of imprisonment on the first-degree CSC counts and 25-50 years on the third-degree counts. Following a hearing on the effectiveness of trial counsel’s assistance, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed rejection of an ineffective assistance claim. After rejection of his state court motion for relief from judgment, Dufresne filed a federal habeas petition, alleging: trial counsel performed ineffectively; the trial court erred by granting a motion to exclude evidence and the prosecutor intimidated crucial witnesses; appellate counsel failed to raise meritorious issues; repeated references to his post-arrest, post-Miranda silence; and repeated references to his ties to the Creativity Movement. The district court denied habeas relief, concluding that Dufresne procedurally defaulted grounds one and two and was not entitled to habeas relief on the merits of grounds three through five. The Sixth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability, calling the evidence of guilt “overwhelming.” View "Dufresne v. Palmer" on Justia Law

by
As many as 50,000 stray dogs roam Detroit’s streets, sometimes in packs. An ordinance allows animal control officers to capture and impound stray dogs owned in violation of licensing and vaccination provisions and to euthanize them under some circumstances. It makes it unlawful to refuse to surrender an animal that has attacked or bitten a person or other animal. It allows officers to enter “real property ... for the purpose of capturing, collecting, or restraining any animal,” without a warrant. Violations are misdemeanors. Detroit Animal Control officers seized each of the plaintiff’s dogs because the dogs were running loose off of the owners’ property, attacked a person or other animal, or during evictions. In their suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court granted the plaintiffs an injunction with respect to the warrantless search-and-seizure claim but granted the defendants judgment as a matter of law as to other claims because the plaintiffs could not show any constitutional violations. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the rejection of the Fourteenth Amendment and several Fourth Amendment claims but reversed rejection of two Fourth Amendment claims. Most of the plaintiffs cannot show that a Detroit policy or custom directly caused the alleged search-and-seizure violations, and all of them cannot show a cognizable due-process violation. View "Hardrick v. City of Detroit" on Justia Law

by
In 2006, Williams pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. He had prior convictions under Ohio law: attempted felonious assault, domestic violence, and assault on a peace officer, which subjected him to a mandatory-minimum sentence of 180 months’ imprisonment under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e) (ACCA). Williams twice, unsuccessfully filed 28 U.S.C. 2255 petitions to vacate his sentence. In 2015, (Johnson) the Supreme Court found the ACCA's residual clause, section 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), unconstitutional and subsequently held that Johnson had announced a new substantive rule of constitutional law that courts must apply retroactively to cases on collateral review. Williams filed a third 2255 motion, arguing that his prior convictions no longer counted as ACCA predicate offenses. The Sixth Circuit authorized the district court to consider whether Williams’ felonious assault conviction still qualifies as an ACCA violent felony, noting its 2012 holding (Anderson), that committing felonious assault in Ohio necessarily requires the use of physical force and is a predicate offense under the ACCA elements clause. The district court then held, and the Sixth Circuit agreed, that Anderson remains controlling precedent. Section 2255 motions based on Johnson are appropriate where the sentencing court may have relied on the residual clause. When binding precedent establishes that a violent felony used to enhance a sentence under the ACCA qualifies as a predicate offense under a separate ACCA provision, like the elements clause, the Johnson holding is not implicated. The courts found no reason to overrule Anderson. View "Williams v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Michigan mandates that school-age children be vaccinated before entering the public school system but offers exemptions for certain medical and nonmedical reasons. To get an exemption, a parent must visit a local health department. A devout Catholic, Nikolao, sought a religious waiver for her children. At the mandatory meeting, Wayne County nurses tried to disabuse Nikolao of the notion that her faith prohibited vaccination. The Religious Waiver Note contained a quote falsely attributed to Pope Benedict XVI stating that parents who chose not to vaccinate their children “would be in more proximate cooperation with evil" because of the life-saving nature of vaccines. Nikolao received the waiver. On the compliance form, the nurses wrote that Nikolao objected because she wanted her “child to have natural immunity.” Nikolao wanted the form to report her religious objection . She sued, 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of the First Amendment. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part. The state is merely voicing its own opinion on religious objections to prevent the outbreak of communicable diseases. This does not constitute excessive entanglement for an Establishment Clause challenge. Nikolao has not presented any facts to suggest that the state has coerced her religious practices and did not suffer an injury-in-fact under the Free Exercise Clause; she did not have standing to pursue that claim. View "Nikolao v. Lyon" on Justia Law

by
Smith has epilepsy. He had a seizure while driving, steered into a yard, exited the car, and walked away. A neighbor called the police. Miami County Deputy Osting arrived and observed Smith, sweating, grasping a fence, and yelling, “Baby,” with his outer pants down around his knees. Osting identified himself and asked Smith to return to his car. Smith did not respond. Osting thought that Smith was under the influence of something. Osting pried Smith’s fingers from the fence. Smith pulled away. Osting took Smith to the ground with a leg sweep and fell on top of him. During the ensuing struggle, Troy Officer Gates arrived, drew his taser, and ordered Smith to put his hands behind his back. Smith did not comply. Gates applied the taser. Additional officers arrived and grabbed Smith’s legs, allowing Osting to handcuff Smith. Gates’s taser was deployed eight times, a total of 48 seconds, during the two-minute encounter. No officer informed Smith that he was under arrest. Smith testified that he drifted out of lucidity during the incident, but remembered telling Osting he was having a seizure and that he developed PTSD following the incident. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment on Smith’s federal civil rights claims; concluded that the officers used measured force and that even if individuals used excessive force, they were entitled to qualified immunity; held that municipal defendants could not be liable under 42 U.S.C. 1983 without an underlying constitutional violation; and granted the defendants summary judgment on Smith’s ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12132, claim. The Sixth Circuit reversed Osting's summary judgment on Smith’s excessive force claims and the dismissal of Smith’s pendent state-law claims but otherwise affirmed. View "Smith v. City of Troy, Ohio" on Justia Law

by
Perreault was alone with his four-month-old daughter when he called 911 to report that Jenna had been injured. Police and paramedics arrived and found that Jenna had suffered a blunt-force trauma to the head. She died from her injuries. Perreault was indicted for first-degree felony murder and felony child abuse. He claimed that he had dropped Jenna, had fallen on top of her, and that she may have hit her head on an object as they fell. The state produced the testimony of the emergency room doctor that Jenna’s injuries could have been caused only by a narrow range of high-impact events, such as a high-speed car accident, a fall from several stories, or “a baseball bat to the head.” Convicted, Perreault was sentenced to life in prison. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed. He filed an unsuccessful state post-conviction petition, arguing ineffective assistance. The Sixth Circuit affirmed a denial of federal habeas relief. The state court did not unreasonably apply clearly established Supreme Court precedent in rejecting claims that Perreault’s statement during his interrogation, “let’s call the lawyer then ‘cause I gave what I could,” constituted an unambiguous invocation of the right to counsel that required the police to stop questioning him and that Perreault’s trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to challenge the state expert’s testimony about the cause of Jenna’s injuries. View "Perreault v. Smith" on Justia Law

by
Narcotics investigator Williams received information from a confidential source that White was selling marijuana from a Covington, Tennessee location. Williams enlisted the confidential source to execute a “controlled buy” from White. After reviewing the recorded audio-video footage of the transaction, which occurred in the driveway, and conducting additional investigation, Williams prepared an affidavit and obtaining a search warrant for the address, stating: A sudden and forceful entry is clearly necessary ... due to ... White’s extensive criminal history … Albert is also known to have dogs believed to [be] pit bulls. The ensuing search uncovered over a pound of marijuana, a firearm, ammunition, and $32,000 in cash, some of which was traced to the controlled buy. The district court agreed with White that the affidavit failed to establish probable cause, but denied a motion to suppress, noting defendant’s failure to object to the magistrate’s good-faith ruling. Convicted as a felon in possession of a firearm and of ammunition, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), White was sentenced to 33 months in prison, concurrent with an on-going state sentence for his probation violation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the court erred in denying the motion to suppress and committed plain error in failing to specify the “start date” for his federal sentence or adjusting it under USSG. 5G1.3(b). View "United States v. White" on Justia Law

by
Navarre, a confidential informant for the Toledo Vice Narcotics Unit (TPD), was found unresponsive and bleeding from the head on December 1, 1993. A bloody, 110-pound boulder was found near her body. Navarre died days later. TPD misclassified the offense as a felonious assault and destroyed the relevant evidence once the statute of limitation for felonious assault expired. The case remained unsolved until 2005, when Wilson’s wife, told TPD of Wilson’s possible involvement in Navarre’s murder. Mrs. Wilson testified against Wilson, but owing to Wilson’s assertion of spousal privilege, her testimony was limited to acts and communications by Wilson in the presence of a third party. Mrs. Wilson’s son also testified that on the night of the murder, Wilson made comments that “snitch bitches die,” and “he had to kill the snitch bitch,” and finally, that he“dropped a brick on her head.” Wilson was convicted of murder and sentenced to 15 years to life. The appeals court affirmed, finding that the physical evidence, including the bloody boulder, was not “materially exculpatory.” The trial court rejected, as untimely, Wilson’s “motion to vacate” in which he argued that the state failed to adhere to discovery obligations, depriving him of a fair trial. The Ohio Court of Appeals denied his application to reopen his appeal, in which he claimed ineffective assistance. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of his 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition. View "Wilson v. Sheldon" on Justia Law