Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

by
The Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The court held that, given the strong evidence of petitioner's guilty, he failed to show that his defense was constitutionally prejudiced by trial counsel's conduct. In this case, there was no basis for concluding that petitioner established a substantial likelihood of a different result, even if his attorney had obtained the phone records at issue prior to trial. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Garner v. Lee" on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motions for judgment on the pleadings in an action alleging malicious prosecution and denial of equal protection of the laws. The court held that New York State law could not alter the standard that applied to the "favorable termination" element of a federal constitutional claim of malicious prosecution, which required that plaintiff show that the proceedings ended in a manner that affirmatively indicated his innocence. In this case, plaintiff has not plausibly pleaded that the criminal proceedings against him were terminated in a manner that indicated he was innocent of the charges. The court also held that plaintiff failed to state a claim under the equal protection clause. View "Lanning v. City of Glens Falls" on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's motions for supervised release or bail pending resolution of his motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The court held that a certificate of appealability was not required when appealing from orders in a habeas proceeding that are collateral to the merits of the habeas claim itself, including the denial of bail. In this case, the absence of a COA was not a bar to petitioner's appeal from the district court's order denying his motion for supervised release or bail pending resolution of his habeas petition. The court also held that petitioner's motion lacked merit because it did not present substantial questions and petitioner failed to demonstrate extraordinary circumstances. View "Illarramendi v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of defendant's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion and resentence to a lesser term of imprisonment than was initially imposed. The court held that defendant failed to meet his heavy burden of demonstrating a miscarriage of justice where frustration of a sentencing judge's subjective intent did not, by itself, render a sentence a miscarriage of justice to support a cognizable collateral challenge to that sentence. In this case, defendant pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly and intentionally distributing cocaine base, a schedule II controlled substance. In accordance with the plea agreement, defendant was sentenced to 112 months in prison. After defendant was sentenced, his conviction on a predicate offense was vacated and then became the basis of his section 2255 motion. View "United States v. Hoskins" on Justia Law

by
Miller and Jenkins entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2000. In 2002, Miller gave birth to IMJ. Miller took IMJ to Virginia. Jenkins remained in Vermont. In 2003, a Vermont court dissolved the union and awarded custody to Miller. Miller repeatedly refused to respect Jenkins’ visitation rights. Following several contempt citations, the Vermont court awarded sole custody to Jenkins in 2009. While the litigation was pending, Miller kidnapped IMJ, fleeing to Nicaragua. The government issued subpoenas under the Stored Communications Act 18 U.S.C. 2703(c)(2), rather than a court‐approved warrant, to a cell phone company, seeking billing records spanning 28 months and other information. As confirmed by Zodhiates’ cell phone and email records, which were introduced at trial, Zodhiates drove Miller and IMJ from Virginia to Buffalo, where they crossed into Ontario. Miller remains a fugitive. Zodhiates coordinated delivery of Miller's personal items to Nicaragua. Zodhiates was convicted of conspiring with and aiding and abetting Miller to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights, International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act, 18 U.S.C. 371, 1204, and 2. The district court declined to suppress inculpatory location information garnered from his cell phone records. The Second Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments under the Fourth Amendment and that the charge to the jury, referring to Vermont family law, denied Zodhiates a fair trial. The court noted that in 2011 a warrant was not required for cell records so the government acted in good faith. View "United States v. Zodhiates" on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in an action alleging that defendants took adverse employment action against plaintiff in violation of the First Amendment in retaliation for her giving advice to a co-worker who was being arrested by campus police. The court declined to apply the law of the case doctrine where the district court initially entered an order denying defendants' motion for summary judgment before changing its mind, because plaintiff did not point to any prejudice she suffered by reason of the change of ruling and the court saw no impropriety in the district court's exercise of its discretion to revisit its earlier denial of summary judgment. On the merits, the court held that defendants were protected from both liability and the obligation to defend the case because of qualified immunity. In this case, there was no clearly established law to the effect that plaintiff's speech was on a matter of public concern. View "Colvin v. Keen" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that his right to due process had been violated when fabricated evidence was used against him in a state criminal proceeding and alleging a claim of malicious prosecution. The claims stemmed from the 2009 Working Families Party primary election in the City of Troy, New York, where several individuals associated with the Democratic and Working Families Parties forged signatures and provided false information on absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots in order to affect the outcome of that primary. Plaintiff approved the forged applications but claimed he did know that they had been falsified. Plaintiff was indicted by a grand jury but subsequently acquitted. The Second Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court and held that plaintiff's due process claim was time-barred because it was filed beyond the applicable limitations period. The court also held that the prosecutor was entitled to absolute immunity on plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim. View "McDonough v. Smith" on Justia Law

by
Vermont's campaign finance law, Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, 2901 et seq., which imposes additional restrictions on candidates who choose to receive public campaign finance grants, did not violate the First Amendment. Former and prospective candidates for public office in Vermont and a political party filed suit challenging provisions that prohibit publicly financed candidates from accepting contributions or making expenditures beyond the amount of the grants and announcing their candidacies or raising or expending substantial funds before a certain date. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the candidates' claims for failure to state a claim and held that, because candidates may freely choose either to accept public campaign funds and the limitations thereon or to engage in unlimited private fundraising, those limitations did not violate First Amendment rights. The court also found that the candidates were not entitled to a fee award because they could not be considered prevailing parties. View "Corren v. Donovan" on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of New York City Police Officers' motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity in an action alleging violation of protestors' constitutional rights when Officers fully detained them during a protest outside the Sheraton Hotel where President Obama was attending a fundraising dinner. The court held that there were material disputes of fact that did not allow the district court to conclude as a matter of law that the protesters' two‐hour detention was permissible under the special needs exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. Nonetheless, the Officers were entitled to qualified immunity where the district court erred in concluding that the Officers' subjective intent in temporarily detaining the protesters was relevant to whether the Officers were entitled to qualified immunity. The court held that reasonable officers could have believed that the approximately two‐hour detention of the protesters in response to concerns for the President's security was justified in light of then established law. Finally, because the Officers could have reasonably believed the temporary detention was lawful, they were also entitled to qualified immunity on the protesters' First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment claims. View "Berg v. N.Y.C. Police Commissoner" on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment to the DOC in an action alleging that the DOC's policy of not accommodating the dietary restrictions imposed by plaintiff's Nazarite Jewish faith violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). The court held that, in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Holt v. Hobbs, 135 S. Ct. 853 (2015), the district court failed to appreciate the substantial showing that the government must make to justify burdening an individual plaintiff's practice of a sincerely held religious belief. In this case, fact questions remain as to whether the DOC's interest was compelling and its means were the least restrictive in light of plaintiff's suggested alternatives. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings and denied the DOC's motion to vacate the judgment and remand as moot. View "Williams v. Annucci" on Justia Law