Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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When plaintiff learned that the State Bar Association of North Dakota (SBAND) was using his compulsory fees to oppose a measure that he volunteered time and money to support, he filed suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. In Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, 567 U.S. 298 (2012), a public-sector union provided an annual Hudson notice calculating germane expenses and permitting non-members to opt out of non-germane expenses by objecting within thirty days. The Eighth Circuit held that the opt-out issue debated by the Supreme Court in Knox was simply not implicated by SBAND's revised license fee statement. Accordingly, because Knox did not overrule prior cases holding that the First Amendment does not require an opt-in procedure, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment and dismissal of the case. View "Fleck v. Wetch" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a petition for writ of federal habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254, holding that the application was untimely. In this case, 18 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(D), which provides that a habeas petition is timely if it is filed within one year of the date the Supreme Court recognized a new constitutional right that was later made retroactive to cases on collateral review, did not apply. The court also held that equitable tolling was not justified because petitioner failed to establish extraordinary circumstances that prevented him from raising his legal arguments earlier. View "Keller v. Pringle" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the City and others, including City Attorney Tobias Tempelmeyer, claiming violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. Plaintiff claimed that the inspection and condemnation of a motel he was the lessor and operator of were conducted in retaliation for his disputing whether a certain tax was applicable to his business, in violation of the First Amendment. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying in part Tempelmeyer's motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity, holding that plaintiff's First Amendment right to be free from retaliatory regulatory enforcement that was otherwise supported by probable cause was not clearly established. View "Scott v. Tempelmeyer" on Justia Law

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The "free-choice-of provider" provision of the Medicaid Act, 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(23)(A), did not unambiguously create a federal right for individual patients that could be enforced under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Plaintiff, three Arkansas patients identified by the Planned Parenthood affiliate, filed suit against the Director of the Department under section 1983, claiming that the Department violated a federal right of the patients under the Medicaid Act to choose any "qualified" provider that offers services that the patients seek. The Eighth Circuit vacated injunctions forbidding suspending payments for services rendered to the class of Medicaid beneficiaries, holding that plaintiffs did not have a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims. View "Does v. Gillespie" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant David Hosea sued two City of Saint Paul police officers following what he contended was an unlawful arrest and use of excessive force. Officers responded to a 911 hang-up call, and arrested appellant at the scene. The Officers’ motion for summary judgment was granted based on qualified immunity. On appeal, Hosea argued that the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity on his unlawful-arrest claim because the officers did not have arguable probable cause to arrest him for either obstruction of legal process or domestic assault. Also, Hosea argued that the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity on his excessive-force claim because he did not commit a crime in the officers’ presence, he did not pose a threat to the safety of the officers or others, he was not resisting arrest, the officers failed to identify themselves, and he started complying before the officers exerted force. After review of the trial court record, and finding no reversible error, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment. View "Hosea v. City of St. Paul" on Justia Law

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Rex Lee Furman was convicted by jury on thirteen counts of producing child pornography; two counts of distributing child pornography; one count of receiving child pornography; one count of possession of child pornography; and one count of commission of a felony offense involving a minor when required to register as a sex offender. The district court sentenced Furman to life imprisonment, as well as to a 120-month consecutive sentence. Furman appealed, arguing the district court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal on the production and distribution counts and in admitting evidence of his 1999 conviction of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He also contends that his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Finding no abuse of discretion of other reversible error, the Eighth Circuit affirmed Furman’s convictions. View "United States v. Furman" on Justia Law

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Jade Oldrock was convicted of the aggravated sexual abuse of a child and committing a felony sex offense as a registered sex offender. The district court sentenced Oldrock to the statutory mandatory minimum sentence for each offense, which amounted to a total of 40 years’ imprisonment. Oldrock appealed, claiming the district court abused its discretion by admitting unduly prejudicial testimony from two witnesses at trial and by denying his motion for mistrial. Finding no abuse of discretion, the Eighth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Oldrock" on Justia Law

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Gerald LeBeau (Gerald) was convicted by jury of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The jury convicted Gerald and his son Neil LeBeau (Neil) of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Gerald and Neil each appealed on various grounds, namely that the arresting officers illegally searched a hotel room in which the pair was staying, and any evidence found from that search was tainted. Finding no reversible error, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the convictions. View "United States v. LeBeau" on Justia Law

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Nebraska's Funeral Picketing Law (NFPL), which prohibits picketing within 500 feet of a cemetery, mortuary, or church from one hour prior through two hours following the commencement of a funeral, Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-1320.01 to .03, is not unconstitutional on its face because it is content neutral; narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest of protecting the privacy of grieving families and to preserve the peaceful character of cemeteries, mortuaries, churches, and other places of worship during a funeral; and ample alternate channels exist for communication of the Westboro Baptist Church's (WBC) message. The Eighth Circuit considered the amended NFPL with the 500-foot buffer zone in its as-applied review, and held that the district court did not clearly err in finding that there was no evidence to suggest that the NFPL was applied to plaintiff and not others similarly situated; by concluding that the evidence was insufficient to show that law enforcement unconstitutionally restricted plaintiff's picketing to areas well beyond the 500 foot buffer zone; and by determining that the police department did not unconstitutionally disfavor plaintiff's viewpoint or allow others to unlawfully block WBC's picket by preferentially allowing them to break Nebraska laws. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Phelps-Roper v. Ricketts" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against correctional officers and medical staff under 42 U.S.C. 1983, after he spent three and a half hours on a restraint board. The district court dismissed all claims except an Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against Lieutenant Jeff Gutzmer, who authorized use of the restraint board. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court erred as a matter of law when it denied qualified immunity to Gutzmer. The court held that Gutzmer was entitled to qualified immunity if the totality of the circumstances justified use of the restraint board even if Gutzmer erred in believing plaintiff was self-injurious when placed on the board. In this case, plaintiff violated rules for obtaining medical assistance, falsely claimed a medical emergency, and seriously disrupted ACU operations; discipline was warranted after nurses reported that plaintiff had contrived a medical emergency and could safely be placed on the restraint board; and employing the restraint in accordance with the safety precautions required by prison policy was needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security. View "Jackson v. Gutzmer" on Justia Law