Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Lund and 30 others were charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin. The indictment alleged that the conspiracy resulted in overdose deaths of five individuals, 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(A). Lund pleaded guilty but denied responsibility for two deaths, arguing that he had withdrawn from the conspiracy before those deaths. The district court judge rejected that argument and sentenced him in accordance with the 20-year mandatory minimum (“death results” enhancement). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. His sentence became final in 2013. In 2016, Lund filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 based on changes in the law occurring after his conviction. In Burrage, the Supreme Court held that finding a defendant guilty of the “death results” penalty “requires proof ‘that the harm would not have occurred in the absence of—that is, but for—the defendant’s conduct.’” This but-for causation rule applies retroactively. Lund argued that under Burrage, he is actually innocent of the “death results” enhancement because the heroin he provided to two individuals was not the but-for cause of their deaths. The district court found that there was no statutory basis to find his petition timely; it was filed more than a year after the Supreme Court decided Burrage and more than a year after the evidence he presented could have been discovered, The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Even assuming actual innocence can be premised on a change in the law, Lund cannot take advantage of the exception because he rests both his actual innocence claim and his claim for relief on Burrage. View "Lund v. United States" on Justia Law

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Rainsberger was charged with murdering his elderly mother and was held for two months. He claims that the detective who built the case against him, Benner, submitted a probable cause affidavit that contained lies and omitted exculpatory evidence. When the prosecutor dismissed the case because of evidentiary problems, Rainsberger sued Benner under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court denied Benner’s motion, in which he argued qualified immunity. Benner conceded, for purposes of his appeal, that he knowingly or recklessly made false statements in the probable cause affidavit, arguing that knowingly or recklessly misleading the magistrate in a probable cause affidavit only violates the Fourth Amendment if the omissions and lies were material to probable cause. The Seventh Circuit rejected that argument. Materiality depends on whether the affidavit demonstrates probable cause when the lies are taken out and the exculpatory evidence is added in. When that is done in this case, Benner’s affidavit fails to establish probable cause to believe that Rainsberger murdered his mother. Because it is clearly established that it violates the Fourth Amendment “to use deliberately falsified allegations to demonstrate probable cause,” Benner is not entitled to qualified immunity. View "Rainsberger v. Benner" on Justia Law

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Websites like Airbnb serve as intermediaries, providing homeowners a forum for advertising short-term rentals of their homes and helping prospective renters find rooms and houses for temporary stays. Chicago’s 2016 Shared Housing Ordinance requires interested hosts to acquire a business license; its standards include geographic eligibility requirements, restrictions on how many units within a larger building can be rented, and a list of buildings where such rentals are prohibited. Approved hosts are subject to health, safety, and reporting requirements, including supplying clean linens and sanitized cooking utensils, disposing of waste and leftover food, and reporting illegal activity known to have occurred within a rented unit. Keep Chicago Livable and six individuals challenged the Ordinance. The Seventh Circuit remanded for a determination of standing, stating that it was not clear that any plaintiff had pleaded or established sufficient injury to confer subject matter jurisdiction to proceed to the merits. The individual owners did not allege with particularity how the Ordinance (and not some other factor) is hampering any of their home-sharing activities; the out-of-town renters did not convey with sufficient clarity whether they still wish to visit Chicago and, if so, how the Ordinance is inhibiting them. All Keep Chicago Livable contends is that the alleged uncertainty around the Ordinance’s constitutionality burdens its education and advocacy mission; it does not allege that it engages in activity regulated by the Ordinance. View "Keep Chicago Livable v. Chicago" on Justia Law

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In 1977, Peoria police officers arrested 14-year-old Savory for the rape and murder of Cooper and the murder of Cooper’s 14-year-old brother. Savory claims that officers subjected him to an abusive 31-hour interrogation; fabricated evidence; wrongfully coerced a false confession; suppressed and destroyed exculpatory evidence; fabricated incriminating statements from alleged witnesses; and ignored evidence pointing to other suspects. Savory was tried as an adult. His conviction for first-degree murder was overturned. He was convicted again in 1981 and was sentenced to 40-80 years in prison. Savory exhausted state remedies; he unsuccessfully sought federal habeas corpus relief. He repeatedly sought clemency and DNA testing. He was paroled in 2006. In 2011, the governor commuted the remainder of Savory’s sentence, terminating his parole but leaving his conviction intact. In 2015, the governor issued a pardon that “acquitted and discharged” Savory’s conviction. Less than two years later, Savory sued the city and police officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Under Supreme Court precedent (Heck), Savory could not bring suit until he obtained a favorable termination of a challenge to his conviction; he had to file suit within two years of accrual. The defendants asserted that the Heck bar lifted when Savory’s parole was terminated in 2011. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the claims as untimely. Savory’s claims, which closely resemble malicious prosecution claims, could not accrue until “the conviction or sentence ha[d] been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal … or ... by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.” View "Savory v. Cannon" on Justia Law

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Chicago police officers stopped a Toyota after it sped out of an alley. The driver fled, leaving several passengers. Officer Morlock pursued the driver. The Toyota rolled and wedged itself against Flaherty’s squad car. Passenger Grant tried to escape but his legs got stuck between the cars. Flaherty ordered the other passengers to “quit moving.” Brown, age 13, attempted to flee but stopped hanging out of a window. Officers Proano and Habiak arrived. Proano had his weapon cocked and aimed at the Toyota. Seconds later, passenger Bates reached over the console, put the car in reverse, and pressed the gas pedal. The Toyota moved and a BB gun fell out. No one was in its path. Habiak picked up the gun. Proano fired shots as the Toyota pivoted and rolled into a light pole. Ten of Proano’s 16 bullets entered the Toyota; one hit Bates’s shoulder, others grazed his face. Two bullets hit another passenger in his leg and foot. No other officer fired shots. Proano reported that he shot because of an “imminent threat of battery.” Proano did not identify the BB gun as a contributing factor. Proano was convicted for willfully depriving the passengers of their right to be free from unreasonable force, 18 U.S.C. 242. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Proano’s arguments regarding the admission of training and policy evidence and the jury instruction on willfulness. The court upheld the denial of a “Garrity” motion. Under Garrity, when a public official must choose between cooperating in an internal investigation or losing his job, his statements during the investigation cannot be used against him in a criminal trial. Federal prosecutors were never exposed to Proano’s protected statements. A dashcam video, other witnesses, and police reports all provided independent bases from which they could have learned the facts. View "United States v. Proano" on Justia Law

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Mitchell enrolled in an Elgin Community College online criminal-justice course. The instructor, an Elgin police officer, eventually advised her that she was failing the course. Soon after, the police department received anonymous threats and a harassing email targeting the officer. Another officer swore out a complaint accusing Mitchell of electronic communication harassment. She was arrested, immediately bonded out, and two years later was acquitted. Mitchell sued the city and several officers seeking damages for wrongful prosecution. A district judge dismissed the case, concluding that the federal claims were either untimely or not cognizable. Mitchell appealed. The Supreme Court’s 2017 decision, Manuel v. Joliet, overturned circuit precedent that defeated Mitchell’s Fourth Amendment claim below, clarifying that pretrial detention without probable cause is actionable under the Fourth Amendment, via 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Court did not decide when the claim accrues. A Seventh Circuit panel then held that a Fourth Amendment claim for unlawful pretrial detention accrues when the detention ends. The court did not determine the timeliness of Mitchell’s claim because the parties did not adequately address whether and under what circumstances a person who is arrested but released on bond remains “seized” for Fourth Amendment purposes or what conditions of release, if any, were imposed on Mitchell when she bonded out. View "Mitchell v. City of Elgin" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit previously concluded that people whose property is taken into custody by Illinois under its Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act, 765 ILCS 1026/15-607, are entitled to receive the time value of their property (interest or other earnings), less reasonable custodial fees. On remand the district court declined to certify a proposed class, ruling that owners are entitled to compensation for the time value of money only if the property was earning interest when the state took it into custody, which meant that the class had internal divisions that made certification inappropriate. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The Supreme Court has held that the Takings Clause protects the time value of money as much as it does money itself. What the property earns in the state’s hands does not depend on what it had been earning in the owner’s hands; cash has time value even if not invested. The Takings Clause does not set up a situation in which someone who wanted to be “in cash” bears the risk of loss as market conditions change without any prospect of offsetting gain. On remand, Illinois can argue that it does not owe interest on small amounts, such as the $100 at issue, because of administrative costs. View "Goldberg v. Frerichs" on Justia Law

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The inmate sued Pendleton Correctional Industrial Facility (CIF) and Indiana Department of Corrections officials, alleging that they prevented him from participating fully in Moorish Science Temple of America services held at the CIF, in violation of the First Amendment's Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses. The district court screened the complaint under 28 U.S.C. 1915A; dismissed claims against two defendants on Eleventh Amendment grounds and against an officer who had not participated personally in any of the cited actions; and allowed damages claims against the remaining defendants to proceed. Following discovery, the court granted the remaining defendants summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, concluding that the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on First Amendment claims for damages. The court remanded in part; the district court misread the complaint, which clearly seeks injunctive relief as well as damages. The court should have read the inmate’s pro se free exercise claim as seeking injunctive relief under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000cc. On remand, the court first must determine whether the free exercise claim and RLUIPA claims are moot, then consider whether injunctive relief is warranted. There is no basis for injunctive relief on the establishment clause claims. View "Neely-Beytarik-El v. Conley" on Justia Law

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During a traffic stop, Kentucky officers found marijuana and a gun in Sheperd’s car. He pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and two counts for criminal forfeiture. The judge applied an Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) enhancement based on his prior Kentucky burglary convictions and sentenced Shepherd to the mandatory minimum 15 years in prison, 18 U.S.C. 924(e). The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Though his case originated in Kentucky, Shepherd is in an Indiana federal prison. After his challenges to his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 were rejected by the Kentucky district court and the Sixth Circuit, Shepherd filed a 28 U.S.C. 2241 motion in Indiana. A section 2241 habeas petition may be allowed if the prisoner can show “that the remedy by motion [under section 2255] is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” The Seventh Circuit did not address whether Shepherd’s plea agreement waived his right to bring the collateral challenge or whether section 2241 should be available to him and if so, which precedent should apply. The court resolved the case on the merits: the Sixth Circuit held recently that Kentucky second-degree burglary qualifies as a predicate offense for an ACCA enhancement. View "Shepherd v. Julian" on Justia Law

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Lee is serving sentences totaling 100 years’ imprisonment. A state judge found that Lee and Manley forcibly abducted L.M., struck and raped L.M., and displayed a pistol to make her more cooperative. L.M. escaped and ran naked to a house. Police took pictures of L.M.’s bloody face. Lee, the only defense witness, said that L.M. entered the car voluntarily and that he did not touch her sexually—though before trial Lee said that he and L.M. had consensual oral sex. The state judge found that L.M.’s testimony was “very credible” and that the pictures showing her injuries, and the testimony of the person who opened the door to L.M., negated the defense of consent. Lee’s convictions were affirmed on direct and collateral review. Lee’s federal petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254 claimed ineffective assistance of counsel. He asserts that before trial his lawyer received five affidavits that corroborated Lee’s story or provided exculpatory details, but that counsel did not interview the affiants. In Lee’s post-conviction proceedings the state judiciary did not hold an evidentiary hearing, concluding that the affidavits were not necessarily inconsistent with guilt. The federal district judge held that the state court’s decision was not unreasonable. The Seventh Circuit vacated. It is impossible to say that Lee has “failed to develop [in state court] the factual basis of” his claim. The absence of evidence about what the trial would have been like, had the affiants testified, is attributable to the state court's failure to hold a hearing. View "Lee v. Kink" on Justia Law