Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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In 2000, Winfield was convicted of attempted murder. On direct appeal and post-conviction review, the Illinois appellate courts rejected Winfield’s challenges to his conviction and 30-year prison sentence. By agreement of the parties, a federal district court later reviewed Winfield’s conviction under a less deferential standard than called for after the enactment of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. 2254(d), and granted Winfield habeas relief. In a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), the state then sought to reverse its concession that the pre-AEDPA standard applied, which the district court denied as waived. The state had previously agreed that the Illinois courts had not considered the merits of Winfield’s ineffective assistance claim, then changed its position. The Seventh Circuit reversed, citing AEDPA case law and principles of state comity. The state’s original agreement that a pre-AEDPA standard of review applied did not, alone, necessarily amount to an “intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right.” Although waiver may be appropriate for some defenses or arguments available under AEDPA, such as the statute of limitations, the same is not true section 2254(d)’s deferential standard of review. View "Winfield v. Dorethy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were white and Hispanic members of Chicago Mayor Daley’s protective services detail, Unit 542. Each held the rank of patrol officer but was assigned to the security-specialist position, and received a sergeant’s pay. Daley announced that he would not seek reelection. Rahm Emanuel began his mayoral campaign. Several police officers volunteered to provide campaign security. Emanuel was elected Mayor. Six of the volunteers were appointed to Emanuel’s transition detail. Emanuel told Interim Police Superintendent Hillard that his permanent detail should reflect the city's diversity and be “bare bones.” Hillard reduced the detail from 21 officers and two commanders to 16 officers and one commander and began his search with officers serving Daley. Hillard claimed that he relied on his command team’s recommendations. He selected five officers working on Emanuel’s transition detail. The final detail contained seven white, five Hispanic, and five black officers. The department reassigned Plaintiffs as patrol officers. Plaintiffs alleged patronage hiring in violation of the First Amendment, 42 U.S.C. 1983; violation of the “Shakman” consent decrees; race discrimination, 42 U.S.C. 1981, the Equal Protection Clause (42 U.S.C. 1983) and Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e. All of the claims were either dismissed or rejected at trial. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Sufficient evidence supported a finding that city officials did not consider political factors when appointing Emanuel’s detail and the court did not err in excluding evidence of historic discrimination. View "Houlihan v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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While investigating a tip that illegal drugs were being sold from a south-side convenience store, Chicago Police Officer Brown sucker-punched a store employee for no apparent reason. As the dazed employee attempted to stagger away, Brown continued to beat and kick him for about two minutes. The beating was caught on the store’s surveillance camera. At his trial for willfully depriving the employee of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force inflicted by a law-enforcement officer, Brown sought to introduce expert testimony from a former Chicago police officer that Brown’s actions were consistent with departmental standards. The judge excluded the expert witness, reasoning that departmental policy was immaterial to the Fourth Amendment inquiry and that the expert’s proposed testimony might include an improper opinion about Brown’s state of mind. The jury found Brown guilty. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Expert testimony about police standards may appropriately assist the jury in resolving some excessive-force questions, but sometimes evidence of this type is unhelpful and irrelevant, particularly when no specialized knowledge is needed to determine whether the officer’s conduct was objectively unreasonable. The misconduct alleged here was easily within the grasp of a lay jury. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Hicks admitted to sexually molesting his former stepson, during a recorded phone call from a police station. During the call, before the confession, the victim repeatedly threatened to harm Hicks and to tell Hicks’s other minor son about the abuse. Hicks’s counsel played the entire recorded conversation to the jury. Later, the prosecutor referred to an earlier case in which Hicks had pleaded guilty after being accused of similar conduct. He asked the jury if it was “fair” that Hicks had been permitted to plea bargain to misdemeanors and receive probation and “Is that what should have happened here or should we deal with this?” Hicks’s counsel did not object. Hicks was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment. After a failed state collateral challenge, he sought federal habeas relief. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. While the state court unreasonably determined that Hicks’s counsel was credible when he testified that Hicks told him that he did not feel threatened during the call, Hicks did not suffer prejudice from the tape’s admission, because the other evidence of his guilt was sufficient to sustain his conviction. The court stated that it was “very troubled by the state court’s finding” regarding the prosecutor’s statements and defense counsel’s failure to object, but Hicks did not fairly present that claim to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and procedurally defaulted on the claim for relief. View "Hicks v. Hepp" on Justia Law

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The Republican Party sued the Cook County Board of Election Commissioners, arguing that the Board must include on the ballot a candidate that the Party slated for the House of Representatives in the November 2016 election. The Board had never announced a plan to exclude the candidate. The district court entered an injunction compelling the Board to keep this candidate on the ballot. The Seventh Circuit remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Party’s dispute with two additional defendants, elected as ward committeemen, based on the Party’s refusal to seat them, is not a federal claim. The Party’s “anticipatory federal contention,” that ”if state law does not respect the Party’s eligibility rules, then Illinois violates the First Amendment,” was only a potential response to a potential contention by the committeemen that all elected ward committeemen must be seated on the Party’s central committee. The district judge did not consider the fact that public officials were not contesting the Party’s claims or the possibility that he was issuing an advisory opinion. If the committeemen had sued the Party, demanding membership on its central committee, their claim would have arisen under Illinois law. View "Cook County Republican Party v. Sapone" on Justia Law

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At 1:10 p.m. on March 12, 2009, Mordi, a Nigerian student at Southern Illinois University, and a passenger were traveling on Interstate 57. An Illinois state police car, driven by Trooper Zeigler, signaled for Mordi to pull over. Mordi complied. Zeigler approached and asked why the license plate was inside the windshield and stated that the car’s hood was not closed all the way. Zeigler asked Mordi about an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in a misdemeanor marijuana case. After issuing a warning citation, Zeigler asked Mordi if he could search the car; Mordi said no. About 20 minutes into the stop, Zeigler radioed for a drug‐sniffing dog, which arrived 10 minutes later and alerted. The officers found crack cocaine in Mordi’s bag in the back seat. Mordi pleaded guilty to possessing with intent to distribute the cocaine and is serving a 120‐month sentence. In 2012, Mordi filed suit, pro se, under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court screened Mordi’s complaint under 28 U.S.C. 1915A and dismissed all claims except those against three officers, which relied on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The Seventh Circuit held the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on those claims. The district court dismissed all claims against all parties and denied a motion to reconsider its section 1915A order. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Mordi’s Fourth Amendment claims that the officers engaged in impermissible racial profiling and unlawfully prolonged the stop may proceed. View "Mordi v. Zeigler" on Justia Law

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A McDonald’s employee called 911 and stated that a vehicle had been sitting in the drive-through lane for an hour and that the driver might be sick. Fire and police units responded. When Officer Sheets-Walker arrived, she saw Paige standing outside the driver’s door of his vehicle, speaking with Fire Department Captain Hornick. Sheets-Walker detected an odor of marijuana coming from Paige. Hornick explained that he had found Paige asleep in the driver’s seat. Sheets-Walker continued to smell marijuana and planned to detain Paige temporarily. She suspected that Paige might have marijuana or a firearm because, in her experience, “drugs and guns are typically associated together.” Department policy dictated that an officer ensure that a person does not have drugs or a weapon before placing him in a police vehicle. Sheets-Walker patted Paige down and discovered a loaded firearm in his waistband. Sheets-Walker arrested him; she saw a bottle of alcohol on the driver’s seat.of Paige’s vehicle. She searched the vehicle and found a digital scale and clear sandwich bags containing 10.42 grams of crack cocaine and 9.24 grams of marijuana. Indicted for possession of a firearm by a felon and possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and marijuana, Paige unsuccessfully moved to suppress the evidence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed; Sheets-Walker had probable cause to arrest Paige for possessing marijuana and for operating a vehicle while impaired and to believe that Paige’s vehicle contained evidence of criminal activity. View "United States v. Paige" on Justia Law

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Bible Colleges and a student sued the Illinois Board of Higher Education, alleging that the Private College Act, 110 ILCS 1005/0.01, the Academic Degree Act, 110 ILCS 1010/0.01, and the Private Business and Vocational Schools Act of 2012, 105 ILCS 426/1, violated the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Illinois constitution and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. The plaintiffs have not sought certification of approval from the state under the applicable statutes, so there is no basis to believe that the regulations would infringe on their religious beliefs or practices or would unnecessarily entangle the government in religion. The statutes are neutral laws of general application and apply equally to secular and religious institutions. While the state statutes exempt older educational institutions from the governing mandates, the law is clear that, when no improper discrimination is involved, the government may include a grandfather clause in legislation without violating the guarantee of Equal Protection. The regulations do not impact the student’s choice of career. Rather, they merely determine whether he may obtain a degree from specific post-secondary institutions. View "Illinois Bible Colleges Association v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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In 2010, more than 100 people, including Bell, were arrested as part of the “Operation Blue Knight” investigation. In 2012, Bell and Walter were both charged with conspiring to sell more than 1,000 grams of heroin, 21 U.S.C. 846 and were convicted. The court sentenced Walter to 335 months and Bell to 276 months. The government’s case rested on evidence that Bell was inexplicably wealthy, physical samples of heroin seized from organization members, and expert testimony about drug trafficking. There were no controlled buys or recorded incriminating statements. The government’s case hinged on testimony from seven witnesses that had been charged with drug crimes; six were testifying pursuant to agreements that held out the possibility of reduced sentences. Bell’s lawyer elicited testimony that three of those witnesses had been arrested during the investigation but avoided revealing two instances in which Bell sold heroin in controlled buys, and that he was arrested in 2010 for doing so. The prosecution then elicited testimony about a recording of Bell selling heroin to a confidential informant. The prosecution also failed to disclose a damaging remark by one of its witnesses about a key government witness, who was a career criminal and relatively senior organization member. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the “Brady” error required new trials for both defendants. View "United States v. Bell" on Justia Law

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While Governor Scott Walker was making controversial changes to Wisconsin’s public union laws, Archer drafted the law and advocated its passage. At the same time, the Milwaukee County State’s Attorney’s Office was investigating allegations of misconduct against Archer and several of the governor’s close associates, concerning missing charitable funds, using Wisconsin’s unique “John Doe” procedure, which permits the prosecutor, under the supervision and direction of a judge, to conduct a secret investigation, Wis. Stat. 968.26. Archer alleges that she was targeted because of her work on the union bill and her affiliation with Governor Walker. Although Archer was never charged with wrongdoing, she filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against prosecutors and members of the investigative team. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint, citing qualified immunity. The warrant was valid and Archer stated no claim about the execution of the search; officers may detain the occupants of a location to be searched when they execute a valid warrant if they have a valid reason for doing so. There is no clearly established rule of law under which an official pursuing a lawful investigation, based on probable cause, has been found liable under the First Amendment. View "Archer v. Chisholm" on Justia Law