Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Criminal Law
Croy v. The State of Wyoming
In a case before the Supreme Court of Wyoming, Kristina Croy, a daycare operator, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter following a six-day jury trial. The charges stemmed from an incident in which an eight-month-old infant, MG, in her care died due to positional asphyxia resulting from being improperly swaddled. Croy appealed, arguing, among other things, that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict. The Court affirmed the conviction, stating there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that swaddling MG posed a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death, and that Croy had consciously disregarded that risk. The Court also ruled that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed a juror who had discussed the case with another juror prior to deliberations, violating the court's instructions not to prejudge the case. Furthermore, the Court determined that the trial court did not abuse its discretion or deprive Croy of a fair trial when it declined her request to impose restrictions on how the State split its time between closing summation and rebuttal argument. The Court's decision was based on the particular facts of the case, noting that Croy could not demonstrate that there was a reasonable probability the verdict might have been more favorable to her if the prosecutor had not been allowed to make a lengthy rebuttal argument. View "Croy v. The State of Wyoming" on Justia Law
United States ex rel. Weiner et al. v. Siemens AG et al.
The False Claims Act (“FCA”), 31 U.S.C. Sections 3729–32, provides that when a private person brings an action under the FCA on behalf of the federal government, the “complaint shall be filed in camera, shall remain under seal for at least 60 days, and shall not be served on the defendant until the court so orders.” Alleging violations of the FCA, Relator Clifford Weiner brought a complaint in district court, which the district court dismissed for untimely service of process. Relator argued that because the district court never expressly ordered him to serve Defendants in accordance with Section 3730, the clock for service of process never began to run, and dismissal for untimely service was improper. The Second Circuit agreed with Relator and vacated. The court explained that Defendants have not identified an error of law or an erroneous factual finding embedded in the district court’s decision denying Rule 41(b) dismissal. Nor have they shown that the district court’s conclusion fell outside of the range of permissible decisions. Specifically, as the district court noted, Relator was not given express notice that his delays could result in dismissal, and the court had not devoted substantial resources to the action. View "United States ex rel. Weiner et al. v. Siemens AG et al." on Justia Law
In re: Grand Jury 2021 Subpoenas
While representing a client, Jane Roe , Appellant attorney John Doe engaged in settlement negotiations with the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS). The negotiations between Doe and UMMS proceeded poorly. Among other things, Doe also made any settlement between Roe and UMMS contingent on his personal receipt of an additional $25 million that would effectuate his retention by UMMS as a private consultant of sorts. A grand jury indicted Doe, charging him with attempted extortion in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sections 1951 and 1952. Shortly thereafter—at the government’s request—the grand jury issued multiple subpoenas duces tecum to the lawyers and firms that assisted in Doe’s representation of Roe—and in the formation of the alleged extortion scheme. Doe and Roe moved to quash the subpoenas. That court then granted in part a subsequent motion filed by the government to compel production. Doe and Roe now appealed asking the court to reverse the district court’s orders first denying their motions to quash and then compelling production.The Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal as to Doe for lack of appellate jurisdiction and otherwise affirmed. The court held that it lacks jurisdiction to consider Doe’s arguments given the Supreme Court’s effective narrowing of the Perlman doctrine. The court otherwise affirmed discerning no reversible error and ordered the parties must proceed to comply with the disputed subpoenas duces tecum in accordance with the district court’s order compelling production and this opinion. View "In re: Grand Jury 2021 Subpoenas" on Justia Law
Bakersfield Californian v. Super. Ct.
A defendant in a criminal proceeding (“Defendant”) was arrested based on a co-defendant’s statement. The petitioning Newspaper sought an interview with the then-unindicted co-defendant (“Co-defendant”). Subsequently, Defendant filed a subpoena seeking all material relevant to Newspaper’s interview with co-defendant.The trial court denied Newspaper’s request to quash the subpoena, finding that newsperson’s immunity must yield to a criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial. The court ultimately held Newspaper in contempt.The Fifth Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s denial of a Newspaper’s motion to quash a subpoena but vacated the trial court’s finding of contempt. View "Bakersfield Californian v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
USA v. Harris
Defendant asserts that he is required by his religious faith to abstain from psychiatric medication. Defendant raised a religious objection to being involuntarily medicated without identifying a particular source of law. The district court denied the objection, concluding that: (1) the Government had a compelling interest in prosecuting Defendant’s crime, which was not outweighed by Defendant’s religious liberty interests; and (2) the Government satisfied the four Sell factors. Defendant appealed. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded. The court explained that Defendant faces a pending civil-confinement hearing in North Carolina. Moreover, he asserts that his religious belief as a Jehovah’s Witness prevents him from taking medication. He further asserts that forcible medication would violate his “constitutionally protected liberty.” The Government does not dispute that Defendant’s religious faith can qualify as a “special factor” under Sell. See Red Br. at 13–15; cf. Ramirez v. Collier, 595 U.S. 411, 426 (2022). Defendant’s religious beliefs, combined with his lengthy detention and his potential civil confinement, thus lessen the Government’s interests under the first Sell factor. The court emphasized that it holds only that religious liberty can constitute a “special circumstance” under Sell and that Defendant properly raised a religious objection to forcible medication here. That well-taken special circumstance, combined with other factors identified above, necessitates the district court’s reevaluation of the Government’s efforts to forcibly medicate him. View "USA v. Harris" on Justia Law
THOMAS CREECH, ET AL V. JOSH TEWALT, ET AL
Plaintiff is an Idaho prisoner facing execution by lethal injection. He challenged Idaho’s execution practices. He alleged that these practices: 1) interfere with his ability to challenge the State’s method of execution as cruel and unusual punishment; 2) inhibit his ability to seek clemency; 3) inflict mental anguish; 4) increase the risk of an unconstitutionally painful execution; 5) treat similarly situated prisoners unequally; 6) violate the separation of powers under the Idaho Constitution; and 7) contravene Idaho Code Section 19-2716’s requirement that the director of the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) establish procedures governing executions. On remand, and in light of then-co-plaintiff’s scheduled execution, the district court sua sponte dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6). The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. The court rejected Plaintiff’s contention that the district court violated the rule of mandate by denying leave to amend in connection with the Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal of the complaint. The court explained that although its decision in Pizzuto I noted parenthetically that Plaintiff should be permitted to amend the complaint, the court did not foreclose the district court’s sua sponte dismissal of the complaint or address whether, in connection with such a dismissal, further amendment would be futile. The court agreed with the district court that amendment of several of Plaintiff’s claims would be futile. The court therefore affirmed the dismissal with prejudice of the First Amendment claims based on access to execution-related information. View "THOMAS CREECH, ET AL V. JOSH TEWALT, ET AL" on Justia Law
VIRGINIA DUNCAN, ET AL V. ROB BONTA
Plaintiffs—five individuals and the California Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc.—filed this action in the Southern District of California challenging the constitutionality of Section 32310 under the Second Amendment. On September 22, 2023, the district court issued an order declaring Section 32310 “unconstitutional in its entirety” and enjoining California officials from enforcing the law. Defendant Rob Bonta, the Attorney General of California, filed an emergency motion for a partial stay pending appeal. The Attorney General seeks to stay “all portions of the order except those regarding Sections 32310(c) and (d), which relate to large-capacity magazines that were acquired and possessed lawfully prior to the district court’s order granting a permanent injunction.” The Ninth Circuit granted the motion. First, the court concluded that the Attorney General is likely to succeed on the merits. The court explained that the Attorney General makes strong arguments that Section 32310 comports with the Second Amendment under Bruen. Second, the Attorney General has shown that California will be irreparably harmed absent a stay pending appeal by presenting evidence that large-capacity magazines pose significant threats to public safety. Third, it does not appear that staying portions of the district court’s order while the merits of this appeal are pending will substantially injure other parties interested in the proceedings. Finally, the court concluded that the public interest tips in favor of a stay. View "VIRGINIA DUNCAN, ET AL V. ROB BONTA" on Justia Law
United States v. Davila-Reyes
The First Circuit granted the government's petition for rehearing en banc in these consolidated appeals regarding Defendants' 2016 convictions for violating the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, 46 U.S.C. 70501 et seq. (MDLEA), holding that 46 U.S.C. 70503(e)(1) does not limit the subject matter jurisdiction of federal courts under Article III of the United States Constitution.Defendants pleaded guilty unconditionally to the underlying charges, but a panel of the First Circuit vacated the convictions and ordered the underlying charges dismissed. The government petitioned for rehearing en banc. The First Circuit granted the petition, vacated the panel's ruling, and affirmed Defendant's convictions, holding that section 70503(e)(1) merely limits the substantive reach of the MDLEA and that Defendants' claims on appeal failed. View "United States v. Davila-Reyes" on Justia Law
Parris J. v. Christopher U.
Defendant appealed from the five-year domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) issued against him at the request of his former spouse, Plaintiff. He contended the trial court abused its discretion by granting Plaintiff’s request for a DVRO because the record does not demonstrate he engaged in conduct rising to the level of abuse under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA). Defendant also asserted the trial court erred by ordering him to change the beneficiary of the $4 million insurance policy he owns on Plaintiff’s life from himself to a charity of her choice. Lastly, Defendant argued that the trial court’s order awarding $200,000 in attorneys’ fees to Plaintiff as the prevailing party under section 6344 must also be reversed. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by granting Plaintiff’s request for a DVRO. In addition, the court rejected contentions regarding the life insurance policy. Thus, the court found that it has no reason to reverse the order awarding attorneys’ fees to Plaintiff. The court also concluded reversal is not required based on the denial of Defendant’s requests for a statement of decision. The court explained that Defendant has not shown that courts must apply an objective, reasonable person standard when deciding whether a person has “disturbed the peace of the other party” within the meaning of section 6320. Instead, the relevant inquiry is simply whether the person against whom the DVRO is sought engaged in “conduct that, based on the totality of the circumstances, destroyed the mental or emotional calm of the other party.” View "Parris J. v. Christopher U." on Justia Law
USA v. Diana Robinson
TASER International, Inc., obtained an injunction against “Phazzer [Electronics] and its officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys; and any other persons who are in active concert or participation with Phazzer Electronics or its officers, agents, servants, employees, or attorneys” (the “2017 injunction”). The injunction prohibited Phazzer Electronics from distributing or causing to be distributed certain stun guns and accompanying cartridges that infringed on TASER’s intellectual property. At the time of the TASER-Phazzer Electronics litigation, Steven Abboud controlled Phazzer Electronics, and Phazzer Electronics employed, among others, Defendant. In 2018, after the district court found Abboud in contempt for violating the 2017 injunction, Abboud and Defendant went to work for other entities with “Phazzer” in their names. Based on that activity, the district court found Defendant (and others) in contempt of the 2017 injunction. At issue on appeal is whether the 2017 injunction extended broadly enough to bind Defendant and prohibit her conduct under the theories of liability that the government has pressed and the district court decided The Eleventh Circuit vacated Defendant’s conviction. The court concluded that the record cannot sustain Defendant’s conviction. The court explained that the district court did not make factual findings about whether Defendant was a key employee. Nor did it determine whether she so controlled Phazzer Electronics and the litigation that resulted in the 2017 injunction that it would be fair to say she had her day in court on that injunction. View "USA v. Diana Robinson" on Justia Law