by
Tharpe moved to reopen his federal habeas corpus proceedings regarding his claim that the Georgia jury that convicted him of murder included a white juror, Gattie, who was biased against Tharpe because he is black. The district court denied the motion as procedurally defaulted in state court. The Eleventh Circuit denied a certificate of appealability application based on its conclusion, rooted in the state court’s fact-finding, that Tharpe had not established prejudice. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded. While the state court’s prejudice determination is binding on federal courts absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, Tharpe produced a sworn affidavit, signed by Gattie, indicating Gattie’s view that “there are two types of black people: 1. Black folks and 2. Niggers”; that Tharpe, “who wasn’t in the ‘good’ black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did”; that “[s]ome of the jurors voted for death because they felt Tharpe should be an example to other blacks who kill blacks, but that wasn’t my reason”; and that, “[a]fter studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls.” Gattie’s "remarkable" affidavit presents a strong factual basis for the argument that Tharpe’s race affected Gattie’s vote for a death verdict. "At the very least, jurists of reason could debate whether Tharpe has shown by clear and convincing evidence that the state court’s factual determination was wrong.” View "Tharpe v. Sellers" on Justia Law

by
The Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced steps to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by March 2018, concluding that DACA violates the Administrative Procedure Act and the Due Process Clause. The Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of challengers. The government then moved to stay the district court order requiring completion of the administrative record until after resolution of motions to dismiss and for a preliminary injunction. The court stayed its order for one month. The government petitioned the Supreme Court, which vacated. The district court’s order required the government to turn over all “emails, letters, memoranda, notes, media items, opinions and other materials ... actually seen or considered, however briefly, by Acting Secretary ... in connection with the ... decision … all DACA-related materials considered by persons (anywhere in the government) who thereafter provided … written advice or input … all DACA-related materials considered by persons (anywhere in the government) who thereafter provided … verbal input … all comments and questions propounded ... to advisors or subordinates … and their responses, and … all materials directly or indirectly considered by former Secretary of DHS John Kelly leading to his February 2017 memorandum not to rescind DACA. The court should have first resolved the government’s threshold arguments that the decision was unreviewable as “committed to agency discretion,” 5 U.S.C. 701(a)(2), and that the Immigration and Nationality Act deprives the court of jurisdiction. The court may not compel the government to disclose any document that the government believes is privileged without first providing an opportunity to argue the issue. The Court did not consider the merits of the claims or defenses. View "In Re United States" on Justia Law

by
Hamer filed an employment discrimination suit. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, entering final judgment on September 14, 2015. Before October 14, the date Hamer’s notice of appeal was due, her attorneys filed a motion to withdraw and for an extension of the appeal filing deadline to give Hamer time to secure new counsel. The court granted a two-month extension, even though Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure, 4(a)(5)(C), confines such extensions to 30 days. Concluding that Rule 4(a)(5)(C)’s time prescription is jurisdictional, the Seventh Circuit dismissed Hamer’s appeal. A unanimous Supreme Court vacated. Rule 4(a)(5)(C)’s limitation on extensions of time to file a notice of appeal is a court-made rule and not jurisdictional. It is a mandatory claim-processing rule that may be waived or forfeited. If a time prescription governing the transfer of adjudicatory authority from one Article III court to another appears in a statute, the limitation is jurisdictional; otherwise, the time specification fits within the claim-processing category. View "Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

by
More than 30 years ago, Madison shot a police officer in the head at close range. An Alabama jury found Madison guilty of capital murder. In 2016, he sought suspension of his death sentence, arguing that, due to recent strokes, he has become incompetent. The court heard testimony from psychologists who had examined Madison. The court’s appointed psychologist reported that, although Madison may have “suffered a significant decline post-stroke, . . . [he] understands the exact posture of his case,” and appears to have a “rational understanding ” of his death sentence. A psychologist hired by Madison’s counsel reported that Madison “able to understand the nature of the pending proceeding and … what he was tried for” and that . . . [Alabama is] seeking retribution” for that crime, but Madison cannot recall “the sequence of events from the offense to his arrest to the trial” and believes that he “never went around killing.” The trial court denied Madison’s petition. Madison sought federal habeas relief. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the denial of that petition. The Supreme Court reversed, reinstating the denial, citing its “Panetti” and “Ford” holdings. Neither decision “clearly established” that a prisoner is incompetent to be executed because of a failure to remember his commission of the crime, as distinct from a failure to rationally comprehend the concepts of crime and punishment as applied to him. The state court did not unreasonably apply those decisions in holding that Madison is competent to be executed because he recognizes that he will be put to death as punishment for the murder he was found to have committed. Nor was the state court’s decision founded on an unreasonable assessment of the evidence. View "Dunn v. Madison" on Justia Law

by
Cuero, on parole, driving under the influence of methamphetamine and without a license, while carrying a gun, drove his car into and seriously injured a pedestrian. A California court permitted the state to amend a criminal complaint to which the Cuero had pleaded guilty, acknowledging that permitting the amendment would lead to a higher sentence. The amendment added another “strike” to Cuero’s criminal history. The court reasoned that the case was distinguishable from “a situation where the [State] might, after a guilty plea, seek to amend” by adding “new charges” or facts that fundamentally alter the substance of the complaint.Cuero was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea, then pleaded guilty to the amended complaint and was sentenced to a term with a minimum of 25 years. The Ninth Circuit held that the California court had made a mistake of federal law, reasoning that Cuero was entitled to specific performance of the 14-year, 4-month sentence that he would have received had the complaint not been amended. The Supreme Court reversed, citing the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, 28 U.S.C. 2254(d)(1), stating that none of its prior decisions clearly require the state court to impose the lower sentence that the parties originally expected. Even if the state violated the Constitution when it moved to amend the complaint there is no Supreme Court precedent that “clearly established” specific performance as a remedy. Circuit precedent does not constitute “clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court.” View "Kernan v. Cuero" on Justia Law

by
Married same-sex couples conceived children through anonymous sperm donation. Their babies were born in Arkansas in 2015. Each couple completed paperwork listing both female spouses as parents. The Department of Health issued birth certificates bearing only the birth mother’s name, based on Ark. Code 20–18–401, which states “the mother is deemed to be the woman who gives birth to the child … if the mother was married at the time of either conception or birth … the name of [her] husband shall be entered on the certificate as the father of the child.” Another man may appear on the birth certificate if the “mother,” “husband,” and “putative father” all file affidavits vouching for the putative father’s paternity. The requirement that a married woman’s husband appear on her child’s birth certificate applies if the couple conceived by means of artificial insemination by an anonymous sperm donor. The couples challenged the law. The trial court held that the challenged sections were inconsistent with the 2015 Supreme Court holding, Obergefell v. Hodges, that the Constitution entitles same-sex couples to civil marriage “on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.” The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed, finding the statute invalid because it denied married same-sex couples access to the “constellation of benefits” that Arkansas links to marriage. The law required the placement of the birth mother’s husband on the birth certificate even when the husband was “definitively not the biological father,” but did not impose the same requirement with respect to the birth mother’s wife. Same-sex parents lacked the same right as opposite-sex parents to be listed on a document used for important transactions like medical decisions or enrolling a child in school. View "Pavan v. Smith" on Justia Law

by
In petitioner’s state capital murder trial, the court overruled counsel’s objection to a proposed jury and submitted the instruction to the jury, which convicted petitioner. Appellate counsel did instruction not challenge the jury instruction; petitioner’s conviction was affirmed. Petitioner’s state habeas counsel did not raise the instructional issue or challenge appellate counsel’s failure to raise it. The state habeas court denied relief. Petitioner then sought federal habeas relief. The Fifth Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed denial of relief. The ineffective assistance of postconviction counsel does not provide cause to excuse the procedural default of ineffective-assistance-of-appellate-counsel claims. Attorney error during state postconviction proceedings, for which the Constitution does not guarantee the right to counsel, cannot supply cause to excuse a procedural default that occurs in those proceedings except where state law requires a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel to be raised in an “initial-review collateral proceeding,” rather than on direct appeal or where the state’s “procedural framework, by reason of its design and operation, makes it unlikely in a typical case that a defendant will have a meaningful opportunity to raise” the claim on direct appeal. Extending the exception is not required to ensure that meritorious claims of trial error receive review by at least one state or federal court. A claim of trial error, preserved by trial counsel but not raised by counsel on appeal, will have been addressed by the trial court. View "Davila v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
In 2007-2008, Lehman Brothers raised capital through public securities offerings. Petitioner, the largest public pension fund in the country, purchased some of those securities. A 2008 putative class action claimed that financial firms were liable under the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. 77k(a), for their participation as underwriters in the transactions, alleging that certain registration statements for Lehman’s offerings included material misstatements or omissions. More than three years after the relevant offerings, petitioner filed a separate complaint with the same allegations. A proposed settlement was reached in the putative class action, but petitioner opted out. The Second Circuit affirmed dismissal of the individual suit, citing the three-year bar in Section 13 of the Act. The Supreme Court affirmed. Section 13’s first sentence states a one-year limitations period; the three-year time limit is a statute of repose, not subject to equitable tolling. Its instruction that “[i]n no event” shall an action be brought more than three years after the relevant securities offering admits of no exception. The statute runs from the defendant’s last culpable act (the securities offering), not from the accrual of the claim (the plaintiff’s discovery of the defect). Tolling is permissible only where there is a particular indication that the legislature did not intend the statute to provide complete repose but instead anticipated the extension of the statutory period under certain circumstances. The timely filing of a class-action complaint does not fulfill the purposes of a statutory time limit for later-filed suits by individual class members. View "California Public Employees’ Retirement System v. ANZ Securities, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In January 2017, President Trump signed executive order EO-1, "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry," suspending, for 90 days, entry of foreign nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, and suspending the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. The Ninth Circuit upheld a nationwide temporary restraining order. The government revoked EO-1. EO-2 issued on March 6, describing conditions in six countries that “demonstrate ... heightened risks to [U.S.] security.” EO–2 section 2(a) directs Homeland Security to determine whether foreign governments provide adequate information about nationals applying for U.S visas and to report those findings to the President within 20 days; nations identified as deficient will have 50 days to alter their practices (2(b)). EO–2 2(c) directs that entry of nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, be suspended for 90 days; section 3(c) provides for case-by-case waivers. Section 6(a) suspends decisions on applications for refugee status and travel of refugees under the USRAP for 120 days; 6(b) suspends refugee entries in excess of 50,000 for this year. The order’s stated effective date is March 16, 2017. The Ninth Circuit again declined to stay a temporary injunction. The Supreme Court stayed the order in part, with respect to sections 2(c), 6(a), and 6(b). An American individual or entity that has a bona fide relationship with a particular person seeking to enter the country can legitimately claim concrete hardship if that person is excluded, even if the 50,000-person cap has been reached. As to these individuals and entities, the Court did not disturb the injunction; as to those lacking any such connection, the balance tips in favor of the government’s compelling interest in security. The Court noted a June 12 Ninth Circuit decision vacating the injunction as to 2(a) and stated that the Executive should conclude its work and provide adequate notice to foreign governments within the 90-day life of 2(c). View "Trump. v. International Refugee Assistance Project" on Justia Law

by
Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center, operating on church property, sought to replace its playground’s gravel surface by participating in Missouri’s Scrap Tire Program, which offers grants to qualifying nonprofit organizations that install playground surfaces made from recycled tires. The Department of Natural Resources had a strict, express policy of denying grants to any applicant owned or controlled by a church, sect, or other religious entity and denied the Center’s application, citing Missouri Constitution Article I, Section 7. The Church sued under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed dismissal. The Supreme Court reversed. The policy violated Trinity's rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by denying the Church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status. Laws imposing special disabilities on the basis of religious status trigger the strictest scrutiny. The Court rejected an argument that simply declining to allocate to Trinity a subsidy the state had no obligation to provide did not meaningfully burden the Church’s free exercise rights; the Free Exercise Clause protects against “indirect coercion or penalties on the free exercise of religion, not just outright prohibitions.” The express discrimination against religious exercise here is not the denial of a grant, but rather the refusal to allow the Church—solely because it is a church—to compete with secular organizations for a grant. Trinity was put to the choice between being a church and receiving a government benefit. The Department “offers nothing more than Missouri’s preference for skating as far as possible from religious establishment concerns.” View "Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer" on Justia Law