Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

by
Gary Clark was having a psychotic episode. His brother was having trouble subduing Clark, and called the Broken Arrow Policy to assist. When Clark charged at one of the officers with a knife, he was shot. Clark ultimately survived his gunshot wounds, but had not fully recovered. Clark sued, claiming a violation of a number of his constitutional, state-common-law, and federal-statutory rights. The district court granted summary judgment to Wagoner County Board of Commissioners, Wagoner County Sheriff Robert Colbert, and former Wagoner County Jail Nurse Vicki Holland on Clark’s claims against them. Given the undisputed facts, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded a reasonable jury could not find the officers violated Clark’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. In addition, Clark failed to adequately brief issues necessary to justify reversal on his Oklahoma-tort and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claims. Therefore, the Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the governmental officials. View "Clark v. Colbert" on Justia Law

by
Jesse Leaverton was convicted of three counts of bank robbery. At sentencing, the district court concluded that 18 U.S.C. 3559(c) applied because Leaverton had been previously convicted of two serious violent felonies, enhancing his sentence from a maximum of twenty years to a mandatory term of life imprisonment. Leaverton appealed, arguing that his prior conviction for Oklahoma manslaughter did not qualify under section 3559(c). The Oklahoma statute contained three subsections. The government argued that Leaverton was convicted under a subsection that applied when a killing is “perpetrated without a design to effect death, and in a heat of passion, but in a cruel and unusual manner, or by means of a dangerous weapon; unless it is committed under such circumstances as constitute excusable or justifiable homicide.” At sentencing, the district court found that Leaverton had been convicted under subsection two, which qualified as a serious violent felony and thus Leaverton met the requirements of section 3559(c). Leaverton argued section 3559(c)(2)(F)(i) required the crime of conviction be equivalent to voluntary federal manslaughter. The Tenth Circuit found that the Oklahoma statute (section 711(2)) bore some similarity to the second definition provided in the Model Penal Code, the section 711(2) heat of passion element differed markedly from that applicable to generic manslaughter. The Tenth Circuit could not say that a conviction under section 711(2) “necessarily involved facts equating to” generic manslaughter. As such, the Court concluded Leaverton's offense did not constitute manslaughter as that term was used in section 3559(c)(2)(F)(i). The Court reversed and remanded this case for resentencing. View "United States v. Leaverton" on Justia Law

by
Michelle Renee Lamb was born a male, but from a young age, however, displayed feminine characteristics and identified as a female. Lamb was in state prison experiencing gender dysphoria. For this condition, she received medical treatment. However, she claimed the treatment was so poor that it violated the Eighth Amendment. The undisputed evidence showed Lamb received hormone treatment, testosterone-blocking medication, and weekly counseling sessions. A 1986 precedent, Supre v. Ricketts, 752 F.2d 958 (10th Cir. 1986), suggested these forms of treatment would preclude liability for an Eighth Amendment violation. Based partly on this precedent, the district court granted summary judgment to the prison officials. Lamb challenged the grant of summary judgment. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded no genuine issue of material fact existed: “In light of the prison’s treatment for Michelle’s gender dysphoria, no reasonable factfinder could infer deliberate indifference on the part of prison officials. And the district court did not improperly curtail Michelle’s opportunity to conduct discovery. Thus, we affirm the award of summary judgment to the prison officials.” View "Lamb v. Norwood" on Justia Law

by
Appellant Tizoc Chalchihutlaton Garcia-Herrera was charged with numerous counts relating to a drug conspiracy. He pled guilty to one count pursuant to a plea agreement in which he waived his right to appeal or challenge his conviction or sentence with respect to all claims but claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The government dismissed the other counts. Appellant was sentenced to 151 months’ imprisonment, and he did not appeal. However, apparently dissatisfied with counsel, Appellant filed a pro se “Motion to Compel Former Attorney to Produce Record File/Work Product Material” in his closed criminal case. His motion demanded “all documents and work regarding his case.” He did not identify any potential substantive basis for relief, nor did he state he intended to file a motion for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2255. His only claim of motivation to seek the files was his need “to have even the slightest chance at proving any future claims.” The district court granted partial relief and directed defense counsel to provide Appellant with certain documents. Appellant appealed that order, claiming a right to all of the files. In response, the government argued that the district court lacked jurisdiction to grant any part of the motion and requested that this court vacate the district court’s order and remand with instructions to dismiss appellant’s motion for lack of jurisdiction. The Tenth Circuit agreed it and the district court lacked jurisdiction to grant appellant’s requested relief, and therefore vacated the order and remanded for dismissal. View "United States v. Garcia-Herrera" on Justia Law

by
Manuel Chavez-Morales appeared before the district court following his fifth conviction for an illegal reentry offense. At sentencing, he argued that higher wages in the United States motivated his decision to illegally reenter the United States. Focusing heavily on Chavez-Morales’s criminal history and noting that none of the earlier sentences deterred Chavez-Morales from reoffending, the district court imposed an upward variant sentence of thirty-six months’ imprisonment. The district court also imposed a three-year term of supervised release. On appeal, Chavez-Morales challenged the procedural reasonableness of his term of imprisonment. Specifically, he argued the district court did not meaningfully consider his argument that economic opportunities motivated his decision to illegally reenter the United States and thereby mitigated the seriousness of his offense. Furthermore, Chavez-Morales argued the district court committed plain error by imposing a term of supervised release without acknowledging or considering United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual (U.S.S.G.) section 5D1.1(c), which stated a court “ordinarily” should not impose a term of supervised release when “the defendant is a deportable alien who likely will be deported after imprisonment.” The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. With respect to the prison term, the Court found the transcript of the sentencing hearing established that, on three occasions, the district court addressed the economic motivation argument. As to the imposition of a term of supervised release, while the district court erred by not acknowledging and considering U.S.S.G. 5D1.1(c), Chavez- Morales did not carry his burden on the third prong of the plain error analysis. View "United States v. Chavez-Morales" on Justia Law

by
Kevin Underwood appealed the federal district court’s denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. In 2008, a jury convicted Underwood of first degree murder and sentenced him to death in Oklahoma state court. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (“OCCA”) affirmed Underwood’s conviction and sentence and later denied post-conviction relief. The federal district court denied Underwood’s requests for relief and for a certificate of appealability (“COA”) on all eleven grounds raised in his 18 U.S.C. section 2254 application. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals granted COAs on six of the eleven grounds for relief, but finding that he was not entitled to habeas relief, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial. View "Underwood v. Royal" on Justia Law

by
Defendant-Appellant Julia Frias was convicted by a jury of being a felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition, and sentenced to 45 months’ imprisonment and three years’ supervised release, consecutive to a state sentence. On appeal, Frias argued she was denied her constitutional right to a speedy trial and that the district court abused its discretion in instructing the jury on the government’s burden of proof and responding to a jury inquiry. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed Frias’ conviction. View "United States v. Frias" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner-Appellant Mirella Ivonne Avila-Ramos appealed the district court’s denial of habeas corpus relief for an extradition certification order. Avila-Ramos was wanted for aggravated homicide in Chihuahua, Mexico. According to the warrant for her arrest, Avila-Ramos plotted with Arturo Heriberto Herrera Rey, her paramour, to murder her husband. Avila-Ramos’s husband, who had survived an earlier attempt on his life, was on his way to a hospital appointment when he was attacked and killed by a hired gun. An investigation implicated Avila-Ramos and Rey in the hit, and Rey was convicted of aggravated homicide for his involvement in the crime. On appeal, Avila-Ramos challenged the magistrate judge’s and district court’s probable cause rulings. Finding that the magistrate judge adequately found probable cause that Avila-Ramos committed aggravated homicide, the crime identified in the extradition request, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order. View "Avila-Ramos v. Deal" on Justia Law

by
Defendant-Appellant Keith Howard Hull challenged one of the conditions of supervised release imposed by the district court when it sentenced him for committing bank robbery. The condition required him to notify third parties of risks he could pose to them. According to Hull, the condition was unconstitutionally vague, an unconstitutional delegation of judicial authority, and an unlawful occupational restriction. Specifically, Hull argued the condition was vague because it did not provide his probation officer with sufficient guidance to determine the sort of risks that triggered application of the condition. The Tenth Circuit concluded this argument failed: sufficient guidance was given by the district court at sentencing. Accordingly, the Tenth Circuit affirmed Hull's sentence. View "United States v. Hull" on Justia Law

by
At sentencing, the district court enhanced Clifford Young’s guideline range for recklessly endangering others while fleeing from a law-enforcement officer. During the flight, he threatened to shoot if the police took action. They took action anyway, using “spike strips” to bring Young’s vehicle to an eventual stop. But Young refused to surrender, engaging in an armed standoff on the side of the highway. This conduct provided an adequate basis for the enhancement; the Tenth Circuit therefore affirmed. View "United States v. Young" on Justia Law