Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
by
Plaintiff Samuel Provenza, formerly employed as a police officer by defendant Town of Canaan (Town), appealed a superior court order: (1) denying his petition for declaratory judgment and “request for temporary and permanent injunctive and other relief”; and (2) granting the cross-claim of the intervenor, the Valley News. Provenza sought to bar public disclosure of an investigative report commissioned by the Town as a result of a motor vehicle stop in which he was involved while still employed by the Town as a police officer; the Valley News sought release of the report under RSA chapter 91-A, the Right-to-Know Law. See RSA ch. 91-A (2013 & Supp. 2021). Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Provenza v. Town of Canaan" on Justia Law

by
In November 2017, Saul Cisneros was charged with two misdemeanor offenses and jailed. The court set Cisneros’s bond at $2,000, and Cisneros’s daughter posted that bond four days later, but the County Sheriff’s Office did not release him. Instead, pursuant to Sheriff Bill Elder’s policies and practices, the Sheriff’s Office notified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) that the jail had been asked to release Cisneros on bond. ICE then sent the jail a detainer and administrative warrant, requesting that the jail continue to detain Cisneros because ICE suspected that he was removable from the United States. Cisneros was placed on an indefinite “ICE hold,” and remained in detention. During his detention, Cisneros, along with another pretrial detainee, initiated a class action in state court against Sheriff Elder, in his official capacity, for declaratory, injunctive, and mandamus relief. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the appellate court erred in concluding that section 24-10-106(1.5)(b), C.R.S. (2021), of the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (“CGIA”) did not waive sovereign immunity for intentional torts that result from the operation of a jail for claimants who were incarcerated but not convicted. The Supreme Court concluded section 24-10-106(1.5)(b) waived immunity for such intentional torts. "In reaching this determination, we conclude that the statutory language waiving immunity for 'claimants who are incarcerated but not yet convicted' and who 'can show injury due to negligence' sets a floor, not a ceiling. To hold otherwise would mean that a pre-conviction claimant could recover for injuries resulting from the negligent operation of a jail but not for injuries resulting from the intentionally tortious operation of the same jail, an absurd result that we cannot countenance." Accordingly, the judgment of the division below was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Cisneros v. Elder" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was convicted of conspiracy and substantive health care fraud for fraudulently billing Medicare and Medicaid for millions of dollars for visits to nursing home patients that he never made. He challenged the convictions, sentence, restitution amount, and forfeiture amount on appeal.The co-conspirator pleaded guilty to conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with the government. Part of his plea agreement addressed his compensation during the conspiracy. Defendant contends that the district court erred in quashing his subpoena of the co-conspirator’s attorney. The court ruled that any erroneous exclusion of the attorney’s testimony was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because his testimony would not have impeached the co-conspirator. He further argues that the district court erred in limiting how many character witnesses he could present. The court found that the district court did not err because defendant overstates the importance of character witness testimony in this case. He was not on trial for being uncaring or uncompassionate but for lying and billing Medicare for services he did not provide.Additionally, defendant contends that the district court improperly limited part of his counsel’s closing argument when he was discussing whether defendant had made a profit. The court found that the government does not have to prove a defendant profited to establish the elements of fraud. The court also found that the district court did not err in calculating the loss amount used to determine defendant's sentence or the amount of restitution ordered. View "USA v. Douglas Moss" on Justia Law

by
In 2014, a jury found petitioner Larry Bailey guilty of assault with a deadly weapon and leaving the scene of an accident and found true various enhancements. Petitioner was sentenced to 28 years in prison. In 2016, California voters approved Proposition 57, which amended the California Constitution to grant early parole consideration to persons convicted of a nonviolent felony offense. It also authorized the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Department) to adopt regulations in furtherance of its guarantee of early parole consideration. In 2017 and 2018, the Board of Parole Hearings (Board) considered petitioner for Proposition 57 parole. In each of the parole consideration proceedings, the Board allowed petitioner to submit a written statement explaining why he should be granted parole. The Board, through written decisions by a deputy commissioner, both times denied petitioner parole. Petitioner requested administrative review of each of the parole decisions; both decisions were upheld. Petitioner thereafter filed two petitions for writ of habeas corpus; the trial court denied petitioner’s claims challenging the evidentiary sufficiency of the parole denials, but granted petitioner habeas relief after finding he was entitled to “a live parole hearing at which [he] could attend.” The trial court interpreted Penal Code section 3041.5 “ ‘as providing for a hearing for all inmates eligible for parole consideration, at the very least to comply with federal and state due process concerns as well as equal protection.’ ” The trial court further ordered the Department to, within 60 days of the finality of the decision, promulgate new parole regulations to reflect the right to an in-person hearing under Proposition 57. The Department appealed. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding Proposition 57 neither required nor impliedly incorporated an in-person hearing requirement, and the Department acted within its delegated authority under Penal Code section 32(b) when it adopted the parole regulations at issue in this appeal. The Court further concluded the absence of an in-person hearing did not violate equal protection principles, nor did it violate a prisoner’s right to procedural due process. View "In re Bailey" on Justia Law

by
Defreitas, an enforcement officer for the U.S. Virgin Islands (U.S.V.I.) Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, asked for sexual favors in exchange for not reporting a female immigrant who was unlawfully present in the U.S.V.I. Defreitas was convicted of soliciting a bribe, V.I. CODE tit. 14, 403, and violating the Travel Act, 18 U.S.C. 1952(a)(3) but was acquitted of a blackmail charge, 18 U.S.C. 873.The Third Circuit declined the request to certify any questions to the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands but vacated the convictions, holding hold that the evidence presented was insufficient to prove that Defreitas engaged in an “official act” under either statute. Custom may inform the understanding of official duties when those “duties [are] not completely defined by written rules,” but custom alone cannot establish what constitutes an “official act.” Even assuming that the testimony of Defreitas’s partner established a custom of reporting undocumented immigrants, that evidence was insufficient to prove that Defreitas’s decision not to report was an “official act.” There existed no internal regulation, guideline, or statute that advised the Department to engage in any activity related to the policing of immigration laws. View "United States v. Defreitas" on Justia Law

by
Allinson was convicted of federal programs bribery, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(2), and conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. 371, in connection with a pay-to-play scheme involving Pawlowski, the former Mayor of Allentown, Pennsylvania.The Third Circuit affirmed. Sufficient evidence showed the parties’ plan to steer a Parking Authority contract to Allinson’s law firm in exchange for campaign contributions to support Allinson’s bribery conviction; it is an “official act” for a public official to use his power to influence the awarding of government contracts, even if the official lacks final decision-making power. The court rejected Allinson’s argument that the indictment, which alleged a single conspiracy among Allinson and others, impermissibly varied from the evidence at trial that, he claimed, proved only multiple, unrelated conspiracies. The charged conspiracy included over 10 alleged co-conspirators and seven distinct sub-schemes, only one of which involved Allinson but the government’s efforts at trial were reasonably calculated to prevent guilt transference. No constructive amendment of the indictment occurred. The prosecution’s statement in closing arguments that “Bribery happens with a wink and a nod and sometimes a few words, an understanding between two people,” was not improper. Allinson failed to show “clear and substantial prejudice” resulting from the joint trial. View "United States v. Allinson" on Justia Law

by
Pawlowski, the former mayor of Allentown, Pennsylvania, was convicted of federal programs bribery, 18 U.S.C. 666; Travel Act bribery, 18 U.S.C. 1952; attempted Hobbs Act extortion, 18 U.S.C. 1001; wire and mail fraud, honest services fraud, making false statements to the FBI, and conspiracy. The charges stemmed from a scheme in which Pawlowski steered city contracts and provided other favors in exchange for campaign contributions. The district court imposed a 180-month sentence.The Third Circuit affirmed. There was sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find “quid pro quo” to support the bribery convictions. Any error caused by Pawlowski's inability to recross-examine a government witness was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Pawlowski’s sentence is procedurally and substantively reasonable. The case against Pawlowski was strong. The evidence showed a man eager to influence and be influenced if it would help him fund his political campaigns. View "United States v. Pawlowski" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting a motion to dismiss filed by Appellees - Arkansas Parole Board, John Felts, and Andy Shock - in Appellant's action filed pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), Ark. Code Ann. 25-15-201 through 25-15-220, holding that Appellant failed to state a sufficient basis for judicial review under the APA.Appellant pleaded guilty to the sexual abuse of a fifteen-year-old and was sentenced to thirty years' imprisonment. Years later, the parole board denied Appellant parole for a two-year period of time. Appellant filed a petition for judicial review from the denial of his parole under the APA, alleging that Appellees failed to adhere to parole statutes and the APA, in violation of his due process rights. The circuit court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed Appellant's complaint for failing to state a claim for relief pursuant to the APA. View "Wood v. Arkansas Parole Board" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Joseph Bruyette appealed an April 2021 Department of Corrections ("DOC") declaratory ruling, made after his case staffing in June 2019, in which the DOC stated that it would “continue to rely on evaluations and reports that refer to [an] expunged offense when assessing [an] individual’s risk to make programming, classification and release decisions.” The DOC further stated in its declaratory ruling that it would also “maintain a record of such evaluations and reports to support its decisions . . . until [the individual in question] ha[s] reached their maximum release date whether or not the offense has been expunged.” Petitioner had several felony convictions expunged prior to reclassifications in June and August 2021, and alleged that the declaratory ruling violated Vermont’s expungement statute, 13 V.S.A. 7606. The State argued petitioner lacked standing to bring this case because it did not rely on petitioner's expunged convictions during his final reclassification in August 2021. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that because the disputed facts were vital for consideration of petitioner’s standing, it remanded the case for further development of the record. View "In re Joseph Bruyette" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court finding two officials with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (hereinafter, MDPHHS) in indirect contempt of referenced orders in the underlying matter and imposing a sanction pending subsequent compliance with the subject orders, holding that the district court erred.The referenced orders at issue directed the Montana State Hospital to accept custody and care of the underlying criminal defendant for fitness rehabilitation pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 46-14-221(2)-(3) and thus imposing a $500 per-day coercive civil sanction pending future compliance with the orders. The district court adjudicated MDPHHS in indirect contempt for failing to transport the defendant as required and imposed a $500 per-day coercive civil sanction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court's threshold contempt finding and resulting imposition of a coercive civil sanction were both erroneously based on a clearly erroneous finding of material fact; and (2) the court's imposition of a continuing or cascading per-day fine was further erroneous in excess of the limiting language of Mont. Code Ann. 3-1-501(3). View "Fouts v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law