Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Case Law Update, Week Ending 4-28-11

Washington State Law

Washington State Supreme Court:

Personal Restraint of Martinez: The Court found that Mr. Martinez’ second PRP was properly before the Court as it did not seek similar relief to his first PRP. The court further found that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of the robbery he committed, when the evidence showed that Mr. Martinez was found wearing an empty knife sheath and the knife itself was found in the mud yards away from Mr. Martinez, and there was further no evidence in the record that Mr. Martinez had ever reached for the knife, unbuttoned the sheath or removed the knife from the sheath. Likewise, there was no evidence that Mr. Martinez would have used the knife as a deadly weapon.

Personal Restraint of Nichols: In a decision that greatly narrowed its 2007 holding in State v. Jorden, the Court held that in cases where police have an individualized and particularized suspicion leading to a search, a search of motel registry information is permissible and constitutional. The Court differentiated Jorden, a case in which City of Lakewood police practices of trolling local hotels to paw through their registries to see if any wanted criminals were on the premises went a step too far and violated the State constitution. Here, Seattle Police obtained registry information from a local Travel Lodge regarding Mr. Nichols after observing a confidential informant enter the room where Mr. Nichols was later found to be staying and complete a controlled drug buy. Officers learned that Mr. Nichols’ license was suspended and, upon observing him behind the wheel, arrested him. A search incident to arrest revealed drugs and cash.

In a dissent, Justice Fairhurst argued that the lead opinion contravenes the structure of article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution, undermines its protections, and attempts to circumvent the warrant requirement. The dissent argued that the lead opinion effectively creates an exception to the warrant requirement, that of individualized and particularized suspicion which grants officers “authority of law to search an individual's private affairs for purely investigatory purposes despite a complete lack of need for immediate action.” The exception, the dissent urged, undermines the warrant requirement’s purpose of reducing the risk of erroneous searches by involving a neutral magistrate. Justice Fairhurst concluded that Jorden’s holding that motel registry information is a private affair, combined with the structure of article I, section 7, “compels the conclusion that obtaining Nichols' motel registry information without a warrant violated his constitutional right to hold that information free from unjustified government intrusion.”

In a concurrence, Justice Madsen wrote separately to agree with the conclusion of the lead opinion, for the reasons stated by the Justice in State v. Jorden.

Division Two Court of Appeals:

State v. Carter: The Court reversed the trial court’s dismissal of Mr. Carter’s charges for possession of a machine gun. The Court held that the exemption under RCW 9.41.190(2)(b), allowing possession of a machine gun for those exempt from the prohibition against such weapons or licensed to possess such weapons under federal law if such persons are engaged in the production, manufacture, repair, or testing of machine guns, is not an element of the offense but, rather, a defense that Mr. Carter had the burden of establishing. Further, the Court found that the RCW 9.41.190(2)(b)exemption does not allow for private possession of a machine gun unless the defendant shows that such possession is authorized under federal law and that Mr. Carter failed to establish that the RCW 9.41.190(2)(b) exemption applied.

Division Two Court of Appeals:

State v. Martinez: The Court reversed Mr. Martinez’ conviction and remanded to allow Mr. Martinez to withdraw his guilty plea to the crime of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. The Court found that the crime is an aggravated felony that, when committed by Mr. Martinez, an alien, is a deportable offense. The court further found that Mr. Martinez was not notified of the certain deportation consequences of his plea and was deficient under Strickland and Sandoval for this failure. The fact that deportation was a material factor and Mr. Martinez would not have pleaded guilty had he known of the deportation consequences was sufficient to establish prejudice under Sandoval, despite the fact that Mr. Martinez’ plea was entered prior to the entry of the Sandoval decision.

Federal Law

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals:

United States v. Sandoval-Gonzalez: The Court found error when the jury at Mr. Sandoval-Gonzalez’ trial on charges of being an alien who reentered the United States after previously being deported was not required to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Sandoval-Gonzalez was an alien. Instead, the jury was told that “there is a presumption” of his alienage, and the burden of proof was shifted to Mr. Sandoval-Gonzalez to establish that he had obtained American citizenship by having been born to a U.S. citizen father. The Court held that this was prejudicial error, vacated Mr. Sandoval-Gonzalez’ conviction and remanded.

Miller v. Oregon Board of Parole: The Court extended its decision in Hayward v. Marshall, that only state law can give rise to a liberty interest in parole that is entitled to the protections of the Due Process Clause of the Constitution, to a similar liberty interest in early parole created by an Oregon statute. The Court also held that, following Swarthout v. Cooke, the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision did not violate Mr. Miller’s due process rights when it denied him that eligibility. The court observed that, as in Cooke, Mr. Miller was afforded access to his records in advance of the hearings, and he was given the opportunity to submit information to the Board and to make a statement during the hearing. And, although the Board’s initial decision was not explained, Mr. Miller was eventually provided with a written statement of the reasons why he was denied early eligibility for parole. After Cooke, the court ruled that that is the beginning and the end of the inquiry into whether he received due process, so we need look no further to affirm the district court’s denial of Miller’s petition.

United States v. Maier: The Court affirmed Mr. Maier’s sentence of 210 months and a lifetime term of supervised release for receipt/distribution of child pornography. The Court held that the district court correctly relied upon statutory factors to guide its discretion in choosing which of two counts to dismiss when required to do so by the Double Jeopardy Clause; and that the district court’s sentence was procedurally and substantively reasonable. The Court reasoned that the district court carefully considered the totality of the circumstances in determining Mr. Maier’s sentence.

United States v. Whitlock: The Court found that Rule 32.1 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which primarily governs sentencing procedures for probation and supervised release violations, did not speak to the particular question at issue – whether probation officers’ sentencing recommendations following the revocation of supervised release must be disclosed. The Court concluded that Rule 32(e)(3) logically fills in the gap, and therefore post-revocation sentencing recommendations, like their post-conviction brethren, must be disclosed unless the district court directs otherwise. The Court held that the district court complied with the requirements of United States v. Baldrich that it disclose any factual information in the confidential recommendation on which it relied in sentencing, and that Rule 32(e)(3) comports with the Equal Protection Clause, so there was no violation of Mr. Whitlock’s constitutional rights.

Kemp v. Ryan: The Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Mr. Kemp’s habeas corpus petition seeking relief from his state conviction for felony first-degree murder, armed robbery and kidnapping and from his capital sentence. The Court found that Mr. Kemp did not carry his burden of showing that he is entitled to relief on his appeal from the district court’s denial of his habeas petition. Because the petition was filed after the effective date of the AEDPA, the Court noted, relief can only be granted if the state court unreasonably applied clearly established federal law or unreasonably determined the facts. The Court held that Mr. Kemp failed to show that the Arizona Supreme Court acted unreasonably under either of these criteria in rejecting his arguments that admission of his incriminating statements to correctional officers violated his rights under Miranda and Massiah. The Court further held that Mr. Kemp did not show that the district court abused its discretion in denying his request for discovery and an evidentiary hearing because he did not establish “specific facts which, if true, would entitle him to relief.” The Court declined to reach Mr. Kemp’s claim that if his incriminating statements are excluded there is insufficient evidence to support the imposition of the death penalty under Enmund/Tison, because it held that the statements are admissible and that the evidence presented, including the statements, provides a sufficient basis for the imposition of a capital sentence. Finally, the Court found that Mr. Kemp did not show that the trial court’s alleged failure to re-voir dire the jury as to homosexual bias was contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established Supreme Court precedent.

United States v. Nosal: The Court reversed the district court’s dismissal of several counts of an indictment charging Mr. Nosal with numerous violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”). Specifically, Mr. Nosal and his co-conspirators were charged with exceeding their authorized access to their employer’s computer system by obtaining information from the computer system for the purpose of defrauding their employer and helping Mr. Nosal set up a competing business. The Court held that under the applicable statute, an employee accesses a computer in excess of his or her authorization when that access violates the employer’s access restrictions, which may include restrictions on the employee’s use of the computer or of the information contained in that computer. The court found that a previous opinion, LVRC Holdings LLC v. Brekka, did not mandate the conclusion reached by the district court, that an employee does not exceed authorized access to a computer by accessing information unless the employee has no authority to access the information under any circumstances.

In a dissent, Judge Campbell argued that construing “exceeds authorized access” to include “violating an employer’s computer access restrictions — including use restrictions” does not further Congress’s stated purpose in enacting the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and in fact renders one of the statute’s provisions unconstitutionally vague.

United States v. Henderson: Mr. Henderson appealed based on the district court’s failure to exercise the discretion accorded it in Kimbrough v. United States to vary from the Sentencing Guidelines when sentencing him on charges of possession of child pornography based on policy disagreements with them and not simply based on an individualized determination that they yield an excessive sentence in a particular case. The court found that it was unclear whether the district judge recognized and exercised his Kimbrough discretion, and reversed and remanded for resentencing. The Court found that the district court judge suggested that Mr. Henderson raise on appeal the argument of whether Kimbrough applied to this case, but also indicated that he was not accepting the argument that he must exercise Kimbrough discretion. For this reason, the Court held it was unable to ascertain whether the district court committed procedural error by failing to appreciate its Kimbrough discretion to vary from the sentencing guidelines on policy grounds, or whether it recognized, but declined to exercise that discretion. The court remanded for resentencing.

In a concurrence, Judge Berzon wrote separately “to emphasize that unjust and sometimes bizarre results will follow if [the sentencing guidelines for possession of child pornography are] applied by district courts without a special awareness of the Guideline’s anomalous history.

Concurring in the result, Judge Callahan agreed that because the district judge’s ruling on the extent to which he could exercise his discretion in departing from the Guidelines for child pornography was not clear, a remand is appropriate. However, Judge Callahan wrote separately to express disagreement with the majority’s suggestion that the district court is free to disagree with the Guidelines for child pornography on policy grounds without explaining its disagreement. Judge Callahan argued that the Guidelines for child pornography are not similar to the crack cocaine Guideline considered by the Supreme Court in Kimbrough, and therefore disagreed that the Guidelines for possession of child pornography inherently come within the “Kimbrough discretion.”

United States Supreme Court:

Sossamon v. Texas: Mr. Sossamon sued the State of Texas and prison officials, seeking injunctive and monetary relief under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 due to prison policies that prevented inmates from attending religious services while on cell restriction for disciplinary infractions and that barred use of the prison chapel for religious worship. In a decision authored by Justice Thomas and joined by Justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Alito, the Court held that States, in accepting federal funding, do not consent to waive their sovereign immunity to private suits for money damages under RLUIPA.

Justice Sotomayor dissented, joined by Justice Breyer, arguing that it is “self-evident” that monetary damages are appropriate relief under the RLUIPA for violations of that act’s substantive provisions, and that the States consent to suit for such violations in accepting federal funds.

Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

No comments: