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Judicial Reform First Circuit

United States Court of Appeals: 1st Circuit

At Risk
Total Judgeships: 

6 (0 vacancies)

Political Makeup: 

4 Dem – 2 GOP

Location(s): 
Boston, Massachusetts; San Juan, Puerto Rico
Jurisdictions: 
Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico
Caseload: 

1,413

About The Court:

The First Circuit Court was established on June 16, 1891 and is the smallest of the thirteen U.S. courts of appeals with respect to seat count. Since retiring as an active Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Associate Justice David Souter has sat on the First Circuit by designation in several cases.

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decided

How Secure Are Your Securities?

Fri, 06/27/2014

Maine Association of Retirees, et al. v. Board of Trustees of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System: A group of Maine Retirees who have paid into the Maine public employee retirement system filed suit against the Board after the Maine Legislature amended the system to result in a lesser cost of living benefit package. The Plaintiff’s grounds for their suit was based in a violation of contract as well as a violation of the Takings Clause of the Constitution.

Decision

The 1st District Court affirmed the ruling of the lower court, in part. The Court affirmed that the amendment change was unjust and therefore granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs. However, the 1st District Court ruled that the amendment change did not violate the Contract Clause.

Read the full decision here
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Strict Regulations on Soliciting and Panhandling Affirmed

Thu, 06/19/2014

Thayer v. City of Worcester: In 2013 the City passed new, very restrictive regulations on panhandling and sidewalk soliciting. Three plaintiffs filed suit against the City stating that the new ordinances violated their 1st and 14th Amendment rights. The three plaintiffs were a school board member who placed campaign signs in his yard, and two were homeless people who asked for donations from pedestrians. The District Court ruled in favor of the City stating the plaintiffs did not prove adequate grounds to find success.

Decision

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the District Court and affirmed that the District Court ruled correctly in denying the plaintiffs the preliminary injunction.

Read the full decision here
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You Paid for It, You Get It

Thu, 06/05/2014

Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company v. Susan McCarthy: In the midst of a lawsuit against G. McCormack who allegedly sexually harassed a minor, MPC Insurance Co. was declared by the District Court to have a duty to defend McCormack in her trial. MPC appealed, arguing they have no duty due to the nature of the crime, although McCormack had paid for their MPC insurance services.

Decision

The First Circuit Court upholds the decision of the District Court and affirms that MPC Insurance Co. has a duty to defend McCormack in court, regardless of the nature of the crime for which she is alleged to have committed.

Read the full decision here
heard

5th Amendment Violation May Reverse Conviction

Spring 2014

Connolly v. Roden: Everett H. Connolly was tried and convicted of cocaine distribution and trafficking. He claims his convictions were obtained in violation of his 5th Amendment rights. During his trial, it was revealed that Connolly invoked his right to remain silent and not self-incriminate after he was read his Miranda rights following his arrest.

Decision

Both the Supreme Court of Massachusetts and the District Court ruled against Connolly because during his trial, he accepted the judge’s attempt to remedy the injustice by instructing the jury to disregard the fact that he had exercised his 5th Amendment rights. The First Circuit Court will reconsider.

Read more about the case here
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The Right to Face an Accuser

Tue, 04/01/2014

Connolly v. Roden: Everett H. Connolly was tried and convicted of cocaine distribution and trafficking. He claims his 6th Amendment rights were violated when he was not allowed to cross-examine chemical analysts, whose sworn affidavits were used as evidence against him in court.

Decision

The Supreme Court of Massachusetts agreed that this was a violation of his 6th Amendment rights. But due to other evidence against Connolly, admission of the affidavits was not deemed harmful enough to his case. The First Circuit Court will reconsider.

Read more about the case here
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Do Legislative Changes Constitute Breach of Contract?

Spring 2014

Maine Association of Retirees v. Board of Trustees of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System: The Maine Association of Retirees represents former public employees of the state. They sued over a series of 2011 amendments made to the state’s pension law, which restructured the cost of living adjustment (COLA) formula and reduced the amount that pensioners could claim. The Maine Association of Retirees claims that this violates the contract clause of the Constitution.

Decision

If the First Circuit Court rules in favor of the Maine Association of Retirees, it would set a precedent for future state budget battles. With many states still grappling with large deficits and high debt levels, this would make it difficult for states to restructure expensive benefits programs for its employees. Also, a floodgate could open where any party that can prove damages from an amended law could sue the government for breach of contract.

Read the district court decision here
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4th Amendment Protections are Two Way Street

Wed, 03/12/2014

Macdonald v. Town of Eastham: Police entered the home of Philip Macdonald through an open door following a call placed by his neighbor. Upon entering the home, they discovered a marijuana growing operation. Macdonald was arrested, but the charges were dropped because evidence was not obtained during a lawful search with a warrant. However, Macdonald sued the individual officers and the city for violating his 4th Amendment rights.

Decision

The First Circuit Court found that the officers had “qualified immunity,” which protects government officials from civil damages so long as their conduct does not violate clearly established rights. The court found the actions of the officers to fall within the “Community Caretaking” exception to the warrant requirement, meaning that their entry into Macdonald’s home did not violate his rights. Macdonald’s suit was dismissed.

Read the full decision here
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GPS Tracking Without a Warrant

Fri, 02/28/2014

US v. Baez and US v. Oladosu: In two cases, police placed GPS tracking devices on vehicles of the defendants. Evidence from GPS tracking led to felony convictions. The defendants both appealed their convictions because police had failed to obtain warrants to place the tracking devices, violating their 4th Amendment rights.

Decision

In January 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled in US v. Jones that warrant-less tracking of a vehicle does constitute a 4th Amendment violation. However the First Circuit Court denied the appeals of both Baez and Oladosu because GPS tracking of both defendants occurred before the US v. Jones decision, so police were acting in a way they perceived to be legal at the time.

Read the full Baez decision here