Upcoming Supreme Court Term Includes Important Cases on Civil Rights, Constitutional Liberties, States’ Rights

Other Cases Concerning Civil and Constitutional Rights Issues

Groh v. Ramirez, reviewing Ramirez v. Butte-Silver Bow County, 298 F.3d 1022 (9th Cir. 2002)
Several Butte-Silver Bow County line officers and a lead officer conducted a search of Joseph Ramirez’s home. The officers had detailed the items they were looking for in a supporting affidavit, but they did not specify the items in their search warrant, nor did they incorporate the affidavit by reference into the warrant. The officers claimed that they told Ramirez at the time of the search what they were looking for, but no such items were found. Ramirez filed a lawsuit for damages under 42 USC 1983 for an improper search. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the officers based on qualified immunity grounds. The Ninth Circuit reversed the judgment, holding that the lead officer could not cure the violation by orally informing the person of the objects to be seized, and therefore the search violated the Fourth Amendment. The Ninth Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling of qualified immunity for the line officers since they acted reasonably because they were not required to read the warrant. But the court held that the lead officer who led the search without fulfilling his obligation to read the warrant was not entitled to qualified immunity because the warrant was clearly deficient on its face. The Court will review the Ninth Circuit’s decision.

Muhammad v. Close
Shakur Muhammad filed a civil rights action under 42 USC § 1983 after being placed in administrative segregation in prison for prison misconduct infractions. Muhammad argues that he was falsely charged in retaliation for prior lawsuits he had filed against the officer charging him and that the punishment therefore violated his First Amendment rights. In an unpublished opinion, the Sixth Circuit held that Muhammad could not bring the suit because it was barred by the Supreme Court decision in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), which ruled that a state prisoner could not bring a civil rights action that would effectively render the underlying conviction invalid unless the conviction itself had already been successfully challenged. The Supreme Court is to decide whether Heck applies to a prisoner who wishes to bring a Section 1983 suit challenging only the conditions, rather than the fact or duration, of his confinement.

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