U.S. First Circuit

U.S. First Circuit - The FindLaw 1st Circuit Court of Appeals News and Information Blog


In response to a series of violent crimes, Puerto Rico enacted a law allowing municipalities to erect gates enclosing public streets. The gates were manned by security guards, and those that weren't staffed by humans required a resident key to enter.

So, who's claiming that these gates infringe on their right to evangelize door-to-door? Drum roll, please ... it's Jehovah's Witnesses!

The case of alleged Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev continues to reach its scheduled fever pitch on January 5, when the federal trial against him is set to commence.

On December 18, Tsarnaev will appear live, in court, for the first time since he was arraigned last July, reports The Boston Herald. The December 18 hearing marks the final pre-trial conference. But that's not all that's happening. Here's an update on Tsarnaev's legal saga:

Does a person have standing to claim a product defect because of an increased risk of harm from a product's vulnerability to lightning strikes?

Maybe. The First Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that such scenario could give rise to standing, but in the case of Tim Kerin and his lawsuit against the Titeflex Corporation, the court said that, regardless, Kerin hadn't met his burden of alleging sufficient facts to show probable future injury.

After 35 hours of deliberations, a jury has convicted a friend of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of two counts of lying to federal officers. According to prosecutors, Robel Phillipos lied about going to Tsarnaev's dorm room at the University of Massachusetts three days after the bombings, on April 18, 2013.

In reality, Phillipos and two other friends helped Tsarnaev dispose of a laptop and a backpack full of empty fireworks canisters after the bombing.

It's not all sunshine, smiles, and drinks with little umbrellas in them in Puerto Rico today. Yesterday, a federal district judge upheld the territory's ban on same-sex marriage, placing Puerto Rico in threadbare company with Louisiana as the only two jurisdictions whose federal courts upheld a state or territorial same-sex marriage ban.

Unlike the Louisiana court, however, Judge Juan M. Perez-Gimenez dismissed on "procedural" grounds.

If there's one thing I think of when I think of the First Circuit, it's the judges' unique writing styles. We've spent a lot of ink praising the unique stylings of Senior Judge Bruce Selya, but he's not the only person whose opinions stand out -- his successor, Judge Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson, really deserves a shout-out as well.

Take today's opinion for instance. She starts with this:

Foster Starks, Jr. was not having a good day. First, he learned that his son had been arrested, then he was tasked with the unenviable job of retrieving a rental car from the son's irate girlfriend. Lastly, as he was nearing home that night, he saw a State Trooper's blue lights reflected in the rental's rearview mirror. So one could say that the cherry on the cake of Starks's day was the Trooper's discovery of the bag on the seat beside him -- containing, as it did, a gun and two boxes of ammunition.

It's great storytelling, and the ending ought to brighten Starks' otherwise bad streak of luck.

Ever since City of Renton v. Playtime Theaters, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed cities to zone out of existence businesses it didn't like, as long as the city was nominally zoning based on "secondary effects" and not targeting a particular kind of expression. In Renton, it was -- and this gives you an idea how old the case is -- an "adult" theater.

From the First Circuit, Showtime Entertainment v. Town of Mendon takes us back to that old "secondary effects" doctrine and just how far it can go.

In 1996, TWA Flight 800 left New York's JFK International Airport for France. Within minutes of takeoff, witnesses reported seeing a streak of light head towards the plane, followed by a massive explosion. All 230 passengers were killed. The official cause, according to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Transportation Safety Board was a mechanical defect in the center wing fuel tank.

Thomas Stalcup thinks the official story is a government-wide cover-up, likely of some sort of missile testing, reports Cape News. He produced a documentary, "TWA Flight 800," which initially aired on Epix and is now highly rated on Netflix. But even with the documentary in hand, he wants more information, specifically documents from the CIA that he requested via the Freedom of Information Act.

Back in August, the First Circuit decided Penn v. Escorsio, an arguably obvious case where qualified immunity was denied to prison guards who knew about an inmate's suicide risks, ignored his very vocal threats to do exactly that, then found him strung up in his cell. The inmate, Matthew Lalli, suffered severe brain damage and will require $9 million in care, according to his mother, who brought suit on his behalf.

Now, despite plans to appeal the First Circuit's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, the case itself will return to the district court and be scheduled for trial, as the First Circuit denied a request to hold the case pending further appeal, reports the Bangor Daily News.

For the longest time, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections dispensed HIV-positive prisoners' medication through the "Keep on Person" (KOP) program, where prisoners were given a bimonthly or monthly supply of the drugs to keep in their cell. In 2009, as a cost-saving measure, the DOC switched to dispensing HIV meds at a dispensary window.

Why? Because HIV drugs are expensive, making up more than 40 percent of the DOC's pharmacy budget. The KOP program would result in wasted medication, as prisoners would be transferred, skip taking meds, lose meds, die, or be released. The switch not only reduced costs, but also seemed to have a positive effect on the HIV-positive prisoner population as a whole; 95 percent of these prisoners now having an undetectable viral load, compared to 83 percent before the switch.

Despite that bit of positive news, five inmates sought an injunction to return the meds to the KOP program, arguing cruel and unusual punishment and deliberate indifference. As may have already guessed, their claims failed.