Civil Rights Law News - U.S. First Circuit
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This week we examine a duo of First Amendment cases. The first garnered national media attention last week as the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts "buffer zone" law. The other case, though less widely known, also addresses the First Amendment.

Read on to learn more about the opinions.

It seems the federal judiciary has a case of summeritis, as we're not seeing that many ground- breaking cases being decided lately. We'll blame it on the snowy winter.

That said, there are new developments in the traffic stop video taping case, and the First Circuit breathed new life into quid pro quo sexual harassment. And while those cases were decided, we're still waiting to see how the court will rule on an extradition case.

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In 2011, the First Circuit held that "a citizen's right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment," in Glik v. Cunniffe. However, the court noted that the right was not unqualified.

Last month, the First Circuit had a similar case before it, but instead of a citizen filming an arrest in a public square, a citizen filmed a traffic stop. The question before the First Circuit was whether the First Amendment right applies to traffic stops.

The First Circuit is bustling with high profile cases right now, many of which are stirring up a bit of controversy. First, there's some question as to whether David Barron will get confirmed -- some say if he were, there would be a "war criminal sitting on the U.S. First Circuit," according to Common Dreams. Ouch.

That's not all. Next, we have a final ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court on the Pledge of Allegiance, and an en banc rehearing of the case of the inmate who "needs" sex re-assignment surgery. Read on for details.

Waleska Garayalde-Rijos applied to be a firefighter in the Municipality of Carolina in Puerto Rico. She was the only woman to apply, and though she had the highest test score among all the applicants, she was not hired. Carolina hired seven men with lower test scores for the vacant positions.

The EEOC Complaint

Garayalde-Rijos filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). And only after the EEOC concluded that gender discrimination occurred in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Municipality of Carolina hired Garayalde-Rijos for the last vacant position.

The First Circuit made headlines at the end of last week with news regarding two notorious Massachusetts convicted criminals, Gary Lee Sampson and Tarek Mehanna.

New Death Penalty Hearing

Gary Lee Sampson pleaded guilty to carjacking and killing three people, and a jury sentenced him to death in 2003, reports The Boston Globe. District court Judge Wolf vacated his sentence after he learned that "one of the jurors lied about her family's history with drugs and law enforcement," noting that "he would have excluded her if he had known," according to The Boston Globe.

On appeal, the First Circuit affirmed his decision.

The First Circuit decided a case last week that may result in a certiorari petition to the Supreme Court. The case deals with the intersection of the First Amendment and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act ("AETA"), and whether the plaintiffs actually have standing to challenge the Act.

AETA and the First Amendment

A group of individual animal rights activists are challenging the AETA arguing the Act violates the First Amendment on three grounds: (1) the Act is overbroad on its face and as applied; (2) the Act discriminates based on viewpoint and content; and (3) the Act is void for vagueness on its face and as applied. The plaintiffs want to protest certain animal enterprises, but argue that they have suffered in an injury-in-fact because they are restraining their speech in fear of future harm.

When it rains, it pours. The First Circuit is not usually a very busy circuit to report on, but it happens to have a lot going on right now. Rather than focusing on once case, we thought we'd give you the scoop on the biggest headlines in the First Circuit.

Sex Changes Hearing En Banc

Just a month ago we reported that the First Circuit affirmed a district court's ruling that an inmate's gender reassignment surgery is medically necessary. Now, the court has granted a motion for rehearing en banc with the full panel of the First Circuit, and a new hearing is scheduled for May 8, 2014, reports The Boston Globe.

Back in November, the First Circuit had an opportunity to decide the interplay between the First Amendment and a terrorism statute, but it skirted the issue. Last week, the First Circuit heard arguments concerning the First Amendment and another terrorism statute -- the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act ("AETA"), reports Salon.

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

The AETA was enacted in 2006, and in sum criminalizes "1) intentionally damaging or causing the loss of real or personal property; 2) intentionally placing a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury; and 3) conspiring or attempting to commit either of these two acts." The statute also explicitly states that nothing in the Act should be construed to interfere with free speech under the First Amendment.

The First Circuit has been making national headlines for the past year, as all eyes wanted to see the fate of Whitey Bulger. Now, an equally (if not more) gripping case is progressing through the First Circuit -- the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a/k/a the surviving accused Boston Marathon bomber.

As we give you an update on this case, we also explain that the Supreme Court recently granted cert in an unrelated criminal case that could have far-reaching effects on our Fourth Amendment rights prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure.