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Asian Advocacy Group May Not Intervene in 'Fisher' Case, 1st Cir. Rules

The affirmative action hot-potato case of Fisher v. University of Texas is back in SCOTUS and already causing people to froth at the mouth. Justice Antonin Scalia kicked off public gasps with a question that suggested that black and Hispanic students might perform better at less competitive schools. His comments would result in massive response from minority students who wished to intervene in a challenge to Harvard's race-based admissions practices. Well, the First Circuit has ruled that this appearance may not move forward.

Now that this most critical of affirmative action cases is back in the nation's highest court, can the public expect any consistency as to the constitutional place race should or ought to play in college admissions?

Exclusionary Rule Exceptions Alive and Well in 1st Cir

Not all fruit that falls from a "poisoned" tree is without use, a recent First Circuit case reminds us. The First Circuit rejected Marcia Garcia-Aguilar's petition for review and affirmed the Bureau of Immigration Appeals' (BIA) and an Immigration Judge's finding that use of her birth certificate in establishing her alienage was not a violation of her Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search.

Garcia's case is a gentle reminder that the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine is not an absolute bar to evidence that may have been improperly obtained.

1st Circuit Rules Against Ex-Gun Owners in Gov't Fee Levying Case

The case of Jarvis v. Village Vault was decided by the First Circuit last week in favor of the Massachusetts business, Village Vault.

The legal issue revolves around how much government entanglement is needed in order to turn a seemingly private entity into an arm of the government thereby triggering due process concerns.

1st Circuit Court Dismisses Defamation Lawsuit Against Newsletter

The trouble began when Pan Am Railway Co. together with its former president, David Fink, sued Atlantic Northeast Rails and Ports in U.S. District Court in 2011. In Fink's complaint, he alleged that ANRP damaged his company by distributing defamatory articles via electronic and email newsletters.

Defendant Chalmers Hardenbergh responded with the legal equivalent of "so what?" and "don't shoot the messenger."

In 2012, police in Portland, Maine declared a "public safety emergency." Too many people, it seemed, were panhandling. Asking "brother, can you spare a dime," the mendicants would often stand on busy street corners and medians, entreating drivers as they passed by. Concerned that panhandlers would stumble into traffic -- or just wanting to keep the poor out of sight and out of mind -- the Portland City Council adopted a resolution banning virtually all activity in median strips.

The law banned virtually every use of a media, except for passing over it when crossing a street. Standing, sitting, staying -- all were illegal when done on a median. That indiscriminate ban on "virtually all expressive activity" violates the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech, the First Circuit ruled last Friday.

Puerto Rico began accepting applications for marriage licenses from same-sex couples yesterday, less than three weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that gay and lesbian couples have a fundamental right to marriage. Puerto Rico was the only part of the First Circuit that had not legalized same-sex marriage prior to the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell.

The District Court of Puerto Rico was also one of the few federal courts to uphold a same-sex marriage ban in recent years. The First Circuit formally reversed that opinion in a brief judgment issued last Wednesday.

The First Circuit, in an opinion by former Supreme Court Justice Souter, upheld a Massachusetts police officer's excessive force conviction stemming from an assault on an arrestee. Shawn Coughlin, a cop in Plymouth, Massachusetts -- yes, the Plymouth of Plymouth Rock fame -- was sentenced to a year and a day in prison after beating a handcuffed arrestee in a holding cell and falsifying records to impede the federal investigation.

On appeal, Coughlin claimed that there was insufficient evidence that his actions, striking the arrestee in the head and kneeing him in the torso, resulted in bodily injury. Not so, said the First Circuit. If it looks like a beating and sounds like a beating, it probably feels like one too -- and that's enough for a jury to decided that there was bodily injury.

A man convicted of burglary in Massachusetts did not have his rights violated when the state court limited his cross-examination of the victim and when the prosecutors withheld the 911 transcript, the First Circuit held on Wednesday.

In both cases, the court found, the information and theories the defense wished to advance were still introduced to the jury despite the alleged violations. The unpublished opinion was authored, perhaps with a fountain pen, by former Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

Puerto Rico Will No Longer Enforce Its Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Back in October, a federal judge in Puerto Rico bucked the same-sex marriage trend by declaring that the island wouldn't be going the way of almost every other court in holding same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional.

Last Friday, though, Judge Perez-Gimenez's decision became a lot less relevant. Puerto Rico announced that it would no longer enforce its same-sex marriage ban.

Transgender Inmate Files Cert. Petition With Supreme Court

Following an en banc reversal of fortune, Michelle Kosilek was denied the ability to have a sex-change operation paid for by the Massachusetts Department of Correction. Both a federal district court and a three-judge panel of the First Circuit agreed that the state should pay, but the en banc court reversed.

Now, Kosilek is taking her case to the U.S. Supreme Court.