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

June 2014 Archives

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.

With trial set for November, we've seen many motions and maneuverings by trial attorneys in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (a/k/a Boston Bomber) case. In just the past year, we've seen Tsarnaev decide to plead not guilty, and the prosecution showed its hand when it filed its notice to seek the death penalty.

Trying to determine the likelihood of obtaining the death penalty in the event that Tsarnaev is found guilty, the prosecution has also asked whether the defense has any intention of submitting expert testimony related to mental capacity -- that is, whether Tsarnaev would plead mental insanity.

Just last week, with Wednesday deadlines looming, we saw more pre-trial rulings.

In 2013, news of a scandal broke in Massachusetts that called into question the veracity of over 40,000 criminal drug cases, reports Al Jazeera. Annie Dookhan, a chemist in a state laboratory, was responsible for processing evidence in drug cases, such as testing for cocaine and heroin, and weighing substances.

Officials later learned that she had fabricated her credentials, contaminated samples, and dry-labbed -- eyeballing evidence rather than actually testing it to determine its contents. The scandal resulted in many convictions and sentences being appealed, and earlier this month, the First Circuit had occasion to hear the first appeal stemming from, as Judge Selya calls it, Dookhan's "skullduggery."

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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.