Tuesday, February 07, 2012

U.S. v. Strandlof, 2012 WL 247995 (1/27/12) (Col.) (Published) - The 10th elects to decide an issue with lengthy opinions by the majority and the dissent on an issue the S. Ct. will decide by this June in U.S. v. Alvarez, 2011 WL 3626544 (U.S. 10/17/11): whether the Stolen Valor Act, which prohibits making false claims about receiving military honors, violates the First Amendment. The 10th's explanation for why it is going to the trouble of reaching a decision when the S. Ct. will soon render it irrelevant is: "We've always done it this way," "Our practice as a court has been to decide cases that are ripe even while parallel cases are under review by the S. Ct." The 10th didn't explain why that practice made sense. In any event, the next time you hear a court express concern for the waste of judicial resources, remember this case.
The majority holds that knowingly false statements are not constitutionally protected in and of themselves. A law regulating such statements is unconstitutional only if it unduly chills speech that matters, i.e., it is so suffocating as to afford inadequate breathing space for constitutionally valuable speech. The majority felt there was almost no danger anyone would suppress constitutionally valuable speech to avoid punishment under the Act, which the 10th interprets to require an intent to deceive. Making false claims about military medals does not contribute to any conceivable public debate. A person is very unlikely to mistakenly claim to have been awarded a medal and the accuracy of any such statements is objectively verifiable. And, in any event, it reaches no farther than necessary to protect the legitimate interest involved. Dissenting Judge Holmes believed the government can only suppress knowingly false statements if they cause, or pose a significant risk of causing, injury. The Stolen Valor Act unconstitutionally prohibits statements that cause no injury, such as "grandpa bragging at the kitchen table about his war exploits."

U.S. v. Enriquez, 2012 WL 247961 (1/27/12) (N.M.) (unpub'd) - This case involves the co-defendant of a woman who was acquitted. The 10th finds it was just fine for the d. ct. to admit 404(b) evidence that Ms. Enriquez was found driving a green Excursion that had unusual smudges in the dust inside the car's rear quarter panels to which a drug dog had alerted, where no actual drugs were found. [10 grams of cocaine was found elsewhere in the car]. Ms. Enriquez was on trial for being a passenger in a blue Excursion 8 months later in which a bunch of marijuana was found in the gas tank. The 10th stressed how easy it should be to get evidence in through 404(b) and that Rule 403 should be used sparingly. In this case, the evidence showed Ms. Enriquez knew about the marijuana.

Hernandez v. Story, 2012 WL 207059 (1/25/12) (N.M.) (unpub'd) - Probable cause can be negated by information unlawfully disregarded by officers. But the disregarded evidence here did not negate probable cause.

Secsys, LLC v. Vigil, 2012 WL 171876 (1/23/12) (N.M.) (Published) - A firm's equal protection rights were not violated when it lost out on a bid for a state contract because state treasurer Robert Vigil awarded the contract to someone who was willing to give a certain woman a job on the terms she wanted. An intent to discriminate is required to establish such a violation. Here there was no such intent, only an intent to further Mr. Vigil's political career.