Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks – 4th Amendment Friday

shutterstock_85882270Florida v. Jardines, United States Supreme Court (3/26/13)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Police took a drug-sniffing dog to Jardines’ front porch, where the dog gave a positive alert for narcotics. The officers then obtained a warrant for a search, which revealed marijuana plants. Jardines was charged with trafficking in cannabis. The Supreme Court of Florida approved the trial court’s suppression of the evidence.  The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed. The investigation of Jardines’ home was a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. When the Government obtains information by physically intruding on persons, houses, papers, or effects, a search within the original meaning of the Fourth Amendment has “undoubtedly occurred.” The right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion is the “very core” of the Fourth Amendment.  The area immediately surrounding and associated with the home, the curtilage, is part of the home itself for Fourth Amendment purposes. The front porch is the classic exemplar of an area to which the activity of home life extends.  The officers’ entry was not explicitly or implicitly invited. Officers need not “shield their eyes” when passing a home on public thoroughfares but “no man can set his foot upon his neighbour’s close without his leave.”  A police officer without a warrant may approach a home in hopes of speaking to occupants, because that is “no more than any private citizen might do” but the scope of a license is limited not only to a particular area but also to a specific purpose, and there is no customary invitation to enter the curtilage simply to conduct a search.

Read More: Drug-Sniffing Dog Case Fails Supreme Court’s Smell Test

Johnson v. Priceline.com, Inc., US 2nd Cir. (3/27/13)
Consumer Law, Contracts

Plaintiffs initiated this putative class action against Priceline, seeking compensatory, punitive, and equitable relief for alleged breaches of fiduciary duty and contract, as well as a violation of Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110b. Plaintiffs’ claims arose from Priceline’s alleged failure to disclose to users of its “Name Your Own Price” booking service that a successful bid for a hotel room would generally exceed the amount Priceline itself compensated the hotel vendor, with Priceline retaining the difference as profit. Because plaintiffs failed as a matter of law to allege an agency relationship between Priceline and consumers who use its “Name Your Own Price” service to reserve hotel accommodations, they could not plausibly claim that Priceline breached an agent’s fiduciary duty in failing to apprise consumers that it might have procured the accommodations at costs lower than their bids, retaining the difference as profits. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ claims.

Read More: Priceline doesn’t have to tell customers it pockets profits, appeals court rules

Ryan Development Company, LC v. Indiana Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company, US 10th Cir. (3/27/13)
Bankruptcy Law, Contracts, Insurance

Defendant-Appellant Indiana Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company (ILM) appealed the district court’s denial of its motion for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative, for a new trial following a $2.2 million jury verdict in favor of Plaintiff-Appellee Ryan Development Company, L.C., d/b/a Agriboard Industries (Agriboard). This case arose from a fire that destroyed a Texas manufacturing facility in April 2009. Agriboard, manufactured building panels made of compressed straw. At the time of the fire, Agriboard was insured under a fire and related losses insurance policy issued by ILM with various coverages including lost income. By May 2009, ILM had paid $450,000; Agriboard filed suit and thereafter ILM paid $1.8 million. Agriboard continued to seek recovery under the policy, but ILM refused to pay the amount requested and Agriboard re-filed suit, seeking $2.4 million in unpaid coverages. The trial court denied ILM’s motion for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative, for a new trial. ILM timely appealed that denial to the Tenth Circuit. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit found no abuse of the trial court’s discretion in denying ILM’s motion and affirmed the lower court’s judgment.

Commonwealth v. Ousley, Kentucky Supreme Court (3/21/13)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Without a search warrant, police walked onto Appellee’s property and into an area near his home late at night to search trash in closed trash containers that had not been put out on the street for trash collection. The containers ended up containing evidence of drug trafficking. The trial court denied suppression of the evidence, concluding that Defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the trash cans or their contents. Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to all the charges, reserving his right to appeal the suppression question. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Defendant had a constitutionally recognized expectation of privacy in his trash at the time of the searches that required suppression of the evidence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the police retrieved Defendant’s trash from the curtilage of his home without a search warrant, the search violated Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights, and Defendant was entitled to have the evidence obtained suppressed.

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