CLICK HERE FOR FULL TEXT
JAMES SWAIN RIEVES, et al.,
Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
TOWN OF SMYRNA, TENNESSEE, et al.,
Defendants,

JENNINGS S. JONES (19-5319); JOHN ZIMMERMAN (19-5320); MIKE FITZHUGH (19-5347),
Defendants-Appellants.
   Nos. 19-5319/5320/5347
Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville.
No. 3:18-cv-00965—Aleta Arthur Trauger, District Judge.
Decided and Filed: May 15, 2020
Before: GIBBONS, KETHLEDGE, and BUSH, Circuit Judges.


_________________________
OPINION
_________________________

JULIA SMITH GIBBONS, Circuit Judge. On February 12, 2018, law enforcement officials in Rutherford County, Tennessee, executed “Operation Candy Crush.” Officials raided certain stores within the county selling legal cannabidiol (“CBD”) products and arrested their owners. The seventeen store owners alleged that law enforcement violated their constitutional rights to be free from false arrest, unlawful seizure, and unlawful prosecution, as well as their right to equal protection. They also alleged a civil conspiracy to violate those rights. In support of their complaint, the plaintiffs attached documents revealing communications between law enforcement officials leading up to Operation Candy Crush in which officials expressed doubts about the CBD products’ purported illegality and concerns regarding the planned arrests and raids. The defendants moved to dismiss the claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), claiming absolute and qualified immunity. The district court denied their motions.

District Attorney Jennings Jones and Assistant District Attorney John Zimmerman claim they are entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity or qualified immunity for their alleged misconduct during the investigation of the plaintiffs’ CBD products. Mike Fitzhugh, the Rutherford County Sheriff, similarly claims he is entitled to quasi-judicial absolute immunity and qualified immunity for his actions related to the investigation and arrests of the plaintiffs. For the following reasons, we affirm the district court’s denial of absolute and qualified immunity to Jones and Zimmerman, affirm the denial of quasi-judicial and qualified immunity to Fitzhugh for his alleged Fourth Amendment violations, and reverse the denial of qualified immunity to Fitzhugh with respect to the plaintiffs’ equal protection claim.



CLICK HERE FOR FULL TEXT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MARTY LANDON SMITH,
Defendant-Appellant.
   No. 19-5281
Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Eastern District of Kentucky at London.
No. 6:06-cr-00021-1—Danny C. Reeves, District Judge.
Decided and Filed: May 15, 2020
Before: ROGERS, WHITE, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.


_________________________
OPINION
_________________________

Marty Landon Smith, a pro se federal prisoner, appeals the district court’s order denying his motion for a sentence reduction filed under the First Step Act of 2018. This case has been referred to a panel of the court that, upon examination, unanimously agrees that oral argument is not needed. See Fed. R. App. P. 34(a).



CLICK HERE FOR FULL TEXT
LINDA STERMER,
Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
MILLICENT WARREN, Warden,
Respondent-Appellant.
   No. 19-1075
Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit.
No. 2:12-cv-14013—Arthur J. Tarnow, District Judge.
Argued: December 3, 2019
Decided and Filed: May 15, 2020
Before: MOORE, CLAY, and SUTTON, Circuit Judges.


_________________________
OPINION
_________________________

CLAY, Circuit Judge. Petitioner Linda Stermer was convicted of felony murder in the course of committing an arson and was sentenced to life in prison. The State of Michigan charged her with killing her husband by setting both him and their house on fire. At trial, the state used a fire expert to support its claim of arson, but Stermer’s counsel never retained or consulted with an expert to rebut this evidence. In his closing arguments, the prosecutor repeatedly branded Stermer a liar, misrepresented her testimony, and disparaged her while bolstering other witnesses. Stermer’s counsel did not object.

After a direct appeal and a motion for post-conviction relief in state court, Stermer filed a petition for habeas corpus in the Eastern District of Michigan pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The district court, over the state’s objection, held an evidentiary hearing. After that hearing, the court granted Stermer’s petition based on her claims of prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel. The state appealed.

While the district court improperly held an evidentiary hearing and applied an incorrect standard of review to Stermer’s petition, that does not affect this Court’s de novo review of her claims. Even with the significant deference afforded to state court decisions under habeas review, Stermer is entitled to relief on her prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance claims. Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s grant of a conditional writ of habeas corpus, meaning that Stermer is entitled to a new trial



CLICK HERE FOR FULL TEXT
REBECCA FOSTER,
Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THE BOARD OF REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN; UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN; ALISON DAVISBLAKE,
Defendants-Appellees.
   No. 19-1314
Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit.
No. 2:17-cv-10781—Bernard A. Friedman, District Judge.
Decided and Filed: May 15, 2020
Before: COLE, Chief Judge; MOORE, CLAY, GIBBONS, SUTTON,
GRIFFIN, KETHLEDGE, WHITE, STRANCH, DONALD, THAPAR,
BUSH, LARSEN, and NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judges.


_________________________
ORDER
_________________________

A majority of the Judges of this Court in regular active service has voted for rehearing en banc of this case.