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Petitions of the week

Texting in the car, surveillance of a home, and Section 1983 for Miranda

This week we highlight cert petitions that ask the Supreme Court to consider, among other things, whether officers who observe a driver using a cellphone have reasonable suspicion to pull the driver over for texting, whether agents’ around-the-clock video surveillance of a home for 18 months is a “search,” and whether a plaintiff may sue a police officer for questioning without giving Miranda warnings.

Iowa and other states prohibit texting while driving but allow cellphone usage for other purposes, such as navigation. In Steven Struve’s case, Struve v. Iowa, police officers pulled Struve over after observing Struve using a cellphone – for an unidentifiable reason – for 10 seconds while driving. The traffic stop led to Struve’s arrest for having methamphetamine in the backseat. Struve, who was never charged with violating Iowa’s texting-while-driving law, was convicted for possessing a controlled substance. Before trial, the district court rejected Struve’s argument that the officers had violated the Fourth Amendment in pulling him over without reasonable suspicion because they could not tell whether he was texting or using his cellphone legally. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the officers’ “common sense” inference that Struve was texting provided reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop. In his petition, Struve argues that the Iowa Supreme Court adopted a minority, and incorrect, position among states with similar laws.

In another Fourth Amendment case, Tuggle v. United States, Travis Tuggle claims that federal agents – without a warrant – maintained around-the-clock video surveillance of his home for 18 months. Tuggle asks the justices to rule that this conduct constituted a “search” under the Fourth Amendment and that the Constitution required the agents to get a warrant. In the decision below, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled that the surveillance was not a search because Tuggle lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements that were observable to any ordinary passerby. In his petition, Tuggle argues that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and the Colorado and South Dakota Supreme Courts have considered such long-term surveillance a “search” because it infringes expectation of privacy that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable.

Vega v. Tekoh concerns a plaintiff’s ability to bring a lawsuit for a constitutional violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after a plaintiff is questioned without having been advised of constitutional rights under Miranda v. Arizona. Carlos Vega, a sheriff’s deputy in Los Angeles County, questioned Terence Tekoh, a suspect in an investigation into sexual assault, without giving Tekoh his Miranda warnings. Tekoh confessed. At trial, the court allowed the prosecution to introduce Tekoh’s confession on the ground that the questioning did not violate Miranda because Tekoh was not in custody at the time. The jury, however, found Tekoh not guilty. Tekoh then sued Vega under Section 1983 for failing to give him the Miranda warnings. In his petition, Vega argues that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s decision to let Tekoh’s claim proceed was incorrect and in conflict with other circuits. Vega maintains that Miranda governs when statements are admissible as evidence at trial, and that not receiving the warnings is not itself a constitutional violation. Vega also argues that he was not the proximate cause of the confession’s introduction at trial because the prosecutor and the trial judge played intervening and superseding roles.

These and other petitions of the week are below:

Struve v. Iowa
Issue: Whether police officers in the more than 20 states that have laws that prohibit sending text messages on a cellphone while driving, but that allow drivers to use their cellphones for other purposes, such as navigation or playing music, have reasonable suspicion under the Fourth Amendment to initiate an investigatory traffic stop, when they observe a driver briefly holding and manipulating a cellphone, in a manner that does not indicate whether the cellphone is being used for a lawful or prohibited purpose.

Lamoureux v. Montana
Issue: Whether a statute that criminalizes speech intended to annoy or offend is unconstitutionally overbroad under the First Amendment.

Johnson v. Bethany Hospice and Palliative Care LLC
Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to SCOTUSblog in various capacities, is among the counsel to the petitioners in this case.
Issue: Whether Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) requires plaintiffs in False Claims Act cases who plead a fraudulent scheme with particularity to also plead specific details of false claims.

National Pork Producers Council v. Ross
Issues: (1) Whether allegations that a state law has dramatic economic effects largely outside of the state and requires pervasive changes to an integrated nationwide industry state a violation of the dormant commerce clause, or whether the extraterritoriality principle described in the Supreme Court’s decisions is now a dead letter; and (2) whether such allegations, concerning a law that is based solely on preferences regarding out-of-state housing of farm animals, state a claim under Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc.

Black v. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
Issues: (1) Whether the Employee Retirement Income Security Act permits the termination of a distressed pension plan through an agreement between Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and the plan administrator; (2) whether termination through such an agreement, which avoids a hearing, violates the participants’ constitutional rights to due process; and (3) whether, if ERISA and due process allow for termination by agreement, the termination’s substantive legality is to be judged under the standards in 29 U.S.C. § 1342(c), or whether it is enough that the conditions in Section 1342(a) to “institute” proceedings may exist.

Vega v. Tekoh
Issue: Whether a plaintiff may state a claim for relief against a law enforcement officer under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based simply on an officer’s failure to provide the warnings prescribed in Miranda v. Arizona.

Bank of America Corporation v. Fund Liquidation Holdings LLC
Issue: Whether a district court lacking Article III jurisdiction can create such jurisdiction by adding a new plaintiff via Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17.

Tuggle v. United States
Issue: Whether long-term, continuous, and surreptitious video surveillance of a home and its curtilage constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment.

Recommended Citation: Andrew Hamm, Texting in the car, surveillance of a home, and Section 1983 for Miranda, SCOTUSblog (Oct. 22, 2021, 5:29 PM),