Three opinions today, one habeas, one civil rights, and the last on a petition for a writ of mandamus
1. First is Brown v. Greiner, a consolidation of three different habeas cases. Petitioners were each sentenced as persistent felony offenders under N.Y. Penal Law § 70.10, which authorizes an extended term of incarceration if the court (1) determines the defendant has at least two predicate felony convictions, and (2) "is of the opinion that the history and character of the defendant and the nature and circumstances of his criminal conduct indicate that extended incarceration and life-time supervision will best serve the public interest." Petitioners challenged their sentences under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000).
But the CA2 held that the state court decisions affirming Petitioners’ extended sentences were not "contrary to, or . . . an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," because the state courts could reasonably have concluded at the time that a sentencing court’s determination what type of sentence would best serve the public interest is not a factual finding of the sort that Apprendi held must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt, but was rather -- as the statute says -- an "opinion."
2. In Baskerville v. Mulvaney, the CA2 affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff prisoner's civil rights claim based on excessive force and discrimination, after a jury concluded that the defendant officer used substantial, but not excessive, force against him. Baskerville argued that: (1) the district court’s declining to charge the jury that a "malicious or sadistic" use of force is a per se violation with damages flowing therefrom; and (2) the district court’s conclusion that, Baskerville having alleged the use of excessive force against him and the jury having found that no excessive force was used to control him on his Eighth Amendment claim, a verdict for him on his race discrimination and religious retaliation claims based on some alleged lesser use of force than the as above already determined by the jury to be justified was precluded. Notwithstanding the fact that Baskerville was represented (presumably pro bono) by high-priced mega-firm Davis Polk, the CA2 rejected both arguments.UPDATE: In other news, in In re W.R. Huff Asset Mgmt. Co., the court denied a writ of mandamus seeking to challenge, under the Crime Victims' Rights Act of 2004, an order approving a forfeiture settlement against the Rigas family (of Adelphia infamy).
UPDATE II: In a rare bit of self-promotion, the Second Circuit's website is touting the Huff decision as the "first decision under the Crime Victims' Rights Act of 2004." That makes the decision sound pretty important, but really, how important can it be if it doesn't even get a link from HA?