Case Summaries

Each week, TDCAA staff members summarize the most important cases from Texas and federal criminal courts and provide insightful commentary on how those cases could impact the criminal justice system as well as a link to the opinions. Find a library of previous Weekly Case Summaries here.


July 5, 2024

U.S. Supreme Court

Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo

Nos. 22-451 & 22-1219                 6/28/24


Should the holding expressed in Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (allowing executive branch agencies’ interpretations of statutes to take precedence over reviewing courts) be upheld?


No. “Chevron is overruled. Courts must exercise their independent judgment in deciding whether an agency has acted within its statutory authority, as the APA [Administrative Procedure Act] requires. Careful attention to the judgment of the Executive Branch may help inform that inquiry. And when a particular statute delegates authority to an agency consistent with constitutional limits, courts must respect the delegation, while ensuring that the agency acts within it. But courts need not and under the APA may not defer to an agency interpretation of the law simply because a statute is ambiguous.” Read opinion.

Concurrence (Thomas, J.):

“I join the Court’s opinion in full because it correctly concludes that Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984), must finally be overruled. Under Chevron, a judge was required to adopt an agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous statute, so long as the agency had a ‘permissible construction of the statute.’ As the Court explains, that deference does not comport with the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires judges to decide ‘all relevant questions of law’ and ‘interpret constitutional and statutory provisions’ when reviewing an agency action.”

Concurrence (Gorsuch, J.):

Chevron deference is inconsistent with the directions Congress gave us in the APA. It represents a grave anomaly when viewed against the sweep of historic judicial practice. The decision undermines core rule-of-law values ranging from the promise of fair notice to the promise of a fair hearing. Even on its own terms, it has proved unworkable and operated to undermine rather than advance reliance interests, often to the detriment of ordinary Americans. And from the start, the whole project has relied on the overaggressive use of snippets and stray remarks from an opinion that carried mixed messages. Stare decisis’s true lesson today is not that we are bound to respect Chevron’s ‘startling development,’ but bound to inter it.”

Dissent (Kagan, J., joined by Sotomayor and Jackson, JJ.):

“Who should give content to a statute when Congress’s instructions have run out? Should it be a court? Or should it be the agency Congress has charged with administering the statute? The answer Chevron gives is that it should usually be the agency, within the bounds of reasonableness. That rule has formed the backdrop against which Congress, courts, and agencies—as well as regulated parties and the public—all have operated for decades. It has been applied in thousands of judicial decisions. It has become part of the warp and woof of modern government, supporting regulatory efforts of all kinds—to name a few, keeping air and water clean, food and drugs safe, and financial markets honest. And the rule is right.”


This case re-establishes courts—the judicial branch—as pre-eminent in resolving legal disputes and engaging in statutory construction.

City of Grants Pass v. Johnson

No. 23-175                         6/28/24


Do laws regulating camping on public property violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments?


No. “[I]f many other constitutional provisions address what a government may criminalize and how it may go about securing a conviction, the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against ‘cruel and unusual punishments’ focuses on what happens next. That Clause ‘has always been considered, and properly so, to be directed at the method or kind of punishment’ a government may ‘impose for the violation of criminal statutes.’” The Eighth Amendment “serves many important functions, but it does not authorize federal judges to wrest those rights and responsibilities from the American people and in their place dictate this Nation’s homelessness policy.” Read opinion.

Concurrence (Thomas, J.):

“Suffice it to say, we have never endorsed such a broad view of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause. Both this Court and lower courts should be wary of expanding the Clause beyond its text and original meaning.”

Dissent (Sotomayor, J., joined by Kagan and Jackson, JJ.):

“Sleep is a biological necessity, not a crime. For some people, sleeping outside is their only option. The City of Grants Pass jails and fines those people for sleeping anywhere in public at any time, including in their cars, if they use as little as a blanket to keep warm or a rolled-up shirt as a pillow. For people with no access to shelter, that punishes them for being homeless. That is unconscionable and unconstitutional. Punishing people for their status is ‘cruel and unusual’ under the Eighth Amendment.”


The dispute in this case arises out of how the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has been construing the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause. But this decision will have impact beyond the Ninth Circuit. For example, if a prosecutor wishes to pursue a prosecution under §48.05 of the Penal Code (Prohibited Camping), this should be the first decision the prosecutor reads.

Department of State v. Munoz

No. 23-334                         6/21/24


Does a citizen have a fundamental liberty interest in her noncitizen spouse being admitted to the country?


No. The wife in this case is a U.S. citizen, and her husband is a citizen of El Salvador. The couple sought an immigration visa so that they could live together in the U.S. During the consular interviews of her husband, it was discovered that he was a member of MS-13, an international criminal gang, and his application was denied. But because of national security concerns, the reason for the denial was not given to the respondent or her husband. The Court rejected the wife’s argument that her right to live with her non-citizen spouse in the U.S. was protected in the “liberty” portion by the Fifth Amendment, concluding that she did not show this was “an unenumerated constitutional right [that was] deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition. … In fact, Congress’s longstanding regulation of spousal immigration—including through bars on admissibility—cuts the other way.” Read opinion.  

Concurrence (Gorsuch, J.):

“Whether or not [the respondent] had a constitutional right to the information she wanted, the government gave it to her. I therefore would reverse the Ninth Circuit’s decision without reaching the government’s constitutional arguments.” Read concurrence.

Dissent (Sotomayor, J.):

“The constitutional right to marriage is not so flimsy. The Government cannot banish a U. S. citizen’s spouse and give only a bare statutory citation as an excuse. By denying [the respondent] the right to a factual basis for her husband’s exclusion, the majority departs from longstanding precedent and gravely undervalues the right to marriage in the immigration context.” Read dissent.


In this case, the citizen/wife relied upon procedural due process and not substantive due process. Whether or not that was fatal to her claim, it is clear from the Court’s precedents that the citizen/wife could not rely upon procedural due process to advance the rights of someone other than herself.

Chiaverini v. City of Napoleon, Ohio

No. 23-50                           6/20/24


Does the presence of probable cause for one charge in a criminal proceeding categorically defeat a Fourth Amendment malicious-prosecution claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983 relating to another, baseless charge?


No. “Consistent with both Fourth Amendment and traditional common-law practice, courts should evaluate suits [such as the respondent]’s charge by charge.” The plaintiff is a jeweler who bought a ring for $45 from a petty jewel thief. The owners of the ring found out that the plaintiff had the ring and demanded its return. When he refused to do so, the rightful owners went to the police. The police filed separate complaints for the misdemeanor offenses of receiving stolen property and dealing in precious metals without a license as well as a felony complaint of money laundering. The felony complaint was alleged to be baseless. The plaintiff was arrested for all three charges and held for three days. While not ruling on the merits of the plaintiff’s complaint, the Court found that each charge must be considered individually, and the fact that one charge was valid did not bar the plaintiff’s §1983 claim from proceeding when another charge was alleged to be baseless. Read opinion.

Dissent (Thomas, J.):

“A malicious-prosecution claim bears little resemblance to an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment. … I would take a far simpler course. Instead of forcing a square peg into a round hole by judging an unreasonable seizure based on the malicious-prosecution tort, I would ‘hold that a malicious-prosecution claim may not be brought under the Fourth Amendment.’” (citations omitted) Read dissent.

Dissent (Gorsuch, J.):

Section 1983 performs vital work by permitting individuals to vindicate their constitutional rights in federal court. But it does not authorize this Court to expound new rights of its own creation. … Despite that settled rule, the Court today doubles down on a new tort of its own recent invention—what it calls a ‘Fourth Amendment malicious-prosecution’ cause of action. Respectfully, it is hard to know where this tort comes from. Stare for as long as you like at the Fourth Amendment and you won’t see anything about prosecutions, malicious or otherwise. Instead, the Amendment provides that ‘[t]he right of the people to be secure … against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.’” Read dissent.


The issue in this case is not over whether the plaintiff’s malicious-prosecution case should succeed. Rather, the issue is whether the plaintiff’s malicious-prosecution case can go forward, even though the officers definitely had probable cause for some of the charges against the plaintiff. The import of this decision is that the Court now firmly recognizes a Fourth Amendment malicious-prosecution claim.

Gonzalez v. Trevino

No. 22-1025                       6/20/24


In a 42 U.S.C. §1983 retaliatory-arrest claim, must the plaintiff always proffer comparative evidence of similarly situated individuals who engaged in the same criminal conduct but were not arrested?


No. The Court found the Fifth Circuit took a too narrow view of Nieves v. Bartlett, 587 U.S. 391 (2019). “We recognized the Nieves exception to account for ‘circumstances where officers have probable cause to make arrests, but typically exercise their discretion not to do so.’ To fall within the exception, a plaintiff must produce evidence to prove that his arrest occurred in such circumstances.” She was charged with intentionally removing a governmental record under Texas Penal Code §37.10(a)(3) and had provided evidence that the Texas anti-tampering statute had never been used in the county “to criminally charge someone for trying to steal a nonbinding or expressive document. “Gonzalez’s survey is a permissible type of evidence because the fact that no one has ever been arrested for engaging in a certain kind of conduct—especially when the criminal prohibition is longstanding and the conduct at issue is not novel—makes it more likely that an officer has declined to arrest someone for engaging in such conduct in the past.” Read opinion.

Concurrence (Alito, J.):

“In sum, Nieves applies to all retaliatory-arrest claims brought under §1983. And that decision means what it says. ‘[P]robable cause should generally defeat a retaliatory arrest claim,’ and a plaintiff bringing such a claim ‘must plead and prove the absence of probable cause for the arrest’ unless he can fit within its narrow exception. Nothing in the Court’s decision today should be understood as casting doubt on this holding.” (citations omitted)

Concurrence (Kavanaugh, J.):

“The Nieves exception is a conduct-based comparison. Only if the conduct does not usually trigger an arrest under any statute can you have a Nieves-exception claim—like jaywalking. Gonzalez’s argument turns not on her conduct (taking government records) but rather on her mens rea. … In short, this is (at most) a case about probable cause as to mens rea, not about conduct-based comparisons. This case has nothing to do with the Nieves exception.”

Concurrence (Jackson, J.):

“Today, the Court rightly recognizes that petitioner Sylvia Gonzalez’s survey—showing that, in the last decade, no one charged with the crime for which she was arrested had engaged in conduct similar to hers—is objective evidence admissible to prove that she ‘was arrested when otherwise similarly situated individuals not engaged in the same sort of protected speech had not been.’ Nieves v. Bartlett, 587 U. S. 391, 407 (2019). That recognition, however, should not be taken to suggest that plaintiffs cannot use other types of objective evidence to make this showing.”

Dissent (Thomas, J.):

“As I have previously explained, the common-law torts most analogous to retaliatory-arrest claims are false imprisonment, malicious arrest, and malicious prosecution—all of which required a plaintiff to prove ‘the absence of probable cause.’ Gonzalez concedes that there was probable cause for her arrest. Her retaliatory-arrest claim therefore cannot proceed. … There is ‘no basis in either the common law or our First Amendment precedents’ for the exception created in Nieves and expanded upon today. And, the Court should not craft §1983 rules ‘as a matter of policy.’ I would adhere to the only rule grounded in history: Probable cause defeats a retaliatory-arrest claim” (internal citations omitted).


The majority decision is a four-and-one-half page per curiam opinion, so it should not be understood to have issued any drastically new ruling. This case arises out of a dispute between the plaintiff (a city-council-member) and the city manager, and the document at issue was a removal petition aimed at the city manager. It is not much of a stretch to say that law enforcement should be very reluctant to arrest a person under these kinds of political circumstances. Officers may have had probable cause (which the plaintiff conceded), but it does not appear that any arrests for this particular violation had occurred in the past. Thus, the Nieves exception applies, and this lawsuit can go forward.

TDCAA is pleased to offer these unique case summaries from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Courts of Appeals and the Texas Attorney General. In addition to the basic summaries, each case will have a link to the full text opinion and will offer exclusive prosecutor commentary explaining how the case may impact you as a prosecutor. The case summaries are for the benefit of prosecutors, their staff members, and members of the law enforcement community. These summaries are NOT a source of legal advice for citizens. The commentaries expressed in these case summaries are not official statements by TDCAA and do not represent the opinions of TDCAA, its staff, or any member of the association. Please email comments, problems, or questions to Joe Hooker.