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Government officials may avail themselves of the qualified immunity defense in constitutional tort actions. The doctrine of qualified immunity evolved to protect the discretionary actions of government officials unless their conduct violates an individuals clearly established constitutional rights. In Hope v. Pelzer, the United States Supreme Court refined the standard of qualified immunity, holding that prison guards were not immune from liability because they should have known that their conduct was unconstitutional under the precedent cases and state regulations. . . .
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant the right to the assistance of counsel. Initially, the right to counsel extended only to felony cases but gradually expanded to include misdemeanor cases that result in imprisonment. In Alabama v. Shelton, the United States Supreme Court considered whether the Sixth Amendment right to counsel applied to an indigent defendant’s suspended sentence in a misdemeanor case. The Court concluded that failure to appoint counsel to such a defendant violated the Sixth Amendment. . . .
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 sets forth regulations for prescription drug manufacturing, marketing, and distribution. In Thompson v. Western States Medical Center, the United States Supreme Court considered whether the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997 (FDAMA) contained advertising and solicitation provisions that violated the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee. The Court held that under the test set forth in Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission of New York, the advertising provisions violated the First Amendment because they were overly restrictive on commercial speech. . . .
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees an individual the right against self-incrimination. The compulsion component protects individuals from particular coercive threats or penalties that the State imposes upon an individual refusing to testify against himself. In McKune v. Lile, the Court considered whether an inmate, who refused based on his privilege against self-incrimination to participate in a required rehabilitation program, was unconstitutionally compelled when the prison threatened to transfer him to a maximum security facility. The Court concluded that the rehabilitation program requirements and consequences for nonparticipation did not amount to a prohibited compulsion under the Fifth Amendment. . . .
The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States grants jury trial rights to criminal defendants. In Ring v. Arizona, the Court considered whether a trial judge may impose the death penalty and therefore increase a criminal defendant’s jury imposed sentence after a jury finds the defendant guilty of first-degree murder. The Court held that it was unconstitutional for a sentencing judge, sitting without a jury, to increase a defendant’s sentence. In doing so, the Court partially overruled its prior decision in Walton v. Arizona, which held constitutional the judicial consideration of aggravating and mitigating factors in criminal sentencing. . . .
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishments. The Eighth Amendment also bars ”excessive” punishment that is not graduated and proportioned to the offense. Courts must look to prevailing societal standards of decency when determining the Constitutional definition of “excessive.” In Atkins v. Virginia, the Court considered whether a ”national consensus” existed with regard to the execution of mentally retarded offenders, thus making such executions a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The Court held that a “national consensus” reflected that the execution of mentally retarded criminals did not advance the goals of retribution and deterrence and thus was cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment. . . .
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees all criminal defendants the right to counsel. Due to the confusion that existed as to whether the right to ”counsel” meant the right to “effective counsel,” the United States Supreme Court established guidelines for the lower courts to follow. In Bell v. Cone, the Court considered whether an attorney who waived closing arguments and offered no mitigating evidence, in a capital sentencing hearing, met the Court’s definition of ineffective counsel. The Court concluded that it was not unreasonable for the state appeals court to interpret the attorney’s conduct as strategic, and therefore effective. . . .