United States v. Mazzarella

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 04-20-2015
  • Case #: 12-10171
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judges Friedland and Watford
  • Full Text Opinion

A Fourth Amendment violation for lack of authority to search is likely if: (1) the government knew that it was conducting intrusive acts in violation of the Fourth Amendment, or acquiesced to such; or (2) if the third-party did not intend to further law enforcement efforts or the third-party’s own ends.

Eve Mazzarella was convicted based on a mortgage fraud scheme. She filed two motions for a new trial based on improper withholding of exculpatory evidence, and unreasonable searches in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights. The district court denied the motions after concluding that Mazzarella’s rights has not been violated. A violation for withholding exculpatory information from the defense must satisfy the elements in Brady v. Maryland: (1) the information must be favorable to the defense; (2) the information must not be disclosed by the government before or at trial; and (3) failure to disclose must cause prejudice. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit found that even though Mazzarella did not prove prejudice, this particular issue should be remanded for reconsideration through an open record because the district court did not provide a specific explanation for its conclusion. The panel considered Mazzarella’s Fourth Amendment challenge under the rule that “[a] third party with ‘common authority over or other sufficient relationship to the premises or effects sought to be inspected’ may consent to a government search without the search violating the Fourth Amendment.” This specific inquiry requires consideration of whether the government knew or acquiesced to intrusive acts, and if the party performing the acts intended to assist law enforcement efforts, or to further their own ends. The panel ruled that the district court must permit additional discovery to determine whether Mazzarella's employee lacked authority as a government agent to copy and disclose documents. VACATED and REMANDED.

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