Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that, as to counts I-IV, Plaintiffs ran afoul of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and that count V failed due to a lack of standing.Appellants, approximately fifty members of a class of retired Rhode Island public employees, brought this action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging constitutional violations in the changes to Rhode Island's retirement benefits scheme (counts I-IV) and in a class action settlement agreement (count V) reached following litigation in state court, in which each appellant was a party. The district court dismissed the action, holding that Appellants' claims were barred by res judicata, a lack of Article III standing, and the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Appellants' due process, takings, and Contracts Clause claims were barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; and (2) Appellants' First Amendment claims were nonjusticiable. View "Efreom v. McKee" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court dismissing this complaint after concluding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Appellant's suit under the Anti-Injunction Act of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 7241, holding that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint.Appellant brought a complaint against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and some of the IRS's agents alleging that Defendants violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and 26 U.S.C. 7609(f) by acquiring Appellant's personal financial information through a third-party summons process. The district court dismissed Appellant's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, ruling that the Anti-Injunction Act of the Internal Revenue Code, 262 U.S.C. 7421, constituted an exception to the APA's waiver of sovereign immunity. The First Circuit vacated the judgment, holding that the Anti-Injunction Act did not bar Appellant's suit. View "Harper v. Rettig" on Justia Law

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Walker Officer Dumond began pursuing Meadows after he passed Dumond on the highway while traveling nearly 90 miles per hour. During the subsequent traffic stop, which was captured on dash-camera footage, Dumond instructed Meadows to keep his hands out of his vehicle and to open the door to his vehicle. Dumond and Meadows shouted back and forth as Meadows attempted to open his door. Once Meadows exited the vehicle, Dumond grabbed Meadows and slammed him to the ground. On the ground, Dumond kneed Meadows to try and roll him over, and Officer Wietfeldt punched Meadows multiple times. Wietfeldt fractured Meadows’s wrist while handcuffing him.Meadows sued the officers and the city under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The officers appealed the denial of their summary judgment motions based on qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The court stated that on interlocutory appeal, it is bound by the district court’s determination that a reasonable jury could conclude that Dumond and Wietfeldt did not perceive Meadows as refusing to comply or resisting arrest. The dash-camera footage does not “blatantly contradict” the factual issues identified by the district court. View "Meadows v. City of Walker, Michigan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion seeking remand to the grand jury for a redetermination of probable cause pursuant to Ariz. R. Crim. P. 12.9, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's Rule 12.9 motion.A grand jury indicted Defendant for attempted second degree murder and other crimes. Defendant subsequently filed the motion at issue, arguing that the State withheld clearly exculpatory evidence of a justification defense that it was obligated to present despite the evidence not being requested by the defense. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Arizona Constitution guarantees a person under grand jury investigation a due process right to a fair and impartial presentation of clearly exculpatory evidence, and a prosecutor has a duty to present such evidence to a grand jury even in the absence of a specific request; (2) where there is evidence relevant to a justification defense that would deter a grand jury from finding probable cause the prosecutor has an obligation to present such evidence; and (3) the State failed to present clearly exculpatory evidence in this case, denying Defendant a substantial procedural right. View "Willis v. Honorable Bernini" on Justia Law

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Granthon was shot dead on a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania street corner. A day earlier, Granton had purchased an ounce of crack cocaine from Burton. Granthon “was short a couple grams” and sought a refund. The evidence linking Burton to Granthon’s death was “overwhelming.” Burton was convicted of first-degree murder. Williams was also charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy, and reckless endangerment of another but the evidence was weaker. No witness recognized Williams and no cell phone records placed him near the scene that night. Williams claimed he spent the night at a casino, but offered conflicting alibi stories and never used his casino rewards card that night. Williams’s trial lawyer’s “defense theory” was that Williams was “not placed at the scene.” He did not call Rochon, a witness at Burton’s trial whose testimony allegedly indicated that Granthon also shot a gun, nor did he make the case for self-defense or voluntary manslaughter.Williams was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of his petition for habeas relief, rejecting claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. His trial attorney’s alleged negligence is not self-evident, as the attorney may have reasonably thought that self-defense arguments would detract from an alibi defense. To show his attorney was negligent, Williams would need to develop the record in district court but the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act forbids federal courts from supplementing the state court record under these circumstances. View "Williams v. Superintendent Mahanoy SCI" on Justia Law

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The former Speaker of the House of the Alabama Legislature was the target of a grand jury investigation in Lee County, Alabama. He was accused of misusing his office for personal gain, including by funneling money into his printing business. Plaintiff was a state representative at the time of the investigation into Speaker Hubbard. Plaintiff believed that he had evidence undermining the accusations against the speaker and contacted the defense team to help them.   Plaintiff sued the Attorney General of Alabama in federal court. His complaint brought First Amendment claims under 42 U.S.C. section 1983. The relevant issues on appeal are: Does Alabama’s grand jury secrecy law prohibit a grand jury witness from divulging information he learned before he testified to the grand jury, and if so, does the secrecy law violate the First Amendment? And does the Alabama grand jury secrecy law’s prohibition on a witness disclosing grand jury information he learned “only by virtue of being made a witness” violate his First Amendment free speech rights?   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part, reversed, in part, and remanded. The court concluded that Alabama’s grand jury secrecy law, unlike the Florida law in Butterworth, cannot reasonably be read to prohibit a grand jury witness from divulging information he learned before he testified to the grand jury. The court also concluded that the grand jury secrecy law’s prohibition on a witness’s disclosure of grand jury information that he learned only by virtue of being made a witness does not violate the Free Speech Clause. View "William E. Henry v. Attorney General, State of Alabama" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's conviction for aggravated burglary, vacated the finding of guilt on count three charging Defendant with felony murder during an aggravated battery, and dismissed the death penalty specifications predicated on aggravated burglary but affirmed Defendant's remaining convictions and his death sentence, holding that there was insufficient evidence to convict Defendant of burglary.After a trial, a jury found Defendant guilty of aggravated murder and three accompanying death-penalty specifications. The trial court sentenced Defendant to death. The Supreme Court largely affirmed, holding (1) contrary to Defendant's argument on appeal, the indictment in this case was not defective; (2) there was insufficient evidence to convict Defendant of aggravated burglary; (3) no plain error occurred during the prosecutor's trial-phase closing argument; and (4) there were constitutional violations in this case. View "State v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the appellate court dismissing Petitioner's appeal from the judgment of the habeas court denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Petitioner failed to prove his claim that his counsel labored under an actual conflict of interest.At issue was whether the habeas court abused its discretion in denying Petitioner's petition for certification to appeal with respect to his claim that his defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance during his second criminal trial by simultaneously working as defense counsel and as an active duty police officer in a different city, which Petitioner claimed was a conflict of interest. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that defense counsel's actions did not rise to the level of an actual conflict of interest for purposes of the Sixth Amendment. View "Diaz v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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Williams, an inmate, suffers from chronic tendinitis and has been prescribed pain medication. After injuring his finger, Williams was seen by a doctor. Williams’s finger did not require further treatment, but in an apparent error, Williams was removed from his pain medication. The next day Williams filed a “Request for Health Care” form, indicating that he was still experiencing pain and was no longer receiving his medication. Williams was seen by a nurse, who allegedly caused him further knee pain by making him do exercises while shackled. His medication was not reinstated and Williams continued to experience pain in his knee. As required by state grievance policies, Williams tried to informally resolve his complaints but Indiana’s policy requires that formal grievances be filed within 10 business days of the incident. Williams did not meet that deadline, believing that prison officials needed to respond to his informal grievance attempts before he could file a formal grievance. After Williams received a response he filed a formal grievance, but it was untimely.In Williams's suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires a prisoner to exhaust all available remedies in the prison’s administrative-review system before filing suit in federal court. Williams did not do so and his argument that he had good cause for his failure to timely file a formal grievance is unexhausted and waived. View "Williams v. Rajoli" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff resigned from his employment as a surgeon with Mayo Clinic (“Mayo”) after an internal committee recommended his termination following an investigation into allegations of his misconduct. Plaintiff sued Mayo and his supervisor, alleging discrimination and reprisal. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Mayo and the supervisor.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court explained that Plaintiff argues Mayo’s recommendation to terminate his employment was based on his race, religion, and national origin. Because Said does not offer direct evidence of discrimination, Plaintiff must create a sufficient inference of discrimination under the McDonnell Douglas framework to survive summary judgment.   Here, Plaintiff claims another similarly situated former employee, who also received complaints, from Mayo received preferential treatment. The court concluded that even if Plaintiff was similarly situated to the other employee, the court concluded that Plaintiff does not present sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude he received disparate treatment from the other employee. The court further explained that the record overwhelmingly demonstrates that Mayo believed Plaintiff was guilty of making unwelcomed advances toward female coworkers and of other misconduct. Said fails to “create a real issue as to the genuineness of” Mayo’s perceptions. Finally, regarding Mayo’s reporting of Plaintiff’s resignation to the State Board, as already discussed, the record demonstrates Mayo believed it was required to report Plaintiff’s termination to the State Board because Plaintiff resigned during an open investigation into his misconduct. Thus, Plaintiff fails to present sufficient evidence showing this was a pretext for retaliatory intent. View "Sameh Said v. Mayo Clinic" on Justia Law