Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendant's motion to dismiss a petition to have him civilly committed under the Sexually Violent Predators Act (SVPA), because he was deprived of his due process right to a speedy trial.Applying the four factors in the Barker analysis, the court held that neither the length of the delay, the assertion of the right, the reasons for the delay, or prejudice is a necessary or sufficient condition to the finding of a deprivation of the right of speedy trial. Rather, the court held that they are related factors and must be considered together with such other circumstances as may be relevant. In this case, the trial court engaged in that balancing process and concluded that the state had failed defendant. Whether the court reviewed this determination under the abuse of discretion standard or, as the People assert, under a de novo standard, the court found no error based on the analysis. The court also held that, under the Mathews analysis, defendant's right to be free from government restraint without due process of law has been violated. The court rejected the People's cursory contention that the case should be ordered to trial and held that the trial court did not err in dismissing the petition. View "People v. DeCasas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution against a county sheriff's deputy. Plaintiff alleged that the deputy, or one of her law enforcement colleagues, planted the marijuana they found on his property. The district court denied the deputy's motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The deputy then sought an interlocutory appeal of the district court's qualified immunity ruling.The Eleventh Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the deputy's appeal challenging the factual sufficiency of the district court's determination that there is a genuine dispute as to whether the marijuana evidence was planted. In this case, the deputy does not present a legal question but simply asks the court to review the factual sufficiency of the district court's determination. View "Hall v. Flournoy" on Justia Law

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D.S., a child with a disability who receives special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), appealed the district court's denial of his motion for summary judgment and grant of the Board's motion for summary judgment. After the child's parents disagreed with the functional behavioral assessment (FBA) that his school conducted, they sought an independent educational evaluation (IEE) at public expense.The Second Circuit held that an FBA is not an evaluation as that term is employed in the relevant IDEA provisions and that a parent's dissatisfaction with an FBA does not entitle them to a publicly funded IEE. In regard to the parents' disagreement with the child's 2014 reevaluation, the court held that parents need not file a due process complaint under the IDEA to disagree with an evaluation and that the statute of limitations does not apply here. Rather, the court held that the IDEA's cyclical evaluation process establishes the operative time frame in which a parent may disagree with an evaluation and obtain an IEE at public expense. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment, reversed the district court's decision, and remanded for further proceedings. View "D.S. v. Trumbull Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254 to petitioner, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the kidnapping, forcible rape, and malice murder of two little girls. At issue was whether the lawyers who represented petitioner at the 1999 retrial deprived him of his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel in failing to attain and present mitigation evidence.The court held that, on this record, it would be hard put to say that the district court erred in rejecting petitioner's Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder claim. Furthermore, petitioner failed to demonstrate that defense counsel's conduct in connection with the retrial of the penalty phase fell below Strickland v. Washington's performance standard. As for its prejudice standard, the court held that a retrial of the penalty phase would result in the same verdict, a death sentence. View "Presnell v. Warden" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Petitioner was sentenced to death for three murders and two attempted murders of two young children. Petitioner alleged that trial counsel were constitutionally ineffective at sentencing because they relied on residual doubt and because they failed to investigate and present additional mitigating evidence concerning petitioner's childhood, substance abuse, and cognitive deficits.The court held that counsels' performance was not constitutionally deficient. Furthermore, the state court's determination that petitioner suffered no prejudice on account of any alleged deficiencies in the performance of his counsel was neither contrary to nor an unreasonable application of clearly established law, nor was it based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented. View "Franks v. GDCP Warden" on Justia Law

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On October 25, 2011, Appellant Nicole B.’s then-eight-year-old son N.B. was sexually assaulted by three of his male fourth-grade classmates in a bathroom at his public elementary school in the City of Philadelphia. According to Appellant, N.B. had endured two months of pervasive physical and verbal harassment at school leading up to the sexual assault. During that time, both Appellant and N.B. reported the harassment to his teacher and to school administrators, to no avail. In November 2011, Appellant withdrew N.B. from the elementary school after learning of the attack. Over two years later, in 2014, Appellant filed an administrative complaint with the Human Relations Commission against the Philadelphia School District (“District”) in her individual capacity and on N.B.’s behalf, asserting claims of discrimination on the basis of gender and race under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”). The Human Relations Commission rejected Appellant’s complaint as untimely, because it was filed beyond the 180-day time limit. In this appeal by allowance, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered whether principles of equitable tolling found in PHRA, or Pennsylvania’s Minority Tolling Statute (“Minority Tolling Statute”), applied to an otherwise untimely complaint. After review, the Supreme Court found the PHRA’s equitable tolling provision applied to a minor whose parent failed to satisfy the applicable statute of limitations for filing an administrative complaint prior to the minor reaching the age of majority. By this finding, the Court reversed the order of the Commonwealth Court. View "Nicole B. v. Philadelphia Sch. Dist., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against CBP and others, alleging constitutional violations after his truck and its contents were seized at the United States-Mexico border. The district court granted defendants' motions to dismiss and denied as moot plaintiff's motion to certify the class.Given the broad allegations in the complaint and the court's balancing of the Mathews factors, the Fifth Circuit held that plaintiff has failed to state a claim for a procedural due process violation. In this case, plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged the constitutional inadequacy of the existing procedures, nor has he shown that the available processes are unavailable or patently inadequate. Furthermore, the court's conclusion that the additional process plaintiff seeks is not constitutionally required in this context is consistent with United States v. Von Neumann, 474 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). The court also held that the district court did not plainly err in holding that plaintiff failed to state a claim that the bond requirement violates due process. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) of plaintiff's due process class claims for failure to state a claim, and affirmed the denial of his motion for class certification as moot. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's Bivens claim where plaintiff failed to set forth any facts specifically identifying what Defendant Espinoza or any unnamed Customs officers did to violate his rights. View "Serrano v. Customs and Border Patrol" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a putative class action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that deduction of union dues from plaintiffs' paychecks violated the First Amendment. The Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018), held that compelling nonmembers to subsidize union speech is offensive to the First Amendment.The panel held that plaintiffs' claims against the union fails under section 1983 for lack of state action, a threshold requirement. The panel also held that plaintiffs' First Amendment claim for prospective relief against Washington state also fails because employees affirmatively consented to deduction of union dues. The panel stated that Janus did not extend a First Amendment right to avoid paying union dues, and in no way created a new First Amendment waiver requirement for union members before dues are deducted pursuant to a voluntary agreement. The panel further held that neither state law nor the collective bargaining agreement compels involuntary dues deduction and neither violates the First Amendment. Therefore, in the face of their voluntary agreement to pay union dues and in the absence of any legitimate claim of compulsion, the district court appropriately dismissed the First Amendment claim against Washington. View "Belgau v. Inslee" on Justia Law

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Pittsburgh Lieutenant Kacsuta saw brothers Beyshaud and Will leaving a store and thought that Beyshaud was holding synthetic marijuana, which reportedly was being sold from the store. She followed them, calling for backup. The brothers subsequently obeyed her direction to sit down. Will gave her his identification, then emptied his pockets. They did not have synthetic marijuana, but Kacsuta thought they had made an underage tobacco purchase. Beyshaud was 18 but did not have identification. Will’s identification confirmed he was over 18. Five officers, including Warnock and Welling, arrived. A dashboard camera recorded subsequent events. Kacsuta tossed Will's identification to the ground. Beyshaud reached for it, but Kacsuta stepped on it. The brothers complained that they were being harassed. Will took one or two steps toward Kacsuta and Warnock. Welling grabbed Will and slammed him into the wall, then on to the pavement. Beyshaud stood and attempted to punch Welling. Warnock deployed his taser, causing Beyshaud to fall to the ground. The brothers did not resist as six officers handcuffed them. They were convicted of disorderly conduct and harassment. The brothers sued Pittsburgh and police officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983.The Third Circuit reversed the denial of summary judgment on the excessive force claim against Kacsuta, who did not have an opportunity to intervene in Welling’s use of force. The court affirmed the denial of summary judgment to Welling. Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Will, a jury could conclude that Welling’s use of force was objectively unreasonable, even taking Will’s disorderly conduct into account. Welling knew that Will was unarmed and outnumbered. The court dismissed, for lack of jurisdiction, Warnock’s argument concerning state law claims. View "El v. City of Pittsburgh" on Justia Law

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Green was visiting a friend at a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) public housing unit. Hudson, a security guard employed by AGB, attempted to stop and search Green. Hudson subdued Green outside the CHA unit and recovered a handgun before calling the police Green, charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), moved to suppress the gun. The district court held an evidentiary hearing, limiting the issue to whether Hudson had reasonable suspicion to justify the search. The court ruled there was no reasonable suspicion but denied Green’s motion to suppress, reasoning that Green failed to establish that the private security guard was a government agent. Green entered a conditional guilty plea.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Hudson was not a state actor who is subject to the Fourth Amendment. Illinois law expressly categorizes CHA’s police powers as distinct from its power to employ security personnel. The CHA-AGB contract labels AGB as an independent contractor to perform security services including ensuring unauthorized people do not enter and reporting incidents to the property manager. View "United States v. Green" on Justia Law