Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the county's 2011 redistricting plan for electing county commissioners, alleging a violation of their rights under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by providing only one Anglo-majority district. Determining that plaintiffs had standing, the Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not clearly err in finding that plaintiffs failed to meet the threshold conditions in Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 79 (1986), and in finding that plaintiffs failed to make a claim for voter dilution. In this case, the district court concluded that plaintiffs did not prove that Anglos, a minority in Dallas County, have the potential to elect their preferred candidate, a Republican, in a second commissioner district. The court rejected plaintiffs' claims that the district court applied the wrong standard, and that they need only provide an alternative map with two Anglo-majority districts. The court explained that an alternative map containing an additional majority-minority district does not necessarily establish an increased opportunity for the Anglo-preferred candidate. Furthermore, there was no case in which the ability to create an influence district was considered sufficient to establish a section 2 vote dilution claim. The court also held that plaintiffs failed to plead a racial gerrymandering claim, because the complaint did not allege a Shaw claim. Rather, the complaint only once alleged that race predominated, and it made this allegation five pages before stating the claim for relief. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's refusal to entertain a claim of racial gerrymandering and its denial of the vote dilution claim after trial. View "Harding v. County of Dallas" on Justia Law

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Censke sought to bring a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) suit for injuries he says he suffered at the hands of Indiana federal prison guards. The FTCA required Censke to give notice in writing to the Bureau of Prisons within two years of the incident, 28 U.S.C. 2401(b), by sending form SF-95 to the regional office in which the injury happened. The Bureau considers claims filed when first received by any of its offices. Censke moved prisons six times in the two years following the alleged incident and lost access to his legal materials. He contends that the prison staff ignored his requests for an SF-95 form. When he got the form, he was in Kentucky. Censke asked the staff for the address of the Bureau’s North Central Regional Office. He says they refused to help. Nine days before the end of the limitations period, Censke placed his SF-95 form in the outgoing mail, addressed to the Bureau's Central Office in Washington, D.C. The Bureau stamped it as received at the North Central Regional Office on February 16, 2016—over two months after Censke put it in the mail. The Bureau denied the claim on the merits, without mentioning timeliness. Censke filed suit under the FTCA. The court concluded that the mailbox rules apply and rejected Censke’s arguments for equitable tolling and delayed accrual. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The prison-mailbox rule applies to administrative filings under the FTCA. View "Censke v. United States" on Justia Law

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Goodloe arrived at the Hill Correctional Center in July 2013 and immediately complained of pain from rectal bleeding. His pain continued despite treatments for hemorrhoids and anal warts. Goodloe wanted to see an outside specialist and filed several grievances. He repeatedly asserted that his pain was internal. In September 2014, Goodloe finally saw a specialist, and immediately diagnosed an anal fissure—a small tear in the anal tissue lining. Goodloe underwent surgery on October 3 and testified that he experienced instant pain relief. The rectal bleeding abated and eventually altogether stopped. The district court rejected, on summary judgment, Goodloe’s suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit reversed as to the deliberate indifference claims against one physician but affirmed with respect to a claim of retaliation. A reasonable jury could conclude that Dr. Sood’s persistence in the ineffective treatment, or his delay in getting Goodloe to an outside specialist, or both, amounted to deliberate indifference. The record lacked evidence permitting a finding that Dr. Sood made any treatment decision in response to Goodloe’s submission of multiple grievances. View "Goodloe v. Sood" on Justia Law

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Dr. Kevin Donahue was walking home one night when he saw a woman outside his neighbor’s house. Dr. Donahue thought she was trespassing, and he got into a heated conversation with her. They approached two police officers, Officer Shaun Wihongi and Officer Shawn Bennett, who were investigating an incident a few houses away. The officers questioned them separately. The woman told Officer Wihongi her name was “Amy LaRose,” which later turned out to be untraceable. She claimed Dr. Donahue was drunk and had insulted her. Dr. Donahue refused to provide his name but admitted he had been drinking and said the woman had hit him. The officers eventually arrested and handcuffed Dr. Donahue. Dr. Donahue sued Officer Wihongi, the Salt Lake City Police Department (“SLCPD”), and Salt Lake City Corporation (“SLC”). He alleged Officer Wihongi violated his Fourth Amendment rights by: (1) arresting him without probable cause; (2) using excessive force during the arrest; and (3) detaining him for too long. Officer Wihongi moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion on all three claims and dismissed the case. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Donahue v. Wihongi" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of interstate transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress the confession he made during the second phase of his custodial interrogation. In support of his motion to suppress Defendant argued that the interrogation violated his Fifth Amendment rights as set forth in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), and Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981). The district court denied the motion, finding that Defendant initiated the second phase of the interview, that Defendant did not thereafter reinvade his right to counsel, and that Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights before confessing. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Defendant's confession was admissible at trial for all of the reasons determined by the district court. View "United States v. Carpentino" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the school district in an action brought by a parent, alleging that the school district violated his First Amendment rights by imposing a "Communication Plan," limiting his communications with school district employees regarding his daughters' education. The panel held that the Communication Plan did not violate plaintiff's First Amendment rights even if it restricted his speech; plaintiff failed to explain how the Communication Plan imposed unreasonable restrictions on his ability to share his concerns about his daughters' educational needs or any other topic; the Communication Plan addressed the manner in which plaintiff communicated with the school district – not the content of his speech or any viewpoints he wished to convey; and thus the panel agreed with the district court that the Communication Plan was a reasonable effort to manage a parent's relentless and unproductive communications with school district staff. View "L. F. v. Lake Washington School District #414" on Justia Law

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Applying Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, 478 U.S. 1 (1986), the Ninth Circuit held that the press has a qualified right of timely access to newly filed civil nonconfidential complaints that attaches when the complaint is filed. However, the panel held that this right does not entitle the press to immediate access to those complaints. Furthermore, some reasonable restrictions resembling time, place, and manner regulations that result in incidental delays in access are constitutionally permitted where they are content-neutral, narrowly tailored and necessary to preserve the court's important interest in the fair and orderly administration of justice. In this case, CNS filed suit seeking immediate access to newly filed civil complaints from Ventura County Superior Court. The panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the no-access-before-process policy, but reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the scanning policy. The panel vacated the district court's injunction and award of fees, remanding for further consideration. View "Courthouse News Service v. Planet" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Holloway was convicted of a DUI at the highest blood alcohol content (BAC). The charge was dismissed upon his completion of an accelerated rehabilitation program. In 2005, Holloway was again arrested for DUI and registered a BAC of 0.192%. Holloway pled guilty to violating 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. 3802(c) for driving under the influence at the highest BAC (greater than 0.16%). He received a sentence of 60 months’ “Intermediate Punishment,” including 90-days’ imprisonment that allowed him work-release. In 2016, Holloway sought to purchase a firearm but was unable to do so because of his disqualifying DUI conviction, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). Holloway sought a declaration that section 922(g)(1) is unconstitutional as applied to him. The district court granted Holloway summary judgment and entered a permanent injunction barring the government from enforcing section 922(g)(1) against him. The Third Circuit reversed. Pennsylvania’s DUI law, which makes a DUI at the highest BAC a first-degree misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, constitutes a serious crime that requires disarmament. The prohibition does not violate Holloway’s Second Amendment rights. View "Holloway v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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Officers Chalkley and Weber responded to a call that a potentially intoxicated white male was eating out of a dumpster. They did not see anyone by the dumpsters but spotted Jones, the only white male in the area, talking to women in the parking lot. Weber requested that Jones approach. According to the officers, Jones first ran but eventually approached with his hands in his pockets. A struggle occurred during a pat-down; the officers took Jones to the ground. Jones resisted and attempted to reach for Chalkley’s holstered firearm. The officers placed their weight on Jones and struck Jones. Officer Mitchell arrived during the pat-down. Weber tasered Jones. Jones claims he was heading home after buying food and that he kept his hands visible and offered no resistance, although he struggled to breathe as his face was pressed against the concrete. Weber transported Jones to a hospital and completed forms to have Jones involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluation. One of the women seen talking to Jones before the incident denied that she saw Jones resist. Jones was acquitted of assault on a peace officer, obstructing official business, and resisting arrest. Jones filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action. An affidavit from another woman contradicted the officers. The court granted the summary judgment to the city and the officers’ supervisor but denied immunity to the individual officers. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. The district court largely assessed the officers’ conduct collectively, without distinguishing between their individual acts. Officers Chalkley and Weber were properly denied immunity but Mitchell arrived after Jones was detained. Mitchell’s actions, taken in view of the circumstances apparent to her at that time, were not objectively unreasonable. View "Jones v. City of Elyria" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's conviction on the basis that the district court inadequately instructed the jury on Defendant's justification defense, holding that the court's failure to include "lack of justification" in the marshaling instruction was not prejudicial for ineffective assistance purposes. On appeal, Defendant argued that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance for failing to object to the marshaling instruction, which did not mention that the State needed to prove the act was done without justification. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that, in light of the evidence and the instructions as a whole, there was not a reasonable probability of a different outcome if justification had been covered in the marshaling instruction along with the other instructions. View "State v. Kuhse" on Justia Law