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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging North Carolina's Senate Bill 2, which allows state magistrates to recuse themselves from performing marriages on account of a religious objection. The Fourth Circuit held that plaintiffs, simply by virtue of their status as state taxpayers, have not alleged a personal, particularized injury for the purposes of Article III standing. The court explained that, given that the Supreme Court has expressly upheld taxpayer standing on just two occasions, the application of the doctrine has been narrowly circumscribed. In this case, the link between legislative action and the expenditures in S.B. 2 is attenuated, and plaintiffs have not alleged a classic spending injury under the Establishment Clause. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Ansley v. Warren" on Justia Law

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The passage of Assembly Bill 97, a massive reform package designed to streamline public education financing and decentralize education governance, did not abrogate the Ninth Circuit's decisions in which the panel held that California school districts and county offices of education (COEs) are "arms of the state" entitled to state sovereign immunity. Applying the factors set forth in Mitchell v. Los Angeles Community College District, 861 F.2d 198, the panel held that school districts and COEs in California remain arms of the state and cannot face suit. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's lawsuit against the Orange County Department of Education where plaintiff alleged claims related to his termination with the Department. View "Sato v. Orange County Department of Education" on Justia Law

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Ohio’s execution protocol allows for lethal injection using a three-drug combination of midazolam; either vecuronium bromide, pancuronium bromide, or rocuronium bromide, which are paralytics; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. The midazolam is intended to ensure that the person being executed is insensate to the pain that the other drugs cause. If midazolam does not “render the prisoner unconscious,” then “there is a substantial, constitutionally unacceptable risk of suffocation . . . and pain” from the second two drugs. The district court granted a preliminary injunction to allow for further litigation regarding midazolam’s efficacy before Ohio executes three men. The Sixth Circuit initially affirmed, but following rehearing en banc, reversed. The court noted that about two decades have passed since the commission of the crimes, which included the rape-murder of a three-year-old. The court stated that “In a sense the claim is unprecedented: the Supreme Court ‘has never invalidated a State’s chosen procedure for carrying out a sentence of death as the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment.’” The State’s chosen procedure here is the same procedure (so far as the combination of drugs is concerned) that the Supreme Court has upheld. Every other court of appeals to consider that procedure has likewise upheld it. View "In re: Ohio Execution Protocol Litigation" on Justia Law

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Aguilar, an inmate, filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that he was confined for 90 days without a hearing based on a purported violation of extended supervision, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause. For offenses committed before December 31, 1999, Wisconsin offenders are released from prison to “parole,” whereas for offenses committed after January 1, 2000, the offenders are released to “extended supervision.”Although the supervision for each status is essentially the same, there are legal differences between parole and extended supervision that dictate the punishments available for rule violations. Aguilar was convicted in 1996 and on February 23, 2010, he was released on parole. When Aguilar failed to report, his parole agent completed a Violation Investigation Report in which she properly checked the box indicating he was on “Parole,” but after Aguilar was arrested, she completed an Order to Detain form in which she erroneously checked the box indicating that Aguilar was on “Extended Supervision.” Aguilar admitted to violating rules. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment rejecting the claims. Aguilar’s evidence supported only a claim of negligent conduct, which is insufficient to support a due process claim or an Eighth Amendment claim. View "Aguilar v. Gaston-Camara" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's adverse grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's employment claim alleging retaliatory termination. The court held that a reasonable jury could conclude that her protected action was the but-for cause of her termination. In this case, it was undisputed that plaintiff's letter complaining of unequal pay based on her sex was a protected act and that she suffered an adverse employment action. View "Donathan v. Oakley Grain, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant operated a parochial school to which plaintiff was denied admission. When plaintiff sued on the basis of disability discrimination, defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing among other things that, under the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine, the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over her claim. Central to defendant’s argument was Dlaikan v Roodbeen, 522 NW2d 719 (1994), which applied the doctrine to conclude that a circuit court had no such jurisdiction over a challenge to the admissions decisions of a parochial school. The circuit court denied defendant’s motion. The Court of Appeals, however, was convinced by defendant’s jurisdictional argument and reversed, thereby granting summary judgment in defendant’s favor. The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate court’s determination: “[w]hile Dlaikan and some other decisions have characterized the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine as depriving civil courts of subject matter jurisdiction, it is clear from the doctrine’s origins and operation that this is not so. The ecclesiastical abstention doctrine may affect how a civil court exercises its subject matter jurisdiction over a given claim; it does not divest a court of such jurisdiction altogether. To the extent Dlaikan and other decisions are inconsistent with this understanding of the doctrine, they are overruled.” View "Winkler v. Marist Fathers of Detroit, Inc." on Justia Law

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The $25 fee assessed by the Authority is rationally related to the government's interest in recovering costs spent to collect unpaid tolls. Plaintiffs, drivers who were assessed fees after they repeatedly refused to pay tolls, contend that the $25 administrative fee violates their right to substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fifth Circuit held that, in addition to recovering costs, the fee is a mechanism that strongly encourages drivers to get a TollTag. The court explained that the nature of the Authority's interest in incentivizing TollTag usage is to sustain the Authority's financial health. In this case, the Authority's experiment sought to decrease congestion and increase access to the roads, two interests that often compete but could both be furthered by removing toll booths. View "Reyes v. North Texas Tollway Authority" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief on petitioner's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel (IATC). The court held that, assuming counsel's performance was deficient, petitioner failed to show that he was prejudiced by the mitigation investigation of his trial counsel and therefore his IATC claim failed. View "Trevino v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Milwaukee police arrested Moseley at his house after M.K. accused him of domestic violence. While searching Moseley’s apartment, officers found handcuffs, rope, and other items associated with sexual bondage and seized Moseley’s computer, camera, external hard drive, and CDs and sent the electronic devices to the Department of Justice. When DOJ detectives searched the devices, they discovered nude photos of M.K. and of T.H., who worked with Moseley at a U.S. Marshal’s office. T.H. alleged that Moseley forced her into a sexual relationship by threatening her job. Her statement also chronicled his abusive behavior. The state charged Moseley with possessing nude photos of T.H. taken without her consent. Wis. Stat. 942.09(2). Moseley’s primary defense was that the two had been in a consensual relationship and that T.H. had consented to the photos. Before trial, Moseley unsuccessfully sought in camera review of T.H.’s mental-health records. Moseley was convicted. Wisconsin courts affirmed the denial of in camera review. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of federal habeas relief. The state court decisions that the records did not contain material impeachment evidence and that whether T.H. consented to the relationship was immaterial to whether she consented to the photographs, were not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent. View "Moseley v. Kemper" on Justia Law

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Nightingale provided home health care and received Medicare reimbursements. The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) visited Nightingale’s facility and concluded that Nightingale had deficiencies that placed patients in “immediate jeopardy.” ISDH recommended that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), terminate Nightingale’s Medicare agreement. ISDH conducted a revisit and concluded that Nightingale had not complied. Before CMS terminated the agreement, Nightingale filed a petition to reorganize in bankruptcy and commenced sought to enjoin CMS from terminating its provider agreement during the reorganization, to compel CMS to pay for services already provided, and to compel CMS to continue to reimburse for services rendered. The bankruptcy court granted Nightingale relief. While an appeal was pending, ISDH again found “immediate jeopardy.” The injunction was dissolved. A Medicare ALJ and the Departmental Appeals Board affirmed termination. After failing to complete a sale of its assets, Nightingale discharged patients and closed its Indiana operations by August 17, 2016. On September 16, 2016, the district court concluded that the bankruptcy court had lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to issue the injunction and stated that the government could seek restitution for reimbursements for post-injunction services. CMS filed a claim for restitution that is pending. Nightingale separately initiated a civil rights action, which was dismissed. In consolidated appeals, the Seventh Circuit vacated the decisions. The issue of whether the bankruptcy court properly granted the injunction was moot. Nightingale’s constitutional claims were jurisdictionally barred by 42 U.S.C. 405(g). View "Nightingale Home Healthcare, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law