Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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Blake is serving a sentence of 420 months’ imprisonment for cocaine offenses. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his sentence. Five years later, the court rejected Blake’s effort to set aside his sentence on collateral review under 28 U.S.C. 2255.Blake was sentenced before the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 and did not benefit from its changes to the statutes and Sentencing Guidelines for persons convicted of crack cocaine offenses. The First Step Act of 2018 made the 2010 Act retroactively applicable. The district judge concluded that Blake, who has a history of violence, does not deserve a benefit from the 2018 Act.Blake’s lawyer sought leave to withdraw, arguing that the appeal was frivolous. The court granted that motion, rejecting Blake’s opposition, but did not dismiss the appeal. Once the direct appeal is over, the Constitution no longer requires the government to ensure that the defendant has a lawyer. The statute authorizing many retroactive sentencing adjustments, 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2), is not part of the process of conviction or direct appellate review. Blake is entitled to represent himself or to seek the aid of another lawyer. View "United States v. Blake" on Justia Law

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Fisk, an LLC formed in 2018, had two members; one is an attorney. Fisk collaborated with the City of DeKalb regarding the redevelopment of a dilapidated property. Under a Development Incentive Agreement, if Fisk met certain contingencies, DeKalb would provide $2,500,000 in Tax Increment Financing. In 2019, Nicklas became the City Manager and opened new inquiries into Fisk’s financial affairs and development plans. Nicklas concluded Fisk did not have the necessary financial capacity or experience, based on specified factors.Fisk's Attorney Member had represented a client in a 2017 state court lawsuit in which Nicklas was a witness. Nicklas considered funding incentives for other development projects with which, Fisk alleged, Nicklas had previous financial and personal ties.The City Council found Fisk’s financial documents “barren of any assurance that the LLC could afford ongoing preliminary planning and engineering fees,” cited “insufficient project details,” and terminated the agreement. Fisk sued Nicklas under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging Nicklas sought to retaliate against Fisk and favor other developers. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims. Fisk did not exercise its First Amendment petition right in the 2017 lawsuit. That right ran to the client; Fisk did not yet exist. Fisk had no constitutionally protected property right in the agreement or in the city’s resolution, which did not bind or “substantively limit[]” the city “by mandating a particular result when certain clearly stated criteria are met.” Nicklas had a rational basis for blocking the project, so an Equal Protection claim failed. View "145 Fisk, LLC v. Nicklas" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner under 28 U.S.C. 2254, rejecting petitioner's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Petitioner contends that his trial counsel failed to call any forensic experts to testify on his behalf and asserted that such failure was not a strategic decision but was made out of counsel's ignorance of the availability of funding to pay experts.Even though the district court did not restrict its review by considering only the state court record, as required in the circumstances, but instead considered an affidavit of a forensic expert that petitioner presented for the first time in the district court, the court nonetheless agreed with the district court's conclusion that the expert failed to show prejudice with evidence or a proffer of evidence "of what a defensive forensic expert would have testified to and how that could have altered the trial." The court explained that the forensic expert only identified investigatory issues that he or another forensic expert could have explored and did not test or challenge any evidence actually presented to the jury so as to support a conclusion that testimony from him or another forensic expert could have made a difference. View "Vandross v. Stirling" on Justia Law

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E.F.L., a Mexican citizen, has lived in the U.S. for nearly 20 years. She has endured extreme domestic abuse. In 2018, DHS discovered E.F.L.’s undocumented presence, reinstated an earlier removal order, and scheduled her removal. E.F.L. applied for withholding of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Convention Against Torture and also filed a self‐petition under the Violence gainst Women Act (VAWA) with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An IJ and the BIA denied E.F.L.’s application for withholding of removal. The Seventh Circuit declined to review that decision.Although E.F.L.’s VAWA petition remained pending, DHS sought to execute E.F.L.’s removal order. E.F.L. filed a habeas petition, seeking injunctive relief, arguing that DHS would violate the Due Process Clause and the Administrative Procedure Act by executing E.F.L.’s removal order while her VAWA petition remains pending. The district court dismissed E.F.L’s habeas petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; 8 U.S.C. 1252(g) provides that no court has jurisdiction to review DHS’s decision to execute a removal order. While her appeal was pending, USCIS approved E.F.L.’s VAWA petition. E.F.L. submitted adjustment of status and waiver applications. She has not yet received work authorization. The Seventh Circuit dismissed the appeal as moot, noting that the district court lacked jurisdiction. View "E. F. L. v. Prim" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the County, CCS, and other prison officials and healthcare providers under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Fourteenth and Eighth Amendments. Plaintiff also alleges that two officers threatened him in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff's allegations stemmed from complications resulting from treatment of his foot injuries.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of one defendant's motion to dismiss and summary judgment as to the other defendants. The court held that the district court properly granted the physician assistant's motion to dismiss where the amended complaint failed to sufficiently allege that the physician assistant knew that plaintiff had serious medical needs and was deliberately indifferent to them. In this case, the court accepted plaintiff's allegations as true, but not his legal conclusions. The court also held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's deliberate indifference claims as to the remaining defendants where plaintiff's claims are a mere disagreement with treatment decisions. The court further held that plaintiff failed to administratively exhaust his claims that prison guards threatened retaliation, and plaintiff cannot show that a reasonable inmate of ordinary firmness would have failed to file a grievance in his situation. View "East v. Minnehaha County" on Justia Law

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In 2015, inmate Peterson suffered from genital warts. Davida, a Stateville Correctional Center physician employed by Wexford, prescribed a topical medication (Podocon-25), which is caustic and should be applied sparingly, then removed thoroughly. PODOCON-25's packaging states that “PODOCON-25© IS TO BE APPLIED ONLY BY A PHYSICIAN” and warns of multiple potential “ADVERSE REACTIONS.” Davida did not apply the Podocon-25, nor did the nurses, who instructed Peterson to apply the treatment himself. He did so and suffered personal injuries.In 2016, Peterson filed a pro se complaint against Davida, the nurses, and Illinois Department of Corrections officials under 42 U.S.C. 1983. He alleged that the officer-defendants destroyed his shower pass permits, issued as part of his treatment, or failed to intervene to correct the situation. The court granted Peterson leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed his claims except as to three correctional officers. After obtaining counsel, Peterson filed an amended complaint, adding Wexford. The parties stipulated to dismissal without prejudice on January 25, 2018. On January 21, 2019, Peterson filed the operative complaint, claiming deliberate indifference under section 1983 and negligence under Illinois law against Davida, the nurses, and Wexford. The district court dismissed, finding that the complaint failed to sufficiently allege that the defendants had the requisite state of mind for deliberate indifference and that Peterson’s negligence claims were untimely because his 2016 complaint did not contain those allegations; the relation-back doctrine governs only amendments to a complaint, not a new filing.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the section 1983 claims but reversed as to the negligence claims. The court did not consider 735 ILCS 5/13-217, under which plaintiffs have an “absolute right to refile their complaint within one year” of its voluntary dismissal. View "Peterson v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2014, Sanford was convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and sentenced to 180 months’ imprisonment— 82 months below the bottom of the U.S.S.G. range. Sanford is incarcerated in the Victorville, California federal prison. On April 28, 2020, the Victorville warden received two written requests from Sanford seeking compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without waiting for a response from the warden or letting 30 days lapse without a response (as the statute requires), Sanford filed a compassionate-release motion in court on May 1. Appointed counsel stated that Sanford “suffers from several health conditions, including stomach pain, shortness of breath, and anxiety.” No details were provided.On May 14. the warden denied Sanford’s request, explaining that the medically stable 38-year-old did not establish “extraordinary and compelling” reasons and that “extraordinary measures” were being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and explained the process for administrative appeal. Victorville prison did not then have any COVID-19 cases. The district court denied Sanford’s motion, concluding that the “mere presence” of COVID-19 in prison is not an extraordinary and compelling reason for compassionate release. The Seventh Circuit affirmed on alternate grounds. Sanford failed to exhaust administrative remedies within the Bureau of Prisons before filing his motion; section 3582(c)(1)(A) is a mandatory claim-processing rule and must be enforced when properly invoked. View "United States v. Sanford" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Republican Club's civil rights complaint against the City and its lessee, the Western Justice Center (WJC). The Republican Club alleged First Amendment violations arising from the Center's rescission, on the basis of political and religious viewpoint, of an agreement to rent out a space for the Republican Club's speaking event. In Burton v. Wilmington Parking Auth., 365 U.S. 715, 725 (1961), the Supreme Court held that, in certain circumstances, a private actor who leases government property must comply with the constitutional restraints as though they were binding covenants written into the lease agreement itself.The panel held that neither the circumstances under which WJC rehabilitated the building and acquired the lease, nor the terms of the lease itself, convert WJC into a state actor. To apply the ruling in Burton, the panel stated that a private party's conduct of which the plaintiff complains must be inextricably intertwined with that of the government. In this case, the Club failed to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1985(3) where WJC and its agents were not state actors and where the Club did not allege that the City or some other state actor participated in the alleged conspiracy to deprive the Club of its constitutional rights. Furthermore, the government does not, without more, become vicariously liable for the discretionary decisions of its lessee. Here, the undisputed facts show that the City did not delegate any final policy-making authority that caused the Club's alleged constitutional injury. View "Pasadena Republican Club v. Western Justice Center" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) based on failure to state a claim. Plaintiff, a quadriplegic who uses a wheelchair for mobility, alleges that he encountered inaccessible service counters that denied him full and equal access to a Tesla dealership and "created difficulty and discomfort." Plaintiff also alleges that Tesla's continued failure to provide accessible service counters deters him from returning to the dealership.The panel held that plaintiff's complaint did not allege facts sufficient to support his claim under the standards articulated by Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The court concluded that the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff's complaint did not allege facts sufficient to support his ADA claim because the complaint primarily recited legal conclusions. Furthermore, Tesla was not put on notice of how its service counters prevented plaintiff from full and equal access to a Tesla dealership. Finally, the panel sua sponte addressed the issue of standing and concluded that plaintiff's allegations were sufficient to establish an injury-in-fact. View "Whitaker v. Tesla Motors, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who is challenging his 2012 court-martial conviction for one count of aggravated sexual assault and two counts of wrongful sexual conduct. In United States v. Hills, 75 M.J. 350 (C.A.A.F.2016), which was decided after petitioner's conviction became final, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces held unconstitutional a pattern jury instruction on Military Rule of Evidence (M.R.E.) 413 under which jurors may consider evidence of any one charged sexual offense as showing the defendant's propensity to have committed any of the other charged sexual offenses.Although Hills announced a new rule which held that the use of charged sexual offenses to show propensity to commit other charged sexual offenses violated the presumption of innocence and right to have all findings made clearly beyond a reasonable doubt, as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment, the panel held that the rule does not fall under either exception for nonretroactivity because it is neither a substantive rule nor a watershed rule of criminal procedure implicating the fundamental fairness and accuracy of the criminal proceeding. Therefore, Hills does not apply retroactively in petitioner's case. View "Lewis v. United States" on Justia Law