Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

by
The Department filed suit against M&N, alleging numerous causes of action stemming from defendants' operation of a business that purchased retail installment sales contracts from used car dealerships where defendants used a formula that considered the gender of the car purchaser in deciding how much to pay for the contracts. The trial court entered judgment in favor of the Department on the first and second causes of action, which alleged violations of the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civ. Code, 51) and Civil Code section 51.5, and assessed over $6 million in statutory damages pursuant to Civil Code section 52, subdivision (a). The trial court dismissed the fifth, sixth, and seventh causes of action, which alleged violations of Government Code section 12940, subdivisions (i) and (k) of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in dismissing the fifth cause of action and otherwise affirmed the trial court's judgment. In the fifth cause of action, the Department alleged that M&N "knowingly compelled and coerced its employees to engage in practices that violated" FEHA and Civil Code sections 51 and 51.5, in violation of section 12940, subdivision (i). The court held that employees who are coerced by their employer to violate Civil Code sections 51 and 51.5 are "aggrieved" within the meaning of section 12965, subdivision (a) and have standing to sue their employer pursuant to section 12940, subdivision (i). Therefore, the employees of M&N who were coerced by M&N into violating Civil Code sections 51 and 51.5 could be individually liable for sex discrimination. The court explained that these employees would necessarily be "aggrieved" by their employer's unlawful employment practice as their personal interests would be affected by their employer's misconduct. Therefore, the Department was authorized to file a civil action on behalf of these employees and the trial court erred by dismissing the fifth cause of action. View "Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. M&N Financing Corp." on Justia Law

by
Melnik, a Nevada prisoner, was charged with unauthorized or inappropriate use of the prison mail system after prison officials intercepted two envelopes addressed to him that contained methamphetamine in secret compartments in the enclosed letters. Melnik asked several times to examine the envelopes or copies of the envelopes, but those requests were denied or ignored. At the prison disciplinary hearing, images of the envelopes and information about their contents were the only evidence presented. Melnik testified that he was innocent and had been framed by other inmates but was found guilty.Melnik filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against six former or current employees of the Nevada Department of Corrections, alleging they denied him the ability to examine the evidence before the prison disciplinary proceeding. The defendants sought summary judgment on the ground that they were entitled to qualified immunity. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of their motion. Melnik had a constitutional right under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to be permitted to examine documentary evidence for use in the prison disciplinary hearing; that right was clearly established at the time when Melnik was denied access to the material. View "Melnik v. Dzurenda" on Justia Law

by
Talley, a Pennsylvania state prison inmate, signed a settlement agreement resolving two prior lawsuits. He alleges that the Settlement Agreement was fraudulent because attorneys had not entered a “‘proper’ appearance” on behalf of a defendant and that another attorney breached the Agreement when he filed it as an exhibit to a motion in one of the suits. Talley asserted violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961, violations of the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and numerous state law claims.The district court dismissed, finding that the attorney had entered a permissible appearance by signing and filing an answer on behalf of the defendants, and Talley’s RICO and constitutional claims were meritless because the Agreement was never actually filed on the docket. The court denied Talley leave to amend his federal claims as futile. Talley moved to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) on appeal. The Third Circuit granted the IFP motion and affirmed the dismissal. The IFP statute, 28 U.S.C. 1915 providing that prisoners may proceed in federal court without prepayment of filing fees, contains a “three-strikes rule.” Courts may call a strike when a prisoner’s “action or appeal . . . was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted[.]” Talley’s prior “mixed dismissals” are not strikes. View "Talley v. Wetzel" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed Defendants' convictions connected with the murder of Steven DiSarro, holding that Defendants were not entitled to relief on their allegations of error.Defendants, Francis Salemme and Paul Weadick, were convicted of the 1993 murder of DiSarro. At the time of the murder, Salemme was the boss of a criminal organization known as the New England La Cosa Nostra. Defendants murdered DiSarro to prevent him from talking with federal agents about his activities with Salemme, Weadick and Salemme's son. On appeal, Defendants challenged the trial court's admission of a significant amount of evidence concerning the prior criminal activities of Salemme and several witnesses. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in admitting the evidence. View "United States v. Weadick" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reinstated the order of the trial court imposing lifetime satellite-based monitoring (SBM) based upon Defendant's status as an aggravated offender, holding that the order complied with the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and N.C. Const. art. I, 20.Defendant pleaded guilty to first-degree statutory rape and first-degree statutory sexual offense. While Defendant was on probation, he sexually assaulted his minor niece. The trial court ordered Defendant to enroll in lifetime SBM and that, under the totality of the circumstances, the SBM program was constitutionally reasonable as applied to Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a search effected by the imposition of lifetime SBM upon a defendant due to his status as an aggravated offender is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment; and (2) the SBM program does not violate Article I, Section 20 because SMB orders do not constitute general warrants. View "State v. Hilton" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of two counts of rape of a child under fourteen years of age, holding that Defendant's counsel was ineffective.A jury convicted Defendant of two counts of rape of a child under fourteen years of age for her actions as a middle school counselor in allegedly engaging in sex acts with a student. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' holding that Defendant's intent was irrelevant in this case and remanded the case to the district court for a Van Cleave hearing. The district court concluded that trial counsel had not been ineffective. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, holding (1) the absence of an instruction permitting the jury to apply Defendant's defense was prejudicial; and (2) there is no mental culpability requirement for rape of a child under fourteen. View "State v. Dinkel" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court overruling Defendant's motion for absolute discharge, in which Defendant alleged violations of his constitutional and statutory rights to a speedy trial, holding that the district court did not err.On appeal from the denial of his motion for discharge, Defendant argued that the district court erred when it concluded that continuances ordered by the court in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were for good cause and therefore should be excluded from the calculation of the time for bringing him to trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that neither Defendant's statutory nor his federal or state constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated under the circumstances of this case. View "State v. Brown" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first-degree murder and related charges, holding that there was no reversible error in jury selection or closing arguments.During his trial, Defendant stipulated to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole if he was found guilty and to waive his right to appeal issues "stemming from the guilt phase of the trial." The jury found Defendant guilty, and the court sentenced Defendant to life without the possibility of parole. On appeal, Defendant raised errors relating to the denial of his pretrial motion to suppress evidence, jury selection, closing arguments, jury deliberations, and sentencing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant did not waive any error that occurred during closing arguments, sentencing or jury selection; and (2) Defendant waived his other alleged errors. View "Burns v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant's 42 U.S.C. 1983 civil rights claims and state law tort claims, holding that the district court erred by requiring Appellant to administratively exhaust all potential remedies.Appellant brought this complaint alleging that Georgina Stuart, who was employed by the Clark County Department of Family Services (DFS), and two police officers forced him to sign a temporary guardianship over his two minor children to the children's maternal aunt. DFS subsequently made a findings of maltreatment against Appellant, which he administratively appealed. The district court dismissed Appellant's request for punitive damages as not available and dismissed Appellant's section 1983 and state law tort claims for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Appellant was not required to administratively exhaust all potential remedies in his DFS case before bringing his section 1983 and tort claims; and (2) the district court erred by finding that Appellant's section 1983 claim was solely a procedural due process claim subject to the exhaustion doctrine. View "Eggleston v. Stuart" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant's complaint alleging discrimination based on age and sex, holding that Appellant's complaint was untimely filed.Following Respondent's termination of Appellant, Appellant sent a letter of inquiry to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and filed a charge of discrimination. After the limitation period for Appellant's potential claims against Respondent expired the Legislature amended Nev. Rev. Stat. 613.430, providing employees an additional ninety days to file a claim after receiving a letter giving them the right to sue. Appellant subsequently filed this complaint, alleging discrimination. The district court granted Respondent's motion to dismiss, finding that Appellant's claims expired under the former version of Nev. Rev. Stat. 613.430 and that the Legislature's amendments to that statute did not revive the claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly determined that the amendment did not revive Appellant's untimely claims; and (2) Appellant failed to establish the requirements for equitable tolling. View "Salloum v. Boyd Gaming Corp." on Justia Law