Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff s a disabled prisoner who walks with a cane, yet he was denied a handicap pass to access the first-floor library for seven months. Because of that denial, Plaintiff was forced to climb two flights of stairs to get to the general-population library. Plaintiff asserted that this exertion caused him serious pain, made his old injuries worse, and caused him new injuries. Plaintiff filed a pro se civil suit seeking compensatory damages for the aggravated injuries to his legs. The district court granted summary judgment to North Carolina on Plaintiff’s ADA claims because the ADA does not provide a remedy for negligence.   The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants. The court explained that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, plaintiffs can only get compensatory damages for intentional discrimination. What showing that requires is an open question in the Fourth Circuit, but it at least requires deliberate indifference to the prisoner’s federally protected rights. Because Plaintiff has failed to establish deliberate indifference, the district court was right to grant summary judgment to the State of North Carolina. View "Rodney Koon v. State of North Carolina" on Justia Law

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The Haistens sold discounted animal pesticides and drugs online from their South Carolina home. They operated in violation of multiple FDA and EPA regulations. They sold counterfeit DVDs of movies and television shows that they obtained from China. The Haistens ignored cease-and-desist letters from state regulators and animal pesticides companies. Department of Homeland Security agents began making undercover purchases from the Haistens. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized shipments of counterfeit DVDs. Agents then searched the Haistens’ home, which revealed unapproved animal pesticides and drugs, counterfeit DVDs, and business records. In the ensuing prosecution, Count 14 charged the Haistens with trafficking counterfeit DVDs that were seized by CBP officers in Cincinnati. Count 15 charged them with trafficking counterfeit DVDs, that were seized at their home. Defense counsel did not request a jury instruction on improper venue or move for acquittal on Counts 14 or 15 for lack of proper venue in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Haistens appealed, challenging an evidentiary ruling and a statement the government made during its summation. The Third Circuit affirmed.The Haistens then sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255, arguing that their trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge venue on Counts 14 and 15. The Third Circuit remanded the denial of that motion for the district court to conduct an evidentiary hearing on whether their counsel had a strategic reason for not raising a defense based on improper venue. View "United States v. Haisten" on Justia Law

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T.C.’s estate and the passengers of T.C.’s car sued an Arlington police officer and the City of Arlington for the use of excessive force during a traffic stop in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The district court dismissed the passengers’ claims, finding that they could not bring claims as bystanders, and granted summary judgment to the police officer and the City after determining that the police officer was entitled to qualified immunity.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the passengers’ claims and vacated the grant of summary judgment on T.C.’s claims and remanded it to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. The court reasoned that here, under T.C’s account, he was shot while he was held in a chokehold in a parked car while evading arrest for several confirmed misdemeanors and an unconfirmed felony parole violation. The police officer was on notice that the use of deadly force is objectively reasonable only where an officer has “a reasonable belief that he or the public was in imminent danger . . . . of death or serious bodily harm.” Again, the officer’s alleged belief that T.C. had a gun was not reasonable, nor was his belief that a parked car posed a danger to himself, the passengers, or the other officers standing on the side of the car. Therefore, the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the officer and perforce dismissing the City. However, because there was no unreasonable use of force against the passengers, no constitutional injury occurred. View "Crane v. City of Arlington" on Justia Law

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A.L. is an adult male diagnosed with autism. A.L. is in his late twenties, but his developmental age is “five-to-seven years old.” A.L.’s case is one of over forty actions filed by plaintiffs with disabilities against Disney in Florida and California federal courts, asserting that Disney failed to accommodate their requested modifications to its disability-accommodation program in violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii). The district court entered final judgment in favor of Disney after determining that A.L.’s requested modification to receive either ten “Re-admission Passes” for each person in his party or unlimited access to Disney’s expedited “FastPass” lines for its theme park attractions was neither necessary to accommodate A.L.’s disability nor reasonable under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA”).   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court wrote it discerned no clear error in the district court’s factual findings, no legal error in its fundamental-alteration analysis, and no abuse of discretion in its evidentiary rulings. Moreover, the district court here applied the correct legal test. It considered whether the requested modification would affect merely peripheral aspects of Disney’s parks or aspects essential to Disney’s services. The court further found that the other reasons A.L. offers for the presentation of the excluded evidence are neither relevant nor probative of the individualized injunctive relief he sought. View "A. L. v. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts US, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued her school district under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging racial discrimination by other students. After a bench trial, the district court ruled for the school district. Plaintiff argued the district court committed three reversible legal errors in finding the District was not deliberately indifferent.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the magistrate judge recommended granting the District summary judgment “so far as Plaintiff attempts to couch her Title VI claim on [the District’s] alleged failure to comply with its own policies and regulations[.]” Plaintiff did not object to this recommendation, which the district court adopted. Accordingly, the most Plaintiff could argue on appeal is that the district court committed plain error in adopting this conclusion. But, the court wrote, that Plaintiff does not even raise the possibility of plain error. Nowhere in her briefing, much less the portion devoted to the District’s policies, does she argue that the district court committed plain error. This argument is therefore forfeited in its entirety.   Further, the court explained that a Title VI defendant is not deliberately indifferent where it actively responds to harassment, provided that its response is not pretextual or knowingly ineffective. Here, Plaintiff failed to explain why any of the District’s particular responses were deficient. Thus, the court found no error much less clear error, in the court’s findings that the District was not deliberately indifferent with respect to any of these incidents, whether considered singularly or collectively. View "Sneed v. Austin Indep School Dist" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Texas prisoner, appealed the summary judgment dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 claim that a correctional officer at the Allred Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), confiscated Plaintiff’s religious materials in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.   The primary issue on appeal is whether confiscation of Plaintiff’s materials violated Plaintiff’s constitutional rights under the Free Exercise Clause. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court explained that Plaintiff conceded that he did not store his religious materials as required by AD-03.72. And the Fifth Circuit Court has previously indicated that TDCJ policies regarding the storage of personal property do not infringe on a prisoner’s right to free exercise of religion. Evaluating AD-03.72 in view of the relevant considerations, the confiscation of Plaintiff’s religious materials was reasonably related to a legitimate penological objective.   The impact of accommodating Plaintiff’s constitutional rights on other prisoners, guards, and prison resources could be great, given the management and safety concerns underlying the policy. Moreover, even if the confiscation had violated Plaintiff’s constitutional rights, the district court correctly found that the correctional officer was entitled to qualified immunity because his actions were objectively reasonable. View "DeMarco v. Bynum" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed from the district court’s judgment granting Defendant Sirius XM Radio, Inc. (“Sirius XM”)’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims with prejudice for violations of his right of publicity under California common and statutory law because his claims were preempted by the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. Section 301. The claims arise from Melendez’s performance under the moniker “Stuttering John” on The Howard Stern Show (the “HS Show”) from 1988 until 2004.   On appeal, Plaintiff asserted that Sirius XM’s use of excerpts of him from the archival episodes in its online and on-air advertisements promoting the HS Show violates his right of publicity under California common and statutory law because his name and likeness have been exploited for Sirius XM’s commercial gain without his permission.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court held that Plaintiff failed to plausibly allege any use of his name or likeness that is separate from, or beyond, the rebroadcasting, in whole or in part, of the copyrightable material from the HS Show’s archives and, thus, his right of publicity claims are preempted by the Copyright Act. Moreover, because Plaintiff has failed to articulate any allegations that he could add in a second amended complaint that overcome preemption in this case, the court concluded that the district court correctly determined that any leave to re-plead would be futile and properly dismissed his claims with prejudice. View "Melendez v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of one count each of felony murder, conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree, and carrying a pistol without a permit, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his claims of error.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) under the circumstances of the case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted a dual inculpatory statement under section 8-6(4) of the Connecticut Code of Evidence; (2) the statement at issue was non-testimonial, and its admission at trial did not violate Defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confrontation; (3) certain statements made by the prosecutor did not violate Defendant's right to confrontation under the state Constitution; and (4) Defendant was not entitled to relief on his second claim of impropriety. View "State v. Graham" on Justia Law

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In Plaintiff’s malicious prosecution claim against Defendant, a detective with the Albany Police Department, the Eleventh Circuit previously vacated an order dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint for failure to allege a favorable termination on a charge of felony murder. Plaintiff appealed the summary judgment in favor of Defendant based on qualified immunity. The district court ruled that, even though Defendant’s affidavit was insufficient to provide probable cause to support the warrant to arrest Plaintiff, the detective had at least arguable probable cause to arrest Plaintiff.   The Eleventh Circuit again vacated the order granting summary judgment in the detective’s favor and remanded. The court concluded that because Plaintiff established that the legal process underlying his seizure was constitutionally infirm and it would not have been otherwise justified, the detective does not enjoy immunity from suit. The court explained that under longstanding Supreme Court precedent, an officer must provide particular information to support an arrest warrant. Here, no “reasonably competent officer” could have concluded that a warrant should issue based on the glaring deficiencies in the affidavit. As a result, the unlawfulness of the detective’s conduct was clearly established when he acted and he was not entitled to qualified immunity. View "Demetrius Rashard Luke v. Jameel H. Gulley" on Justia Law

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During a 3:30 am encounter, while South Bend Officer O’Neill was investigating reports that someone was stealing from parked cars, Logan picked up a hunting knife and approached O’Neill. The officer told Logan to stand still and put down the weapon. Logan held the knife up, came within three steps of O’Neill, and threw the knife, hitting O’Neill in the arm. O’Neill fired his gun, hitting Logan in the torso. O’Neill called for an ambulance, but Logan died at a hospital.The district court rejected Logan's estate’s suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that one of O’Neill’s multiple descriptions of the events implies that Logan threw the knife a second or so before O’Neill pulled the trigger and that O’Neill was safe (Logan was no longer armed) or that a jury might doubt O’Neill’s version of events because he did not activate his body camera and has been convicted of ghost employment. The physical evidence, such as the bullet track, is consistent with O’Neill’s account. Disbelief of the only witness is not proof that the opposite of the witness’s statements is true. “The fact that many shootings by police eliminate an important source of evidence is troubling, but litigation remains tied to the record," which compels a decision for O’Neill. View "Estate of Eric Jack Logan v. City of South Bend" on Justia Law