Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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A fifth-grade student, C.T., lit a match during the bus ride home from an Ohio elementary school. The students sat in assigned seats, with the youngest students at the front of the bus. School administrators moved C.T. to the front of the bus, where he sexually assaulted a kindergarten student, Doe, as they rode home from school over several weeks. The bus driver apparently was aware that C.T. had moved across the aisle to sit with Doe but police concluded that the driver was not aware of the assaults. C.T. was expelled. Doe’s parents brought a state-created-danger claim against the School District and five employees. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, holding that no reasonable jury could find that they knowingly exposed Doe to the risk of sexual assault. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating “that the Constitution does not empower federal judges to remedy every situation” that is “heart-wrenching.” Nothing about C.T.’s school record could have put the school employees on notice that C.T. posed a risk of sexually assaulting Doe. The school employees’ responses to the risk also do not show the “callous disregard” or “conscience-shocking” behavior that state-created-danger cases require. Certain employees could have done more in implementing C.T.’s discipline, but their actions did not amount to “callous disregard for the safety” of Doe. View "Doe v. Jackson Local School District Board of Education" on Justia Law

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State Trooper King saw Lott’s vehicle slow down on I-75 as it came into view; Lott was driving with “arms locked out.” King interpreted that as a sign of nervousness. King followed Lott for three-fourths of a mile in the left lane while vehicles passed on the right, then pulled Lott over. King stated that he was not going to issue a citation but ran Lott’s driver’s license for outstanding warrants and flagged down Trooper Reams, who had a K-9 in tow. Based on Lott’s nervousness and proximity to the roadway, King asked him to step out of the vehicle. King did not check the warrant search. Lott refused King’s request for consent to search his vehicle. King stated that “we’re going to utilize the K-9.” According to King, Lott responded, “I have a little bit of marijuana in the console.” The K-9 alerted after a “free air sniff.” King located marijuana in the console, then searched the vehicle. In the trunk, King found heroin, other drugs, and money. The Troopers estimated that five-10 minutes elapsed between the stop and the K-9 sniff. Lott was charged under 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1). The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of his motion to suppress. The traffic stop was initiated constitutionally and was not impermissibly extended. Lott did not dispute that he was impeding traffic; the marijuana admission occurred within the temporal scope of the tasks incident to the traffic stop. View "United States v. Lott" on Justia Law

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Detective Shockley, investigating whether methamphetamine was being sold at Alexander's mother's house, learned that Alexander’s driver’s license was suspended. Shockley saw Alexander drive away, stopped him and saw a bank deposit bag on the passenger seat and a safe in the backseat. Shockley arrested Alexander for driving on a suspended license and conducted a search, finding a baggie with methamphetamine residue, drug paraphernalia, and $11,000 in cash. Shockley found 35 grams of methamphetamine in Alexander’s waistband. The SUV was towed. The next day, Shockley obtained a warrant for the safe and discovered a loaded pistol. Days later, Shockley saw Alexander leave the house in a Lincoln and called another officer, who stopped him. Shockley arrested Alexander. After Alexander said, “I don’t care,” Shockley searched the vehicle, and found 113 grams of methamphetamine. Charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, and possession of a firearm as a felon, Alexander unsuccessfully moved to suppress both stops. Classified as a career offender, he was sentenced to 216 months’ incarceration. The Sixth Circuit upheld the denial of the motion to suppress. The inventory search exception did not apply absent evidence of standardized procedures but the inevitable-discovery doctrine salvaged the first search. Alexander consented to the second search. The court vacated the sentence; the government conceded that the case should be remanded for resentencing without the career-offender enhancement. View "United States v. Alexander" on Justia Law

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Within two months after plaintiff filed suit against Holiday seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Holiday remedied the violations. Three months later, plaintiff filed an amended complaint. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Holiday, holding that the post-suit alterations mooted plaintiff's accessibility claims. Furthermore, because there was no fair notice of the flared-sides issue, the disputed measurements are not a genuine issue of material fact. The court also held that the district court correctly ruled that nominal damages are not available under Title III of the ADA, and that requesting them does not affect mootness. View "Hillesheim v. Holiday Stationstores, Inc." on Justia Law

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Two Hendricks County reserve deputies went to the King home after Bradley, age 29 and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, called 9-1-1 and requested help. Deputies Hays and Thomas testified that upon their arrival, Bradley came outside, walked toward them, and pulled a 10-inch knife out of his pocket. The deputies drew their service firearms and yelled at Bradley to stop and drop the knife. Bradley disregarded their commands and ran toward Hays with the knife in his left hand, his left arm raised. When Bradley was approximately eight feet away, Hays fired one shot. It was fatal. A knife, which Bradley’s father identified as from the Kings’ kitchen, was recovered from near Bradley’s left hand. An examination of the knife did not reveal any latent fingerprints. Bradley’s father filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, asserting that Bradley was never violent, even when suffering a psychotic episode, and arguing that the bullet trajectory, the lack of fingerprints, and the fact that Bradley was right-handed, undermined the deputies’ account. He also brought claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of the claims on summary judgment. Substantial testimonial and physical evidence supported Hays’s version of events, with no concrete evidence rebutting it. If Bradley was denied access to medical services it was because of his behavior, not because he was mentally disabled. View "King v. Hendricks County Commissioner" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court held that the state habeas court's decision as to petitioner's ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim was neither contrary to nor an unreasonable application of federal law nor based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. The court rejected petitioner's claim that trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective under Strickland v. Washington when counsel failed to investigate mitigating evidence at sentencing. Petitioner also alleged that he was denied due process and a fair trial when his request for a one day continuance was denied, that the jury's verdict was unconstitutional, and that he was denied a right to self-representation under Faretta v. California. The court concluded that it was barred from considering petitioner's claims because he failed to raise them on direct appeal, and cannot show cause and prejudice to overcome the default. View "Sealey v. Warden, Georgia Diagnostic Prison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court to the extent it enjoined the State from prohibiting unobtrusive picketing about matters of public concern in negotiations for a new labor agreement with the CWA Local 6360, holding that Mo. Rev. Stat. 105.585(2)'s prohibition against "picketing of any kind" is unconstitutional, but severance of the phrase renders the provision constitutional. The circuit court enjoined the State from enforcing or implementing section 105.585(2)'s mandated prohibition against "picketing of any kind" in negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with certain public employees. In so holding, the circuit court declared section 105.585(2) unconstitutional under both the state and federal constitutions as it relates to picketing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 105.585(2) violates Mo. Const. art. I, 8; (2) severance of the portion of the statute prohibiting "picketing of any kind" is applicable and appropriate; and (3) permanent injunction was the appropriate remedy in this case. View "Karney v. Department of Labor & Industrial Relations" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s father is a Pakistani citizen, previously a legal permanent resident, who was removed from the United States. Plaintiff sought a declaration that his father’s removal was unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiff and violated international treaties and a declaration that the interview of Plaintiff and his mother during his father’s removal proceeding was unconstitutional because ICE agents made racially discriminatory comments to Plaintiff and his mother. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint, finding that it did not have jurisdiction over claims brought under the international treaties, which are not self-executing. The court also stated that it “is well-settled that lawfully removing a parent from the United States does not deprive a United States citizen child of a constitutional right.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that it had no information about the removal of Plaintiff’s father. Under 8 U.S.C. 1252(b)(9), no federal court has the authority to review” Plaintiff’s father’s order of removal to determine whether Plaintiff’s constitutional rights might render the order of removal invalid; no court would be able to grant the relief that Plaintiff seeks. The court found that it lacked jurisdiction to review a selective enforcement claim brought by Plaintiff on behalf of his father under 8 U.S.C. 1252(g). View "Butt v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of prison officials in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by plaintiff, alleging violation of his due process rights in connection with discipline imposed on him. The court held that the conditions of confinement that plaintiff faced during administrative segregation and upon his transfer to the Iowa State Penitentiary did not amount to an atypical and significant deprivation when compared to the ordinary incidents of prison life. The court held that the transfer to a higher security facility alone is insufficient to establish an atypical and significant hardship, and thus the court must examine the conditions of confinement. In this case, plaintiff failed to set forth facts describing his conditions of confinement while in administrative segregation and disciplinary detention. Furthermore, plaintiff's reference to his loss of employment, wages, security classification, security points, and inmate tier status upon his transfer did not amount to atypical and significant hardship under precedent. View "Smith v. McKinney" on Justia Law

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A family of two parents and five children alleged that social workers employed by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services violated their Fourth Amendment rights by subjecting the children to warrantless in-school interrogations without reasonable suspicion of child abuse. They also claimed violations of their Fourteenth Amendment rights by requiring adherence to a “Prevention Plan,” which constrained the mother’s ability to be alone with her children for approximately two months without any question as to her parental fitness and without any procedural protections. The Sixth Circuit reversed the denial of qualified immunity on the Fourth Amendment claims. The law governing in-school interviews by social workers was not clearly established at the time of the relevant conduct. The Fourth Amendment does govern a social worker’s in-school interview of a child pursuant to a child abuse investigation; at a minimum, a social worker must have a reasonable suspicion of child abuse before conducting an in-school interview when no other exception to the warrant requirement applies. The court affirmed the denial of qualified immunity on the procedural and substantive due process claims. The complaint alleged that the supervision restrictions were imposed for approximately two months after there was no longer any question as to parental fitness without any procedural protections; they abridged the parents’ clearly established right to the companionship and care of their children without arbitrary government interference. View "Schulkers v. Kammer" on Justia Law