Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of Speech First's First and Fourteenth Amendment challenges to several policies that intend to regulate speech at the University of Texas at Austin. Speech First sought a preliminary injunction against enforcement of these policies, but the district court dismissed the case based on lack of standing.The court held that Speech First has standing to seek a preliminary injunction. After determining that the case was not moot, the court held that the chilling of allegedly vague regulations, coupled with a range of potential penalties for violating the regulations, was, as other courts have held, sufficient "injury" to ensure that Speech First has a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy. In this case, Speech First's three student-members at the University have an intention to engage in a certain course of conduct, namely political speech; it is likely that the University's policies arguably proscribe speech of the sort that Speech First's members intend to make; and the existence of the University's policies, which the University plans to maintain as far as a federal court will allow it, suffices to establish that the threat of future enforcement, against those in a class whose speech is arguably restricted, is likely substantial. The court also held that the causation and redressability prongs are easily satisfied here. The court remanded for assessment of the preliminary injunction. View "Speech First, Inc. v. Fenves" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his arresting officers and others, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Fourth Amendment, after the officers seized him without probable cause.The Eighth Circuit held that the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, would support a finding that the arresting officers violated plaintiff's clearly established right to be free from an unreasonable seizure without probable cause under the circumstances. In this case, about seven minutes after a black juvenile male with a gun fled from police in Kansas City, officers arrested plaintiff a mile away from the scene. Plaintiff and the suspect shared only generic characteristics in common: black, juvenile, and male. However, plaintiff had several characteristics distinct from the suspect: he was taller than the suspect; had distinguishable hair from the suspect; and wore shorts, shoes, and socks that differed from those donned by the suspect. Furthermore, these distinctions are depicted on a police video recording that the arresting officers reviewed. Plaintiff was in custody for three weeks before a detective reviewed the video and concluded that plaintiff was not the offender. Therefore, the district court erred in granting qualified immunity to the arresting officers where no reasonable officer could have believed that probable cause existed to arrest plaintiff based on the plainly exculpatory evidence available to them. The district court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the remaining defendants and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bell v. Neukirch" on Justia Law

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On July 24, 2020, the district court denied Payton’s motion for compassionate release or a reduction of his sentence under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A). A notice of appeal, dated August 9, was filed in the district court on August 10. A defendant’s notice of appeal in a criminal case must be filed in the district court no later than 14 days after the challenged judgment or order is entered. Fed. R. App. P. 4(b)(1)(A). A section 3582(c) motion is a continuation of the criminal proceedings, so the 14-day deadline applies. Rule 4(b)(1)(A)'s deadline is not jurisdictional but is a claims-processing rule; the government can waive an objection to an untimely notice. If the government raises the issue of timeliness, the court must enforce the time limits.In response to the government’s motion to dismiss, Payton asserted that the prison has been “on an institution-wide lockdown and getting copies in this environment is problematic” and argued excusable neglect. Rule 4(b)(4) authorizes the district court to extend the time for filing an appeal for up to 30 days if the court finds “good cause” or “excusable neglect.” The Sixth Circuit remanded for the limited purpose of allowing the district court to determine whether Payton has shown excusable neglect or good cause. View "United States v. Payton" on Justia Law

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After Tennial’s mortgage company foreclosed on her home, she filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. Her petition triggered an automatic stay of any further action against her home, allowing her to continue living there, 11 U.S.C. 362. The next year, REI bought Tennial’s home from the mortgage company and, on REI’s motion, the bankruptcy court terminated the stay on September 12, 2019. Tennial’s attorney received electronic notice of the order the same day, and the court mailed a copy to Tennial by first class mail on September 14.Under Rule 8002(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, Tennial had 14 days—through September 26—to appeal the order. Tennial filed her notice of appeal on October 9. At the bottom of her notice, she wrote, “I did not receive a copy of the order until September 26, 2019, via U.S. Postal Service.” The court dismissed, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction to review the order because Tennial waited too long to file the appeal and failed to move for an extension under Bankruptcy Rule 8002(d).The Sixth Circuit affirmed. While the deadline does not create a limitation on subject matter jurisdiction, Tennial missed the deadline and the deadline is mandatory. View "Tennial v. REI Nation, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the State, arguing that O.C.G.A. 45-5-3.2 violates the Georgia Constitution and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the extent it allows the State to cancel the November 2020 election for the office of district attorney for the Western Judicial Circuit. Plaintiff sought a preliminary injunction that would require the State to hold the election, which the district court granted.Because the Eleventh Circuit is bound by the Supreme Court of Georgia's decision that O.C.G.A. 45-5-3.2, as challenged here, violates the Georgia Constitution, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by finding that plaintiff established a substantial likelihood of success in her argument that O.C.G.A. 45-5-3.2 violates the Georgia Constitution and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that plaintiff would suffer an irreparable injury unless an injunction was granted, because the State's enforcement of O.C.G.A. 45-5-3.2 would deprive plaintiff of her right to vote in the November 2020 district attorney election. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by finding that the balance of harms and public interest weigh in favor of granting the injunction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order granting the preliminary injunction. View "Gonzalez v. Governor of the State of Georgia" on Justia Law

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Marvin Rowell was arrested for public intoxication and brought to the Muskogee County Jail in Muskogee, Oklahoma. In response to Rowell’s uncooperative conduct during processing, Jail officials decided to move him from the intake room to another room to place him in a restraint chair. In escorting Rowell down a hallway, Officer Dakota West applied forward pressure to Rowell’s right arm. After taking a few steps, Rowell fell and hit his head, and died shortly after from multiple blunt impact injuries to his head, which caused an acute subdural hematoma. Rowell's estate (the “Estate”), through administrator Zachary Rowell, sued Officer West, alleging a Fourteenth Amendment excessive force violation under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Estate also brought claims for failure to intervene against Officer Jacob Slay, supervisory liability against Shift Supervisor Lacy Rosson, and municipal liability against Muskogee County Sheriff Rob Frazier in his official capacity and the Board of County Commissioners of Muskogee, Oklahoma (the “County”). The district court granted summary judgment for the Defendants because it found that Officer West had not committed a constitutional violation. The Estate appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment. View "Rowell v. Muskogee County Board" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against CoreCivil under the Wiretap Act, alleging that CoreCivic unlawfully recorded privileged telephone calls between herself and her clients who were detained in CoreCivic's detention facility in Nevada.The Ninth Circuit held that the only reasonable interpretation based on both the text and context of the Act is that "the violation" refers to each separate interception, whether the interception is a singular event or part of a larger pattern of conduct. Therefore, each interception of plaintiff's privileged telephone calls is a separate violation of the Act, and the statute of limitations is triggered anew for each call that CoreCivic recorded. The panel held that the district court correctly determined that the Act's two-year statute of limitations was first triggered when plaintiff received discovery in June 2016 that contained recordings of her privileged telephone calls. In this case, the undisputed facts establish that plaintiff had such notice of recordings made before June 27, 2016, when she received discovery from the government on that date that included recorded calls. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's holding that plaintiff's claims are untimely to the extent they are based on interceptions that occurred before June 27, 2016. However, to the extent her claims are based on calls that were recorded after this date, the timeliness of such claims depends on when she first had a reasonable opportunity to discover that such calls were recorded. The panel remanded to the district court for further analysis. View "Bliss v. CoreCivic, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment entered in favor of defendants in an action alleging that the individual defendants used excessive force in effecting plaintiff's arrest.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Defendant Leon and held that, even taking plaintiff's version of the facts as true, a reasonable jury would not find a Fourth Amendment violation because Leon's acts were objectively reasonable in the circumstances. In this case, a 12 year old girl called 911 to report that her mother's boyfriend had threatened her and her family with a chainsaw and that she and her family were currently hiding from him in a bedroom that he was trying to enter; Leon faced an immediate threat; plaintiff had a knife in his pocket and had lowered his hands towards the knife when the first shot came from the beanbag shotgun; and plaintiff's hands remained near the knife in his pocket at the time of the second beanbag shot.The panel reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant Rivas-Villegas where there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether the force that Rivas-Villegas used when he kneeled on plaintiff's back when he was lying face down on the ground was excessive. The panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of Defendant Kensic where Kensic lacked any realistic opportunity to intercede or to stop the excessive force. The panel remanded for the district court to consider plaintiff's Monell claim and state law claims. View "Cortesluna v. Leon" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of habeas corpus relief to petitioner, who was detained pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1226(a), which provides for discretionary detention of noncitizens during the pendency of removal proceedings. The habeas petition challenged the procedures employed in petitioner's bond hearings, which required him to prove, to the satisfaction of an immigration judge, that he is neither a danger to the community nor a flight risk.The court held that the district court correctly granted the petition where petitioner was denied due process because he was incarcerated for fifteen months (with no end in sight) while the Government at no point justified his incarceration. The district court also provided the correct remedy by ordering a new bond hearing in which the Government bore the burden of showing by clear and convincing evidence that petitioner was either a danger or a flight risk. View "Velasco Lopez v. Decker" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not clearly err in finding that House Bill 836's district map violated section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. HB 836 reduced the size of the board from nine members to seven. Where all nine members previously had come from single-member districts, now only five would, and two would be drawn from at large seats. Plaintiff alleged that the new map would violate section 2 by diluting the strength of Black voters in Sumter County. The district court agreed and entered a remedial order removing the at-large seats and drawing a new map with seven single-member districts instead.The court reviewed the entire record and held that plaintiff adduced ample evidence supporting a finding of vote dilution. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in concluding that plaintiff satisfied all three Gingles factors: first, the undisputed evidence showed that Sumter County's Black residents could form a majority in at least one additional single-member district (and probably in two); second, the Black voters in Sumter County were highly cohesive in ten of the twelve elections studied; and third, White residents vote sufficiently as a bloc to enable them usually to defeat the minority's preferred candidate. The court also held that plaintiff established that the totality of the circumstances results in an unequal opportunity for minority voters to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choosing. In this case, the district court did not clearly err by finding that the first, second, fifth, and seventh Senate factors weighed heavily in plaintiff's favor. The district court noted Georgia's, and Sumter County's, painful history of discrimination against its Black residents, emphasizing the high levels of racially polarized voting and observed the lack of success enjoyed by Black candidates in Sumter County. Furthermore, the special master report expressly found an easily achievable remedy available. View "Wright v. Sumter County Board of Elections and Registration" on Justia Law