Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of murder. Petitioner asserts that the State used race-based peremptory strikes during jury selection in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). The court concluded that the state appellate court did not unreasonably apply clearly established federal law in deciding petitioner's Batson claim by considering the jury panelists' voir dire answers among all the circumstances in deciding whether a prima facie case under Batson was shown. In this case, petitioner identifies no Supreme Court precedent clearly establishing that holistic consideration may not include the remarks of panelists on whom a peremptory strike was exercised. Nor does petitioner identify any evidence in the state court proceedings showing an unreasonable determination of fact by the state courts.Moreover, circuit precedent holds that a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination under the Batson framework is a factual finding entitled to the section 2254(e)(1) presumption of correctness. The court concluded that the district court correctly stated the law in that regard. However, that presumption is not dispositive here because petitioner's habeas claim independently fails both under section 2254(d) and on de novo review. Finally, regardless of section 2254(d) and (e), petitioner must establish entitlement to habeas relief on the merits by showing, as relevant here, a violation of the constitutional right defined in Batson. In this case, petitioner failed to establish a prima facie case, and thus his claim for federal relief is foreclosed. View "Seals v. Vannoy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a petition for writ of mandate and a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief challenging statewide delays in the transfer of incompetent to stand trial (IST) defendants from county jails to DSH and DDS to begin substantive services. The trial court granted the petition in part, first finding that defendants systematically violate the due process rights of IST defendants in California who are committed to DSH pursuant to Penal Code section 1370 or to DDS pursuant to section 1370.1, subdivision (a)(1)(B)(i). The trial court found that due process requires defendants to commence substantive services for these IST defendants within 28 days of the date on which the order transferring responsibility for those defendants to DSH or DDS is served. The trial court denied the petition as to certain IST defendants charged with felony sex offenses who are committed to DDS pursuant to section 1370.1, subdivision (a)(1)(B)(ii) and (iii).The Court of Appeal concluded that defendants have systematically violated the due process rights of all IST defendants in California by failing to commence substantive services designed to return those defendants to competency within 28 days of service of the transfer of responsibility document, which is the date of service of the commitment packet for all defendants committed to DSH and the date of service of the order of commitment for all defendants committed to DDS. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment as to the issues raised in defendants' appeal, but reversed as to the issue raised in plaintiffs' cross-appeal. The court remanded to the trial court with directions to modify its order granting in part plaintiffs' petition for writ of mandate to reflect a uniform transfer of responsibility date for all IST defendants committed to DDS. View "Stiavetti v. Clendenin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) reversing an order revoking Respondent's driving privileges for driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances and/or drugs with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher, holding that the circuit court erred.In reversing the order revoking Respondent's driving privileges the OAH determined that the officer's failure to comply with Respondent's demands for a blood test violated Respondent's rights to due process under W. Va. Code 17C-5-9. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) in proceedings involving the revocation of a driver's license for DUI where a driver demands a blood test but the test is never given, a chemical analysis of the blood that is withdrawn is never completed, or the blood test results are lost, the trier of fact must consider three factors; and (2) this case must be remanded to the OAH for a new hearing that is to be conducted consistent with this opinion. View "Frazier v. Talbert" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged a First Amendment challenge to section 1-201 of the Criminal Procedure Article of the Maryland Code, insofar as that statute prohibits and punishes the broadcasting of the official court recordings of state criminal proceedings. In January 2020, the district court dismissed the entire action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, concluding that the Broadcast Ban constitutes a content-neutral regulation of the time, place, and manner of speech that survives intermediate scrutiny.The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of the First Amendment claim, concluding that the Broadcast Ban is properly assessed as a penal sanction for publishing information released to the public in official court records and is therefore subject to strict scrutiny under the Supreme Court's decisions in Cox Broadcasting Corp. v. Cohn, 420 U.S. 469 (1975), and Smith v. Daily Mail Publishing Co., 443 U.S. 97 (1979). The court explained that, at bottom, the district court was wrong to apply intermediate scrutiny, rather than strict scrutiny, to the Broadcast Ban. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Soderberg v. Carrion" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit concluded that Maryland's Governor and Attorney General have no control over the potential enforcement actions that could be brought against plaintiff. In this case, plaintiff, a professional counselor seeking to provide talk therapy to reduce his minor clients' same-sex attractions, filed suit against the Governor and the Attorney General of Maryland, alleging that Maryland has infringed his First Amendment rights by preventing him from engaging in the type of counseling he wants to do.Plaintiff argues that he can sue the Governor and the Attorney General under Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), which provides an exception to their immunity from being sued in federal court. However, the court explained that neither the Governor nor the Attorney General have the necessary connection to enforcing Md. Code Ann., Health Occ. 1-212.1 that permits plaintiff's suit against them. Therefore, because of plaintiff's choice of defendants, the court may not consider the First Amendment issues he raises. While plaintiff requests leave to amend his complaint, the court left that question to the district court. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's decision as to the Governor and Attorney General's immunity from suit in federal court and vacated the remainder of its rulings. View "Christopher Doyle, LPC v. Hogan" on Justia Law

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Leggett Elementary School principal Vincente called a child’s mother to pick him up. The mother stated that her “boyfriend who is a policeman” (Hendon) would come. Because of another emergency situation, police were at the school. Vincente saw Hendon speaking with Akron officers. Hendon wore all black, with a vest and badge that said “officer,” and his name on his uniform. When Hendon entered the office, the secretaries assumed he was a police officer. Hendon and Vincente talked briefly about Hendon’s efforts to restart the Scared Straight Program.The next morning, Hendon reappeared, uninvited, dressed in what looked like SWAT gear. He and Vincente spoke again about the Scared Straight Program. Later, when a teacher had a problem student, (M.J.) Hendon took M.J. out of the classroom and threw M.J. against a wall, verbally abusing him, then returned M.J. to class, Later another education teacher summoned Hendon, who took two misbehaving students inside and forced them to perform exercises. There were additional incidents, during which school staff, believing Hendon to be a police officer, allowed him to discipline children. Interacting with parents, Hendon stated that he was an officer with the Scared Straight program.Eventually, the Akron police arrested Hendon. Parents and children sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA, and Title VI. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants, rejecting “state-created danger” claims. The actual harm that M.J. experienced because of Vincente’s affirmative action is not the type that Vincente could have inferred from known facts. The plaintiffs had no evidence of discrimination. View "M.J. v. Akron City School District Board of Education" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a sexual-misconduct investigation conducted by the University of Denver and the subsequent expulsion of John Doe after a classmate accused him of sexual assault. Doe sued the University and various school administrators (collectively, the University) alleging, among other things, that the University violated the sex discrimination prohibition of Title IX, because anti-male bias pervaded the sexual-misconduct investigation, resulting in a disciplinary decision against the weight of the evidence. The district court concluded Doe failed to present sufficient evidence that the University’s actions were motivated by bias against him because of his sex, and it therefore granted summary judgment to the University on Doe’s Title IX claim. Doe challenged that conclusion, alleging the district court applied the wrong legal standard in resolving his motion for summary judgment. Applying the “McDonnell Douglas” evidentiary standard to Doe’s claim, the Tenth Circuit concluded he provided sufficient evidence for a jury to decide whether the investigation into the allegations and subsequent disciplinary action discriminated against him because of his sex. View "Doe v. University of Denver" on Justia Law

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In this appeal involving an alleged conspiracy by several state officials to violate a former physician's civil rights by pinning the blame for his patient's death on him, the district court dismissed the physician's claims involving actions taken within the scope of the receivership for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The district court dismissed the remaining claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. In this case, a pre-med student began working in the physician's medical practice and then later moved into his home. The physician started prescribing the student hydrocodone and increasingly stronger medications for headaches and abdominal pains. The student later died of a drug overdose.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the district court had jurisdiction to review the claims against the receiver for his acts taken within the scope of the receivership but that these claims fail because the receiver is entitled to judicial immunity. The court explained that, although the Barton Doctrine does not apply, Defendants Lambros, Ekonomou, and the Law Firms are entitled to judicial immunity. The court also concluded that the district court correctly dismissed the 42 U.S.C. 1985 claims for failure to allege racial or class-based animus; the physician's remaining allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; and he is not entitled to amend his complaint. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and affirmed in part. View "Chua v. Ekonomou" on Justia Law

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In its 2019 “Rehaif” decision, the Supreme Court clarified that for 18 U.S.C. 922(g) firearms-possession offenses, the prosecution must prove both that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm and that he knew he was a felon when he possessed the firearm. Before Rehaif, the petitioners were convicted under section 922(g)(1). The Eleventh Circuit rejected Greer's request for a new trial based on the court’s failure to instruct the jury that Greer had to know he was a felon to be found guilty. The Fourth Circuit agreed that Gary's guilty plea must be vacated because the court failed to advise him that, if he went to trial, a jury would have to find that he knew he was a felon.The Supreme Court affirmed Greer's conviction and reversed as to Gary. A Rehaif error is not a basis for plain-error relief unless the defendant makes a sufficient argument that he would have presented evidence at trial that he did not know he was a felon. A defendant who has “an opportunity to object” to an alleged error and fails to do so forfeits the claim of error. If a defendant later raises the forfeited claim, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 52(b)’s plain-error standard applies. Rehaif errors occurred during the underlying proceedings and the errors were plain but Greer must show that, if the court had correctly instructed the jury, there is a “reasonable probability” that he would have been acquitted; Gary must show that, if the court had correctly advised him, there is a “reasonable probability” that he would not have pled guilty. They have not carried that burden. Both had multiple prior felony convictions. The Court rejected arguments that Rehaif errors are “structural” and require automatic vacatur. View "Greer v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that social workers, and their approving supervisors, in the Department of Children and Families who attest to facts in sworn affidavits as part of care and protection proceedings commenced by the Department in the juvenile court pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 119, 24 are entitled to absolute immunity in these circumstances.Plaintiff brought an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 against a social worker with the Department, alleging that the social worker intentionally misrepresented facts in a sworn affidavit filed in support of a care and protection petition in the juvenile court. Plaintiff further alleged that the social worker's area supervisor (together, with the social worker, Defendants) was liable because she had approved the social worker's actions. Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that they were entitled to absolute immunity. A superior court judge allowed the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Defendants were entitled to absolute immunity under the circumstances of this case. View "C.M. v. Commissioner of Department of Children & Families" on Justia Law