Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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S.S. was a student in the Cobb County School District. S.S.’s parents challenged the adequacy of the individualized educational plans. S.S.’s parents fought the school district for two years and eventually filed an administrative complaint requesting a due process hearing under the Act with the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings. In the administrative complaint, S.S. alleged that the school district failed to provide her with a free and appropriate public education under the Act. The school district moved for summary determination of the administrative complaint. S.S. challenged the administrative law judge’s decision in the Northern District of Georgia.The district court denied the school district’s motion for summary judgment and remanded to the administrative law judge for a due process hearing. The school district appealed the district court’s remand order.   The DC Circuit concluded that remand orders from district courts to administrative agencies for further proceedings under the Act are not final and appealable under section 1291. And because the district court’s remand order was not final and appealable, the court wrote it lacks appellate jurisdiction to review it. Accordingly, the court dismissed the school district’s appeal. View "S.S. v. Cobb County School District" on Justia Law

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The City of Phoenix’s Police Department concluded that a Sergeant with the Department violated a Department policy by posting content to his personal Facebook profile that denigrated Muslims and Islam. When the Department took steps to discipline the Sergeant, he sued, alleging that the Department was retaliating against him for exercising his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s action. In analyzing the content, form and context of the Sergeant’s posts, the court concluded that the posts qualified as speech on matters of public concern. While it was true that each of the Sergeant’s posts expressed hostility toward, and sought to denigrate or mock, major religious faith and its adherents, the Supreme Court has made clear that the inappropriate or controversial character of a statement is irrelevant to the question of whether it deals with a matter of public concern.The court, therefore, reversed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ First Amendment retaliation claim and his related claim under the Arizona Constitution. The court held that the district court properly rejected Plaintiffs’ facial overbreadth challenge to certain provisions of the Department’s social media policy, except as to the clauses prohibiting social media activity that (1) would cause embarrassment to or discredit the Department, or (2) divulge any information gained while in the performance of official duties, as set forth in section 3.27.9B.(7) of the policy. The court affirmed the district court’s rejection of Plaintiffs’ facial vagueness challenge to the same provisions discussed above and their municipal liability claim. View "JUAN HERNANDEZ V. CITY OF PHOENIX" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision affirming Defendant's conviction did not reflect an unreasonable application of clearly established law.Defendant moved to suppress incriminating statements he made to a detective, arguing that his statement "I don't want to talk about this" expressed an unambiguous intention to cut off all further questioning and that the detective's continued questioning violated Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The trial court denied the motion, after which Defendant pleaded guilty to armed robbery and first-degree reckless injury. The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no abuse of Miranda. Thereafter, Appellant brought his habeas petition. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the petition, holding that the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision amounted to a reasonable application of the Supreme Court's Miranda line of cases. View "Smith v. Boughton" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion for relief from his first-degree murder conviction, holding that there was no merit to any of Appellant's claims on appeal.In his section 2255 petition, Appellant claimed that he was deprived of the effective assistance of trial counsel (IAC). The Sixth Circuit granted a certificate of appealability on Appellant's IAC claim concerning an alleged conflict of interest, a Brady claim, an IAC claim regarding the investigation at the guilt stage, and a final IAC claim regarding the presentation of mitigation evidence at the penalty phase. The district court denied the petition. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief on any of his claims of error. View "Gabrion, II v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the motion filed by the Word Seed Church after the district court dismissed this suit for lack of standing, holding that Word Seed failed to show exceptional circumstances warranting relief from the denial of that motion.Word Seed and an organization to which it belonged (collectively, Word Seed) brought this action against the Village of Homewood, Illinois alleging violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of standing after concluding that Word Seed did not suffer an injury and denied Word Seed's ensuing motions to reconsider. In the second motion, which the district court considered under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b), Word Seed raised for the first an argument that could have been raised before the district court entered judgment dismissing the case. The district court denied the motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the court did not abuse its discretion in denying Word Seed's Rule 60(b) motion. View "Word Seed Church v. Village of Homewood" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion to suppress without holding an evidentiary hearing, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying an evidentiary hearing.A law enforcement officer stopped Defendant while he was riding a motorized bicycle and arrested him under the theory that his bicycle was a motor vehicle requiring a license. During the arrest, police searched Defendant and found various drugs and drug paraphernalia. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the government needed to establish probable cause that he was driving a motor vehicle on a revoked license. The district court summarily denied the motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the evidence established that the arresting officer had probable cause to believe that Defendant rolled past a stop sign, which independently supported Defendant's arrest. View "United States v. Norville" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part and vacated in part the district court's denial of Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that, in Tennessee, ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel can establish cause to excuse a defendant's procedural default of a substantive claim of ineffective assistance at the motion-for-a-new-trial stage of the proceedings.Appellant was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder, aggravated kidnapping, rape of a child, and criminal impersonation. The jury sentenced Appellant to death. The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed. Appellant later filed a habeas petition, which the district court denied. The Sixth Circuit (1) affirmed the district court with respect to the guilt phase of Defendant's trial; (2) held that Appellant's counsel rendered ineffective assistance at the sentencing phase, requiring remand with instructions to grant habeas on this claim as to the penalty phase; and (3) vacated the district court's findings that Appellant failed to overcome his procedural default on certain claims; and (4) reversed the court's finding that the Martinez-Trevino exception to procedural default cannot excuse a procedural default when the underlying ineffective assistance occurred in a motion for a new trial. View "Rogers v. Mays" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are nine female detention service officers working at the Dallas County Jail who are employed by Defendant-Appellee Dallas County Sheriff’s Department. Dallas County (“the County”). A gender-based scheduling policy went into effect and only male officers were given full weekends off whereas female officers were allowed two weekdays off or one weekday and one weekend day off. Plaintiffs alleged that they were told that it would be safer for the male officers to be off during the weekends as opposed to during the week.   Plaintiffs filed suit against the County for violations of Title VII and the Texas Employment Discrimination Act (the “TEDA”). On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the district court erred by considering whether the County’s scheduling policy constituted an adverse employment action rather than applying the statutory text of Title VII and the TEDA. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s motion to dismiss The court held that Plaintiffs’ did not plead an adverse employment action, as required under the Fifth Circuit’s Title VII precedent. The court explained that the conduct complained of here fits squarely within the ambit of Title VII’s proscribed conduct: discrimination with respect to the terms, conditions, or privileges of one’s employment because of one’s sex. Given the generally accepted meaning of those terms, the County would appear to have violated Title VII. However, the court explained it is bound by the circuit’s precedent, which requires a Title VII plaintiff to establish a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that she “suffered some adverse employment action by the employer.” View "Hamilton v. Dallas County" on Justia Law

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Michael Cruz sued defendant insurance companies alleging they terminated his contract, under which he sold defendants’ insurance products, on the basis of race, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. In support, Cruz relied on a statement allegedly made by his district manager, which Cruz argued represented direct evidence of discrimination, as well as circumstantial evidence. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants, ruling that the district manager’s statement was inadmissible hearsay and that Cruz’s circumstantial evidence did not otherwise demonstrate discriminatory intent. Without considering Cruz’s circumstantial evidence, the Tenth Circuit reversed because the district manager’s alleged comment was not inadmissible hearsay; it was admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(D) as a party-opponent admission made by an agent within the scope of the agency relationship. And because that admission constituted direct evidence of discrimination, the grant of summary judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Cruz v. Farmers Insurance, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former employee at Nebraska State College System’s (NSCS) Peru State College, brought Equal Pay Act and Title VII claims against NSCS after she received a terminal contract in 2018. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of NSCS on all of Plaintiff’s claims, and Plaintiff appealed.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the ruling. The court explained that the parties do not dispute that another employee was paid more for the same position from when Plaintiff and the other employee were hired until Plaintiff’s promotion in 2017; thus, it is undisputed that Plaintiff set forth a prima facie case. The parties dispute, however, whether NSCS satisfied its burden to prove that the pay differential was based on a factor other than sex. The court agreed with the district court that NSCS met its burden. NSCS offered sufficient evidence that the other employee received a higher salary because he had significantly more experience than Plaintiff.Further, the court wrote that while Plaintiff maintains that her being hired before the other employee demonstrates her superior experience. This assumption is erroneous, as Plaintiff conflates Peru State’s hiring and salary decisions. Finally, even if Plaintiff proves causation, Plaintiff failed to put forth evidence demonstrating pretext in response to NSCS’s legitimate reason for issuing her a terminal contract. View "Ronicka Schottel v. Nebraska State College System" on Justia Law