Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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Vaquero filed suit challenging provisions of a new zoning ordinance requiring permits for new oil and gas exploration, drilling, and production. The ordinance imposed a wide range of environmental and other standards on permit applicants, adopting two procedural pathways for obtaining permits when the proposed activity would be conducted on split-estate land zoned for agriculture. Vaquero alleged that the new provisions violated its constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. The trial court rejected Vaquero's claims and the company appealed. Based on its interpretation of a line of relevant United States Supreme Court cases, the Court of Appeal held that the new ordinance did not violate Vaquero's right to due process because the owner of the surface rights does not have final control over how an owner of mineral rights uses those rights. Rather, the final authority over permits is retained by the County. In regard to the equal protection claim, the court applied the deferential rational basis test and held that the board of supervisors rationally could have decided the availability of an expedited seven-day pathway would promote cooperation between owners of mineral rights and owners of surface rights and reduce conflicts, which is a legitimate public purpose. View "Vaquero Energy v. County of Kern" on Justia Law

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HHS issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) in 2018, soliciting applications for family planning grants. Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the FOA as inconsistent with a governing regulation and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The district court rejected their claims, and granted summary judgment for HHS. After plaintiffs appealed, HHS issued its FOA announcing grants for 2018. The DC Circuit held that plaintiffs' appeal was moot because, while the appeal was pending, HHS disbursed the grant funds for 2018, issued a modified FOA for 2019, and amended the regulation. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions to dismiss the case as moot. View "Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's denial of his Federal Rule Civil of Procedure 60(b) motion to reconsider termination of the Milburn consent decree, which provided injunctive relief to inmates at Green Haven Correctional Facility seeking access to adequate medical care. The Second Circuit reversed and held that plaintiff had standing to invoke Rule 60(b) to challenge the termination because he was sufficiently connected with the underlying litigation and his interests were strongly affected by the termination. The court also held that the termination of the consent decree violated Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a)(4) and the Due Process Clause because the class was inadequately represented at the times relevant to the termination proceedings. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Irvin v. Harris" on Justia Law

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Bryan was arrested for resisting arrest after deputies responded to a woman’s call that he had chased her. The court determined that Bryan was not competent to stand trial. He was taken to Napa State Hospital. After treating Bryan for two years, the hospital reported that it was unlikely he would soon regain competency. The public guardian filed a conservatorship petition supported by the report of a clinical psychologist who evaluated Bryan and concluded that he was gravely disabled by schizophrenia. Bryan’s public defender requested a trial. The court suggested scheduling the trial for January 28, 2019. Bryan’s attorney agreed. The parties stipulated that Bryan would appear by videoconference because of health issues. Trial began on January 28; county counsel called Bryan as a witness with no objection from Bryan’s attorney. The clinical psychologist whose report was submitted with the petition testified, as did Bryan’s temporary conservator. The court concluded that the public guardian had established beyond a reasonable doubt that Bryan was gravely disabled and was currently unable to provide for food, clothing, or shelter; appointed the public guardian as the conservator for one year; and imposed legal disabilities on him under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that the commitment term must be shortened because the trial court unlawfully continued the starting date of his trial and that Bryan had an equal protection right to refuse to testify at his trial. View "Conservatorship of Bryan S." on Justia Law

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After the Authority implemented a reduction in force (RIF), plaintiffs filed suit against the Authority and others under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and New York law, alleging that the termination of union-represented employees violated the employees' First Amendment right to associate. At issue was whether State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition v. Rowland, 718 F.3d 126, 134 (2d Cir. 2013), which held that union activity is protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of association and that heightened scrutiny applies to employment decisions that target an employee "based on union membership," extends to agency fee payors (AFPs), who are not union members, based solely on the fact that AFPs are represented by a union during collective bargaining. The Second Circuit held that the First Amendment protections apply to union members but do not extend to AFPs based on union representation alone. The court held that AFPs did not have a First Amendment right to freedom of association merely because they were represented by a union during collective bargaining. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for the district court to determine whether the layoffs of the thirteen AFPs were justified under rational basis review. View "Donohue v. Milan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of current and former retail sales employees of Sterling Jewelers, filed suit alleging that they were paid less than their male counterparts, on account of their gender, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act. After an arbitrator certified a class of Sterling Jewelers employees that included employees who did not affirmatively opt in to the arbitration proceeding, the district court held that the arbitrator exceeded her authority in purporting to bind those absent class members to class arbitration. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that the arbitrator was within her authority in purporting to bind the absent class members to class proceedings because, by signing the operative arbitration agreement, the absent class members, no less than the parties, bargained for the arbitrator's construction of their agreement with respect to class arbitrability. The court remanded to the district court to consider, in the first instance, the issue of whether the arbitrator exceeded her authority in certifying an opt-out class. View "Jock v. Sterling Jewelers Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Georgia prisoner, appealed the district court's sua sponte dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. 1983 civil rights complaint, alleging that the jail's policy banning hardcover books violated his rights under the First Amendment, due process, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Plaintiff also alleged the violation of his due process rights when his property was destroyed under a hardcover book ban, and that the jail violated his right of access to the courts because the mailroom returned his legal mail to sender. The district court denied plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) and dismissed the complaint under the three strikes bar of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's finding of seven strikes against plaintiff at the time of filing of this action. To the extent plaintiff's challenges to the PLRA were based on access to the courts or equal protection concerns, the court held that these claims were foreclosed by Rivera v. Allin. The court rejected plaintiff's assertion that the three-strikes provision violates the First Amendment's "breathing space" principle. The court explained that, because there was no First Amendment right to access the courts for free, it follows that there was also no First Amendment right to speak in the courts for free and the "breathing space" principle was inapplicable. Furthermore, the principle was not implicated by a rule that determines whether an individual has to pay a filing fee in order to bring a lawsuit, and these were not the types of fundamental interests that would warrant waiver of the filing fee irrespective of plaintiff's status as a three-strikes litigant. View "Daker v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of criminal conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, holding that the district court did not err in overruling Defendant's motion to suppress and that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his remaining claims of error. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err in declining to suppress evidence obtained during and derived from an electronic interception of Defendant's cellular telephone communications; (2) the district court correctly determined that the State's submission of an application to intercept Defendant's communications to the Attorney General two days prior to submitting it to the court did not violate the timing requirement of Neb. Rev. Stat. 86-291; and (3) the interception of Defendant's communications while he was outside the State of Nebraska was within the territorial jurisdiction of the court because the communications were redirected and first listened to at a Nebraska listening post. View "State v. Brye" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming both Defendant's judgment of conviction and the denial of his motion to suppress, holding that the court of appeals did not err in determining that law enforcement's search of Defendant's pursuant pursuant to 2013 Wisconsin Act 79 was valid. The officer in this case observed Defendant riding a bicycle in violation of a city ordinance. Defendant's movements concerned the officer, and the officer ordered Defendant to stop. The officer proceeded to search Defendant, asserting that had a legal basis to search him under Act 79 because, part, he knew Defendant was on supervision. Defendant was subsequently charged with drug offenses, and the circuit court denied Defendant's motion to suppress. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court's finding of fact that the officer had knowledge of Defendant's supervision status prior to conducting the warrantless search at issue in this case was not clearly erroneous; (2) corroborated tips of an unnamed informant may be considered in the analysis of the totality of the circumstances; and (3) under the totality of the circumstances, the officer in this case had reasonable suspicion that Defendant was committing, was about to commit, or had committed a crime. View "State v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Amanda M. (“Parent”), the mother of Nathan M., a child with autism, challenged an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) developed with Harrison School District No. 2 (“the District”) that proposed removing Nathan from Alpine Autism Center (a private, autism-only facility) and placing him in Otero Elementary School (a public school). Nathan’s mother contended the school district did not comply with numerous procedural requirements in developing the IEP and that the IEP itself failed to offer Nathan a “free appropriate public education” as required by the Act. The Tenth Circuit determined that because the IEP at issue governed a schoolyear that has passed, and because the various IEP deficiencies alleged by Parent were not capable of repetition yet evading review, the case was moot. View "Nathan M. v. Harrison School District No. 2" on Justia Law