Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff, a transgender woman with gender dysphoria, spent six months incarcerated in the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. Though prison deputies initially assigned her to women’s housing, they quickly moved her to men’s housing when they learned that she was transgender. There, she experienced delays in medical treatment for her gender dysphoria, harassment by other inmates, and persistent and intentional misgendering and harassment by prison deputies. Following her release from the detention center, Plaintiff filed a Section 1983 action against the Sheriff of Fairfax County, a prison deputy, and a prison nurse alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Rehabilitation Act, the United States Constitution, and state common law. The district court dismissed the case, holding that the complaint failed to state grounds for relief with respect to some claims and that the statute of limitations barred others.The Fourth Circuit reversed the remanded the district court’s ruling. The court held that Plaintiff has plausibly alleged that gender dysphoria does not fall within the ADA’s exclusion for “gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments.” In addition, the court held that Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint relates back to her Original Complaint and that she has stated claims of gross negligence against the Sheriff and Deputy. View "Kesha Williams v. Stacey Kincaid" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought suit against Defendants for conduct that occurred during his incarceration at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, and Plaintiff appealed. The Fifth Circuit remanded to the district court for a factual inquiry into the timeliness of Plaintiff’s Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment under Rule 59(e). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e). The district court determined that Plaintiff’s appeal was not time-barred; thus, the court held they have jurisdiction.The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. Plaintiff acknowledges that the PLRA prohibits an inmate from bringing suit until he exhausts the administrative remedies that are available. He argues, however, that he satisfied Section 1997e(a) by exhausting the remedies available to him because he followed the grievance policy set forth in the 2015 Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) Standard Operating Procedures (“2015 SOP”) and had no knowledge of or access to the revised handbook that listed the claims ARP director’s reason for rejection.Here, viewed light most favorable to Plaintiff, this evidence satisfies the unavailability exception under Ross because the “administrative scheme [was] so opaque that it bec[ame], practically speaking, incapable of use” by an “ordinary prisoner.” Ross, 578 U.S. at 644. Accordingly, the court held that Defendants are not entitled to summary judgment because there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether administrative remedies were made available to Plaintiff. View "Huskey v. Jones, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 alleging that the City of Vallejo violated the Fourth Amendment, by adding license checks to what was concededly a sobriety checkpoint. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment for Defendants.Reviewing a line of relevant Supreme Court decisions, the court derived a “two-step analysis” for assessing the validity of a checkpoint under the Fourth Amendment. Applying that two-step analysis to this case, the panel first held that because the City’s checkpoint did not have any impermissible primary purpose of advancing the general interest in crime control, it was not per se invalid. The panel then applied the factors for assessing reasonableness set forth in Lidster and concluded that the City’s systematic addition of driver’s license checks to an otherwise valid sobriety checkpoint was objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.The court held that, once Plaintiff refused to produce his license for examination at the checkpoint, the officer had probable cause to believe that plaintiff was committing an offense in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 12951(b), and his continued detention and arrest were therefore reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Moreover, the officer’s action of physically removing Plaintiff from his car by grabbing his arm was objectively reasonable as a matter of law given Plaintiff’s lack of cooperation with her commands up to that point and the modest nature of the force used. View "DAVID DEMAREST V. CITY OF VALLEJO" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 challenging a Jersey City ordinance curtailing the ability of property owners and leaseholders to operate short-term rentals. The plaintiffs alleged that having passed an earlier zoning ordinance legalizing short-term rentals, which enticed them to invest in properties and long-term leases, the city violated their rights under the Takings Clause, the Contract Clause, and the Due Process Clauses by passing the new ordinance, which, they allege, undermined their legitimate, investment-backed expectations and injured their short-term rental businesses. The plaintiffs also sought a preliminary injunction. The district court dismissed the complaint.The Third Circuit affirmed. Not every municipal act legalizing a business activity vests the business owner with a cognizable property right. The plaintiffs’ forward-looking right to pursue their short-term rental businesses is not cognizable under the Takings Clause, but the plaintiffs articulated three cognizable property rights: use and enjoyment of their purchased properties, long-term leases, and short-term rental contracts. Because the properties may still be put to multiple economically viable uses, there has been no total taking of those “properties.” Rejecting “partial takings” claims, the court noted that the plaintiffs may have relied on the previous ordinance in deciding to invest in short-term rentals but they failed to take into account the restrictions in place in that ordinance and the city’s strong interest in regulating residential housing. View "Nekrilov v. City of Jersey City" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued, now retired, police officer, after an encounter that led to Klein’s arrest and a truncated prosecution. The district court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of his claims alleging unlawful seizure, false arrest, and malicious prosecution.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the seizure and arrest claims were untimely and that the malicious prosecution claim fails on the merits. The court explained that Plaintiff’s false arrest claim accrued when he was bound over for trial on June 20, 2017, and his unlawful seizure claim accrued at the time of the seizure, on June 19, 2017. The action filed on November 6, 2019, was therefore untimely as to these claims as well. The district court properly granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims alleging false arrest and unlawful seizure under both federal law and Iowa law.Moreover, the court concluded that Defendant had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff or possession with intent to deliver more than five grams of methamphetamine, and failure to possess a tax stamp for seven grams of methamphetamine. Plaintiff argues that Defendant lacked probable cause because his search for the evidence violated the Fourth Amendment and the Iowa Constitution. The existence of probable cause in a civil action, however, is measured based on all evidence known to the arresting officer, whether or not it would have been admissible at trial. View "Michael Klein v. Warren Steinkamp" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff initiated action against Experian Information Solutions (“Experian”), alleging a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. Section 1681 (“FCRA”). The district court found that Plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence to create a jury question on damages.   Plaintiff contends that a genuine dispute of material fact exists on damages because she provided evidence of financial and emotional harm. The court explained that to maintain a claim for negligent violation of the FCRA, a plaintiff must offer proof of “actual damages sustained by the consumer as a result of the failure. Further, Plaintiff argues that she sustained financial injury based on the denial of her application for a Chase Bank credit card after a hard inquiry on her Experian report. However, her deposition testimony refutes this claim. The record bolsters the conclusion that the bankruptcy drove Chase’s decision to deny Plaintiff’s credit card application. Thus, Plaintiff’s assertion of financial harm is insufficient to create a jury question on damages. Finally, the court wrote that like in other decisions where the court has denied damages for emotional distress, the record reveals that Plaintiff “suffered no physical injury, she was not medically treated for any psychological or emotional injury, and no other witness corroborated any outward manifestation of emotional distress. View "Christa Peterson v. Experian Information Solutions" on Justia Law

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Defendants, federal prison officials, appealed a district court’s judgment awarding former prisoner $20,000 for mental and emotional injury requesting damages pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), for his imprisonment in overcrowded conditions that posed a substantial risk of serious damage to his health or safety, to which Defendants were deliberately indifferent, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.The Second Circuit reversed the judgment and remanded for dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint. The court held first that the PLRA provision in 42 U.S.C. Section 1997e(e) precludes a prisoner's recovery of compensatory damages for mental or emotional injury resulting from his conditions of confinement absent a showing of physical injury. Next, Section 1997e(e) makes physical injury an element of such a claim for mental or emotional injury and is not an affirmative defense that would be subject to waiver if not presented in Defendant's answer. In light of Section 1997e(e), the jury's finding that Plaintiff failed to prove that the prison conditions of which he complained caused him physical injury precluded an award to him of compensatory damages for such mental or emotional injury as the jury found he suffered based on the conditions it found existed.Moreover, even if the jury's findings of fact warranted a conclusion that Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment rights were violated by deliberate indifference to cruel and unusual psychological punishment caused by overcrowding, Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity from such an award. View "Walker v. Schult" on Justia Law

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In 2020, California and Santa Clara County issued public health orders intended to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, including orders restricting indoor gatherings and requiring face coverings, social distancing, and submission of a social distancing protocol by businesses, including churches. Calvary Chapel failed to comply with those orders. On November 2, 2020, the trial court issued a temporary restraining order, followed by a November 24 modified TRO, and a preliminary injunction that enjoined Calvary from holding indoor gatherings that did not comply with the restrictions on indoor gatherings and requirements that participants wear face coverings and social distance. Calvary was also enjoined from operating without submitting a social distancing protocol. Calvary violated the orders, failing to comply with any of the public health orders.The government sought an order of contempt, which the trial court issued on December 17, 2020, ordering Calvary and its pastors to pay monetary sanctions (Code of Civil Procedure sections 177.51 and 1218(a)). The court of appeal annulled the contempt orders and reversed the sanctions. The temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions are facially unconstitutional under the recent guidance of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion in the context of public health orders that impact religious practice. View "People v. Calvary Chapel San Jose" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the court of special appeals reversing Defendant's conviction of one count of second-degree assault, holding that it was harmless error to fail to propound a voir dire question regarding Defendant's right to remain silent and not testify where Defendant actually testified.During trial, Defendant requested a voir dire question on her right not to testify, but the trial court declined to ask the question. During trial, Defendant testified in her defense. In reversing, the court of special appeals determined that the trial court erred under Kazadi v. State, 467 Md. 1 (2020), and that the error was not harmless. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the Kazadi error in this case was subject to the harmless error doctrine; and (2) the Kazadi error was harmless. View "State v. Jordan" on Justia Law

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After the public health department for the City of Madison and Dane County, Wisconsin issued a COVID-19 mask mandate, an owner of Helbachs Café posted a sign: “Mask Free Zone. Please remove mask before entering” and then took it down about 30 minutes later. Over the next few days, Madison’s public health officials cited Helbachs several times for violating its COVID-19 orders and set a hearing to revoke Helbachs’ food and drink license for cumulative violations. The dispute caught the public’s attention and the landlord decided not to renew Helbachs’ lease.Helbachs sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The local citations were later dismissed, and the revocation hearing was not pursued. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Helbachs has standing to bring this First Amendment retaliation claim because the record shows that Helbachs suffered injury-in-fact beyond the revoked citations and the threatened, but aborted, hearing. However, Helbachs’ First Amendment claim fails under “Monell” because the defendants’ actions were not part of a larger pattern or practice of retaliation. View "Helbachs Cafe LLC v. City of Madison, Wisconsin" on Justia Law