Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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This appeal stemmed from Alfred Brown’s lawsuit under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. secs. 701–796l, against his former employer, the Defense Health Agency. In April 2010, the Agency hired Brown as a healthcare fraud specialist (HCFS) assigned to the Program Integrity Office (PIO) in Aurora, Colorado. Shortly after joining the Agency, Brown told his supervisors that he had been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder and other panic and anxiety disorders related to his military service. When Brown’s symptoms worsened in September 2011, he was hospitalized and received in-patient treatment for one week. The Agency approved Brown’s request for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The district court granted summary judgment for the Agency, determining that there were no triable issues on Brown’s claims that the Agency failed to accommodate his mental-health disabilities and discriminated against him based on those disabilities. Brown appealed, challenging the district court’s rulings that: (1) his requests for telework, weekend work, and a supervisor reassignment were not reasonable accommodations; and (2) he failed to establish material elements of his various discrimination claims. The Tenth Circuit found no reversible error: (1) granting Brown’s telework and weekend-work requests would have eliminated essential functions of his job, making those requests unreasonable as a matter of law; (2) Brown did not allege the limited circumstances in which the Agency would need to consider reassigning him despite the fact that he performed the essential functions of his position with other accommodations; (3) the Court declined Brown’s invitation to expand those limited circumstances to include reassignments that allow an employee to live a “normal life;” and (4) Brown did not allege a prima facie case of retaliation, disparate treatment, or constructive discharge. Summary judgment for the Agency was affirmed. View "Brown v. Austin, et al." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff and Thunder Studios filed suit against defendants in federal district court, the jury found that defendants committed the tort of stalking under California Civil Code 1708.7. In this case, defendants hired protestors, organized leafletting, hired a van to drive around Los Angeles with a message on its side, and published emails online to make the public aware of their views of plaintiff’s business practices.The Ninth Circuit held that defendants' speech and speech-related conduct was protected under the First Amendment and was therefore excluded from section 1708.7. The panel explained that the First Amendment applied to the speech and speech-related conduct of defendants, who were outside the United States at all relevant times, because their speech and speech-related conduct were directed at and received by California residents. The panel need not, and did not, here consider under what other circumstances a noncitizen living abroad has standing to claim the protections of the First Amendment. The panel also held that none of defendants' conduct constituted a "true threat" outside the protection of the First Amendment. Therefore, because defendants' conduct in California was constitutionally protected under section 1708.7(b)(1), there is no "pattern of conduct" that can support a judgment based on a violation of the California statute. Accordingly, the panel reversed and remanded with instructions. View "Thunder Studios, Inc. v. Kazal" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a habeas corpus petition challenging petitioner's jury conviction for two counts of first-degree murder and his capital sentence. The panel applied the deferential standard of review in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and held that the district court properly denied petitioner's claims that his trial counsel was ineffective in not renewing a motion to change venue based on pretrial publicity and in failing to develop additional mitigating evidence. Furthermore, petitioner did not show that the California Supreme Court's denial of his claim that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to renew the change of venue motion after jury selection was an unreasonable application of Strickland v. Washington.The panel granted petitioner's request to expand the certificate of appealability to include his claim that counsel acted ineffectively in not seeking a further continuance to develop additional mitigating evidence for the penalty phase. However, the panel concluded that petitioner has not shown he is entitled to relief under Strickland for counsel's investigation and presentation of mitigating evidence at the penalty phase or for counsel's related determination not to seek a further continuance. Furthermore, even assuming that counsel's performance was constitutionally defective, petitioner cannot show prejudice under AEDPA's deferential standard of review. View "Bolin v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment following a jury trial in an action brought by plaintiff, a California state prisoner, under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against a prison doctor and nurse, alleging claims of deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from defendants' termination of his prescription for morphine pills without tapering, despite the risk of withdrawal.The panel concluded that the district court's deference instruction, which instructed the jury to defer to defendants' asserted security justification, violated established law under the facts presented and was not harmless. In this case, plaintiff introduced substantial evidence that the prison did not act pursuant to a security-based policy and that the prison had several less drastic alternatives available, including Direct Observation Therapy. Accordingly, the panel remanded for a new trial. View "Coston v. Nangalama" on Justia Law

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About 50 businesses that offer live adult entertainment (nude or nearly nude dancing) sought loans under the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program enacted to address the economic disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Congress excluded plaintiffs and other categories of businesses from the second round of the Program, 15 U.S.C. 636(a)(37)(A)(iv)(III)(aa), incorporating 13 C.F.R. 120.110. Plaintiffs asserted that their exclusion violated their rights under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.The district court issued a preliminary injunction, prohibiting the Small Business Administration (SBA) from denying the plaintiffs eligibility for the loan program based on the statutory exclusion. The Seventh Circuit granted the government’s stay of the preliminary injunction and expedited briefing on the merits of the appeal. The SBA satisfied the demanding standard for a stay of an injunction pending appeal, having shown a strong likelihood of success on the merits. Congress is not trying to regulate or suppress plaintiffs’ adult entertainment. It has simply chosen not to subsidize it. Such selective, categorical exclusions from a government subsidy do not offend the First Amendment. Plaintiffs were not singled out for this exclusion, even among businesses primarily engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment. Congress also excluded businesses “primarily engaged in political or lobbying activities.” View "Camelot Banquet Rooms, Inc. v. United States Small Business Administration" on Justia Law

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Every Saturday morning since 2003, six-12 protesters have picketed Ann Arbor’s Beth Israel Synagogue, displaying signs on the grass by the sidewalk in front of the synagogue and across the street. The signs state: “Resist Jewish Power,” “Jewish Power Corrupts,” “Stop Funding Israel,” “End the Palestinian Holocaust.” The protests coincide with the arrival of the congregants to their worship service but the protesters have never prevented them from entering the building, have never trespassed on synagogue property, and have never disrupted their services. The signs, the congregants allege, inflict extreme emotional distress on congregants: one sometimes forgoes attending services or visits a different synagogue to avoid the signs; a Holocaust survivor, feels extreme distress when she sees the signs.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit that alleged that the protests (and the city’s failure to enforce a city sign ordinance against the protesters) violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb – 2000cc-5, civil rights statutes, and the congregants’ substantive due process and free exercise rights. While the plaintiffs have alleged a concrete and particularized harm to a legally protected interest, the First Amendment affords “robust protections” to nonviolent protests on matters of public concern. View "Gerber v. Herskovitz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of sexual intercourse without consent, holding that Defendant's constitutional right to confront his accusers was violated during his second criminal trial.The victim, T.C., was thirteen years old, deaf, and developmentally delayed. During trial, the district court found T.C. incompetent and declared a mistrial. At the second trial, Defendant objected to the hearsay testimony from five witnesses who would testify to what T.C. told them. Defendant argued that his right to confrontation was violated when he was denied his request to interview or depose T.C. and when he could not cross-examine T.C. during trial. Defendant was convicted of sexually assaulting T.C. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant's constitutional right of confrontation was violated when the court admitted testimony from three witnesses about T.C.'s out-of-court statements without Defendant having a prior opportunity to cross-examine T.C., and the error was not harmless. View "State v. Tome" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the ruling of the district court suppressing blood alcohol content evidence from a warrantless blood draw because no exigent circumstances were present, holding that the district court misapplied the law to the facts in this case.After a car accident that killed three people, a police officer ordered a warrantless blood of Defendant's blood without Defendant's consent and without exigent circumstances. The government charged Defendant with three counts of manslaughter and other intoxicated-driving crimes. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence from the warrantless blood draw, which the district court granted. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the government met its burden to show it was reasonable for the police officer to think exigent circumstances existed when he took the blood draw. View "United States v. Manubolu" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendants' cross-motions for summary judgment in this action challenging the denial of Plaintiff's application for a "permit to purchase" a firearm, holding that Defendant provided no basis on appeal for overturning the district court's grant of summary judgment to Defendants.William Lyver, the chief of police for Northborough, Massachusetts, denied Plaintiff a permit to purchase based on Plaintiff's criminal history - specifically, his two out-of-state firearms-related convictions. Plaintiff subsequently brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 seeking a declaratory judgment that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, 131(d)(ii)(D) violated the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The district court upheld the provisions on the ground that they were substantially related to an important governmental interest. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff provided no ground for overturning the district court's grant of summary judgment to Defendants. View "Morin v. Lyver" on Justia Law

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Icker, a part-time uniformed police officer, twice pulled over a woman who was driving alone at night and detained her, claiming that she appeared intoxicated or that he could smell marijuana. Icker handcuffed each woman and searched her car, claiming to find incriminating evidence. The women had criminal histories. He advised each that charges could put them in violation of their supervision or bond. Icker indicated that he wanted oral sex and transported each victim in his police cruiser to a location where the woman performed oral sex on him. Icker also groped or harassed three other women, using his authority as a police officer. Icker pleaded guilty to two counts of depriving the victims of their civil right to bodily integrity, 18 U.S.C. 242. The plea agreement recommended 144 months' imprisonment and included several conditions of supervised release but did not refer to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 34 U.S.C. 20901. Icker waived his right to appeal.The Third Circuit vacated the imposition of a condition of supervised release that required Icker to register as a sex offender under SORNA “as directed by the probation officer, the Bureau of Prisons, or any state sex offender registration agency.” Convictions under section 242 are not SORNA “sex offenses.” Icker was not given notice of any potential SORNA requirements in signing his appellate waiver. Any attempted delegation of Icker’s status as a “sex offender” to a third party was an improper delegation of Article III powers. View "United States v. Icker" on Justia Law