Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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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

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging that the FAA wrongfully terminated plaintiff. Plaintiff filed her action in the district court within the 30-day statutory limitations period, but she mistakenly named only the FAA and her former supervisor as defendants. Because plaintiff's action alleged claims of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, she should have named the head of the executive agency to which the FAA belonged, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. After the statute of limitations had expired, the FAA moved to dismiss and Secretary Chao then filed her own motion to dismiss. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff was entitled to relation back under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(2). The panel held that the district court adopted an overly technical interpretation of the term "process" as used in Rule 15(c)(2). Rather, the panel held that the notice-giving function of "process" under Rule 15(c)(2) was accomplished whether or not the summons accompanying the complaint was signed by the clerk of court. Furthermore, the requirements for relation back were met here where both the United States Attorney and the Attorney General were sufficiently notified of the action within Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m)'s 90-day period. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Silbaugh v. Chao" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court convicting Appellant of first-degree felony murder, two counts of aggravated robbery, and a firearm enhancement and sentencing Appellant as a habitual offender to life imprisonment, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying Appellant's motions for directed verdict or his motion to suppress and did not sentence him illegally. Specifically, the Court held (1) contrary to Appellant's argument on appeal, substantial evidence supported the first-degree murder conviction and one of the aggravated robbery convictions; (2) the circuit court did not err by sentencing Appellant as a habitual offender to a term of life imprisonment because he had two prior convictions for crimes that he had committed as a minor and for which he was tried as an adult; and (3) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress his taped statement to police during which he requested an attorney. View "Price v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first-degree rape of a child under age thirteen, holding that the circuit court erred in admitting statements from an unavailable witness, but the error was harmless. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial judge's order admitting, as other acts evidence, statements from an unavailable witness violated his Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the statements at issue were testimonial and of a constitutional magnitude; (2) the circuit court's decision to admit the statements violated Defendant's Sixth Amendment right of confrontation; but (3) the affect of the circuit court's error in admitting the statements at trial was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Richmond" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal held that Allergan was not entitled to summary adjudication of plaintiff's first cause of action for disability discrimination. The court held that plaintiff provided direct evidence of disability discrimination where Allergan terminated him because the temporary corporate benefits staffer mistakenly believed he was totally disabled and unable to work. The court held that Allergan was not entitled to summary adjudication of plaintiff's fourth cause of action for retaliation where plaintiff's emails would permit a reasonable trier of fact to find that he sufficiently communicated to Allergan that he believed the way he was treated (i.e. ignored and not accommodated for his disability) was discriminatory. Furthermore, Allergan failed to articulate a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for plaintiff's termination. The court held that plaintiff's fifth cause of action for failure to prevent discrimination and seventh cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy should survive summary adjudication for the same reasons as his causes of action for discrimination and retaliation. Accordingly, the court issued a peremptory writ of mandate vacating the trial court's order to the extent it granted summary adjudication on these causes of action. View "Glynn v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The question of whether all speech over the microphone was government speech is a heavily fact-intensive one that looks at the history of the government's use of the medium for communicative purposes, the implication of government endorsement of messages carried over that medium, and the degree of government control over those messages. After FHSAA denied access to a loudspeaker for a proposed religious speech before a high school football game, Cambridge Christian filed suit alleging claims arising under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the United States and Florida Constitutions. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Eleventh Circuit held that Cambridge Christian's claims for relief under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses have been adequately and plausibly pled. In this case, the history factor weighed against finding government speech and the control factor was indeterminate. Therefore, based on the limited record, the court found that it was plausible that the multitude of messages delivered over the loudspeaker should be viewed as private, not government, speech. While the court agreed with the district court that the loudspeaker was a nonpublic forum, the court held that Cambridge Christian has plausibly alleged that it was arbitrarily and haphazardly denied access to the forum in violation of the First Amendment. The court also could not say that in denying communal prayer over the loudspeaker, the FHSAA did not infringe on Cambridge Christian's free exercise of religion. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's decision in part. The court affirmed the district court's decision holding that Cambridge Christian failed to plead a substantial burden under the Florida Religious Free Restoration Act (FRFRA) because it has not alleged that the FHSAA forbade it from engaging in conduct that its religion mandates. The court also affirmed the district court's decision insofar as it rejected Cambridge Christian's request for declaratory relief under the Establishment Clauses. View "Cambridge Christian School, Inc. v. Florida High School Athletic Assoc., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied TDCJ's motion to vacate the district court's order granting Texas death row inmate Patrick Henry Murphy's motion seeking to stay his execution. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the stay and agreed with the district court's implicit finding that Murphy had a strong likelihood of success on the merits of his claim that the TDCJ policy violates his rights by allowing inmates who share the same faith as TDCJ-employed clergy greater access to a spiritual advisor in the death house. The court held that Murphy's claim was timely, and rejected TDCJ's exhaustion argument. View "Murphy v. Collier" on Justia Law