Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion to suppress his federal New Hampshire prosecution on double jeopardy grounds, holding that Defendant's double jeopardy rights did not attach in earlier Maine criminal proceedings.In 2018, Defendant was indicted in the District of Maine with criminal offenses. On January 31, 2020, the United States filed a motion to dismiss the indictment without prejudice. Defendant filed a motion for a judgment of acquittal or dismissal with prejudice, arguing that, given the government's accompanying admission that it could not prove its case and his lengthy pretrial detention, due process required an acquittal or dismissal with prejudice. The district court denied the motion and dismissed the case without prejudice. Also on January 31, 2020, the United States filed a criminal complaint in the New Hampshire district court. A grand jury issued an indictment. Defendant moved to dismiss count two on double jeopardy grounds. The district court denied the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that jeopardy did not attach to Defendant's Maine criminal proceedings. View "United States v. Suazo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the sheriff's department and deputies involved in plaintiff's second arrest based on mistaken identity. Plaintiff alleged that defendants violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by falsely arresting him, overdetaining him, and failing to institute policies and train deputies to prevent these things from happening.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's rulings on the false arrest and Monell claims. The court concluded that the mistaken arrest of plaintiff on the wanted warrant of someone by the same name was reasonable within the bounds of the Fourth Amendment, and the deputies are entitled to qualified immunity on the false arrest claim. However, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of the overdetention claim because plaintiff sufficiently alleged facts establishing that defendants failed to take any action for three days and nights after they learned of information that raised significant doubts about defendant's identity. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Sosa v. Martin County" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's adverse grant of summary judgment based on qualified immunity in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by a pretrial detainee against prison officials, alleging violation of his constitutional rights when he was denied visitation with his children due to a blanket policy of prohibiting detainees from visitations by minor children. The court determined that its case law up to now has not necessarily made clear that the prison officials violated plaintiff's constitutional rights by enforcing the blanket prohibition on visitation with minor children, and thus qualified immunity was appropriate to protect defendants from liability.However, the court noted that the time is ripe to clearly establish that such behavior may amount to a constitutional violation in the future. The court joined the Seventh Circuit in holding that prison officials who permanently or arbitrarily deny an inmate visits with family members in disregard of the factors described in Turner v. Safely, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), and Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126 (2003), have acted in violation of the Constitution. View "Manning v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit held that the Chisom decree, which created Louisiana's one majority-black supreme court district, does not govern the other six districts. Therefore, the district court properly denied Louisiana's motion to dismiss this Voting Rights Act suit for lack of jurisdiction. In this case, the state argued that the Chisom decree centralizes perpetual federal control over all supreme court districts in the Eastern District of Louisiana, which issued the decree. The court concluded that the district court rejected that reading for good reason because it is plainly wrong. Rather, the present suit addresses a different electoral district untouched by the decree. View "Allen v. Louisiana" on Justia Law

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Convicted of murder, Phillips has been incarcerated in Kentucky prisons since 1999. In 2014, Phillips and his cellmate got into a fight. Phillips later thought he had sprained his ankle. The pain and discoloration went away in a few weeks. Weeks later, Phillips noticed a growing lump on his calf. Dr. Tangilag measured the “mass” and ordered an ultrasound then scheduled a CT scan to rule out cancer. Phillips underwent the scan at a local hospital. Doctors concluded that a “plantaris rupture” was “related to an old injury/trauma” and assured Phillips that it was “not cancer or any bone lesion.” Phillips saw an outside orthopedic surgeon who agreed and concluded that Phillips did not need surgery. Dr. Tangilag met with Phillips a final time in August 2015. Phillips noted that he still experienced pain when walking. According to Phillips, the lump did not go away, and he continued to suffer pain.In 2016, Phillips sued, alleging that his doctors violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishments” by refusing to surgically remove the lump. Medical staff ordered another ultrasound, which found nothing remarkable. Phillips was given pain medication and referred to physical therapy. The district court granted summary judgment to all defendants. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Surgery is not the standard of care for a rupture, and a hematoma typically goes away on its own. Phillips lacks expert evidence suggesting that his doctors were grossly incompetent. View "Phillips v. Tangilag" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, holding that the modified plain error doctrine was not satisfied in this case.On appeal, Defendant argued that a statement made by the prosecutor during his jury trial required reversal of his conviction and a new trial. At issue was the prosecutor's statement to the jury during closing argument that a unanimous verdict on one element of the offense - specifically, whether Defendant acted with force or with coercion to accomplish the act of sexual penetration - was not required. The court of appeals affirmed, holding (1) the phrase "force or coercion in Minn. Stat. 609.342(a)(e)(i) sets forth alternative means for completing the sexual penetration element of the offense; and (2) therefore, a unanimous jury verdict on whether Defendant used force or coercion was not necessary. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that no relief was warranted in this case. View "State v. Epps" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against prison officials, alleging that the delay in treatment of the cut on his hand amounted to deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. Captain Lewis asserted a qualified immunity defense, which the district court denied.The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to Lewis, concluding that Aldridge v. Montgomery, 753 F.2d 970 (11th Cir. 1985) (per curiam), did not place an objectively reasonable officer in Lewis's position on notice that his conduct was unconstitutional. In this case, although plaintiff's cut was bleeding while he was in Lewis's custody, nothing in the record supports the inference that, during Lewis's brief interaction with plaintiff, plaintiff's cut bled so continuously or profusely that it rose to the level of the circumstances in Aldridge. View "Wade v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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In an action arising from a constitutional challenge to Missouri's remedial parole review process for individuals sentenced to mandatory life without the possibility of parole for homicide offenses committed as juveniles, a class of Missouri inmates who were sentenced to mandatory life without parole for such juvenile homicide offenses filed suit claiming that Missouri's parole review policies and practices violate their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and their rights to due process of law under the U.S. Constitution and the Missouri Constitution. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court that Missouri's policies and practices, when implemented and considered in combination, worked to deprive plaintiffs of their Eighth Amendment right to a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based upon demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. The court explained that, because the parole review process in place under Senate Bill 590 failed to adequately ensure that juveniles whose crimes reflect only transient immaturity—and who have since matured—will not be forced to serve a disproportionate sentence, it violated the Eighth Amendment.The court affirmed the order of the district court determining that the parole review process of SB 590 violated plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment rights, and affirmed the order determining that Missouri cannot use a risk assessment tool in its revised parole proceedings unless it has been developed to address the unique circumstances of the JLWOP Class. The court vacated the order regarding appointment of counsel and remanded for further proceedings. Finally, the court denied plaintiffs' motion to strike. View "Brown v. Precythe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss with prejudice or for absolute discharge based on late disclosures of discovery information resulting in delays Defendant argued implicated his speedy trial rights and denying Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that there was no error.On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred when it denied his motion to suppress the fruits of the search of his residence, two cell phones taken from his person incident to his unlawful arrest, information obtained from a search of the contents of his two cell phones, cell records and cell site location information from the cell phone service providers. Defendant also challenged the denial of his motion to dismiss and motion for complete discharge. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no merit to Defendant's assignments of error. View "State v. Short" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of aggravated criminal sodomy and the requirement that he register as a sex offender for life under the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA), Kan. Stat. Ann. 22-4906(c), holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.On appeal, Defendant argued that retroactive application of KORA violates the federal constitutional prohibition against ex post facto punishment, constituted cruel and unusual punishment, and infringed on his right to due process. The appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's due process and cruel and unusual punishment arguments were waived and abandoned; and (2) KORA registration requirements are not punitive in purpose or effect, and therefore, retroactive application of KORA provisions to Defendant did not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution. View "State v. Davidson" on Justia Law