Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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The 1972 Shakman Decree enjoined the City of Chicago and county officials from governmental employment practices based in politics. A 1983 Decree enjoined those officials from conditioning hiring or promotions on any political considerations. After the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment’s prohibition against patronage-based firings extends to promotion, transfer, recall, or hiring decisions involving public employment for which party affiliation is not an appropriate requirement, the Clerk of Cook County entered a separate consent decree. In 1992 the Voters Organization joined the Shakman complaint. The court has dismissed some entities and officials, including Chicago and its Park District, as showing substantial compliance. In 2010 the Clerk and other defendants consented to a magistrate judge conducting further proceedings. A new magistrate and a new district judge were assigned in 2020.In 2019, plaintiffs moved for supplemental relief. The magistrate found that the Clerk violated the 1991 Decree, that the evidence strongly suggested that the Clerk’s policy of rotating employees was “instituted for the purpose" of evading the 1972 Decree, appointed a special master to oversee compliance within the Clerk’s Office, and refused the Clerk’s request to vacate the Decrees. The Seventh Circuit, noting that it lacked authority to review the appointment of the special master, affirmed the denial of the request to vacate. Sounding a “federalism concern,” the court noted the permitting a consent decree over an arm of state or local government to remain on a federal docket for decades is inconsistent with our federal structure. View "Shakman v. Clerk of Cook County" on Justia Law

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The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA) does not require landlords to accommodate the disability of an individual who neither entered into a lease nor paid rent in exchange for the right to occupy the premises.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, in an action brought by plaintiff against the City for wrongful eviction based on several theories of state law implied tenancy. The panel held that the FHAA applies to rentals only when the landlord or his designee has received consideration in exchange for granting the right to occupy the premises. As to occupants requesting accommodation, the panel held that the FHAA's disability discrimination provisions apply only to cases involving a "sale" or "rental" for which the landlord accepted consideration in exchange for granting the right to occupy the premises. Applying a federal standard rather than California landlord-tenant law, the panel concluded that because plaintiff never provided consideration in exchange for the right to occupy Spot 57, the FHAA was inapplicable to his claim for relief. Furthermore, the City was not obligated to provide, offer, or discuss an accommodation. View "Salisbury v. City of Santa Monica" on Justia Law

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In this libel case, the Eleventh Circuit held that New York's "fair and true report" privilege, codified as N.Y. Civ. Rights Law 74, applies to the fair and true publication of the contents of a document that was filed and sealed in a Florida paternity/child custody proceeding.Plaintiff filed suit against Gizmodo and Katherine Krueger, the author of an article published on the Splinter website owned by Gizmodo, over an article entitled "Court Docs Allege Ex-Trump Staffer Drugged Woman He Got Pregnant with 'Abortion Pill.'" The district court concluded that section 74 applied, and that the Splinter article was a fair and true report of the supplement because it was "substantially accurate." Plaintiff does not challenge the district court's finding that the Splinter article was a fair and true report, but he maintains that the section 74 privilege does not apply because the supplement was filed in a paternity/child custody proceeding and sealed. The court held that section 74's fair and true report privilege applies to the Splinter article written by Ms. Krueger about the supplement filed by the mother of plaintiff's child, and that the 1970 decision of the New York Court of Appeals in Shiles v. News Syndicate Co., 261 N.E.2d 251, 256 (N.Y. 1970), does not preclude the application of section 74. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. View "Miller v. Gizmodo Media Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment entered by the superior court denying in part Petitioner's petition for post-conviction review of his conviction on several sexual assault charges, holding that Petitioner was deprived of his right to the effective assistance of trial counsel.After a trial, the jury found Petitioner guilty of one count each of gross sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact, and sexual abuse of a minor. The Supreme Court affirmed. Petitioner subsequently filed a postconviction petition arguing that he had been deprived of his right to the effective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court granted the petition as to the convictions for unlawful sexual contact and sexual abuse of a minor and vacated Petitioner's convictions on those counts but denied Petitioner's petition as to the conviction for gross sexual assault. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment and remanded for entry of a judgment granting Petitioner's petition for post-conviction review and vacating the remaining conviction, holding that counsel's performance was deficient and that Petitioner was entitled to post-conviction relief from the remaining portion of the judgment of conviction. View "Hodgdon v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first-degree murder and his sentence of death, holding that Defendant failed to demonstrate any reversible error.Defendant pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. Defendant appealed, raising ten allegations of error. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in allowing Defendant to represent himself during trial; (2) the trial court did not err in accepting Defendant's guilty plea; (3) the trial properly renewed the offer of counsel at all critical stages of the proceedings; (4) there was no reversible error in the trial court's findings on the statutory aggravators alleged by the State and on certain statutory and non statutory mitigators; (5) any error in the trial court's inclusion of a sentencing recommendation in the presentence investigation report did not rise to the level of fundamental error; and (6) Defendant was not entitled to relief on his remaining allegations of error. View "Woodbury v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Petitioner's postconviction petition filed under Ark. R. Crim. P. 37, holding that the circuit court did not err.Defendant was convicted of four counts of rape and one count of terroristic threatening. The Supreme Court affirmed. Thereafter, Defendant filed amended petition under Rule 37 alleging six grounds for relief. The circuit court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not clearly err in finding that trial counsel provided constitutionally effective assistance of counsel; and (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in striking the testimony of Defendant's expert witness. View "Joyner v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this interlocutory appeal brought by the State pursuant to Ark. R. App. P.-Crim. 3 arguing that the circuit court erred in granting Defendant's motion to suppress medical records obtained through a prosecutor's subpoena, holding that the appeal was not a proper State appeal under Rule 3.The State charged Defendant with one count of negligent homicide after he rear-ended a vehicle, causing an accident that killed a minor. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the results of a urine sample collected at the hospital and medical records that were obtained by the State, which included the results of a blood test taken as part of Defendant's medical treatment. The circuit court granted the motion to suppress, and the State appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the State did not have a proper basis to appeal. View "State v. Kirchner" on Justia Law

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During a routine traffic stop, officers ran a name check on Bass, a passenger, which returned an investigative alert issued by the Chicago Police Department for an alleged sexual assault. Bass was arrested and made incriminating statements to investigators. The court denied a motion to suppress those statements and found him guilty of criminal sexual assault. The appellate court reversed, holding that the traffic stop violated the Fourth Amendment because it was unlawfully prolonged, that Illinois Constitution article I, section 6, provides greater protections than the Fourth Amendment, and that arrests based on investigative alerts, even those supported by probable cause, violate the Illinois Constitution.The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the reversal of Bass’s conviction, relying solely on the Fourth Amendment, without addressing investigatory alerts or the state constitution. The state failed to meet its burden of showing that the stop was not unlawfully prolonged. Officers cannot lawfully pursue unrelated investigations after quickly completing the mission by claiming that the overall duration of the stop (here, about eight minutes) remained reasonable, nor by waiting to resolve the mission (by writing a ticket or giving a verbal warning) until unrelated inquiries are completed. The name check was unrelated to resolving the red light violation; the officers resolved the traffic violation and then waited to issue the verbal warning so that they could engage in on-scene investigations into other crimes by checking names until they found something worth investigating. View "People v. Bass" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice denying Petitioner's petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief.Petitioner was charged with trafficking in heroin, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, and two civil motor vehicle infractions. Petitioner filed a motion to suppress, which was denied. Petitioner subsequently filed a motion for leave to file a renewed motion to suppress, as well as a motion for recusal of the district court judge. The judge denied both motions. Petitioner then filed his Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition arguing that the trial judge made multiple decisions that were unfairly prejudicial to him. The single justice denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that there was nothing exceptional about Petitioner's case that warranted the exercise of this Court's extraordinary power. View "Torres v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for review of the Commission's decision concluding that petitioner failed to prove a prima facie case of discrimination under Section 105(c) of the Mine Safety and Health Act. Petitioner, a dredge operator, claimed that his former employer, CalPortland, discriminated against him for engaging in protected activities related to safety issues.The panel concluded that Section 105(c)'s unambiguous text requires a miner asserting a discrimination claim under Section 105(c) to prove but-for causation. Therefore, the panel rejected the Pasula-Robinette framework and concluded that the Commission applied this wrong causation standard. The panel explained that the Supreme Court has instructed multiple times that the word "because" in a statutory cause of action requires a but-for causation analysis unless the text or context indicates otherwise. Section 105(c) contains no such indication. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Thomas v. CalPortland Co." on Justia Law