Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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Rudolph’s son texted Rudolph's ex-husband, Kyle: “[S]he has the .22 out”. Kyle went Rudolph’s home, the two spoke and Rudolph allowed Kyle to take Rudolph’s gun. After Kyle left, Rudolph went to sleep. Around 3:00 A.M., Officer Hodges stopped Kyle for speeding. Kyle admitted he was carrying a gun, explaining that he took it from his ex-wife. Kyle showed Hodges the text from his son and a text from Rudolph saying “goodbye.” The officers let Kyle go but felt obligated to do a wellness check. Two officers went to Rudolph’s home and banged on her doors. Asleep, she did not answer. Officer Hodges told Kyle to call Rudolph. Rudolph answered. Hodges stated that his officers were at the door. Rudolph opened the door. The officers entered without her permission. Rudolph stated that she was not suicidal and generally cooperated. The officers gave her the option of going voluntarily to the hospital or being taken into custody involuntary for a mental-health check. Rudolph says that they grabbed her, slammed her into the wall, and handcuffed her “really tight.” The officers “manhandled” her outside, without shoes, dragging her so that she hurt her ankle. She later needed surgeries to treat that injury. She complained repeatedly about the handcuffs. The hospital had to wait for Rudolph’s blood-alcohol level to go down to perform psychiatric evaluation, then determined that “[Rudolph] is at extremely low risk of self-harm.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of qualified immunity summary judgment on three claims but reversed the denial on Rudolph’s state-law false arrest and imprisonment claims. Although the officers had a reason to show up at Rudolph’s door, a jury could reasonably find that they lacked probable cause to execute this mental-health seizure. The officers violated Rudolph’s clearly established right to be free from excessive force. View "Rudolph v. Babinec" on Justia Law

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Buddenberg, formerly the County Health District fiscal coordinator, learned that the District had obtained a state grant for tire removal, and, without competitive bids, District workers took on the work. Buddenberg also reported an apparently sex-based pay disparity between District employees. In reporting these issues to the Board of Health, she also voiced other concerns about unethical conduct by a supervisor, such as accepting gifts from contractors to whom the District issued permits, failing to enforce attendance and break policies, failing to honor the reference-check policy for new hires, and disregarding the health and safety recommendations. Buddenberg wrote multiple emails to Board members and to the Board’s attorney, describing Weisdack’s subsequent retaliation. The Board failed to intervene. After receiving notice of Buddenberg’s EEOC filing, her supervisor issued a “Notice of Proposed Disciplinary Action.” Attorney Budzik offered to settle the disciplinary charges if Buddenberg would accept a demotion and a salary reduction of nearly $1,000 per month, and drop all her claims. Demoted, Buddenberg found the work environment intolerable and resigned. She sued, alleging Title VII, Fair Labor Standards Act, and First Amendment retaliation, 42 U.S.C. 2000, 29 U.S.C. 215(a)(3)), 42 U.S.C. 1983. On interlocutory appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. Accepting Buddenberg’s factual allegations, she has plausibly alleged violations of her clearly established First Amendment rights. Buddenberg’s speech was not within her ordinary job responsibilities and was constitutionally protected. View "Buddenberg v. Weisdack" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit amended the opinion and concurrence, and affirmed the district court's order denying an IRS agent's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff alleged that the agent violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to bodily privacy during the lawful execution of a search warrant at plaintiff's home in 2006 when the agent escorted plaintiff to the bathroom and monitored her while she relieved herself. As a preliminary matter, the panel applied the test in Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1843 (2017), and held that plaintiff could proceed with her Bivens action against the agent. The panel held that the agent's interests in preventing destruction of evidence and promoting officer safety did not justify the scope or manner of the intrusion into plaintiff's most basic subject of privacy. Furthermore, a reasonable officer in the agent's position would have known that such a significant intrusion into bodily privacy, in the absence of legitimate government justification, is unlawful. View "Ioane v. Hodges" on Justia Law

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As a felon in possession of a firearm, Wright had three prior convictions for “serious drug offenses,” and qualified as an armed career criminal. A Maryland district judge accepted his plea and gave him the 15-year minimum sentence. Wright did not dispute his Armed Career Criminal Act status, nor did he appeal. Wright unsuccessfully challenged his sentence after the Supreme Court decided, in Johnson, that ACCA's “residual clause” was unconstitutionally vague. Wright’s argument had nothing to do with Johnson or the residual clause, which did not concern drug offenses. After the Supreme Court’s 2016 Mathis decision, Wright was subject to “second or successive” habeas motions limitation, 28 U.S.C. 2255(h). Wright's second habeas corpus petition, filed in the district court where he is imprisoned, was dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. In the Sixth Circuit, a federal prisoner who has already filed a section 2255 motion and cannot file another one, cannot use section 2241 to seek relief just because a new Supreme Court case hints his conviction or sentence may be defective. The prisoner must also show that binding adverse precedent (or some greater obstacle) left him with “no reasonable opportunity” to make his argument either when he was convicted and appealed or when he sought postconviction relief. Wright had several opportunities to raise his “Mathis claim,” free of any procedural impediments or hostile precedents. He cannot now use the saving clause to get "another bite at the apple." View "Wright v. Spaulding" on Justia Law

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Iowa inmates filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the IDOC and IDOC officials, alleging that IDOC's administration of its Sex Offender Treatment Program violates their constitutional rights to equal protection, due process, and necessary medical care. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court erred in concluding that the federal claims must be dismissed without prejudice under 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a), because plaintiffs failed to exhaust their available post-conviction remedies under Belk v. State, 905 N.W.2d 185, 191 (Iowa 2017). In this case, defendants cite no case holding that post-conviction judicial remedies were "administrative remedies" that must be exhausted under section 1997e(a), and the court has not found an opinion that even addresses the question. The panel also held that plaintiffs' claim that defendants' unconstitutional conduct deprived plaintiffs of their statutory right to accrue earned-time credit and of receiving a reduction of sentence was barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Accordingly, the panel reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Minter v. Bartruff" on Justia Law

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Custer had already been convicted of several crimes when entered an open plea of guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance in 2010. Before his sentencing hearing, Custer was arrested again after an attack on a police officer and for possession of a knife while threatening people at a bar. Based on his many convictions involving “crimes of violence,” and being the subject of “a multitude” of protective orders sought by different women, the court sentenced him to six years’ imprisonment for the drug crime. In 2013, Custerer entered a negotiated guilty plea to the charges of aggravated battery of a police officer and unlawful possession of a weapon; the court imposed consecutive sentences of 4½ years and 5 years in prison and dismissed the remaining charges. Custer filed a pro se post-conviction petition, alleging that his private counsel in the 2010 drug case, Hendricks, was ineffective for failing to appeal or move to withdraw his guilty plea as requested. Appointed post-conviction counsel (Snyder) filed a supplemental petition, with four affidavits from Custer and his girlfriend, Colvin. Hendricks acknowledged telling Custer he had a “good chance” of receiving no more than four years in prison but he had explained that entering an open plea would make it difficult to challenge his sentence. He denied that Custer expressed a desire to appeal or withdraw his plea. Before the court entered an order, Custer sent the judge a letter claiming that Snyder failed to provide adequate representation by refusing to call Colvin as a witness. Stating that it found Custer’s testimony totally unbelievable, the court denied relief. After a hearing for which Custer was absent and Snyder appeared but did not present argument, the court denied a motion to reconsider. Custer filed a second post-conviction appeal, arguing the court erred in denying his reconsideration request without conducting a Krankel hearing. The appellate court acknowledged that Krankel has never been extended to post-conviction proceedings, but remanded. The state appealed. The Illinois Supreme Court declined to expand its holding Krankel, which established procedures to protect a pro se criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of trial counsel. Extending those procedures to similar claims of unreasonable assistance by post-conviction counsel in statutory proceedings commenced under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act would be an unwarranted drain on judicial resources. View "People v. Custer" on Justia Law

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In the Fourth Amended Complaint (FAC), plaintiffs alleged that they are the victims of an extensive, long-lasting conspiracy designed to prevent African-American individuals in Beaumont from gaining power and influence in order to perpetuate "white dominion over Beaumont local politics." The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of all claims and all parties named in the complaint. In regard to RICO claims, the court held that plaintiffs failed to allege a RICO enterprise and pattern of racketeering activity. The court also held that the district court did not err by determining that government attorneys were entitled to prosecutorial immunity from their acts as prosecutors and officers of the court. Furthermore, there was no error in the district court's dismissal of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers defendants. The court also held that claims premised on allegedly defamatory statements made prior to July 16, 2014 were time-barred. In regard to the timely filed defamation claims against the Beaumont Enterprise defendants, the court held that these claims failed on the elements of actual malice and falsity, and when considered against the fair reporting defense. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's tortious interference, equal protection, immunity, and state-law civil conspiracy claims. View "Walker v. Beaumont Independent School District" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Association's complaint, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act regarding the Association's provision of diabetes-related care in the U.S. Army's Child, Youth, and School Services (CYSS) programs. When this action began in 2016, the Army had in place United States Army Regulation 608-10 and a 2008 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command Memorandum (collectively, "Old Policy"), which together prohibited CYSS staff from providing essential medical care for diabetic children. In 2017, defendants revoked the Old Policy and replaced it with a New Policy that provides for possible diabetes-related accommodations. The panel held that the Association's challenge to the Old Policy was moot. In this case, defendants have satisfied their burden of clearly showing that they cannot reasonably be expected to reinstitute the Old Policy's blanket ban. Therefore, because the Association seeks only prospective relief, its challenge to the policy, and the injuries incurred thereunder, were moot. The panel also held that the Association lacked standing to challenge the New Policy, because the Association lacked organizational standing by failing to show an injury in fact, and representational standing where none of its members had standing to sue in their own right. View "American Diabetes Assoc. v. United States Department of the Army" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services (DHS) determining that Appellant was permanently disqualified from working in a capacity where he may have contact with people who access services from a DHS-licensed program, holding that Appellant's claims on appeal failed. After DHS discovered a 2002 child-protection report that Appellant had sexually abused his son sometime around 1998, Appellant was disqualified from employment as a residence manager at a DHS-licensed substance abuse treatment program. The court of appeals affirmed DHS's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's right to due process was not violated; (2) the Department of Human Services Background Studies Act, Minn. Stat. ch. 245C, does not create a permanent, irrebuttable presumption that DHS's decision was correct; and (3) Appellant was provided constitutionally sufficient notice of his rights under the Act. View "Jackson v. Commissioner of Human Services" on Justia Law

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Gresham is serving a 75-year sentence in a Marquette, Michigan state prison. He filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against prison employees, alleging that they improperly forced him to take antipsychotic medication. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that Gresham must pay a $400 filing fee (28 U.S.C. 1914) before proceeding. The right to proceed “in forma pauperis” and avoid filing fees may be removed for prisoner plaintiffs who abuse the privilege. Prisoners become ineligible to file free lawsuits if the courts have dismissed three or more of their lawsuits as “frivolous, malicious, or [for] fail[ure] to state a claim,” 28 U.S.C. 1915(g). Gresham has at least eight baseless lawsuits. The statute frees poor prisoners from the rule if they are “under imminent danger of serious physical injury.” Gresham alleged that the forced medication caused him “chest pains, akathisia [muscular restlessness], seizures, vomiting, stomach cramps, and dizz[iness].” Those side effects did not amount to an imminent “serious physical injury.” They are typically temporary and rarely life-threatening and are not the kinds of injuries that can lead to impending death or other severe bodily harms. Gresham has not remotely alleged how his complaints could lead to such harms while he is under medical supervision. View "Gresham v. Meden" on Justia Law