Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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Cook County inmate Bowers filed a federal civil rights lawsuit after other inmates attacked him in 2012, alleging the defendants failed to protect him, instituted an observation policy that caused the attack, and later discriminated against him because of a resulting disability. Bowers remains in a wheelchair. The jail is short on ADA‐ compliant cells, however, and, save for one month, Bowers has lived in cells without accessible showers or toilets. The district court dismissed most of Bowers’s claims before trial. A jury returned a verdict in the Sheriff’s favor on the remaining claims,The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Bowers, before filing suit, did not exhaust his failure‐ to‐protect claims as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a). Bowers prison grievances did not assert the same claims as his complaint; his “Monell” claim was untimely. A reasonable jury could find that Bowers is not a qualified individual with a disability--someone who has “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of his major life activities,” has “a record of such an impairment,” or is “being regarded as having such an impairment,” 42 U.S.C. 12102(1). The jury had sufficient evidence to find that Bowers lied about needing a wheelchair. View "Bowers v. Dart" on Justia Law

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North Carolina abortion providers filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the State's criminalization of previability abortions. The State contends that the Providers do not have standing to bring suit because they do not face a credible threat of prosecution for violation of the challenged statutes, N.C. Gen. Stat. 14-44 and 14-45, and the exceptions thereto, section 14-45.1(a)–(b).The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that the Providers have established a credible threat of prosecution and therefore have standing to bring this suit. In this case, amidst a wave of similar state action across the country, North Carolina has enacted legislation to restrict the availability of abortions and impose heightened requirements on abortion providers and women seeking abortions. The court explained that, given these facts, the court cannot reasonably assume that the abortion ban that North Carolina keeps on its books is "largely symbolic." Where North Carolina's continued interest in regulating abortion remains vividly apparent, the court cannot dismiss the threat of prosecution as "not remotely possible." Furthermore, informal statements by two of the defendants that they do not presently intend to enforce the challenged statutes do not alter the court's analysis. View "Bryant v. Woodall" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former student at Oakton High School, filed suit under Title IX against the school board, alleging that her school’s administrators acted with deliberate indifference to reports that she had been sexually harassed by another Oakton student, "Jack Smith." The jury ruled against plaintiff and the district court subsequently denied her motion for a new trial.The Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that a school's receipt of a report that can objectively be taken to allege sexual harassment is sufficient to establish actual notice or knowledge under Title IX—regardless of whether school officials subjectively understood the report to allege sexual harassment or whether they believed the alleged harassment actually occurred. The court further concluded that under this standard, no evidence in the record supports the jury's conclusion that the school board lacked actual notice of Smith's alleged sexual harassment of plaintiff. Accordingly, the court remanded for a new trial. View "Doe v. Fairfax County School Board" on Justia Law

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After being unable to serve on a jury in part because of the architecture of the Hinds County Courthouse, plaintiff, who needs a wheelchair to move about, filed suit seeking injunctive relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The district court dismissed for lack of standing, holding it was too speculative that plaintiff would, among other things, again be excluded from jury service.The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded, concluding that plaintiff has standing to seek injunctive relief where he has a substantial risk of being called for jury duty again. The court explained that plaintiff was called twice between 2012 and 2017, and that Hinds County is not extremely populous, and only a subset of its population is eligible for jury service, so it is fairly likely that plaintiff will again, at some point, be called for jury duty. The court also concluded that the architectural barriers plaintiff claims prevented his serving on a jury duty amount to a systemic exclusion. View "Crawford v. Hinds County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, parents of LD, filed suit against the school district and others after their daughter LD, a 13-year-old, 7th grade student, was sexually abused by her teacher, Brian Robeson.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the school district and the principal. The court concluded that plaintiffs failed to present any evidence that the principal had actual notice of the abuse, and the principal and the school district were entitled to summary judgment on plaintiffs' Title IX and 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims. The court also concluded that the district court did not err by granting summary judgment in favor of the school district and principal on plaintiffs' Nebraska Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act where plaintiffs' claim arose out of Robeson's sexual assault of LD, an intentional tort to which the Act's intentional tort exception applies. The court further concluded that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the principal on plaintiffs' aiding and abetting intentional infliction of emotional distress claim where nothing in the record, even when viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, indicates that the principal encouraged or assisted Robeson in inflicting emotional distress on LD.The court joined its sister circuits in finding that there is no right to a jury trial on the issue of damages following entry of default judgment. The court affirmed the district court's order denying plaintiffs' request for a jury trial on the issue of damages against Robeson. Finally, the court affirmed the $1,249,540.41 amount of damages awarded against Robeson. View "KD v. Douglas County School District No. 001" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a tenured professor, filed suit against the University, a faculty union, and the Board of Trustees, alleging First and Fourteenth Amendment violations. Plaintiff claimed that the designation of IFO as plaintiff's exclusive representative violates the First Amendment by wrongly compelling her to speak through and associate with an entity with which she disagrees. Plaintiff also claimed that granting preferences to IFO members to serve on meet-and-confer committees discriminates against her and others who declined to associate with the union.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants on all of plaintiff's claims. Because plaintiff properly concedes that the district court correctly rejected her compelled-speech claim (Count I) under Minnesota State Board of Community Colleges v. Knight, 465 U.S. 271 (1984), the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on her Count 1 claims. Furthermore, the district court correctly rejected plaintiff's invitation to read Count II as an unconstitutional-conditions claim for three reasons: first, the complaint's text does not support this reading; second, there are inconsistencies in plaintiff's filings; and plaintiff's claim that IFO's meet-and-confer rights under Minnesota law discriminate against her associational preferences is similar to Knight. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's request for leave to amend her complaint, which she made in her Rule 59(e) motion to vacate the judgment. View "Uradnik v. Inter Faculty Organization" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of murder. Petitioner asserts that the State used race-based peremptory strikes during jury selection in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). The court concluded that the state appellate court did not unreasonably apply clearly established federal law in deciding petitioner's Batson claim by considering the jury panelists' voir dire answers among all the circumstances in deciding whether a prima facie case under Batson was shown. In this case, petitioner identifies no Supreme Court precedent clearly establishing that holistic consideration may not include the remarks of panelists on whom a peremptory strike was exercised. Nor does petitioner identify any evidence in the state court proceedings showing an unreasonable determination of fact by the state courts.Moreover, circuit precedent holds that a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination under the Batson framework is a factual finding entitled to the section 2254(e)(1) presumption of correctness. The court concluded that the district court correctly stated the law in that regard. However, that presumption is not dispositive here because petitioner's habeas claim independently fails both under section 2254(d) and on de novo review. Finally, regardless of section 2254(d) and (e), petitioner must establish entitlement to habeas relief on the merits by showing, as relevant here, a violation of the constitutional right defined in Batson. In this case, petitioner failed to establish a prima facie case, and thus his claim for federal relief is foreclosed. View "Seals v. Vannoy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a petition for writ of mandate and a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief challenging statewide delays in the transfer of incompetent to stand trial (IST) defendants from county jails to DSH and DDS to begin substantive services. The trial court granted the petition in part, first finding that defendants systematically violate the due process rights of IST defendants in California who are committed to DSH pursuant to Penal Code section 1370 or to DDS pursuant to section 1370.1, subdivision (a)(1)(B)(i). The trial court found that due process requires defendants to commence substantive services for these IST defendants within 28 days of the date on which the order transferring responsibility for those defendants to DSH or DDS is served. The trial court denied the petition as to certain IST defendants charged with felony sex offenses who are committed to DDS pursuant to section 1370.1, subdivision (a)(1)(B)(ii) and (iii).The Court of Appeal concluded that defendants have systematically violated the due process rights of all IST defendants in California by failing to commence substantive services designed to return those defendants to competency within 28 days of service of the transfer of responsibility document, which is the date of service of the commitment packet for all defendants committed to DSH and the date of service of the order of commitment for all defendants committed to DDS. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment as to the issues raised in defendants' appeal, but reversed as to the issue raised in plaintiffs' cross-appeal. The court remanded to the trial court with directions to modify its order granting in part plaintiffs' petition for writ of mandate to reflect a uniform transfer of responsibility date for all IST defendants committed to DDS. View "Stiavetti v. Clendenin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) reversing an order revoking Respondent's driving privileges for driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances and/or drugs with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher, holding that the circuit court erred.In reversing the order revoking Respondent's driving privileges the OAH determined that the officer's failure to comply with Respondent's demands for a blood test violated Respondent's rights to due process under W. Va. Code 17C-5-9. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) in proceedings involving the revocation of a driver's license for DUI where a driver demands a blood test but the test is never given, a chemical analysis of the blood that is withdrawn is never completed, or the blood test results are lost, the trier of fact must consider three factors; and (2) this case must be remanded to the OAH for a new hearing that is to be conducted consistent with this opinion. View "Frazier v. Talbert" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged a First Amendment challenge to section 1-201 of the Criminal Procedure Article of the Maryland Code, insofar as that statute prohibits and punishes the broadcasting of the official court recordings of state criminal proceedings. In January 2020, the district court dismissed the entire action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, concluding that the Broadcast Ban constitutes a content-neutral regulation of the time, place, and manner of speech that survives intermediate scrutiny.The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of the First Amendment claim, concluding that the Broadcast Ban is properly assessed as a penal sanction for publishing information released to the public in official court records and is therefore subject to strict scrutiny under the Supreme Court's decisions in Cox Broadcasting Corp. v. Cohn, 420 U.S. 469 (1975), and Smith v. Daily Mail Publishing Co., 443 U.S. 97 (1979). The court explained that, at bottom, the district court was wrong to apply intermediate scrutiny, rather than strict scrutiny, to the Broadcast Ban. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Soderberg v. Carrion" on Justia Law