Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's preliminary injunction enjoining Senate Bill 2116, which makes it a crime to perform an abortion, with exceptions only to prevent the death of, or serious risk of "substantial and irreversible" bodily injury to, the patient, after a "fetal heartbeat has been detected." The court previously upheld an injunction enjoining a law prohibiting abortions, with limited exceptions, after 15 weeks' gestational age. The court held that S.B. 2116 bans abortions at a previability stage of pregnancy regardless of the reason the abortion is sought. In this case, the parties agree that cardiac activity can be detected well before the fetus is viable. Therefore, the court held that if a ban on abortion after 15 weeks is unconstitutional, then it follows that a ban on abortion at an earlier stage of pregnancy is also unconstitutional. View "Jackson Women's Health Organization v. Dobbs" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its original opinion and substituted the following opinion. After decedent was struck and killed by a motor vehicle as he walked along a highway in the dark after being dropped off at the county line by a law enforcement officer, plaintiffs filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit against the county, the city, and officers, alleging state law claims and constitutional claims. In this interlocutory appeal, the court held that the district court erred in denying the officer that dropped decedent off qualified immunity as to plaintiffs' Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims. In regard to the Fourth Amendment claim, the court held that, without a valid exception to the probable cause requirement, the seizure of the decedent was presumptively unreasonable, and a constitutional violation was present. However, plaintiffs failed to prove that a reasonable officer like the one here would have understood that his actions violated clearly established law. In regard to the Fourteenth Amendment claim, the court held that plaintiffs failed to allege a substantive due process right where the law did not clearly establish that a special relationship would have existed under the facts of this case. The court explained that, while the decedent was killed by a motorist after the officer dropped him off, prior case precedent established that officials have no affirmative duty to protect individuals from violence by private actors. View "Keller v. Fleming" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions for one count of conspiracy to make false statements and to conceal in connection with healthcare benefit programs and two counts of false statements in connection with healthcare benefit programs, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress or in instructing the jury. Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress data that the government had acquired pursuant to a warrant because even if the government's conduct violated the Fourth Amendment there was nothing in the record to show that any of the evidence introduce at trial should have been suppressed; and (2) the district court did not err in instructing the jury about the inferences that it could draw from the fact that a particular witness was not called to testify. View "United States v. Aboshady" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint as frivolous under 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). Plaintiff's allegations stemmed primarily from the aftermath of a prison riot. The court held that plaintiff failed to carry his burden to show that the district court abused its discretion in determining that he failed to demonstrate an actual injury in support of his access-to-courts claim; plaintiff waived his argument that TDCJ personnel failed to assist him adequately in his disciplinary hearing and failed to demonstrate an abuse of discretion regarding his claim; the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing plaintiff's claim that his grievances were mishandled or improperly denied, because prisoners have no due process rights in the inmate grievance process; plaintiff's allegations about the conditions of his lockdown were not so harsh that it posed an atypical or significant hardship; and plaintiff failed to adequately brief a challenge to the district court's determination that his allegations were insufficient to show that any of the defendants knew of his complaints or grievances against them, much less that their actions were motivated by his protected activity. The court rejected plaintiff's claims regarding the condition of his cell and his request for appointment of counsel on appeal. Finally, the court issued a sanctions warning. View "Alexander v. Texas Department of Criminal Justice" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized from his home and his father's barn, holding that the search warrants obtained in this case were invalid because the accompanying affidavits did not provide a substantial basis to support the magistrate's probable cause finding. Law enforcement obtained a warrant to plant a GPS tracking device on Defendant's vehicle. When the device stopped providing location readings, the officers discovered that the tracker was no longer attached to Defendant's car. Thereafter, an officer obtained warrants to search Defendant's home and his father's barn for evidence of "theft" of the GPS device. A magistrate issued both search warrants. During the search, officers found drugs, drug paraphernalia, and a handgun. Defendant moved to suppress the seized evidence, arguing that the initial search warrants were issued without probable cause that evidence of theft of the GPS device would be found in his home or his father's barn. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the search warrants were invalid because the affidavits did not establish probable cause that the GPS device was stolen and that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply. View "Heuring v. State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against current and former members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, alleging that adverse employment actions were taken against him in retaliation for his protected First Amendment speech. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, holding that plaintiff's non-testimonial speech was not entitled to First Amendment protection. In this case, although it was undisputed that plaintiff spoke as a private citizen and his speech was of public concern, the highway patrol has shown sufficient evidence of disruption to the efficiency of its operations. Under the Pickering balancing test, the court held that the factors weighed in favor of the highway patrol's interest in efficiency and indicated that plaintiff's speech activity was more likely than not impeding his ability to perform his job duties as a police officer. Therefore, defendants were entitled to qualified immunity regarding plaintiff's speech to the family of the victim of a drowning accident, on social media, and to the news reporter. The court also held that the remaining testimonial speech was not a substantial or motivating factor in the adverse employment actions against plaintiff. Finally, plaintiff's civil conspiracy and failure to supervise claims failed as a matter of law. View "Henry v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of first-degree sexual abuse, first-degree sodomy, and related crimes, and sentencing Defendant to seventy years in prison, holding that the trial court improperly admitted certain Ky. R. Evid. 404(b) evidence, but neither of those instances rose to the level of palpable error. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in finding that Defendant failed to present sufficient evidence to merit an in camera review of the juvenile records of some of the alleged victims; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for an independent evaluation and to continue the trial; (3) the trial court did not err by allowing two of the juvenile victims to testify in chambers and outside of Defendant's presence; and (4) there were two instances of improperly admitted Rule 404(b) evidence, but Defendant was not prejudiced by the admission of the evidence. View "Howard v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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In 1974, a clerk was killed at a store near Toledo. According to Bailey, he entered the store, robbed the cash register at gunpoint, then shot the clerk in the neck and head. The Ohio Parole Board described the crime differently: Bailey entered the store, robbed Cannon, forced him to the ground, “told him . . . exactly what he was planning on doing,” placed the gun to the back of his head and shot him “execution-style” because “he was in need of money and ... the only way he was going to be successful was to kill all witnesses.” In 2014, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Ohio prisoners had a right to a factually accurate parole record. Bailey challenged the Board’s version of events. Bailey ordered a transcript to show that trial testimony contradicted the Board's description and moved to correct his parole record. The Board and state courts denied his request. Bailey sought habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254, alleging due process violations by the Board’s refusal to investigate and correct inaccuracies in its description of his crime. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his petition. Bailey is in custody but does not purport to be in custody in violation of federal law. Bailey cannot argue that, but for the allegedly inaccurate description, the Board would grant him parole. View "Bailey v. Wainwright" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that a court may consider evidence beyond the four corners of a search warrant affidavit in determining whether an officer reasonably and in good faith relied on that warrant. Defendant was indicted for sexual imposition and voyeurism. Defendant filed a motion to suppress seeking to invalidate a search warrant authorizing the search of his home on the basis that the warrant affidavit contained materially false statements. The trial court ultimately denied the motion to suppress. At issue on remand was whether a detective's testimony regarding his unrecorded conversation with the judge at the time of the approval of the warrant was admissible at the suppression hearing. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the testimony was inadmissible and that the good-faith exception did not apply. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) in deciding whether the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies to a search conducted under a search warrant, a court can consider sworn but unrecorded oral information that the police gave to the judge; and (2) because application of the exclusionary rule would not serve to deter any bad police conduct, suppression was unwarranted. View "State v. Dibble" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of criminal appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for burglary, holding that application of the burglary statute under the circumstances of this case did not violate due process or prosecutorial discretion. Defendant's conviction arose from her involvement in a scheme to enter a Walmart retail store, steal merchandise, and have another individual return the merchandise for a gift card. Defendant had previously been banned from Walmart retail stores for prior acts of shoplifting, and the owners of these stores had issued documents to Defendant precluding Defendant from entering the stores. The State sought an indictment against Defendant for burglary rather than criminal trespass, reasoning that Defendant entered Walmart without the effective consent of the owner and committed a theft therein. Defendant appealed her burglary conviction, arguing that the burglary statute is unconstitutionally vague as applied to the extent that it implicates due process rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the language of the statute criminalizing burglary is clear and unambiguous on its face; (2) the statute is not unconstitutionally vague as applied, and nothing in the statute precludes its application to the fact scenario in this case; and (3) the prosecutor did not exceed her discretion in interpreting and applying the statute. View "State v. Welch" on Justia Law