Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff regularly reports on local crime, missing persons, community events, traffic, and local government. Plaintiff published a story about a man who committed suicide and identified the man by name and revealed that he was an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol. Two arrest warrants were issued for Plaintiff for violating Texas Penal Code Section 39.06(c). According to Plaintiff, local officials have never brought a prosecution under Section 39.06(c) in the nearly three-decade history of that provision.Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of her claims against the officials under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. She also appeals the dismissal of her municipal liability claims against the City of Laredo, but not her claims against Webb County. The Fifth Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments claims, as well as her civil conspiracy claims. The court affirmed the district court’s judgment dismissing Plaintiff’s municipal liability claims against the City of Laredo. The court explained that it has no difficulty observing that journalists commonly ask for nonpublic information from public officials, and that Plaintiff was therefore entitled to make that same reasonable inference. Yet Defendants chose to arrest Plaintiff for violating Section 39.06(c). The court accordingly concluded that Plaintiff has sufficiently pled the existence of similarly situated journalists who were not arrested for violating Section 39.06(c). View "Villarreal v. City of Laredo" on Justia Law

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A physician group fired Post, a nurse-anesthesist, months after she suffered an accident. The group’s subsequent bankruptcy impeded Post’s efforts to hold it liable for employment discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She instead sued the hospital at which she worked. Although the hospital did not employ her, Post argued that two statutes allow her to enforce the ADA’s employment protections against non-employers.The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the hospital. The ADA “interference” provision makes it “unlawful to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any individual in the exercise or enjoyment of” an ADA-protected right. 42 U.S.C. 12203(b) does not allow plaintiffs with disabilities to sue entities that are not their employers. A nearby subsection clarifies that the provision incorporates remedies that permit suits only against employers. The civil-conspiracy provision in the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. 1985(3) authorizes a damages suit when two or more parties “conspire” to “depriv[e]” “any person or class of persons” of “the equal protection of the laws” or the “equal privileges and immunities under the laws” but does permit a plaintiff to assert a conspiracy claim against an entity that is not the plaintiff’s employer for the deprivation of an ADAprotected employment right. View "Post v. Trinity Health-Michigan" on Justia Law

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Dunn was convicted in Indiana state court for the Torres murder. The case against Dunn was based largely on the testimony of two pathologists. In a state court post-conviction proceeding, Dunn argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to consult with any forensic pathologist. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.The Seventh Circuit affirmed a conditional writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254 based on ineffective assistance of trial counsel. At a state court post-conviction hearing, a board-certified forensic pathologist, Dr. Sozio, testified that the autopsy was substandard, missed a great deal, and that Torres’s injuries were more consistent with a fall than with being bludgeoned by a blunt object. If the defense had presented Sozio's testimony, the jury would have been presented with conflicting expert testimony regarding whether the fall alone caused the injuries. The state conceded that blood evidence effectively ruled out the use of a bat; no other weapon was found. Two eyewitnesses testified consistently that Torres was not beaten after his fall. Sozio's testimony was critical in this case to create reasonable doubt because it countered the state's scientific evidence and gave the jury reason to doubt that Torres was beaten. Dunn demonstrated prejudice under Strickland. View "Dunn v. Neal" on Justia Law

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The District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) regulates childcare facilities, including by setting minimum qualifications for their workers. OSSE issued a rule requiring many childcare workers to obtain an associate’s degree or its equivalent in a field related to early childhood education. Two childcare workers and a parent filed a lawsuit to challenge the new college requirements. They allege violations of their substantive due process and equal protection rights, as well as of the nondelegation doctrine.On remand, the district court dismissed, this time on the merits. In rejecting Plaintiffs’ substantive due process and equal protection claims, the court concluded that the college requirements are rational, including in the distinctions they draw between different classes of daycare workers. And in rejecting Plaintiffs’ nondelegation doctrine claim, the court held that the statute granting regulatory authority to OSSE bears an intelligible principle to guide the agency’s work.The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that under rational-basis review, the policy choices of the political branches are “not subject to courtroom fact-finding and may be based on rational speculation unsupported by evidence or empirical data. And here, as Plaintiffs acknowledge in their complaint, OSSE issued its regulations in part based on a report from the National Academies recommending a bachelor’s degree requirement for all educators of children ages zero to eight. Thus, the court found that a conceivably rational justification for the college requirements is readily apparent, and, in this context, that is all due process requires. View "Altagracia Sanchez v. Office of the State Superintendent of Education" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Florida LLC, sued a Canadian company, Teck Resources Limited, alleging that it had illegally trafficked in property to which Plaintiff says it has a claim. The district court granted Teck’s motion, holding that Florida’s long-arm statute didn’t provide jurisdiction over Teck and, additionally, that Teck lacked the necessary connection to the United States to establish personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2).The Eleventh Circuit affirmed holding that courts should analyze personal jurisdiction under the Fifth Amendment using the same basic standards and tests that apply under the Fourteenth Amendment. The court wrote that applying the minimum-contacts test here is relatively straightforward. The court held that Teck doesn’t have contacts with the United States sufficient to establish either specific or general personal jurisdiction over it. Plaintiff’s suit doesn’t arise out of or relate to any of Teck’s ties with the United States. And because a relationship between the defendant’s conduct within the forum and the cause of action is necessary to exercise specific jurisdiction, the lack of any such relationship here dooms Plaintiff’s effort to establish specific personal jurisdiction over Teck. View "Herederos De Roberto Gomez Cabrera, LLC v. Teck Resources Limited" on Justia Law

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On appeal, the St. Martin Parish School Board (the “School Board”) challenges the district court’s (1) exercise of remedial jurisdiction over the case, (2) denial of its motion for unitary status, and (3) imposition of additional equitable relief. The Fifth Circuit concluded that hat the district court properly retained remedial jurisdiction over the action; the court otherwised affirmed in part and reversed in part.The court explained that the district court did not clearly err in determining that the School Board failed to achieve unitary status in student assignment, faculty assignment, and the quality of education. The denial of unitary status was, therefore, not clearly erroneous. However, the court found that the district court abused its discretion in closing Catahoula Elementary School. The record demonstrates that progress has been made and progress can continue through the implementation of other reasonable, feasible, and workable remedies. Accordingly, the court reversed the closing of Catahoula Elementary School and remanded for consideration of other methods of addressing that concern. View "Borel v. Sch Bd Saint Martin Parish" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff claimed her employment was terminated in retaliation for complaining she was going to be paid late. She filed a complaint against a department head within the Texas A&M Engineering Station in his individual capacity (“DH”), alleging he violated the anti-retaliation provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”)  DH moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s retaliation claim because the suit was barred by sovereign immunity, and in the alternative, that he was entitled to qualified immunity. The district court determined that neither immunity applied.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the rejection of sovereign immunity as a defense, affirmed the denial of the defense of sovereign immunity and vacated the judgment denying the defense of qualified immunity. The court held that holding public officials individually liable for retaliation under the FLSA also is consistent with the court’s prior holdings regarding individual liability in other FLSA contexts. However, the court wrote it discovered no Fifth Circuit opinion that holds qualified immunity is a defense under the FLSA. The court concluded that Plaintiff’s claim would be barred by qualified immunity because she does not allege that DH violated a clearly established law. However, the antecedent question is whether qualified immunity applies to the FLSA to begin with. The court, therefore, remanded for the district court to decide this question in the first instance. View "Stramaski v. Lawley" on Justia Law

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Police arrested Davis, a convicted felon, on a state warrant for three counts of aggravated battery by discharge of a firearm, just outside of his residence. While being arrested, Davis stated that there were children in the house. Officers entered the house to conduct a limited sweep of areas where a person could be hiding, finding an eight-year-old child and a 19-year-old. An officer observed a rifle, upright in plain view, in an open bedroom closet. About 45 minutes later, after the sweep had concluded, Antionette, a woman with whom Davis was living and the owner of the house, arrived and gave the officers oral and written consent to search the home, acknowledging that she had been advised of her rights.Davis, charged with illegally possessing a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), unsuccessfully moved to suppress the rifle on the basis that no valid exception to the warrant requirement justified the initial entry or the later search. The district court found that three separate exceptions applied: a protective sweep following Davis’s arrest, exigent circumstances because a child was in the home, and Antoinette's voluntary consent. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Davis did not dispute that Antoinette’s consent was voluntary and not tainted by the initial entry into the house. View "United States v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the Town of Brookline and its Selectmen and dismissing Plaintiffs' claims of unconstitutional mistreatment by the Town's "deliberate indifference" to complaints of racial discrimination by Brookline police, holding that Plaintiffs' claims on appeal were unavailing.The five named plaintiffs here claimed that Brookline police officers violated their rights under the Equal Protection Clause by treating them differently because they are Hispanic. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the record evidence did not support a finding of deliberate indifference. View "Baez v. Town of Brookline, Mass." on Justia Law

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In this dispute over an award of attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988, the First Circuit identified only one defect in the award, thus vacating the existing fee award in the amount of $20,243 and remanding to the district court to enter a modified fee award in the amount of $18,218, holding that the district court abused its discretion in part.The underlying case revolved around a parcel of real property in Puerto Rico formerly owned by Plaintiff. Defendants, including the Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Authority, moved for summary judgment for Plaintiff's failure to seek just compensation in the Puerto Rico courts before raising a federal takings claim. The district court granted the motion. As to attorney's fees, the district court found that the federal takings claim was frivolous and awarded payment of fees in the amount of $20,243. The First Circuit vacated the award, holding that the time expended in connection with a non-frivolous supplemental tort claim should have been deducted from the fee award. View "Efron v. Mora Development Corp." on Justia Law