Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the decision of the district court dismissing all of Plaintiff's claims against Defendant at summary judgment, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment as to Plaintiff's excessive force claims against correctional officer Brian Piasecki.Plaintiff, the special administrator of the estate of Michael Madden, brought this action alleging deliberate indifference, use of excessive force, Monell liability, and state law claims against the state actors involved in the care of Madden while he was jailed in Milwaukee County. Over the course of one month, Madden developed infective endocarditis, which medical staff failed to diagnose. Madden died at the end of the month. The district court dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims at summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) the district court erred in awarding Piasecki summary judgment based on qualified immunity; and (2) the district court's judgment is otherwise affirmed. View "Stockton v. Milwaukee County, Wisconsin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court issuing a permanent writ of mandamus in favor of Jim Swoboda, holding that the circuit court's decision was erroneous because Swoboda failed to establish that he was entitled to mandamus relief.Swoboda filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights against his employer and Armstrong Teasdale, LLP (the Law Firm), alleging retaliation, disability, and aiding and abetting as types of discrimination he faced in retaliation for participating in a discrimination case brought by another officer. The Commission determined that it lacked jurisdiction over the matter because there was no employer-employee relationship between Swoboda and the Law Firm. The circuit court issued a writ of mandamus finding that the Commission erred in dismissing the charge without first taking certain steps. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the issuance of mandamus relief was foreclosed where, rather than seeking to enforce a previously delineated right, Swoboda attempted to adjudicate whether his claim was permissible under applicable statutes. View "State ex rel. Swoboda v. Missouri Commission on Human Rights" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, two jail officers, and dismissing Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims that Defendants caused his injuries, holding that Plaintiff failed to establish that either defendant violated his constitutional rights.Plaintiff was booked into Boone County Detention Center on nonviolent drug charges and was placed in a cell with Jordan Webster, a fellow detainee. Webster attacked and beat Plaintiff during the night. Plaintiff brought this action alleging that Defendants violated the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to protect him from the risk of harm posed by Webster. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to establish that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious risk of harm by failing to protect him from Webster. View "Stein v. Gunkel" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the order of the district court denying Appellant's motion to suppress, holding that there was no violation of Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights under the circumstances of this case.Defendant entered a conditional plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Defendant subsequently brought this appeal challenging the district court's order denying his motion to suppress, arguing that the arresting officer lacked probable cause to initiate the traffic stop leading to the search of his car and unconstitutionally prolonged the stop. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence to warrant a prudent person in believing Defendant had violated 4511.431(A); and (2) the officer had probable cause to detain Defendant, investigate the source of a marijuana odor, and continue search the entire vehicle for marijuana. View "United States v. Stevenson" on Justia Law

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In response to sexual abuse allegations by another student, a Texas A&M panel found Plaintiff responsible for violating Texas A&M’s policy. Plaintiff sued Texas A&M and several university administrators for sex discrimination under Title IX and deprivation of constitutional due process under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. The district court ultimately granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Title IX erroneous outcome and 1983 due process claims. Thus, only Plaintiff’s Title IX selective enforcement claim was allowed to proceed. Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration, which the district court denied. The district court then certified its rulings for interlocutory appeal on the grounds that they turn on two controlling questions of law.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling and concluded that Texas A&M did not violate Plaintiff’s due process rights. The court explained that Plaintiff received advanced notice of the allegations against him. He was permitted to call witnesses and submit relevant, non-harassing evidence of his innocence to a neutral panel of administrators. He was represented by counsel throughout the entirety of his disciplinary proceeding. He had the benefit of listening to the accuser’s description of the allegations directly. And he and his attorney had the opportunity to submit an unlimited number of questions to the disciplinary panel. View "Van Overdam v. Texas A & M Univ" on Justia Law

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF” or the “Bureau”) promulgated a rule classifying “bump stocks” as machine guns. The Bureau’s new rule instructed individuals with bump stocks to either destroy them, abandon them at the nearest ATF facility, or face criminal penalties. Plaintiffs initially moved for a preliminary injunction to stop the rule from taking effect, which the District Court denied, and a panel of this Court affirmed. At the merits stage, the District Court again rejected Plaintiffs’ challenges to the rule under the Chevron framework. See Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984).The central question on appeal was whether the Bureau had the statutory authority to interpret “machine gun” to include bump stocks and the DC Circuit affirmed. In employing the traditional tools of statutory interpretation, the court found that the disputed rule is consistent with the best interpretation of “machine gun” under the governing statutes. The court explained that it joins other circuits in concluding that these devices, which enable such prodigious rapid-fire capability upon a pull of the trigger, fall within the definition of “machine gun” in the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act. View "Damien Guedes v. ATF" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff worked at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) as the women’s softball head coach and part-time Director of Operations for the women’s hockey team. After UMD relieved Plaintiff of her hockey duties, she sued, claiming that she was fired for being gay. The district court granted summary judgment to UMD, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed.   The court explained that Title VII plaintiff can survive summary judgment either by (1) presenting direct evidence of discrimination, or (2) “creating the requisite inference of unlawful discrimination through the McDonnell Douglas analysis, including sufficient evidence of pretext.” Towery v. Miss. Cnty. Ark. Econ. Opportunity Comm’n, Inc., 1 F.4th 570 (8th Cir. 2021)   Here, Plaintiff did not present any direct evidence of discrimination, so the court analyzed her claims under the familiar McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. The court explained that. even assuming that Plaintiff could establish a prima facie case of discrimination, she has not met her burden of showing that UMD’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory justification for nonrenewal is pretextual. Plaintiff argued that UMD’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory justification isn’t credible because the accepted Division I practice of “cleaning house” when a head coach leaves is limited to firing coaching staff—not operations staff. The court reasoned that it finds it credible that UMD would want to allow its new head coach to choose her Director of Operations. Further, the court found that Plaintiff has not carried her ultimate burden of persuading the court that she was the victim of intentional discrimination. Out of four part-time hockey staff members, three were openly gay. View "Jen Banford v. Board of Regents of U of MN" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction to stop the University of Southern Indiana from imposing a three-semester suspension on the grounds that the university violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by discriminating against him on the basis of his sex, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to a preliminary injunction.The university's Title IX committee in this case found by a preponderance of the evidence that Plaintiff, a student of the university, had sexually assaulted another student and imposed a three-semester suspension. Plaintiff subsequently brought a complaint alleging discrimination. The district court denied Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying relief because Plaintiff did not show a likelihood of success on the merits that would support a preliminary injunction. View "Doe v. University of Southern Indiana" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court concluding that the retroactivity rule from two Seventh Circuit opinions - United States v. Leach, 639 F.3d 769 (7th Cir. 2011), and Vasqez v. Foxx, 895 F.3d 515 (7th Cir. 2018) - controlled and that, therefore, a disputed ordinance applied prospectively, holding that the ordinance was retroactive.The ordinance at issue was passed by the Village of Hartland, Wisconsin and placed a moratorium against any new sex offenders residing there either temporarily or permanently. Plaintiff, a registered sex offender, brought this action against the Village, alleging that the ordinance violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of U.S. Const. art. I, 10. Under the Leach-Vasquez rule, a law is not retroactive and cannot violate the Ex Post Facto Clause if it applies "only to conduct occurring after its enactment." The district court only considered the retroactivity prong of the two-part analysis because, under Leach-Vasquez, the ordinance operated only prospectively. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) this Court overturns the Leach-Vasquez rule governing the retroactivity inquiry of the Ex Post Facto Clause, and instead, the critical question is whether the law attaches new legal consequences to events completed before its enactment; and (2) the subject ordinance applies retroactively. View "Koch v. Village of Hartland" on Justia Law

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Messina filed suit, accusing Coello—who was dating Messina’s former boyfriend— of harassment. Coello pled not guilty and the charge was dismissed. Subsequently, private attorney Estabrooks requested an appointment to prosecute Messina’s complaint. New Jersey Court Rules permit courts to appoint a “private prosecutor to represent the State in cases involving cross-complaints.” This 2007 prosecution did not involve a cross-complaint and Estabrooks did not disclose that she was also representing Messina in custody and other civil actions against Coello’s boyfriend. Without recording any findings as to the need for a private prosecutor or the suitability of Estabrooks, Municipal Judge DiLeo approved her application. Irregularities continued at trial and post-conviction. Without addressing Coello’s lack of representation or her evidence, DiLeo reinstated her jail term based on a letter from Estabrooks.In 2016, a New Jersey state court vacated Coello's harassment conviction. The prosecution, by then familiar with allegations of judicial misconduct against DiLeo, did not oppose the motion. In 2020, Coello filed this federal civil rights action against Estabrooks, DiLeo, and municipal defendants. The district court dismissed most of her claims as untimely, reasoning that at the time of her trial and sentencing, Coello had reason to know of her alleged injuries. The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal, citing the special timeliness rules governing her precise claims. Under Heck v. Humphrey, her claims all imply the invalidity of her criminal prosecution; she could not file suit until her conviction was vacated View "Coello v. DiLeo" on Justia Law