Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

by
The Gestational Age Act, a Mississippi law that prohibits abortions, with limited exceptions, after 15 weeks' gestational age is an unconstitutional ban on pre-viability abortions. The Fifth Circuit held that states may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman's right, but they may not ban abortions. The court held that the law at issue is a ban on certain pre-viability abortions, which Planned Parenthood of Se. Pa. v. Casey does not tolerate and which presents a situation unlike that in Gonzales v. Carhart. The court explained that, with respect to bans like this one, the Supreme Court's viability framework has already balanced the state's asserted interests and found them wanting: Until viability, it is for the woman, not the state, to weigh any risks to maternal health and to consider personal values and beliefs in deciding whether to have an abortion. The court also held that the district court was within its discretion in limiting discovery of the issue of viability and excluding expert testimony regarding fetal pain perception. Finally, the court upheld the district court's award of permanent injunctive relief. View "Jackson Women's Health Organization v. Dobbs" on Justia Law

by
East Palo Alto Police Sergeant Simmont received an alert of shots fired in a high-crime neighborhood where Simmont had responded to murders. Simmont and other officers spoke with witnesses at the address, who reported seeing flashes from behind a boat in the driveway. Officers found spent shell casings near the garage. Simmont testified that he began “investigating whether or not we had a victim or a shooter [who] was hiding out.” He pounded on a garage door and announced police presence. No one responded. Officers spoke with people at the residence's front door. Simmont claims Rubio’s father granted permission to search the house and the garage. Rubio emerged from the garage, locking the door behind him, then approached, yelling for the officers to shoot him. After detaining Rubio, Simmont and another officer kicked the door open and entered the garage, which was a converted apartment. The officers observed an explosive device and a pistol on the shelf, then obtained a warrant, reentered, and found another handgun, bullets, body armor, spent shell casings, and methamphetamine. Surveillance video showed Rubio walking down the driveway, pulling out a revolver, and firing into the air. The court of appeal first affirmed Rubio’s convictions, relying on the community caretaking exception to uphold the search. Based on a subsequent California Supreme Court decision, the court granted rehearing and reversed. The need to render emergency aid justifies warrantless entry only where officers have “specific and articulable facts” showing that an intrusion into the home was necessary. It is not enough that officers seek to rule out “the possibility that someone . . . might require aid.” View "People v. Rubio" on Justia Law

by
In October 2013, Jones was on a Pennsylvania prison bus, traveling to his post-conviction hearing. Jones talked with a fellow inmate. The driver “threaten[ed]” both men, then switched Jones’s property box with that of the other inmate. The box held Jones’s legal papers for the hearing. Weeks later, Jones was waiting for another prison bus. The same driver yanked him out of line, put him in the segregation cage, and berated him. Jones told other inmates to get the names of the transportation crew; they took off their name tags. The stress of this incident exacerbated his mental ailments. He had a nervous breakdown and stayed two days in the medical annex. Days later, Jones filed a grievance. For 10 months, he refiled, appealed, and sent follow-up letters. In September 2014, he was released, but the prison had not decided his grievance. Just under two years after his release, Jones filed a pro se 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint. On remand, a magistrate recommended dismissing his claim as time-barred. She acknowledged that the limitations period is tolled for a prisoner who exhausts his administrative remedies before suing but reasoned that the rule does not apply to former prisoners who sue after their release. The Third Circuit vacated. A prisoner must exhaust the prison’s internal administrative remedies, whether he sues from prison or sues after his release. Jones’s claim for injunctive relief against the driver were moot but Jones may seek monetary relief against the remaining defendants. View "Jones v. Capozza" on Justia Law

by
Vianney appealed the district court's summary judgment rulings on their Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) claims, Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Missouri RFRA) claim; and inverse condemnation claim under Missouri's Constitution. The Eighth Circuit affirmed as to the RLUIPA claims, holding that the city's lighting and sound regulations did not substantially burden, rather than merely inconvenienced, Vianney's religious exercise. In this case, Vianney has not demonstrated that a requirement that it avail itself of alternatives would substantially burden its religious exercise, and the record demonstrated that Vianney was not treated less favorably than other schools. The court also affirmed as to the inverse condemnation claim, holding that Missouri courts have held that the reasonable exercise of a city's police power does not constitute a taking and the regulations here did not impose unusually restrictive limitations. However, the court vacated as to the Missouri RFRA claim, because the district court abused its discretion in deciding this state law claim on the merits after granting the city summary judgment on the RLUIPA claims. Accordingly, the court remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss the claim without prejudice. View "Marianist Province of the U.S. v. City of Kirkwood" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, two African-American minimum-wage employees who work in Birmingham at a rate lower than the $10.10 prescribed by the City's minimum wage ordinance, filed suit alleging that Act No. 2016-18, which nullified the City's minimum-wage ordinance, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead of suing their employers, who were refusing to pay the $10.10 minimum wage, plaintiffs chose to file suit against the Alabama Attorney General. The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiffs did not have Article III standing to sue the Attorney General, because they could not demonstrate that their alleged injuries were fairly traceable to his conduct, or that those injuries would be redressed by the declaratory and injunctive relief plaintiffs have requested. Because the employees lacked standing to sue, the court need not consider the merits of their equal protection claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and remanded to the panel. View "Lewis v. Governor of Alabama" on Justia Law

by
A contractor and the prime contractor, involved in repainting the Queensboro Bridge, became embroiled in a dispute. The subcontractor stopped work. The parties sued each other for breach of contract. The subcontractor filed for bankruptcy. At the final pre-trial conference on an adversary proceeding, the parties entered into a stipulation that if the Bankruptcy Court determined that the subcontractor was the breaching party, then “all of the [p]arties’ pending claims will be withdrawn and disposed of in their entirety with prejudice” and the adversary proceeding “shall be deemed to be finally concluded in all respects.” Following a bench trial, the Bankruptcy Court concluded that the subcontractor was the breaching party and ordered compliance with the stipulation. Instead, the subcontractor appealed. The district court concluded that the subcontractor had released its claims and waived its right to appeal and modified the Bankruptcy Court’s order to make it a dismissal of the adversary proceeding with prejudice. The Third Circuit affirmed. The stipulation’s language confirms an intent to end all pending claims based on the Bankruptcy Court ruling: a party that seeks to appeal must make its intent to do so clear at the time of the stipulation setting the manner for resolution. View "L&L Painting Co., Inc. v. Odyssey Contracting Corp." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, four female students each reported sexual assault to the campus police and authorities. The plaintiffs contend that the administration’s response was inadequate, caused them physical and emotional harm, and consequently denied them educational opportunities. They sued, claiming violations of Title IX, Due Process and Equal Protection under 42 U.S.C. 1983, and Michigan law. The district court dismissed all but three claims under Title IX and one section 1983 claim. The Sixth Circuit remanded for dismissal of those claims. A victim of “student-on-student sexual harassment” has a private cause of action against the school under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681, if the harassment was “pervasive” and the school’s response “caused” the injury. A student-victim must plead, and ultimately prove, that the school had actual knowledge of actionable sexual harassment and that the school’s deliberate indifference to it resulted in further actionable sexual harassment against the student-victim, which caused the Title IX injuries. A student-victim’s subjective dissatisfaction with the school’s response is immaterial to whether the school’s response caused the claimed Title IX violation. Because none of the plaintiffs suffered any actionable sexual harassment after the school’s response, they did not suffer “pervasive” sexual harassment and cannot meet the causation element. The court also held that the individual defendant is entitled to qualified immunity. View "Kollaritsch v. Michigan State University Board of Trustees" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from the search of Defendant's vehicle, holding that the law enforcement officer did not violate Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights by detaining him for a drug-dog sniff of his vehicle. Defendant pleaded guilty to possession of more than three ounces of marijuana. Defendant verbally reserved the right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Defendant's motion to suppress, holding (1) while conditional plea agreements are typically required, under the unique circumstances of this case this Court exercises its discretion to review the verbally-reserved issue; and (2) Defendant was not seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment when the officer stopped him for following another vehicle too closely, and Defendant had reasonable suspicion justifying detaining Defendant for a drug-dog sniff of the vehicle. View "Robinson v. State" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Defendants Eric and Bryan VanBramer violated his constitutional rights by, inter alia, subjecting him to a visual body cavity search incident to arrest. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants based on qualified immunity. The Second Circuit vacated in part, holding that visual body cavity searches must be justified by specific, articulable facts supporting reasonable suspicion that an arrestee is secreting contraband inside the body cavity to be searched. In this case, because this requirement was established by sufficiently persuasive authority, it was "clearly established" for purposes of a qualified immunity defense by New York state police officers at the time Eric searched plaintiff. The court also held that disputed facts precluded a finding of reasonable suspicion on a motion for summary judgment, and remanded for trial on the merits of plaintiff's claim and the issue of whether Eric was entitled to qualified immunity. The court affirmed in part, holding that plaintiff failed to present evidence indicating that Bryan was aware that Eric was conducting, or was going to conduct, the visual body cavity search. View "Sloley v. VanBramer" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the city and police department officials in an action brought by plaintiff, who was 74 years old at the time, challenging the issuance and execution of a search warrant on her home, as well as her detention incident to the search. In this case, officers acted pursuant to a search warrant to investigate an illegal marijuana operation. The panel held that there was probable cause to search plaintiff's mobile home based on the informant's reliability and the probability that probative evidence or contraband would be found in the residences on the property, including the mobile home. Therefore, the search warrant's breadth was co-extensive with the scope of the probable cause and was not overbroad. The panel also held that the officers acted reasonably when they continued to search plaintiff's mobile home because the probable cause to search the mobile home did not depend on the suspect living there. Rather, the panel held that the officers had probable cause to continue the search because they could still reasonably believe that the entire property was suspect and that the property was still under the suspect's common control. Furthermore, the panel held that the duration of the detention, about an hour, was reasonable. Finally, none of plaintiff's alleged omissions amounted to judicial deception. View "Blight v. City of Manteca" on Justia Law