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Prison inmates in the Wallace Pack Unit filed suit alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act due to the high temperatures in the prison housing areas. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of certification of a general class and two subclasses. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs have demonstrated the presence of a question of law or fact common to the class. In this case, the district court did not clearly err in finding that TDCJ's heat-mitigation measures were ineffective to reduce the heat-related risk of serious harm below the constitutional baseline. Furthermore, the court rejected defendants' challenge to certification to both subclasses. The court found no error in the district court's finding that TDCJ's heat mitigation measures were not effective to bring the risk of serious harm below the constitutional baseline for any Pack Unit inmate—which includes the inmates within the subclasses who have some condition making them particularly susceptible to heat, and that the disability subclass had the additional common contention that TDCJ officials failed to provide reasonable accommodations to inmates suffering from disabilities that may impact their ability to withstand extreme heat. Finally, plaintiffs demonstrated that the proposed class satisfied one of the criteria articulated in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b), and the district court's Rule 23(b)(2) certification was not prohibited by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Accordingly, the court affirmed in all respects. View "Yates v. Collier" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied petitioner's application for permission to file a second or successive petition as unnecessary and transferred the matter to the district court with instructions to treat petitioner's habeas petition as a first petition. The panel held that the current habeas petition did not attempt to challenge petitioner's underlying conviction. Rather, petitioner sought only to challenge a new and intervening judgment denying him relief with respect to his sentence. The panel also held that cognizability plays no role in the panel's adjudication of such an application, and that it was the province of the district court to consider cognizability of a habeas petition. View "Clayton v. Biter" on Justia Law

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Streckenbach, an inmate of Wisconsin's Redgranite Correctional Institution, left two boxes of personal property for his son to pick up. Under the prison’s policy, property on deposit had to be collected within 30 days. If that did not occur, the prison’s staff was to ship the property to someone the inmate had designated; if the inmate’s account did not have enough money to cover shipping costs, the property was to be destroyed. The policy warned inmates that they were responsible for ensuring that their accounts had enough money on the 30th day. Streckenbach’s son did not retrieve the boxes within the allotted time. VanDensen, the sergeant in charge of the mailroom, calculated a shipping cost of about $9.50, $2 more than Streckenbach had available. VanDensen had the property destroyed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Streckenbach’s suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, in which Streckenback claimed that VanDensen violated his due process rights by destroying his property without notice. He claimed that the policy, promulgated in 2013, had not been communicated to the prisoners. VanDensen was not responsible for giving notice. VanDensen only carried out the policy. Negligent bureaucratic errors do not violate the Due Process Clause. View "Streckenbach v. Van Densen" on Justia Law

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An Indiana county may subsidize private dispute resolution in domestic-relations cases. Under Marion County's Plan, a party to a domestic-relations suit may request subsidized mediation, or the court may order it of its own accord. King asked the Marion Circuit Court to refer his case to mediation and authorize a subsidy. The court ordered both. King, who is deaf, also requested an American Sign Language interpreter. The judge denied that request. In court King would have had an interpreter at no cost to him. King proceeded through mediation, employing his stepfather as his interpreter. King then sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, arguing that, by refusing to provide him with a free interpreter in mediation, the court “by reason of [his] disability … denied [him] the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity,” 42 U.S.C. 12132. The district court awarded him $10,380. The Seventh Circuit reversed without addressing the merits. The Marion Circuit Court is a division of the state. Indiana has asserted sovereign immunity. Congress cannot authorize federal litigation against the states to enforce statutory rights under grants of power other than the Fourteenth Amendment, such as the Commerce Clause; to the extent that statutory rules are unnecessary to prevent constitutional violations, they do not overcome sovereign immunity. View "King v. Marion County Circuit Court" on Justia Law

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Doornbos was leaving a Chicago train station when a plainclothes police officer confronted him, grabbed him, and with the help of other plainclothes officers, forced him to the ground. Doornbos was acquitted of resisting arrest. He sued the officers and the city for excessive force and malicious prosecution, claiming that Officer Williamson failed to identify himself as an officer and then used excessive force. Williamson claims that he properly identified himself and that Doornbos fled when Williamson attempted to stop and frisk him. The Seventh Circuit vacated a verdict in favor of the defendants. The court properly admitted evidence that Dornbos had marijuana in his pocket. Although the marijuana was unknown to the officers at the time, it arguably tended to corroborate their account of Doornbos’s behavior. The jury instructions on Terry stops, however, were inadequate. Over Doornbos’s objection, the court instructed the jury only on investigatory stops but not frisks. Williamson’s testimony indicated that he was starting a frisk when he first approached Doornbos and that he did not have reasonable suspicion that Doornbos was armed and dangerous. Doornbos was entitled to have the jury know that the attempted frisk, which produced the use of force, was unjustified. In addition, the jury asked whether plainclothes officers must identify themselves when conducting a stop. The judge said no. In all but the most unusual circumstances, where identification would itself make the situation more dangerous, plainclothes officers must identify themselves when initiating a stop. These errors were not harmless. View "Doornbos v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Mourning worked for Ternes from 1997 until the company fired her in 2013. In February 2013, Frey, Mourning’s manager, granted Mourning leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. 2615, to treat her encephalopathy. Mourning returned to work less than two months later. While Mourning was on leave, eight of her 10 subordinates submitted an internal complaint, alleging that Mourning intimidated and publicly humiliated them, acted unpredictably, and micromanaged her team. Before that submission, Mourning had never been the subject of a written complaint, nor had she ever been disciplined. Frey had rated Mourning’s performance as above “exceptional,” at her last evaluation in May 2012. Upon her return from leave, Mourning responded with a written rebuttal and her own internal complaint against the staff. A client indicated that Mourning’s “performance was not up to his standards.” The company fired Frey and Mourning. The company promoted another female to Mourning’s position. Mourning sued, alleging discrimination based on her sex (Title VII, 2 U.S.C. 2000e-2), and retaliation for taking medical leave. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment rejecting Mourning’s claims. Mourning did not have any direct evidence of sex discrimination nor did she produce evidence from which it could be inferred that she was meeting legitimate expectations, she was similarly situated to a more favorably treated employee, or that the reason for firing her was pretextual. View "Mourning v. Ternes Packaging, Indiana, Inc" on Justia Law

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Murphy was convicted of rape by force in Los Angeles 37 years ago and was required, while he resided in the state, to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Murphy moved to Wisconsin 21 years later and was convicted of aggravated assault. While he never registered in Wisconsin as a sex offender, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections determined that because of his California conviction, Murphy should register as a sex offender for the rest of his life once he was released from prison, in Wisconsin. Murphy challenged that determination. The Department removed Murphy from the registry. For almost two years, Murphy was free from sex offender restrictions and from the state’s registration requirements. Murphy filed a civil rights suit. The Department determined that it had erred and returned him to the registry. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants, rejecting an argument that Murphy was denied due process before being placed on the registry because he did not receive prior notice and an opportunity to be heard. The Supreme Court has been clear that the Constitution does not require that a state provide individuals with process before being placed on a sex offender registry if the decision is based upon a conviction. View "Murphy v. Rychlowski" on Justia Law

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Stinson spent 23 years in jail for a murder he did not commit. No eyewitness testimony or fingerprints connected him to the murder. Two dentists testified as experts that Stinson’s dentition matched the teeth marks on the victim’s body. A jury found Stinson guilty. After DNA evidence helped exonerate Stinson, he filed this civil suit against the lead detective and the dentists alleging that they violated due process by fabricating the expert opinions and failing to disclose their agreement to fabricate. The district court denied the defendants’ motions for summary judgment seeking qualified immunity. The Seventh Circuit dismissed appeals for lack of jurisdiction. The court distinguished between appeals from denials of summary judgment qualified immunity based on evidentiary sufficiency and those “presenting more abstract issues of law.” The appeals failed to take the facts and reasonable inferences from the record in the light most favorable to Stinson and challenge the sufficiency of the evidence on questions of fact, precluding interlocutory review. The court concluded that it had jurisdiction to consider and affirmed the denial of absolute immunity. That denial was correct because Stinson’s claims focus on the defendants’ conduct while the murder was being investigated, not on their trial testimony or trial testimony preparation. View "Stinson v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Sumpter spent a month in the Wayne County Jail in Detroit and underwent four strip searches that she alleges violated her Fourth Amendment rights. Three searches occurred in the jail’s Registry, where inmates are routinely strip-searched when first arriving or returning to jail. Corporal Graham conducted the three Registry searches; no male deputies were present. Each time, Graham escorted plaintiff into the Registry with as many as five other women. The room’s window was covered, preventing anyone outside the Registry from observing the searches. Inside, Graham instructed the inmates to undress and to shake their hair, open their mouths, lift their breasts, and squat and cough, while Graham visually inspected for hidden contraband. The fourth search occurred in plaintiff’s cellblock. After searching the cells for contraband, an unidentified female guard gathered the inmates in the common area and conducted a group strip search. According to plaintiff, the strip search took place in view of the guards’ central command post inside the cellblock, called the “Bubble.” During this search, plaintiff purportedly saw male guards inside the Bubble. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of Sumpter’s purported class action suit. Periodically conducting group strip searches when the number of inmates waiting to be processed makes individual searches imprudent does not violate clearly established Fourth Amendment law. View "Sumpter v. Wayne County" on Justia Law

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Defendant pled no contest to first degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Defendant was sixteen years old at the time of the murder. Defendant’s life sentence was later vacated pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Defendant was granted a resentencing. The district court resentenced Defendant to imprisonment for eighty years to life after a hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s resentencing, holding (1) the sentencing court did not impose a de facto life sentence in violation of the Eighth Amendment and Neb. Const. art. I, 9 and 15; (2) the district court did not err when it did not make specific findings of fact regarding age-related characteristics; and (3) Defendant’s sentence of eighty years’ to life imprisonment with parole eligibility at age fifty-six was not unconstitutionally disproportionate. View "State v. Jones" on Justia Law