Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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The case involves Quintin Scott, a former pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail, who filed a class action lawsuit against Cook County and its sheriff. Scott alleged that the county provided him and other pretrial detainees with inadequate dental care, violating the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court refused to certify the class, and Scott settled his individual claim but reserved his right to appeal the class ruling and to seek an incentive award for his role as the named plaintiff.The County argued that Scott lacked standing to pursue the class aspects of the case, contending that he no longer had a live interest in the litigation and that courts were forbidden from granting incentive awards. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit disagreed, finding that Scott had standing and that incentive awards were permissible. The court also concluded that the district court had abused its discretion in denying class certification, as it had misapplied a previous decision and used too strict a standard.The Court of Appeals vacated the district court's order and remanded the case for further proceedings, noting that the district court was free to revise the class definition as needed to address any overbreadth issues. The court also noted that the district court had not addressed whether the proposed class met the requirements of numerosity and adequacy of representation, which must be satisfied before the class can be certified. View "Scott v. Dart" on Justia Law

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The case involves a class action lawsuit brought against the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) by four parents who were convicted of sex offenses and were on mandatory supervised release (MSR). The plaintiffs challenged an IDOC policy that restricts contact between a parent convicted of a sex offense and their minor child while the parent is on MSR. The plaintiffs argued that this policy violates their Fourteenth Amendment rights to procedural and substantive due process.The district court upheld the policy, with two exceptions. It ruled that the policy's ban on written communications was unconstitutional and that IDOC must allow a parent to submit a written communication addressed to their child for review and decision within seven calendar days. The plaintiffs appealed, challenging the policy's restrictions on phone and in-person contact.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court agreed with the district court that the policy does not violate procedural due process. However, it held that the policy's ban on phone contact violates substantive due process. The court found that call monitoring is a ready alternative to the phone-contact ban that accommodates the plaintiffs’ right to enjoy the companionship of their children at a de minimis cost to IDOC’s penological interests. View "Montoya v. Jeffreys" on Justia Law

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A group of current and former inmates, or their representatives, filed a class action lawsuit against Kate Brown, the Governor of Oregon, and Patrick Allen, the Director of the Oregon Health Authority, claiming that the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, which prioritized corrections officers over inmates, violated their Eighth Amendment rights. The defendants moved to dismiss the claim, asserting immunity under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. The district court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision, finding that the defendants were immune from liability for the vaccine prioritization claim under the PREP Act. The court held that the statutory requirements for PREP Act immunity were met because the "administration" of a covered countermeasure includes prioritization of that countermeasure when its supply is limited. The court further concluded that the PREP Act's provisions extend immunity to persons who make policy-level decisions regarding the administration or use of covered countermeasures. The court also held that the PREP Act provides immunity from suit and liability for constitutional claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, even if those claims are federal constitutional claims. View "MANEY V. BROWN" on Justia Law

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In 2015, a group of parents brought a class action lawsuit on behalf of their children, who were enrolled in Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools. The parents claimed that the state of Minnesota violated their children's right to an adequate education under the Education Clause of the Minnesota Constitution due to the racial and socioeconomic segregation present in the schools. The case went through several years of litigation, and the district court certified a question for immediate appeal: whether racial imbalances in Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools are sufficient, standing alone, to establish a violation of the Education Clause. The Minnesota Supreme Court reformulated the certified question and held that racial imbalances in Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools, standing alone, are not sufficient to establish a violation of the Education Clause. The court ruled that while the parents do not have to establish that state action caused the racial imbalances, they must show that the racial imbalances are a substantial factor in causing their children to receive an inadequate education. The case was remanded back to the district court for further proceedings. View "Cruz-Guzman, as guardian and next friend of his minor children vs. State of Minnesota" on Justia Law

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In a class action suit brought by George Mandala and Charles Barnett against NTT Data, Inc., the plaintiffs argued that NTT's policy of not hiring individuals with a felony conviction disproportionately impacted Black applicants, constituting disparate impact discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The United States District Court for the Western District of New York dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint, and that decision was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The plaintiffs then filed a motion to vacate the dismissal judgment and sought leave to file a first amended complaint, which the district court denied as untimely under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1).On appeal, the Second Circuit reversed the district court's decision, holding that the plaintiffs' motion should have been evaluated under Rule 60(b)(6) rather than Rule 60(b)(1). Rule 60(b)(6) allows for relief from a judgment under "extraordinary circumstances," which the court found to be present in this case. The court reasoned that the plaintiffs had not previously had a chance to amend their complaint, and that their decision to stand by their initial complaint was not unreasonable given that its sufficiency had been a point of dispute. Additionally, the court found that the proposed amendments to the complaint were not futile. Consequently, the Second Circuit ordered the case to be remanded to the district court for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Mandala v. NTT Data, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant as next of kin and on behalf of a minor, J.T.A., and all similarly situated minors (“Appellants”), filed a class action lawsuit against the School Board of Volusia County, Florida for allegedly violating the minors’ rights to free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The Appellants appealed the district court’s order dismissing their amended complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the IDEA.   The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s order of dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the holding in Perez. The court explained that here, Appellants seek compensatory and punitive damages. The IDEA provides neither. Thus, applying Perez to this case, Appellants can proceed without attempting to exhaust administrative remedies that do not exist under the IDEA. Appellants unambiguously sought compensatory monetary damages under the ADA and not compensatory education under the IDEA. Consequently, in light of Perez, the Appellants should have been allowed to proceed with their claims regardless of the IDEA’s exhaustion requirements. View "Kimberly Powell, et al. v. School Board of Volusia County, Florida" on Justia Law

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A settlement agreement generally ends a legal dispute. Here, it was just the beginning. In August 2015, the State of California settled a dispute with a plaintiff class of inmates over alleged constitutional violations. Eight years later, the dispute continues. In settlement, the State agreed to stop housing inmates in solitary confinement for long-term or indefinite periods based on gang affiliation. The inmates’ counsel would monitor the state’s compliance for two years. The settlement agreement and monitoring period could be extended for twelve months if the inmates demonstrated continuing constitutional violations that were either alleged in their complaint or resulted from the agreement’s reforms. The twice successfully extended the settlement agreement before the district court.   The Ninth Circuit reversed in part, vacated in part, and dismissed in part the district court’s extensions of the settlement agreement. The panel reversed the district court’s order granting the first twelve-month extension of the settlement agreement. First, the panel held that there was no basis for extending the agreement based on the inmates’ claim that the CDCR regularly mischaracterizes the confidential information used in disciplinary hearings and fails to verify the reliability of that information. Next, the panel held that there was no basis for extending the agreement based on the inmates’ claim that CDCR unconstitutionally validates inmates as gang affiliates and fails to tell the parole board that old gang validations are flawed or unreliable. The claim was not included in, or sufficiently related to, the complaint. View "TODD ASHKER, ET AL V. GAVIN NEWSOM, ET AL" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that an employer's business entity agents can be held directly liable under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov. Code 12900 et seq., for employment discrimination in appropriate circumstances when the business entity agent has at least five employees and carries out activities regulated by FEHA on behalf of an employer.Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and an alleged class, brought this action alleging claims under the FEHA, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, unfair competition law, and the common law right of privacy. Plaintiffs named as a defendant U.S. Healthworks Medical Group (USHW), who was acting as an agent of Plaintiffs' prospective employers. The district court dismissed all claims, concluding, as relevant to this appeal, that the FEHA does not impose liability on the agents of a plaintiff's employer. The federal district court of appeals certified a question of law to the Supreme Court, which answered that FEHA permits a business entity acting as an agent of an employer to be held directly liable as an employer for employment discrimination, in violation of FEHA, when the business entity has at least five employees and carries out FEHA-regulated activities on behalf of an employer. View "Raines v. U.S. Healthworks Medical Group" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former employee, sued on behalf of herself and similarly situated employees, claiming that St. Luke’s violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (“FLSA”) overtime provisions by failing to fully compensate employees for work performed. She also brought an unjust-enrichment claim under state law. The district court certified two classes with different lookback periods: (1) an FLSA collective comprised of employees who worked for St. Luke’s between September 2016 and September 2018, 1 and (2) an unjust-enrichment class comprised of all employees who worked for St. Luke’s in Missouri between April 2012 and September 2018. Houston also asserted individual claims, one under the Missouri Minimum Wage Law, and one for breach of her employment contract. The district court granted summary judgment to St. Luke’s on all claims.   The Eighth Circuit vacated and remanded. The court explained that Plaintiff has raised a genuine dispute that the rounding policy does not average out over time. The court explained that no matter how one slices the data, most employees and the employees as a whole fared worse under the rounding policy than had they been paid according to their exact time worked. Here, the rounding policy did both. It resulted in lost time for nearly two-thirds of employees, and those employees lost more time than was gained by their coworkers who benefited from rounding. The court concluded that the employees have raised a genuine dispute that the rounding policy, as applied, did not average out over time. The district court, therefore, erred in granting summary judgment on the FLSA and Missouri wage claims. View "Torri Houston v. St. Luke's Health System, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellees worked as non-emergency medical transportation drivers. In July 2017, they brought a putative class action and Fair Labor Standards Act collective action against Medical Transportation Management, Inc. (“MTM”). Their complaint alleged that MTM is their employer and had failed to pay them and its other drivers their full wages as required by both federal and District of Columbia law. MTM appealed the district court’s certification of an “issue class” under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(c)(4) and its denial of MTM’s motion to decertify plaintiffs’ Fair Labor Standards Act collective action.   The DC Circuit remanded the district court’s certification of the issue class because the court failed to ensure that it satisfies the class-action criteria specified in Rules 23(a) and (b). The court declined to exercise pendent appellate jurisdiction to review the district court’s separate decision on the Fair Labor Standards Act collective action. The court explained that because the resolution of the action will bind absent class members, basic principles of due process require that they be notified that their individual claims are being resolved and that they may opt out of the action if they so choose. So if the district court certifies the issue class under Rule 23(b)(3) on remand, it must direct “the best notice that is practicable” as part of any certification order. View "Isaac Harris v. Medical Transportation Management, Inc." on Justia Law