Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
by
The Seventh Circuit reversed the order of the district court granting summary judgment and dismissing this complaint brought by Plaintiff after he was fired from his commissary job while incarcerated at Indiana State Prison, holding that the district court erred in finding that Plaintiff failed to comply with the Prison Litigation Reform Act's (PLRA) exhaustion requirement, 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a).Plaintiff was hired for a job in the commissary with the understanding that he would miss work on Fridays to attend the prison's weekly Jumu'ah Muslim prayer service. When Officer Julie Anton refused to allow Plaintiff to attend Jumu'ah and he went anyway, Anton fired Plaintiff based on a work evaluation accusing Plaintiff of theft. Plaintiff sued Anton under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights. The district court dismissed the complaint because Plaintiff did not file a formal grievance before bringing suit. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the prison's grievance policy excepted Plaintiff's claim from the prison's administrative process. View "Miles v. Anton" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the orders entered by the Fourth and Eighteenth Judicial District Courts denying their requests for preliminary injunctions to enjoin the masking requirements of Defendants, school districts in Missoula and Gallatin Counties, that were adopted in response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, holding that the district courts did not err.Plaintiffs filed complaints and motions for preliminary injunctions shortly after Defendants' adoption of the masking policies for the 2021-2022 school year, seeking to enjoin the masking requirements based upon constitutional privacy, individual dignity, and parental rights. Both district courts denied the motions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district courts did not manifestly abuse their discretion by denying the preliminary injunctions. View "Stand Up Montana v. Missoula County Public Schools" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit dismissed this appeal, in which Appellant sought to override an appeal waiver and to proceed with an appeal based on the alleged ineffective assistance of his counsel, holding that ineffective assistance of counsel claims not raised in the district court and not within an exception to United States v. Mala, 7 F.3d 1058 (1st Cir. 1993), are insufficient to overcome an appeal waiver.Defendant agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and to failure to appear in court pursuant to a plea agreement that contained a waiver-of-appeal provision. After sentencing, Defendant appealed, asserting for the first time that his counsel afforded him ineffective assistance both at the time he entered his plea and at sentencing. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal, holding that Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel allegations fell within the Mala rule and could not surmount his waiver of appeal. View "United States v. Staveley" on Justia Law

by
The Sixth Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the City of Powell, Ohio and dismissing Golf Village North LLC's claims brought under 28 U.S.C. 1983 for violating its procedural and substantive due process rights, holding that there was no error.Golf Village, a developer, sought to build a "residential hotel" on its property in Powell, Ohio but never filed the required zoning application. Instead, Golf Village requested that the City confirm the residential hotel was a permitted use of the property. The City directed Golf Village to file an appropriate application for "zoning Certificate approval" to receive an answer. Rather than reply, Golf Village sued the City. The district court granted summary judgment for the City. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that Golf Village's procedural due process and substantive due process rights were not violated in this case. View "Golf Village North, LLC v. City of Powell, Ohio" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff sued the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency alleging religious discrimination and retaliation under Title VII. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The court explained that because the alleged discrimination and retaliation arose from Plaintiff’s failure to satisfy additional security requirements and would require the court to review the merits of the security-authorization decision, the court is bound by the decision in Department of the Navy v. Egan, 484 U.S. 518 (1988), to affirm the district court’s dismissal of this matter for lack of jurisdiction.   The court explained that it agrees that courts must exercise caution in expanding the reach of Egan. Nevertheless, the court declined to adopt the hardline position, urged by Plaintiff, that Egan’s rationale may only ever apply to determinations explicitly labeled “security clearances.” Rather, as in Foote and Sanchez, this case requires a more detailed analysis of whether the judgment at issue is of the type that Egan intended to shield from judicial review. Furhter, the court held that the CIA’s decision to stop Plaintiff’s assignee-security authorization processing is the kind of discretionary predictive judgment shielded from judicial review by Egan. View "Nathan Mowery v. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Kelly Dansie sued Defendant Union Pacific Railroad Company for terminating his employment in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant on Plaintiff’s ADA claim but allowed the case to proceed to trial on Plaintiff’s FMLA claim. The jury then returned a verdict in Defendant’s favor. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed in part and affirmed in part, finding plaintiff presented sufficient evidence for a jury to find that defendant failed to engage in the ADA mandated good-faith communications with respect to reasonable accommodations of plaintiff's disability. Given that evidence, summary judgment for Defendant was reversed on plaintiff’s ADA claim, and the issue was remanded to the district court for a trial. But the Tenth Circuit affirmed the verdict for defendant on plaintiff’s FMLA claim. View "Dansie v. Union Pacific Railroad" on Justia Law

by
The North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation took full custody of a young girl, A.A.R., from her parents and placed her at the Dakota Boys & Girls Ranch, a private psychiatric facility. After only a few months there, A.A.R. committed suicide. Her parents sued the Ranch and its employees under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. The district court dismissed the Complaint, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to state a plausible claim that the Defendants were state actors under Section 1983.   The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court held that when North Dakota took custody of A.A.R., it had a constitutional duty to provide adequate medical care to her. The court explained that Plaintiffs were legally required to comply with DJS’s choices and could not remove her from the Ranch The district court violated the motion-to-dismiss standard when it concluded that the Complaint, read in conjunction with the May 2018 Order, contains “no factual allegations that the only medical care A.A.R. could have received was that provided by the State of North Dakota.” Further, assuming North Dakota’s constitutional obligation to provide A.A.R.’s medical treatment, the Ranch became a state actor. Thus Plaintiffs state a plausible claim against it under Section 1983. The court further explained that Plaintiffs also state a plausible claim against the Ranch’s employees. Defendants do not contest that a finding of state action by the Ranch establishes state action by its employees. Because Plaintiffs plausibly allege the Ranch was a state actor, its employees were too. View "Manda Roberson v. The Dakota Boys & Girls Ranch" on Justia Law

by
Defendant drove drunk through the White Earth Indian Reservation. Local residents tried to stop him, but he struck and pinned one of them, N.V., under his car. A jury convicted Defendant of assault with a dangerous weapon and assault resulting in serious bodily injury. The district court varied upward from the Guidelines and sentenced Defendant to 80 months on each count, to run consecutively.   Defendant appealed, arguing that: (1) he was too drunk to have the specific intent to assault N.V.; (2) he ran over N.V. in self-defense; (3) his convictions violate the Double Jeopardy clause; and (4) his sentence was substantively unreasonable. Because those arguments are meritless.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that there was enough evidence for a reasonable factfinder to conclude that Defendant intended to assault N.V. The jury’s verdict was supported by evidence that: Defendant aimed his car at local residents; he attempted to jump the curb three times; he stomped on N.V.’s head after hitting him with his car, and police described his responses afterward as logical. Further, the court wrote that the jury had significant evidence that Defedenadnt was not acting in self-defense. Moreover, the court explained that Defendant’s Double Jeopardy clause argument is foreclosed by both Supreme Court and Eighth Circuit precedent. Finally, the court saw no abuse of discretion in the district court’s sentence. View "United States v. Kevin Doerr" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff was severely injured when his motorcycle crashed into a police SUV while he was fleeing from police. Plaintiff sued the City of Plumerville, Arkansas (the “City”), and its police officer for use of excessive force. The district court granted summary judgment to the City and the officer.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that claims against local police for excessive force during a seizure are analyzed under the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness standard. The court wrote it consistently held deadly force is not unreasonable where an officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or others. The court held that the undisputed evidence reveals that the police officer had probable cause to believe Plaintiff’s flight threatened the lives of innocent bystanders as well as police. Accordingly, the court held that the officer’s actions were reasonable. Moreover, the court found that the severity of the officer’s use of force was mitigated by the opportunity the officer gave Plaintiff to avoid the collision.   Finally, the court explained that it assesses the reasonableness of deadly force for Fourth Amendment purposes from the seizing officer’s perspective at the time of the incident. The court found that based on the police officer’s knowledge at the time when he was forced to make a quick judgment, the court concluded the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness standard gave the officer more leeway than would have the Morrilton police officers. View "Christopher Lankford v. City of Plumerville, Arkansas" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court adjudicating JP delinquent and the corresponding order of disposition, holding that Defendant did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel when his attorney failed timely to demand a jury trial.The State filed a delinquency petition alleging that seventeen-year-old JP inflicted sexual intrusion on a thirteen-year-old girl. After a hearing, the juvenile court found that JP committed a delinquent act and sentenced him to one year of juvenile probation. On appeal, JP argued that he was prejudiced by his counsel's failure to timely demand a jury trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that JP failed to show the outcome of his case would have been different if it had been tried to a jury. View "JP v. State" on Justia Law