Justia Civil Rights Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Non-Profit Corporations
Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta
Charitable organizations soliciting funds in California generally must register with the Attorney General and renew their registrations annually by filing copies of their IRS Form 990, on which tax-exempt organizations provide the names and addresses of their major donors. Two tax-exempt charities that solicit contributions in California renewed their registrations and filed redacted Form 990s to preserve their donors’ anonymity. The Attorney General threatened the charities with the suspension of their registrations and fines. The charities alleged that the compelled disclosure requirement violated their First Amendment rights and the rights of their donors. The Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the Attorney General.The Supreme Court reversed. California’s disclosure requirement is facially invalid because it burdens donors’ First Amendment rights and is not narrowly tailored to an important government interest. Compelled disclosure of affiliation with groups engaged in advocacy may constitute as effective a restraint on freedom of association as other forms of governmental action. Exacting scrutiny requires that a government-mandated disclosure regime be narrowly tailored to the government’s asserted interest, even if it is not the least restrictive means of achieving that end.A dramatic mismatch exists between the Attorney General's asserted interest and the disclosure regime. While California’s interests in preventing charitable fraud and self-dealing are important, the enormous amount of sensitive information collected through the disclosures does not form an integral part of California’s fraud detection efforts. California does not rely on those disclosures to initiate investigations. There is no evidence that alternative means of obtaining the information, such as a subpoena or audit letter, are inefficient and ineffective by comparison. Mere administrative convenience does not “reflect the seriousness of the actual burden” that the disclosure requirement imposes on donors’ association rights. It does not make a difference if there is no public disclosure, if some donors do not mind having their identities revealed, or if the relevant donor information is already disclosed to the IRS. View "Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta" on Justia Law
Woods v. Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission
The issue in this case was whether the Washington legislature extended a privilege or immunity to religious and other nonprofit, secular employers and whether, in providing the privilege or immunity, the legislature affected a fundamental right without a reasonable basis for doing so. Lawmakers enacted Washington’s Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) to protect citizens from discrimination in employment, and exempted religious nonprofits from the definition of “employer.” In enacting WLAD, the legislature created a statutory right for employees to be free from discrimination in the workplace while allowing employers to retain their constitutional right, as constrained by state and federal case law, to choose workers who reflect the employers’ beliefs when hiring ministers. Matthew Woods brought an employment discrimination action against Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission (SUGM). At trial, SUGM successfully moved for summary judgment pursuant to RCW 49.60.040(11)’s religious employer exemption. Woods appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, contesting the constitutionality of the statute. SUGM argued RCW 49.60.040(11)’s exemption applied to its hiring decisions because its employees were expected to minister to their clients. Under Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, 140 S. Ct. 2049 (2020), plaintiff’s employment discrimination claim must yield in a few limited circumstances, including where the employee in question was a minister. Whether ministerial responsibilities and functions discussed in Our Lady of Guadalupe were present in Woods’ case was not decided below. The Supreme Court determined RCW 49.60.040(11) was constitutional but could be constitutionally invalid as applied to Woods. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and the case remanded to the trial court to determine whether SUGM met the ministerial exception. View "Woods v. Seattle's Union Gospel Mission" on Justia Law
GeorgiaCarry.org, Inc. et al. v. Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Inc.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden, Inc. (the “Garden”) leased land from the City of Atlanta. The Garden wished to enforce a policy precluding the possession of firearms by visitors to, and guests of, the Garden, like Phillip Evans. Evans held a valid weapons carry license under Georgia law and asserted that he was authorized to carry a firearm at the garden under the authority of OCGA 16-11-127 (c). The Garden contended it could enforce its policy based on an exception to the general rule found in the same statutory paragraph. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether OCGA 16-11-127 (c) permitted a private organization that leased property owned by a municipality to prohibit the carrying of firearms on the leased premises. The Court of Appeals determined that it did and affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Garden on the petition for declaratory and injunctive relief filed by GeorgiaCarry.Org, Inc. The Georgia Supreme Court determined this case turned on whether the Garden was indeed private property. Because no lease was entered into the trial court record, judgment was reversed for further proceedings at the trial court. View "GeorgiaCarry.org, Inc. et al. v. Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Inc." on Justia Law
Big Cats of Serenity Springs v. Vilsack
Big Cats of Serenity Springs was a Colorado-based non-profit that provided housing, food, and veterinary care for exotic animals. The facility was regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Three APHIS inspectors accompanied by sheriff’s deputies broke into the Big Cats facility without its permission to perform an unannounced inspection of two tiger cubs. But at the time the inspectors entered the facility, the cubs were at a veterinarian’s office receiving treatment, just as Big Cats had promised the APHIS inspectors the previous day. Big Cats and its directors sued the APHIS inspectors for the unauthorized entry pursuant to "Bivens v. Six Unknown Narcotics Agents," (403 U.S. 388 (1971)) and 42 U.S.C. 1983, asserting the entry was an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment. The district court denied the APHIS inspectors’ motion to dismiss the complaint and they filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the court’s failure to grant qualified immunity. The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. Big Cats’ complaint stated a claim for relief under "Bivens." No APHIS inspector would reasonably have believed unauthorized forcible entry of the Big Cats facility was permissible, and therefore Big Cats and its directors could have a claim for violation of their Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable search. But the Court reversed on Big Cats’ civil rights claim because the federal inspectors were not liable under section 1983 in the circumstances here. View "Big Cats of Serenity Springs v. Vilsack" on Justia Law
Independence Institute v. FEC
The Institute, a Section 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, filed suit against the FEC, challenging the constitutionality of the disclosure requirements of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, 52 U.S.C. 20104(f). The district court denied the Institute's request to convene a three-judge district court pursuant to the statutory provision that requires three-judge district courts for constitutional challenges to the BCRA. On the merits, the district court held that the Institute's claim was unavailing under McConnell v. FEC, and Citizens United V. FEC. The Institute appealed. The court concluded that, because the Institute’s complaint raises a First Amendment challenge to a provision of BCRA, 28 U.S.C. 2284(a) entitles it to a three-judge district court. In this case, the Institute’s attempt to advance its as-applied First Amendment challenge is not “essentially fictitious, wholly insubstantial, obviously frivolous, and obviously without merit.” Therefore, section 2284 “entitles” the Institute to make its case “before a three-judge district court.” Accordingly, the court reversed and vacated the district court's judgment, remanding for further proceedings. View "Independence Institute v. FEC" on Justia Law
Geneva College v. Sec’y U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs.
Appellees in these consolidated appeals challenged under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) the requirement under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) that contraceptive coverage be provided to their plan participants and beneficiaries. Appellees included a nonprofit institution of higher learning established by the Reformed Presbyterian Church and certain Catholic Dioceses and nonprofit organizations affiliated with the Catholic Church. Because they provided coverage to the Catholic nonprofits, the Dioceses, which were otherwise exempt, were required to comply with the contraceptive coverage requirement as to the nonprofits. The nonprofit appellees were eligible for an accommodation to the contraceptive coverage requirement, under which the contraceptive services will be independently provided by an insurance issuer or third-party administrator once the appellees advise that they will not pay for those services. Appellees argued that the accommodation places a substantial burden on their religious exercise because it forces them to facilitate the provision of insurance coverage for contraceptive services and has the impermissible effect of dividing the Catholic Church. The district courts granted Appellees’ motions for a preliminary injunction. The Third Circuit reversed, concluding that the accommodation places no substantial burden on Appellees, and therefore, Appellees did not show a likelihood of success on the merits of their RFRA claim. View "Geneva College v. Sec’y U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Insurance Law, Non-Profit Corporations
Grogan v. Blooming Grove Volunteer Ambulance Corps
Plaintiff filed suit against BGVAC and others under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that various disciplinary charges levied against her by BGVAC and her suspension as an officer of BGVAC without a hearing violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. BGVAC is a private, non-profit membership corporation that contracts with the Town to provide emergency medical services and general ambulance services to the members of that community. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants. The court concluded that plaintiff failed to demonstrate a sufficiently close nexus between the State or Town governmental entities and the disciplinary actions taken against her. Consequently, BGVAC's actions cannot be fairly attributed to the State or the Town and BGVAC could not be held liable under section 1983. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.View "Grogan v. Blooming Grove Volunteer Ambulance Corps" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Non-Profit Corporations
National Organization for Marriage, Inc. v. Walsh
NOM, a nonprofit advocacy organization, appealed the district court's dismissal of its amended complaint for lack of subject-matter-jurisdiction. NOM was seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that New York Election Law 14-100.1, which defined the term "political committee" for the purposes of state elections, violated the First Amendment. The court determined that NOM's case presented a live controversy that was ripe for consideration and vacated the district court's determination that it lacked jurisdiction. Because that conclusion prevented the district court from reaching the merits of NOM's claims, the court declined to comment on the substance of NOM's claims in the first instance. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "National Organization for Marriage, Inc. v. Walsh" on Justia Law
Disability Advocates, Inc. v. New York Coalition for Quality Assisted Living, Inc, et al.
The district court ordered the Governor of the State of New York and various state commissioners and agencies to make certain modifications to the State's mental health system to ensure compliance with 28 C.F.R. 35.130(d) - the so-called "integration mandate" of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12132, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794. The court held that DAI, a nonprofit organization contracted to provide services to New York's Protection and Advocacy System under the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act, 42 U.S.C. 10801 et seq., lacked standing under Article III to bring the claim. The court also held that the intervention of the United States after the liability phase of the litigation had concluded was insufficient to cure the jurisdictional defect created by DAI's lack of standing. Therefore, the court vacated the judgment and remedial order and dismissed for want of jurisdiction.
Davis v. Devereux Foundation
Plaintiff Roland Davis had been a resident of the Devereux New Jersey Center (operated by Defendant Devereux Foundation) since shortly before his twelfth birthday. Plaintiff was diagnosed with autism, mental retardation, pervasive developmental disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and had a history of combative and aggressive behavior. Plaintiff's mother (as his guardian) filed a complaint alleging breach of a "non-delegable duty" to protect Plaintiff from harm, negligent care and supervision, and vicarious liability after a counselor assaulted Plaintiff. The trial court granted Devereux's motion for summary judgment, finding that to the extent claims were for negligence, they were barred by the Charitable Immunity Act (CIA). The court further concluded that New Jersey law does not compel imposing a "non-delegable duty" upon Devereux. The Appellate Division affirmed in part, also finding no "non-delegable duty," and reversed in part, holding that a reasonable jury could find that the counselor acted in part within the scope of her employment. The issues on appeal to the Supreme Court were: (1) whether to impose upon an institution that cares for developmentally disabled residents a "non-delegable duty" to protect them from harm caused by employees' intentional acts; and (2) whether the employee in this case could be found to have acted within the scope of her employment when she criminally assaulted the resident, thereby subjecting the non-profit facility to liability pursuant to "respondeat superior." The Court reaffirmed the duty of due care imposed upon caregivers with in loco parentis responsibilities to persons with developmental disabilities. However, applying the analysis set forth and developed by prior opinions, the parties' relationship, the nature of the risk, the opportunity and ability to exercise care, and public policy, the Court concluded the circumstances of this case did not justify imposing on caregivers a "non-delegable duty" to protect residents from harm caused by employees' intentional acts. Furthermore, the Court held that no rational factfinder could find that the Devereux counselor's criminal assault on Plaintiff was conducted within the scope of her employment.