Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Transportation Law
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Caquelin's land was subject to a railroad easement. The Surface Transportation Board granted the railroad permission to abandon the line unless the process (16 U.S.C. 1247(d)) for considering the use of the easement for a public recreational trail was invoked. That process was invoked. The Board issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use or Abandonment (NITU), preventing effectuation of the abandonment approval and blocking the ending of the easement for 180 days, during which the railroad could try to reach an agreement with two entities that expressed interest in the easement for trail use. The NITU expired without such an agreement. The railroad completed its abandonment three months later.Caquelin sued, alleging that a taking occurred when the government, by issuing the NITU, prevented the termination of the easement during the 180-day period. Following a remand, the Claims Court again held that a taking had occurred. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting the contention that the multi-factor approach adopted for government-created flooding in the Supreme Court’s 2012 “Arkansas Game” decision displaced the categorical-taking analysis adopted in Federal Circuit precedents for a NITU that blocks termination of an easement. The categorical taking analysis is applicable even when that NITU expires without a trail-use agreement. A NITU does not effect a taking if, even without a NITU, the railroad would not have abandoned its line during the period of the NITU. Here, the evidence permits a finding that abandonment would have occurred during the NITU period if the NITU had not issued. View "Caquelin v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Texas Secretary of State and the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, alleging that the DPS System violates the Equal Protection Clause and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment declaring defendants in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and the NVRA, holding that plaintiffs lacked Article III standing to pursue their claims. The court held that plaintiffs have not established a substantial risk that they will attempt to update their voter registrations using the DPS System and be injured by their inability to do so. Therefore, plaintiffs have not established an injury in fact sufficient to confer standing to pursue declaratory and injunctive relief. Furthermore, the capable-of-repetition-yet-evading-review doctrine was not implicated by plaintiffs' claims. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's injunction and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint. View "Stringer v. Whitley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the police chief, the city, and other public officials, alleging violations of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). After the police chief admitted liability for six violations of the Act, the jury awarded plaintiff punitive damages. The district court ruled that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence that the city was directly liable for the violations, but authorized the jury's finding that the city was vicariously liable for the police chief's actions.The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by ruling that plaintiff's proposed class failed to satisfy the numerosity requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and the predominance requirement of Rule 23(b)(3); the district court properly refused to entertain direct liability against the city where the police chief acted for personal reasons, not under the auspices of official policymaking authority, and thus his actions did not represent a policy of the city; the district court correctly construed the civil action provisions of the Act to incorporate background tort-related rules of vicarious liability; the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding certain evidence at trial; and the district court did not err in declining to award requested costs. The court rejected plaintiff's remaining claims and denied the city's motion to strike portions of plaintiff's appendix and brief. View "Orduno v. Pietrzak" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's request for declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking a ruling that the Missouri State Highway Patrol is forbidden to stop and inspect his 54,000-pound dump truck, used in furtherance of his private commercial venture, without probable cause. The court held that plaintiff is a member of the closely regulated commercial trucking industry, and that the patrol's random stops and inspections of his truck would comport with the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Furthermore, Missouri's regulatory scheme advances a substantial government interest as applied to plaintiff, and warrantless inspections are necessary to further the regulatory scheme. View "Calzone v. Olson" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the City's motion for summary judgment in an action challenging the City's rules banning advertisements in for-hire vehicles (FHVs) absent authorization from the Taxi and Limousine Commission. The district court concluded that the City's rules banning advertisements in for‐hire passenger vehicles, such as Ubers and Lyfts, violate the First Amendment, primarily because the City permits certain advertising in taxicabs.The court held that the City's prohibition on advertising in FHVs did not violate the First Amendment under the Central Hudson test. In this case, the City's asserted interest in improving the overall passenger experience is substantial, the prohibition "directly advances" that interest, and the prohibition was no more extensive than necessary to serve that interest. The court held that the City's determination that banning ads altogether is the most effective approach was reasonable. View "Vugo, Inc. v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state civil rights law, contending that the impoundment of their vehicles by local authorities based on plaintiffs' lack of a driver's license violated the Fourth Amendment. California Vehicle Code 4602.6(a)(1) provides that a peace officer may impound a vehicle for 30 days if the vehicle’s driver has never been issued a driver's license.Applying Brewster v. Beck, 859 F.3d 1194, 1196–97 (9th Cir. 2017), the panel held that 30-day impounds under section 14602.6 are seizures for Fourth Amendment purposes. Therefore, the only issue in this case was whether the impounds were reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. The panel held that, although the state's interest in keeping unlicensed drivers off the road is governed by the community caretaking exception of the Fourth Amendment, the exception does not categorically permit government officials to impound private property simply because state law does. Furthermore, even if the panel were to balance the state's interest against the driver's interests, the County would still be wrong to rely on a deterrence or administrative penalty rationale to support California's interests. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiffs on the Fourth Amendment claims.The panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiffs claim that the County and the City were liable for money damages as final policymakers who caused the constitutional violations; affirmed the denial of class certification for lack of commonality and typicality; and affirmed summary judgment for defendants on the California Bane Act claim. View "Sandoval v. County of Sonoma" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, licensed taxi and limousine operators, sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging an agreement between Newark and Uber as violating their rights under the Takings, Due Process, and Equal Protection Clauses. In order to operate in Newark without taxi medallions or commercial driver’s licenses, setting its own rates, Uber agreed to pay the city $1 million per year for 10 years; to provide $1.5 million in liability insurance for each of its drivers; to have a third-party provider conduct background checks on its drivers. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The agreement places the plaintiffs in an “undoubtedly difficult position” but the situation cannot be remedied through constitutional claims. Even if plaintiffs have a legally cognizable property interest in the medallions themselves, they remain in possession of and able to use their taxi medallions to conduct business. The decrease in the market value of the medallions is not sufficient to constitute a cognizable property interest necessary to state a claim under the Takings Clause. The city controls the number of medallions in circulation and maintains the ability to flood the market with medallions. With respect to equal protection, it is rational for the city to determine that customers require greater protections before accepting a ride from a taxi on the street than before accepting a ride where they are given the relevant information in advance. View "Newark Cab Association v. City of Newark" on Justia Law

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Several years after a tank car spill accident, appellants Larry Lincoln and Brad Mosbrucker told their employer BNSF Railway Company (“BNSF”) that medical conditions attributable to the accident rendered them partially, permanently disabled and prevented them from working outdoors. BNSF removed appellants from service as Maintenance of Way (“MOW”) workers purportedly due to safety concerns and because MOW work entailed outdoor work. With some assistance from BNSF’s Medical and Environmental Health Department (“MEH”), Appellants each applied for more than twenty jobs within BNSF during the four years following their removal from service. After not being selected for several positions, Appellants filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), accommodation request letters with BNSF, and complaints with the Occupational Safety Health Administration (“OSHA”). Following BNSF’s rejection of their applications for additional positions, Appellants filed a complaint raising claims for: (1) discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); (2) failure to accommodate under the ADA; (3) retaliation under the ADA; and (4) retaliation under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (“FRSA”). Relying on nearly forty years of Tenth Circuit precedent, the district court concluded that filing an EEOC charge was a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit and it dismissed several parts of Appellants’ ADA claims for lack of jurisdiction. Appellants also challenged the vast majority of the district court’s summary judgment determinations on the merits of their claims that survived the court’s exhaustion rulings. After polling the full court, the Tenth Circuit overturn its precedent that filing an EEOC charge was a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit, thus reversing the district court’s jurisdictional rulings. Appellants’ ADA discrimination and ADA failure to accommodate claims relative to some of the positions over which the district court determined it lacked jurisdiction were remanded for further proceedings. With respect to the district court’s summary judgment determinations on the merits of appellants’ claims that survived the exhaustion rulings, the Tenth Circuit was unable to reach a firm conclusion on the position-based ADA discrimination and failure to accommodate claims. The Court concluded the district court’s dismissal of the FRSA claims were appropriate. Therefore, the Court reversed in part, affirmed in part and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Lincoln v. BNSF Railway Company" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by for-hire drivers challenging a Seattle ordinance that establishes a multistep collective bargaining process between "driver-coordinators," such as Uber and Lyft, and for-hire drivers who contract with those companies. The panel held that the drivers' claims under the National Labor Relations Act were unripe because they failed to allege an injury in fact that was concrete and particularized. In this case, even assuming arguendo that the disclosure of drivers' personal information to the union under the ordinance was imminent, the disclosure was neither a concrete nor a particularized injury. Furthermore, no contract or agreement was imminent. The court also held that the drivers' First Amendment claims were unripe for the same reasons. View "Clark v. City of Seattle" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against defendants in an action alleging claims under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2721-25. The court held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's claims against Defendant Kopp as untimely under the applicable statute of limitations; plaintiff failed to state a claim for direct municipal liability against Duluth because she failed to plead sufficient facts supporting an inference that the City knowingly allowed Kopp to access the database for any reason other than her official duties; and plaintiff failed to preserve any vicarious liability claim. View "Loeffler v. City of Duluth" on Justia Law