Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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Plaintiff filed suit against an Arkansas state police officer, alleging that the officer used excessive force by pepper spraying and choking him in the course of arresting him for taking eight pairs of shorts from a department store. The district court denied the officer qualified immunity. The Eighth Circuit held that a jury could find that the officer used an unreasonable amount of force when he pepper sprayed plaintiff. In this case, the officer used force on a non-resisting, non-fleeing individual suspected of a completed, non-violent misdemeanor. The court explained that, while some use of force was reasonable here, it was not reasonable to immediately use significant force. The district court erred in concluding that plaintiff's right not to be pepper sprayed was clearly established. The court also held that defendant unreasonably used excessive force by choking plaintiff, and plaintiff's right to be free from such force was clearly established at the time. Therefore, the district court correctly denied qualified immunity on the chocking claim. The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Tatum v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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The district court granted in part petitioner's motion to vacate his drug-related conviction and sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court ordered the government to reoffer an earlier plea deal. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court clearly erred in finding that petitioner suffered from mental illness that impaired his ability to understand legal advice and make reasoned decisions; the district court erred in finding that counsel should have known that petitioner was not able to understand legal advice or make reasoned decisions; the district court's finding that counsel's communication style did not mesh well with petitioner's difficulties did not provide a basis for ineffective assistance of counsel; the district court did not err in finding counsel deficient in failing to explain the safety-valve exception; and the district court erred in directing the government to reoffer the five-year deal. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to determine whether petitioner was prejudiced by the safety-valve advice. View "Davis v. United States" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed the denial of his 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his criminal sentence. Petitioner was sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e), based on predicate offenses for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and two Nebraska felony convictions for making terroristic threats (one as a juvenile and one as an adult). The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that the Nebraska statute qualifies under the ACCA force clause; an act of juvenile delinquency cannot qualify as a violent felony under any clause of the ACCA, including the residual clause, unless the court first determines that it involved the use or carrying of a firearm, knife, or destructive device; that question is completely separate from the question of whether the juvenile conviction is an enumerated offense or qualifies under the force clause; the court sua sponte determined that petitioner's claim that his juvenile offense did not involve the use or carrying of a firearm, knife, or destructive device is procedurally defaulted; and even if the theoretical possibility exists that the Nebraska statute could encompass threats only to property, petitioner has not demonstrated a realistic probability that Nebraska would apply the statute in that manner. View "Fletcher v. United States" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff's son was denied coverage related to gender reassignment services and surgery, plaintiff filed suit against Essentia and the health insurance plan's third party administrator for sex based discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Eighth Circuit held that plaintiff was not discriminated against on the basis of her own sex, and the protections of Title VII and the MHRA do not extend to discrimination based on her son's sex. Therefore, the court affirmed as to this issue. The court reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's ACA claim based on lack of Article III standing, holding that plaintiff has alleged an injury cognizable under Article III because she contends that defendants' discriminatory conduct denied her the benefits of her insurance policy and forced her to pay out of pocket for some of her son's prescribed medication. View "Tovar v. Essentia Health" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Frederick Tucker and the county sheriff, alleging unlawful retaliation after she supported a different candidate in an election for presiding judge. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of summary judgment to Tucker based on qualified immunity, holding that plaintiff provided sufficient evidence for a reasonable fact finder to conclude that Tucker violated plaintiff's right to support an electoral candidate of her choice. Furthermore, the First Amendment right was clearly established at the time. View "Jenkins v. Tucker" on Justia Law

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Michael Dooley's estate filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that a deputy sheriff used excessive force when he shot and killed Dooley. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the deputy, holding that the district court did not err in ruling that the deputy's use of deadly force was objectively reasonable as a matter of law. In this case, the deputy was responding to a potentially dangerous situation where Dooley was dressed in military uniform and carrying a rifle. Although new information came to light after the shooting that the rifle was actually a pellet gun, a reasonable officer in the deputy's position could believe that Dooley was pointing a gun at the deputies and that they were in serious risk of harm. Furthermore, the district court did not err by granting summary judgment for defendant on plaintiffs' state tort claims because the use of force was reasonable and permitted by law. View "Dooley v. Tharp" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against McGraw-Hill, alleging claims of employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1981, and the Missouri Human Rights Act. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of McGraw-Hill, holding that plaintiff failed to show a pretext for discrimination on his claim that two white counterparts were paid a higher salary; plaintiff failed to establish a case of salary discrimination on his claim that he was denied a spot bonus where no similarly situated employee was treated differently; in regard to the hostile work environment claim, plaintiff failed to show a causal connection between the alleged acts of harassment and his race; one race-related comment that plaintiff allegedly overheard did not constitute harassment sufficiently severe and pervasive to support a hostile work environment claim; and, in regard to the discriminatory discharge claim, even if plaintiff established a prima facie case of discriminatory discharge, he did not meet his burden to show that McGraw-Hill's proffered reason for discharging him was pretext for discrimination. In this case, plaintiff's documented performance deficiencies constituted a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for discharging him. Finally, any claim of retaliation failed because plaintiff failed to show a causal connection between the alleged retaliatory act and protected conduct. View "Stone v. McGraw-Hill Global Financial" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment based on qualified immunity and official immunity to Officer Heady in plaintiff's suit alleging excessive use of force under 42 U.S.C. 1983, as well as common law negligence and battery. In this case, it was objectively reasonable for Heady to believe that plaintiff's reach for the gearshift was an attempt to shift the car to drive and to flee; he had reason to believe that plaintiff was intoxicated and a potential threat to public safety; and when the brake lights to the SUV turned on, Heady said "no, no, no," reached into the car, and turned off the ignition. Therefore, Heady was justified in using force to remove plaintiff from the vehicle. View "Boude v. City of Raymore" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion for post-conviction relief, holding that petitioner's claim, that he was denied due process when the district court entered an amended judgment that modified the restitution order without ensuring that he was given notice and an opportunity to be heard, was not cognizable under section 2255. The Eighth Circuit explained that the district court's order amending the judgment did not result in a new sentence or judgment because there was no substantive proceeding that adjudicated petitioner's guilt or determined the appropriate punishment. Further, the district court did not alter the amount of petitioner's restitution obligation or otherwise change his sanction. Therefore, the district court correctly dismissed petitioner's successive motion for lack of authorization from the court of appeals. View "Dyab v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of plaintiff's request for a broader preliminary injunction against the enforcement of rules of the Iowa State Fair that forbid impeding traffic and bringing signs attached to poles and sticks to the Fair. The Eighth Circuit concluded that, whatever level of precision might be required for Fair rules to satisfy due process, plaintiff was not likely to succeed on his claim; a person of ordinary intelligence in plaintiff's position was on fair notice; plaintiff was well informed that carrying a sign on a pole violates a rule against carrying signs attached to sticks or poles; plaintiff was not likely to succeed on a claim that the Fair's rules impermissibly encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement because he failed to present evidence demonstrating that the Fair authorities have discriminated in favor of others who are similarly situated to him; that the rules were unwritten does not deprive plaintiff of fair notice prospectively; and plaintiff failed to show that he was likely to suffer irreparable harm. View "Powell v. Ryan" on Justia Law