Justia Civil Rights Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Spak v. Phillips
A nolle prosequi constitutes a "favorable termination" for the purpose of determining when a 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim accrues. In this case, plaintiff filed suit against defendant, a police officer, under section 1983, alleging malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The district court held that plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim accrued when the nolle prosequi was entered, and that as a result his suit was time‐ barred. The Second Circuit affirmed, holding that plaintiff's claim accrued when the charges against him were nolled. View "Spak v. Phillips" on Justia Law
Makinen v. City of New York
In this disability discrimination case, the Second Circuit certified the following question to the New York Court of Appeals: Do sections 8‐102(16)(c) and 8‐107(1)(a) of the New York City Administrative Code preclude a plaintiff from bringing a disability discrimination claim based solely on a perception of untreated alcoholism? View "Makinen v. City of New York" on Justia Law
Waiters v. Lee
Petitioner, convicted of murder and related-offenses, sought review of the district court's denial of habeas relief, arguing that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to call a medical expert both to interpret the portion of his medical records documenting his blood alcohol level and to expound upon the effects of that level of intoxication. The Second Circuit vacated and remanded, holding that the state trial court's determination that petitioner failed to establish prejudice was not unreasonable; it was not so lacking in justification as to be beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement; and thus the district court erred in second-guess that determination and substituting its own judgment. View "Waiters v. Lee" on Justia Law
Zarda v. Altitude Express
Plaintiff, a skydiver, filed suit against his former employer, Altitude Express, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., and New York law, alleging that he was terminated from his position as a skydiving instructor based on his sexual orientation. The district court found a triable issue of fact as to whether plaintiff faced discrimination because of his sexual orientation in violation of New York law, but otherwise granted summary judgment for the employer. Specifically, the district court held that defendants were entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's Title VII claim because Second Circuit precedent holds that Title VII does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation. A jury found for defendants on the state-law claims. The court declined plaintiff's request that it reconsider its interpretation of Title VII in order to hold that Title VII's prohibition on discrimination based on "sex" encompasses discrimination based on "sexual orientation" because a three-judge panel lacks the power to overturn Circuit precedent. See Simonton v. Runyon. The court also concluded that plaintiff's assertions that he is entitled to a new trial on his state-law, sexual-orientation discrimination claim have no merit. The court rejected plaintiff's claims of evidentiary errors and unfair discovery practices, and defense counsel did not improperly influence the jury by appealing to prejudice of homosexuals. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Zarda v. Altitude Express" on Justia Law
Christiansen v. Omnicom Group, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against defendants under the Americans with Disabilities Education Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.; and state and local law. Plaintiff alleged that he was discriminated against at his workplace due to, inter alia, his HIV‐positive status and his failure to conform to gender stereotypes. The district court dismissed the federal claims for failure to state a claim and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his state and local claims. The district court concluded that Simonton v. Runyon and Dawson v. Bumble & Bumble, holding that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, precluded plaintiff's Title VII claim. The court concluded that it lacked power to reconsider Simonton and Dawson. The court concluded, however, that the district court erred by determining that plaintiff failed to plausibly allege a Title VII claim based on the gender stereotyping theory of sex discrimination articulated in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins. In this case, plaintiff's complaint identified multiple instances of gender stereotyping discrimination. The court clarified that gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals do not have less protection under Price Waterhouse against traditional gender stereotype discrimination than do heterosexual individuals. Simonton and Dawson merely held that being gay, lesbian, or bisexual, standing alone, does not constitute nonconformity with a gender stereotype that can give rise to a cognizable gender stereotyping claim. Accordingly, the court reversed the dismissal of the Title VII claim and remanded. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "Christiansen v. Omnicom Group, Inc." on Justia Law
Jacoby & Meyers v. The Presiding Justices of the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Departments
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the constitutionality of a collection of New York regulations and laws that together prevent for‐profit law firms from accepting capital investment from non‐lawyers. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to allege the infringement of any cognizable constitutional right. On de novo review, the court concluded that neither as a for-profit partnership nor as a professional limited liability company do plaintiffs have the associational or petition rights that they claim. Even if the court were to assume, given the evolving nature of commercial speech protections, that they possess First Amendment interests, the regulations at issue here were adequately supported by state interests and have too little effect on the attorney‐client relationship to be viewed as imposing an unlawful burden on plaintiffs' constitutional interests. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Jacoby & Meyers v. The Presiding Justices of the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Departments" on Justia Law
Stevens v. Rite Aid Corp.
Plaintiff, who suffers from a fear of needles (trypanophobia), filed suit against Rite Aid, alleging violation of his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., after he was terminated from his position as a pharmacist because he could not comply with the company's policy that required pharmacists to administer immunization injections to customers. On appeal, Rite Aid challenged the district court's award of substantial damages to plaintiff after a jury trial. Both parties appealed the district court's post-trial order that dismissed plaintiff's failure-to-accommodate claim, granted a new trial unless plaintiff agreed to a remittitur (later accepted), substantially granted plaintiff's claims for interest, and denied defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) on plaintiff's wrongful discharge and retaliation claims. The court explained that because performing immunization injections was an essential job requirement and plaintiff presented no evidence of a reasonable accommodation that would have allowed him to perform immunizations at the time of his dismissal, no juror could reasonably conclude that plaintiff was "qualified to perform the essential functions of his job, with or without reasonable accommodation." Therefore, the court reversed the post-trial denial of the JMOL on plaintiff's federal and state wrongful termination and retaliation claims, affirmed the dismissal of the failure-to-accommodate claim; and remanded for entry of a revised judgment in favor of Rite Aid. View "Stevens v. Rite Aid Corp." on Justia Law
Darnell v. City of New York
Plaintiffs, 20 state pretrial detainees, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the City and the supervisory officers of a pre-arraignment holding facility were deliberately indifferent to allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the holding facility. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants, denied plaintiffs' motion to reconsider; and denied a subsequent motion to reconsider the denial of the motion for reconsideration. The court affirmed the district court's judgment as to claims plaintiffs concede were properly dismissed. However, the court concluded that the district court misapplied this court's precedents in assessing whether plaintiffs had established an objectively serious deprivation. In Willey v. Kirkpatrick, the court recently reiterated that the proper lens through which to analyze allegedly unconstitutional unsanitary conditions of confinement is with reference to their severity and duration, not the detainee's resulting injury. Furthermore, the Supreme Court's decision in Kingsley v. Hendrickson dictates that deliberate indifference be measured objectively in due process cases. In this case, the district court did not analyze the implications of Kingsley in its opinion. Therefore, the court vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Darnell v. City of New York" on Justia Law
Carmichael v. Chappius
After the district court granted habeas relief to petitioner based on his Batson v. Kentucky challenge, respondent appealed. The district court held that the New York State Appellate Division, First Department, had unreasonably applied Batson and its progeny when it affirmed the state trial court's finding that petitioner failed to make a prima facie case showing that the prosecution used its peremptory challenges in a discriminatory manner. The court held that the district court incorrectly applied the standard for evaluating a state court's rulings set forth in the Anti‐Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. 2254(d); the Appellate Division's order affirming the trial court's denial of petitioner's Batson challenge was not an unreasonable application of clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; and thus the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Carmichael v. Chappius" on Justia Law
Jia Sheng v. MTBank Corp.
Plaintiff filed suit against MTBank, alleging violations of various state and federal statues by not allowing her to work remotely when she became pregnant. The magistrate judge ruled as a matter of law against plaintiff on a number of claims and the jury found for MTBank on the remaining claims. The court held that the district court abused its discretion in admitting evidence of the reinstatement offer because the offer was, as a matter of law, not unconditional; the district court erred in sua sponte disqualifying the attorneys for both parties, because the disqualification depended on the erroneous admission of evidence relating to the reinstatement offer; the jury instructions were not erroneous; and the court lacked jurisdiction over plaintiff's challenge to the district court's New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), N.Y. Exec. Law 290 et seq., ruling. Accordingly, the court vacated in part in regard to the jury's verdict and the disqualification order, dismissed in part in regard to claims under the NYSHRL, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Jia Sheng v. MTBank Corp." on Justia Law