Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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Plaintiff, on behalf of his minor sons and a class of current and former students of the school district who were videotaped in the nude by Defendant Hansen, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against several district defendants. The district court entered default judgment against Hansen in his individual capacity and summary judgment for the district defendants. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district's failure to provide more supervision and training did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation where plaintiff presented no evidence of a pattern of misconduct that would alert the district that its training and supervision were insufficient to prevent Hansen's conduct, and, without notice, the district's failure to provide more training or supervision was not deliberately indifferent. The court also held that plaintiff waived his Child Abuse Victims Rights Act of 1986 (CAVRA) claim because CAVRA is not a predicate statutory violation for a section 1983 claim. View "Doe v. Fort Zumwalt R-II School District" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint in an action brought by plaintiff and his wife after plaintiff refused to allow Menards home supply store employees, pursuant to posted store policy, to search the trunk of his vehicle as he exited a Menards lumberyard in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The court held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on the Fourth Amendment seizure claims because they had arguable reasonable suspicion in detaining plaintiff when he refused to open his vehicle's trunk; there was no unreasonable delay or unreasonable force in the detention and the officers did not arrest plaintiff; and it was reasonable for the officers to briefly handcuff plaintiff in light of his unpredictability, evasiveness, argumentative demeanor, refusal to disobey legitimate officer commands, and the size difference between plaintiff and the officers. The court also held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on the wife's Fourth Amendment seizure claim where the wife was a passenger in the car and the officers had reasonable suspicion for detaining her; a de minimis use of force could not, as here, form the basis for a Fourth Amendment excessive force claim; plaintiff failed to adequately plead a compensatory damages claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 arising from the officers' search of the vehicle's trunk; and plaintiff's remaining First Amendment and state law claims were rejected. View "Waters v. Madson" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of petitioner's motion to vacate his conviction under 28 U.S.C. 2255, based on the ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington. Taking petitioner's assertions as true, the court held that counsel provided false assurance that petitioner's conviction for robbery would not result in his removal from this country and nothing in the record contradicted petitioner's factual assertions about counsel's advice. Furthermore, petitioner showed prejudice by asserting that he would have rejected the plea and insisted on trial but for counsel's misadvice. Therefore, the court held that the record did not conclusively show that petitioner was entitled to no relief and the district court abused its discretion by denying relief without an evidentiary hearing. Accordingly, the court remanded for an evidentiary hearing. View "Dat v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer, alleging violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's MHRA claims on alternative grounds. The court held that, assuming that the company took adverse action against plaintiff during a meeting when the CEO raised an "exit strategy," plaintiff failed to show that the action was taken because of protected opposition to an unlawful employment practice under the MHRA. Furthermore, the decision to arrange an exit strategy was not motivated by plaintiff's marital status. View "Harrell v. Handi Medical Supply, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner based on double jeopardy grounds. Before petitioner was tried and convicted in state court, a jury had been impaneled in the prosecution of the same charge against him but the state trial court declared a mistrial before the trial actually began because the prosecutor sustained an injury. The court held that the Minnesota Court of Appeals' determination that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting a mistrial based on manifest necessity was not an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. In this case, the state court did not violate petitioner's Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights by concluding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by declaring that manifest necessity justified the mistrial grant. View "Fenstermaker v. Halvorson" on Justia Law

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On rehearing en banc, the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of summary judgment to defendant in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by plaintiff, alleging that defendant, plaintiff's boss, retaliated against him in violation of the First Amendment. In this case, plaintiff had run against his boss in a primary election and had publicly made statements about the sheriff's department and his plans to improve it. Defendant won the election and then terminated plaintiff's employment, claiming that plaintiff's campaign violated the department's rules of conduct. The court held that defendant was entitled to qualified immunity because he did not violate a clearly established statutory or constitutional right of which a reasonable person would have known. As in Nord v. Walsh. Nord, 757 F.3d 734, defendant could have reasonably believed that plaintiff's speech was at least potentially damaging to and disruptive of the discipline and harmony of and among co-workers in the sheriff's office and detrimental to the close working relationships and personal loyalties necessary for an effective and trusted local policing operation. View "Morgan v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against several parties, alleging violations of her parental rights over one of her minor children, E.J.K., under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. E.J.K. obtained a letter from Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid concluding that E.J.K. was legally emancipated under Minnesota law. Although the letter had no legal effect, E.J.K. was able to obtain funding for medical services and other living expenses, as well as gender transition care. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court properly granted judgment on the pleadings for St. Louis County (including the official-capacity claim against the interim director) because plaintiff did not adequately plead a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983. In this case, plaintiff's conclusory assertion that the County acted based on a policy or custom was insufficient to state a claim. The court also held that plaintiff failed to state a claim for damages against the then-interim director of Public Health and Human Services; neither of the medical provider defendants were acting under state law; the school district's alleged handling of plaintiff's case, assuming it interfered with plaintiff's rights, was insufficient to establish a custom or practice under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); the school principal was entitled to qualified immunity; and declaratory and injunctive relief claims were moot. View "Calgaro v. St. Louis County" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1981 race discrimination claim. The court held that the employer articulated a legitimate, non-discriminatory basis for its hiring selection and plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the stated reason was a pretext for discrimination. In this case, the employer's regional executive selected another individual for a promotion, rather than plaintiff, because the individual scored the highest during the interviews and her duties were more directly relevant to the position. View "Nelson v. USAble Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Where a jury awarded plaintiff nominal compensatory damages and punitive damages for his claim of hostile work environment against his former employer, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's post-trial motions and grant of attorney's fees to plaintiff. The court held that the $250,000 award of punitive damages was supported by the record where plaintiff repeatedly complained to supervisors that his manager was using racial slurs and the company did not take action; plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1981 claim was timely under the applicable four year statue of limitations where the workplace abuse continued into the limitations period; the punitive damages amount was constitutionally sound in light of the degree of reprehensibility of defendant's misconduct; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney's fees and accepting the attorney's hourly rate as reasonable. View "Bryant v. Jeffrey Sand Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that he was unlawfully arrested in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The court held that law enforcement had probable cause to arrest plaintiff where the totality of the circumstances at the time of the arrest were sufficient for the detective to believe that plaintiff had committed or was committing the offense of possessing child pornography. Therefore, the law enforcement agents were entitled to qualified immunity. Finally, because there was no constitutional violation, no municipal liability attached to the county and the city. View "Nader v. City of Papillion" on Justia Law