Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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The Executive Clemency Board appealed the district court's orders denying in part its motion for summary judgment and permanently enjoining Florida's former system for re-enfranchising convicted felons. Plaintiff and other convicted felons alleged that the former system facially violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court granted plaintiff's motion on three of four counts, and issued permanent injunctions prohibiting the Board from enforcing the then-current vote-restoration system, ending all vote-restoration processes. In 2016, Florida voters amended their state constitution as it concerns the re-enfranchisement of convicted felons. In 2019, Florida's legislature revised its statutory scheme for re-enfranchisement. Plaintiff claimed that he and the other convicted felons are eligible to seek restoration of their voting rights. Therefore, the Eleventh Circuit held that this case is moot and vacated in part the district court's order on cross-motions for summary judgment dated February 1, 2018; vacated the district court's order directing entry of judgment dated March 27, 2018; and remanded with instructions to dismiss. View "Hand v. Desantis" on Justia Law

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On petition for rehearing, the Eleventh Circuit vacated and reconsidered its original opinion, substituting the following opinion. The court affirmed the district court's grant of GDC's motion to quash plaintiffs' subpoena directing GDC to testify at a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition and to produce documents concerning Georgia's lethal injection protocol. Plaintiffs argued that the information was necessary to support their 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims pending in the Southern District of Mississippi challenging the legality of Mississippi's lethal injection protocol. The court held that the district court applied the correct standard of review, the clearly erroneous or contrary-to-law standard, to the magistrate judge's ruling on the motion to quash. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by affirming the magistrate judge's ruling to grant GDC's motion to quash where the relevance of the information sought in the GDC subpoena to the pending section 1983 litigation was highly questionable; the subpoena subjected GDC to an undue burden which mandated the quashing of the subpoena under Rule 45(d)(3)(A)(iv); and compliance with plaintiffs' subpoena would impose an undue burden on the State of Georgia. View "Jordan v. Georgia Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that, during a purported disciplinary encounter with Defendant Lockhart, he pulled down plaintiff's pants and forcefully penetrated plaintiff's anus with his finger. The district court relied on Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107 (11th Cir. 2006), to dismiss plaintiff's claims. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court improperly resolved material issues of fact—two relating to the sexual-assault claim and two to the takedown and pepper-spray claims. The court held that, although Boxer X's holding that "severe or repetitive sexual abuse of a prisoner by a prison official can violate the Eighth Amendment," remains good law, Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 37 (2010), clarified that courts cannot find excessive force claims not "actionable" because the prisoner did not suffer "more than de minimis injury." Therefore, Wilkins partly abrogated Boxer X. In this case, the court held that plaintiff presented sufficient evidence on summary judgment to establish both parts of a post-Wilkins Eighth Amendment claim. Accordingly, the court vacated the portion of the district court's judgment granting summary judgment to Lockhart; affirmed in part, and remanded. View "Sconiers v. FNU Lockhart" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit published this opinion in place of its previous opinion, which was vacated by order of the court. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for habeas relief, holding that a district court may, on its own initiative and without hearing from the State, decide that the statute of limitations bars the petition. In this case, petitioner was provided ample notice and opportunity to explain why his petition was timely in his form petition and again when he was given the opportunity to respond to the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation that his petition be summarily dismissed as untimely. Furthermore, the Secretary was notified of the court's action, had an opportunity to respond, and remained silent. No one contests that the petition was untimely and the State has never indicated a desire to waive the limitations bar. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the petition. View "Paez v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and the Association filed suit under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act against several Florida entities and officials, challenging defendants' failure to provide captioning for live and archived videos of Florida legislative proceedings. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling that Congress validly abrogated defendants' Eleventh Amendment immunity for the claims under Title II regardless of whether the right is "fundamental." The court agreed with the district court's holding that Congress validly abrogated defendants' Eleventh Amendment immunity because a fundamental right was at stake and, in the alternative, Congress validly abrogated defendants' Eleventh Amendment immunity even if a fundamental right was not at stake. Furthermore, Congress's identification of discrimination in public services and voting establishes the necessary history of discrimination for the rights implicated here: access to public legislative information relevant to voting, and Title II is an appropriate response to this history and pattern of unequal treatment. The court also affirmed the district court's holding that plaintiffs were entitled to pursue declaratory and injunctive relief against state officials under the doctrine of Ex parte Young for allegedly ongoing violations of Title II. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse is discretion in ordering discovery prior to resolving the question of sovereign immunity. View "National Association of the Deaf v. Florida" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S. Ct. 2364 (1994), did not bar plaintiff's civil action for false arrest under 42 U.S.C. 1983. In this case, plaintiff was arrested as he rode his bicycle through the grounds of a former elementary school and was charged with criminal trespass. Plaintiff was released from jail three weeks later and later pleaded guilty to unrelated charges. The court held that Heck did not apply to the circumstances around plaintiff's plea agreement, and the district court wrongly dismissed plaintiff's section 1983 claim. Determining that the district court had jurisdiction over plaintiff's state claims against Deputy Payne, the court affirmed the dismissal of the malicious arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims. However, the court vacated the dismissal of the false imprisonment claim where plaintiff alleged that he was unlawfully detained for the time between his arrest and when his arrest warrant was procured. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's sua sponte decision to dismiss the claims against Sheriff Millsap under its 18 U.S.C. 1915 authority. View "Henley v. Payne" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, two African-American minimum-wage employees who work in Birmingham at a rate lower than the $10.10 prescribed by the City's minimum wage ordinance, filed suit alleging that Act No. 2016-18, which nullified the City's minimum-wage ordinance, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead of suing their employers, who were refusing to pay the $10.10 minimum wage, plaintiffs chose to file suit against the Alabama Attorney General. The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiffs did not have Article III standing to sue the Attorney General, because they could not demonstrate that their alleged injuries were fairly traceable to his conduct, or that those injuries would be redressed by the declaratory and injunctive relief plaintiffs have requested. Because the employees lacked standing to sue, the court need not consider the merits of their equal protection claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and remanded to the panel. View "Lewis v. Governor of Alabama" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the town on plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 First Amendment retaliation claim and to Wantman on the Florida malicious prosecution claim. In a prior lawsuit, the town and its contractor, Wantman, filed suit against the plaintiff in this case under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for a fraud and extortion scheme. After the prior lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, plaintiff then filed this action. The court held that, as with section 1983 First Amendment retaliation claims arising in the criminal prosecution and arrest context, the presence of probable cause will generally defeat a section 1983 First Amendment retaliation claim based on a civil lawsuit as a matter of law. Furthermore, the court held that the town had probable cause to file the civil RICO lawsuit. In this case, plaintiff and others sustained a pattern of abusive requests and lawsuits against the town and the town's elected officials had a legitimate, objective reason to take legal action in response to the conduct. Finally, the court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment to Wantman on plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim because Wantman, like the town, had probable cause to file the RICO suit against her. View "DeMartini v. Town of Gulf Stream" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Georgia prisoner, appealed the district court's sua sponte dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. 1983 civil rights complaint, alleging that the jail's policy banning hardcover books violated his rights under the First Amendment, due process, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Plaintiff also alleged the violation of his due process rights when his property was destroyed under a hardcover book ban, and that the jail violated his right of access to the courts because the mailroom returned his legal mail to sender. The district court denied plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) and dismissed the complaint under the three strikes bar of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's finding of seven strikes against plaintiff at the time of filing of this action. To the extent plaintiff's challenges to the PLRA were based on access to the courts or equal protection concerns, the court held that these claims were foreclosed by Rivera v. Allin. The court rejected plaintiff's assertion that the three-strikes provision violates the First Amendment's "breathing space" principle. The court explained that, because there was no First Amendment right to access the courts for free, it follows that there was also no First Amendment right to speak in the courts for free and the "breathing space" principle was inapplicable. Furthermore, the principle was not implicated by a rule that determines whether an individual has to pay a filing fee in order to bring a lawsuit, and these were not the types of fundamental interests that would warrant waiver of the filing fee irrespective of plaintiff's status as a three-strikes litigant. View "Daker v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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The question of whether all speech over the microphone was government speech is a heavily fact-intensive one that looks at the history of the government's use of the medium for communicative purposes, the implication of government endorsement of messages carried over that medium, and the degree of government control over those messages. After FHSAA denied access to a loudspeaker for a proposed religious speech before a high school football game, Cambridge Christian filed suit alleging claims arising under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the United States and Florida Constitutions. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Eleventh Circuit held that Cambridge Christian's claims for relief under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses have been adequately and plausibly pled. In this case, the history factor weighed against finding government speech and the control factor was indeterminate. Therefore, based on the limited record, the court found that it was plausible that the multitude of messages delivered over the loudspeaker should be viewed as private, not government, speech. While the court agreed with the district court that the loudspeaker was a nonpublic forum, the court held that Cambridge Christian has plausibly alleged that it was arbitrarily and haphazardly denied access to the forum in violation of the First Amendment. The court also could not say that in denying communal prayer over the loudspeaker, the FHSAA did not infringe on Cambridge Christian's free exercise of religion. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's decision in part. The court affirmed the district court's decision holding that Cambridge Christian failed to plead a substantial burden under the Florida Religious Free Restoration Act (FRFRA) because it has not alleged that the FHSAA forbade it from engaging in conduct that its religion mandates. The court also affirmed the district court's decision insofar as it rejected Cambridge Christian's request for declaratory relief under the Establishment Clauses. View "Cambridge Christian School, Inc. v. Florida High School Athletic Assoc., Inc." on Justia Law