Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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Elaine Bart, a former supermarket manager, brought a lawsuit against her former employer, Golub Corporation, alleging gender discrimination under Title VII and state law. She was fired for falsifying food logs, a violation she admitted to but argued was not the sole reason for her termination. Bart claimed that her supervisor made several remarks indicating that women were not fit for managerial roles, suggesting a gender bias.The United States District Court for the District of Connecticut granted summary judgment to Golub, reasoning that Bart's admission of the violation, which was the company's stated reason for her termination, resolved the pretext inquiry, defeating her claims. Bart appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals For the Second Circuit disagreed with the lower court's ruling. The Appeals Court held that a plaintiff need not necessarily show at the third stage of the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting test that the employer’s stated justification for its adverse action was a pretext for discrimination. A plaintiff may also satisfy this burden by providing evidence that even if the employer had mixed motives, the plaintiff’s membership in a protected class was at least one motivating factor in the employer’s adverse action. Given Bart's testimony about her supervisor's remarks indicating gender bias, the court concluded that Bart met this burden, thus precluding summary judgment.Therefore, the Court of Appeals vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Bart v. Golub Corp." on Justia Law

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The plaintiff-Appellant, Kristen King, claimed that her employer, Aramark Services Inc., subjected her to a sex-based hostile work environment, discrimination, and retaliation in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The United States District Court for the Western District of New York dismissed King’s claims. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision on the New York State Human Rights Law claims but vacated the decision on the Title VII claims.The Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court that the impact of Aramark’s alleged discriminatory acts were only incidentally felt in New York. Regarding the Title VII hostile work environment claim, the court found that King’s termination was not only a discrete act supporting a distinct claim for damages, but also part of the pattern of discriminatory conduct that comprises her hostile environment claim. The court held that because King’s termination occurred within the limitations period, the continuing violation doctrine rendered King’s hostile work environment claim timely. Therefore, the court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of King’s New York State Human Rights Law claims but vacated the dismissal of King’s Title VII claims and remanded the case for further proceedings on those claims. View "King v. Aramark Services Inc." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard an appeal by Christopher Callahan against a judgment by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The district court had granted summary judgment to Suffolk County Police Officer Thomas Wilson and the County of Suffolk on claims related to the death of Callahan's brother, Kevin Callahan, which Callahan argued violated excessive force regulations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The appellate court ruled that the district court violated the mandate rule by not conducting a new trial as earlier instructed by the appellate court. The court found that there were disputed issues of material fact regarding Wilson's entitlement to qualified immunity, thus summary judgment was not warranted. However, the appellate court affirmed the district court's denial of Callahan's motion to amend his complaint to add a state law claim for battery. The case was remanded for a new trial. View "Callahan v. County of Suffolk" on Justia Law

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John D. Whitfield's application for a job as a Youth Development Specialist with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) was rejected. Whitfield alleged that the rejection was discriminatory and violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He initially challenged the decision in New York State Supreme Court through an Article 78 proceeding, which was dismissed. He then initiated a federal court action, which was also dismissed by the District Court on res judicata grounds. The District Court determined that the state court proceeding was a “hybrid” proceeding where Whitfield could have pursued the claims he raises in the federal action.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit disagreed, concluding that the state court adjudicated the matter as a pure Article 78 proceeding, not as a hybrid. Therefore, the state court lacked the power to award Whitfield the full scope of relief he now seeks in this action, and the District Court erred by dismissing the amended complaint on res judicata grounds. The judgment of the District Court was vacated and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Whitfield v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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In the early morning hours of September 8, 2018, Mabior Jok was standing outside a bar in Burlington, Vermont, when Joseph Corrow, an officer of the Burlington Police Department, approached the group. The details of what happened next are fiercely disputed, but it's agreed that Corrow took Jok to the ground, resulting in Jok hitting his head, losing consciousness and being taken to the hospital. Jok was charged with disorderly conduct, but the charge was later dismissed. Subsequently, Jok brought a lawsuit against Corrow and others, alleging, among other things, that Corrow used excessive force against him in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.Corrow moved for summary judgment on several grounds, including that he was entitled to qualified immunity. The United States District Court for the District of Vermont denied the motion, concluding that there were genuine disputes of material fact and hence, summary judgment could not be granted on the basis of qualified immunity. Corrow then filed an interlocutory appeal of the denial.The United States Court of Appeals For the Second Circuit found that Corrow failed to establish appellate jurisdiction because he continued to assert disputes of fact, and no pure question of law was presented for review. The Court concluded that it did not have jurisdiction to review the denial of qualified immunity as the denial was based on the presence of disputed material facts. Therefore, the interlocutory appeal was dismissed due to lack of appellate jurisdiction. View "Jok v. City of Burlington" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff-appellant, Maurice Cotton, an inmate, filed a civil rights lawsuit against corrections officials at the Green Haven Correctional Facility. He alleged that he was wrongfully denied a transfer to another prison facility and retaliated against for filing grievances related to the transfer request. Cotton sought permission to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP), which allows indigent prisoners to pay filing fees through a structured payment plan linked to their prison accounts. The district court denied Cotton's IFP request, concluding that he had accumulated "at least three" strikes under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) due to previous lawsuit dismissals.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated and remanded the district court's decision, ruling that the district court erred in its interpretation of the three previous lawsuits. According to the appellate court, not all of Cotton's previous lawsuits counted as PLRA strikes. The court further explained that a dismissal under Heck v. Humphrey does not automatically count as a PLRA strike, arguing that the key consideration is whether the dismissal is based on the merits of the case or if it was merely a matter of timing or sequencing. Therefore, the appellate court concluded that the district court incorrectly denied Cotton's request for IFP status, warranting a remand for further proceedings. View "Cotton v. New York State Office" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reviewed a decision made by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiff, Do No Harm, a membership organization, filed a suit against Pfizer Inc., alleging that a Pfizer fellowship program unlawfully excluded white and Asian-American applicants on the basis of race. The plaintiff sought a preliminary injunction, which was denied by the district court. The district court dismissed the case without prejudice because Do No Harm lacked Article III standing. The court reasoned that the organization failed to identify by name a single injured member.The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision. It upheld that to establish standing under Article III, an association relying on injuries to individual members must name at least one injured member. The court also held that if a plaintiff fails to establish standing in the context of a motion for a preliminary injunction, the district court must dismiss their claims without prejudice rather than allowing the case to proceed if the plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to establish standing under the less onerous standard applicable at the pleading stage. View "Do No Harm v. Pfizer Inc." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York's dismissal of a lawsuit brought by BMG Monroe I, LLC. BMG, a developer, had sued the Village of Monroe, New York, alleging that the Village's denial of its applications for building permits on five lots violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Protection Clause due to a discriminatory animus towards the Hasidic Jewish community. The Village denied the applications due to non-compliance with the architectural criteria established in the Smith Farm Project's approval conditions. The Court of Appeals agreed with the district court that the claims were unripe because BMG had not exhausted its administrative remedies. In order to satisfy the finality requirement under ripeness doctrine, BMG needed to appeal the adverse planning-board decision to a zoning board of appeals and submit at least one meaningful application for a variance. BMG could not claim that further actions were futile based on the Village's indication that it would likely not be receptive to a variance request that had yet to be made. View "BMG Monroe I, LLC v. Village of Monroe" on Justia Law

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The case involves an appeal by a plaintiff against the dismissal of his lawsuit against the City of Buffalo and some of its police officers. The plaintiff was arrested and charged with violating a city noise ordinance after he shouted at a police officer, who was driving without headlights, to turn his lights on. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit, asserting that his arrest violated his First Amendment right to free speech and amounted to false arrest and malicious prosecution.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that the district court erred in ruling that the plaintiff's shout was not protected by the First Amendment, given that it was a warning about a public safety issue. The court further concluded that there were genuine issues of fact concerning whether there was probable cause to arrest the plaintiff, which should have been resolved by a jury rather than at summary judgment.The court vacated the part of the district court's judgment dismissing the plaintiff's claims of false arrest, malicious prosecution, and First Amendment retaliation, as well as his claims related to failure to intervene and respondeat superior. The court affirmed the part of the district court's dismissal of the plaintiff's claim that the noise ordinance was unconstitutional as applied to him. The case was remanded for trial on the reinstated claims. View "Rupp v. City of Buffalo" on Justia Law

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This case is about a dispute between Richard Roe and St. John’s University (SJU) and Jane Doe. Roe, a male student at SJU, was accused of sexually assaulting two female students, Doe and Mary Smith, on separate occasions. SJU's disciplinary board found Roe guilty of non-consensual sexual contact with both Doe and Smith and imposed sanctions, including a suspension and eventual expulsion. Roe then sued SJU, alleging that his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and state contract law had been violated. He also sued Doe for allegedly defaming him in an anonymous tweet accusing him of sexual assault. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed Roe's Title IX and state law claims, and declined to exercise jurisdiction over his defamation claim. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, holding that Roe's complaint failed to state a plausible claim of sex discrimination under Title IX. The court found that, while Roe had identified some procedural irregularities in SJU's disciplinary proceedings, these were not sufficient to support a minimal plausible inference of sex discrimination. Furthermore, the court ruled that Roe's hostile environment claim was fatally deficient, as the single anonymous tweet at the center of his claim was not, standing alone, sufficiently severe to support a claim of a hostile educational environment under Title IX. View "Roe v. St. John's University" on Justia Law