Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding Defendant's convictions in a second appeal, holding that Defendant's right to a speedy trial was violated after his case was remanded to the trial court for retrial.The trial court convicted Defendant of two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the matter. On remand, Defendant pleaded no contest to the charges of having a weapon under disability and failing to comply with an order or signal of a police officer. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial was not violated during the trial court's remand proceedings. The Supreme Court reversed and vacated Defendant's convictions, holding that all four factors under Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972) weighed in Defendant's favor. View "State v. Long" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal without prejudice of T.B.'s discrimination claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. The court held, on the record before it, that T.B. seeks redress for denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and thus, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), he was required to exhaust his administrative remedies before bringing this claim to the district court. Because he has failed to do so, his complaint was properly dismissed. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying T.B.'s motion to reconsider or request to amend. View "T. B. v. Northwest Independent School District" on Justia Law

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The en banc court held that 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(23) does not give Medicaid patients a right to challenge, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, a State's determination that a health care provider is not "qualified" within the meaning of section 1396a(a)(23). The en banc court vacated the preliminary injunction issued by the district court prohibiting the termination of the Providers' Medicaid provider agreements.The Providers provide family planning and other health services to Medicaid patients, and each of the Providers is a member of Planned Parenthood. This case stemmed from a pro-life organization's release of video recordings of conversations at Planned Parenthood (PP) Gulf Coast headquarters. The videos depict two individuals posing as representatives from a fetal tissue procurement company discussing the possibility of a research partnership with PP Gulf Coast. The release of the videos prompted congressional investigations, which ultimately led to the OIG sending each Provider a Notice of Termination of its respective Medicaid provider agreement. The Providers and Individual Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the terminations violated rights conferred by section 1396a(a)(23) and sought relief under section 1983.The en banc court held that the Individual Plaintiffs may not bring a section 1983 suit to contest the State's determination that the Providers were not "qualified" providers within the meaning of section 1396a(a)(23). The en banc court rested its decision primarily on two independent bases: (1) the Supreme Court's decision in O'Bannon v. Town Court Nursing Center, 447 U.S. 773 (1980), and (2) the text and structure of section 1396a(a)(23), which does not unambiguously provide that a Medicaid patient may contest a State's determination that a particular provider is not "qualified." Rather, the court held that whether a provider is "qualified" within the meaning of section 1396a(a)(23) is a matter to be resolved between the State (or the federal government) and the provider. In so holding, the en banc court overruled Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast, Inc. v. Gee, 862 F.3d 445 (5th Cir. 2017), which held that a state agency or actor cannot legitimately find that a Medicaid provider is not "qualified" unless under state or federal law the provider would be unqualified to provide treatment or services to the general public, including Medicaid patients who paid for the care or services with private funds. View "Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Family Planning and Preventative Health Services, Inc. v. Kauffman" on Justia Law

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Anderson participated in an Illinois conspiracy to distribute heroin that included a dealer, Mansini. In 2012, Reader, a 21-year-old addict, purchased and used heroin from another dealer. Later that day, Reader purchased an additional half-gram of heroin from Mansini, who had obtained it from Anderson. Reader used that heroin and was found dead that evening. According to the coroner’s report, the cause of death was “opiate intoxication.” The report did not attribute Reader’s death to one particular heroin dose or make findings on the incremental effects of other drugs. Anderson and others were charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), 846. Three defendants, including Anderson, pleaded guilty. Anderson admitted to distributing the heroin that resulted in Reader’s death, which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Anderson concurred with the plea agreement’s factual statements but told the court that he might have a factual defense to Reader’s death because Reader had bought heroin from other sources and used prescription drugs. The court sentenced him to 223 months’ imprisonment.Anderson's 28 U.S.C. 2255 petition claimed ineffective assistance of counsel because his counsel did not adequately investigate the cause of Reader’s death and advise Anderson of the “but-for” causation standard articulated by the Supreme Court in 2014. Counsel responded that Anderson authorized her to proceed with plea negotiations without hiring a medical examiner and she was “not trained to interpret toxicology results” and “never discussed” the toxicology evidence with anyone who had relevant training. The Seventh Circuit vacated a denial of relief. Anderson was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. View "Anderson v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and grand theft, mingling a harmful substance with food or drink, and solicitation to commit murder, and sentence of death, holding that any error was not prejudicial.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant's judicial bias claim failed; (2) the erroneous admission of certain statements and the possibly erroneous admission of a certain letter were cumulatively harmless; (3) there was sufficient evidence for the lying-in-wait special circumstance finding and the lying-in-wait first degree murder conviction; (4) any asserted juror misconduct did not, singly or in combination, substantially prejudice the trial's fairness; (5) the trial court did not err in finding that Defendant was competent to stand trial; and (6) Defendant's challenges to the constitutionality of California's Death Penalty Law were unavailing. View "People v. Flinner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of first degree murder and finding true the special circumstance allegations that the murder was committed while Defendant was engaged in the commission of rape and burglary and sentencing Defendant to death, holding that the errors committed during the trial proceedings were not prejudicial.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) assuming for the purposes of argument that a recording of the victim's last telephone call and testimony regarding DNA extraction should not have been admitted, any error was harmless; (2) assuming that portions of correspondence to Defendant were inadmissible hearsay, Defendant was not prejudiced by any error in the admission; (3) the prosecution committed misconduct by eliciting statements from a rebuttal witness during the penalty phase regarding the contents of one of those pieces of correspondence, but the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's related motion for a mistrial; and (4) the cumulative effect of those asserted errors was harmless. View "People v. Schultz" on Justia Law

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Vargas began working as a mail carrier in 2005. Mail carriers must be able to carry up to 35 pounds in their shoulder bags. Vargas’s route also required shuttling mail and equipment weighing up to 75 pounds between the post office and a satellite location. Vargas sustained an on-the-job foot injury in 2008. He was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, received treatment, submitted a successful workers’ compensation claim, and continued working. In 2011, Vargas filed an EEO complaint, raising miscellaneous workplace grievances and alleging race- and disability-related discrimination. He withdrew this complaint. Vargas’s plantar fasciitis subsequently flared up. His doctor placed him on work restrictions, March 1-22, prohibiting him from carrying more than 15 pounds. On March 14, Vargas returned to work from a vacation; he wanted his route restructured to eliminate carrying heavy loads. His superiors did not oblige and he applied for workers’ compensation. He also made daily requests for “light duty” but there was no light duty work available, so he took paid sick leave.Vargas, who is Hispanic, sued, alleging disability-based discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, with retaliation and racial discrimination claims under Title VII. Vargas still works for the Postal Service. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment rejecting his claims. Vargas could not perform the only job available to him, with or without reasonable accommodation, and there is no evidence he was treated differently because of his race or suffered unlawful workplace retaliation. View "Vargas v. DeJoy" on Justia Law

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Kendole Joseph's family filed suit against police officers after Joseph died during the course of an arrest. Plaintiffs alleged violations of Joseph's Fourth Amendment rights, as well as claims of excessive force and failure to intervene. In this case, after a middle school official reported that Joseph was acting "strange" near the school, school resource officers approached Joseph. Joseph ran into a nearby convenience store and jumped behind the check out counter. The school resource officers followed, with twelve additional officers joining them. About eight minutes after Joseph entered the store, the officers apprehended him and carried him to a police car, after which he became unresponsive and was taken to the hospital, where he died two days later.Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, the Fifth Circuit held that, if a jury found those facts to be true, Officers Martin and Costa violated Joseph's right to be free from excessive force during a seizure by failing to employ a measured and ascending response to the threat Joseph posed. In this case, Joseph was not suspected of committing any crime, was in the fetal position, and was not actively resisting. Nonetheless, Officers Martin and Costa inflicted twenty-six blunt-force injuries on Joseph and tased him twice, all while he pleaded for help and reiterated that he was not armed. Therefore, the actions of Officers Martin and Costa were disproportionate to the situation, in violation of the Fourth Amendment and the clearly established law. They are not entitled to summary judgment on the constitutional claims.However, the court held that nine "bystander officers" are entitled to qualified immunity where plaintiffs failed to meet their burden to show that these officers violated clearly established law. The court dismissed the appeal to the extent it challenges the district court's factfinding; affirmed the denial of summary judgment as to Officers Martin and Costa; and reversed the denial of summary judgment as to the nine bystander officers. View "Joseph v. Bartlett" on Justia Law

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Makhsous owned three Wisconsin residential care facilities. In 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) found that two of Makhsous’s facilities did not comply with Wisconsin law. Daye is the supervisor of the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Marinette County, which makes recommendations to individuals who inquire about residential care facilities. It does not place individuals in care facilities, monitor care facilities, or issue citations or sanctions to care facilities. In 2016, the ADRC began publishing a “facility directory” for potential residents. Under Wisconsin’s ADRC Operational Practice Guidelines, the directory cannot include facilities that have been found in violation of law.Makhsous filed suit, alleging that Daye violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses by failing to include Makhsous’s facilities in the ADRC directory and refusing to refer individuals to her facilities. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Daye. Makhsous did not show that Daye harmed a constitutionally protected property interest or discriminated against her. The ADRC directory did not include Makhsous’s facilities because they were found deficient by DHS and because Makhsous failed to ask the ADRC to include them. Makhsous had no rebuttal evidence showing that Daye failed to include her facilities in the directory because of her race. View "Makhsous v. Daye" on Justia Law

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Fields filed claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law against Chicago, Chicago police officers, and former Cook County prosecutors. Fields alleged that the defendants violated his constitutional rights and state law by fabricating evidence and withholding exculpatory evidence in a criminal investigation that resulted in Fields’s conviction for a 1984 murder. A retrial resulted in an acquittal, 12 years after the original trial. The individual who had implicated Fields in the crimes eventually confessed to committing the murder. Fields sought a certificate of innocence, which was denied.After a third trial, the jury found in favor of Fields against Detectives O’Callaghan and Murphy on one of his section 1983 claims, against Chicago on Fields’s Monell liability claim, and against O’Callaghan on a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and found for the defendants on the remaining claims. The jury awarded Fields $22 million in compensatory damages and punitive damages of $30,000 against O’Callaghan and $10,000 against Murphy. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting the detectives’ challenges to evidentiary rulings concerning wiretaps, character evidence, evidence of Fields’s 1972 murder conviction, and evidence concerning prison incidents. The evidence allowed a jury to conclude that the city had failed to take the necessary steps to address an unconstitutional practice of using street files and that there was a “systemic underproduction of exculpatory materials to prosecutors and defense counsel.” View "Fields v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law