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Plaintiffs Tessa Farmer and Sara Weckhorst, two students at Kansas State University (“KSU”), alleged KSU, a recipient of federal educational funds, violated Title IX by being deliberately indifferent to reports it received of student-on-student sexual harassment which, in this case, involved rape. Plaintiffs alleged KSU violated Title IX’s ban against sex discrimination by being deliberately indifferent after Plaintiffs reported to KSU that other students had raped them, and that deliberate indifference caused Plaintiffs subsequently to be deprived of educational benefits that were available to other students. At the procedural posture presented by these interlocutory appeals, which addressed the denial of KSU’s motions to dismiss, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals accepted as true Plaintiffs’ factual allegations indicating that KSU was deliberately indifferent to their rape reports. Accepting that premise, the legal question presented to the Court was what harm Plaintiffs had to allege KSU’s deliberate indifference caused them. The Tenth Circuit concluded that, in this case, Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that KSU’s deliberate indifference made each of them “vulnerable to” sexual harassment by allowing their student-assailants (unchecked and without the school investigating) to continue attending KSU along with Plaintiffs. “This, as Plaintiffs adequately allege, caused them to withdraw from participating in the educational opportunities offered by KSU.” The Court affirmed the district court’s decision to deny KSU’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ Title IX claims. View "Farmer v. Kansas State University" on Justia Law

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In the underlying action, a death row inmate brought an as-applied challenge to Alabama's lethal injection protocol. After the inmate's case was dismissed, members of the press intervened, seeking access to the protocol. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to grant intervenors access to a redacted version of the protocol. The court held that Alabama's lethal injection protocol—submitted to the court in connection with a litigated dispute, discussed in proceedings and motions by all parties, and relied upon by the court to dispose of substantive motions—was a judicial record. The court explained that the public had a valid interest in accessing these records to ensure the continued integrity and transparency of our governmental and judicial offices. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in balancing the interests of Alabama, and the intervenors and concluding that Alabama had not shown good cause sufficient to overcome the common law right of access. Furthermore, the district court also properly granted intervention under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 for intervenors seeking to assert their common law right of access to the lethal injection protocol. View "Advance Local Media, LLC v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" 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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In this complaint brought against Rhode Island College and various college officials alleging that Defendants’ conduct toward Plaintiff during his enrollment in the Master of Social Work program due to his political beliefs violated his constitutional rights the Supreme Court vacated in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the hearing justice granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages, holding that summary judgment must be vacated as to certain counts. Specifically, the hearing justice held that Defendants were entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims that Defendant violated his constitutional rights to freedom of expression and equal protection, conspired to violate his civil rights, and violated his procedural due process rights. The hearing justice also found that Plaintiff had not established a prima facie case for punitive damages. The Supreme Court held (1) summary judgment was improper as to Plaintiff’s freedom of speech claims; (2) summary judgment was proper as to Plaintiff’s equal protection and procedural due process claims; (3) Defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff’s conspiracy claim; and (4) the hearing justice properly found that Plaintiff had not met his burden to demonstrate a prima facie case for punitive damages. View "Felkner v. Rhode Island College" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial court affirmed the district court judge’s order allowing Defendant’s motion to suppress narcotics seized from Defendant’s crotch area as a result of a strip search that took place in a cell at a police station, holding that police did not have probable cause to believe that Defendant had concealed narcotics somewhere on his person so as to justify conducting a strip search. Specifically, the Court held that, based on the facts of this case, the officers had, at best, a reasonable suspicion that Defendant could be concealing contraband in his crotch, but because there was no affirmative indication that Defendant was secreting contraband in his groin area, the police lacked probable cause to conduct a strip search of Defendant. View "Commonwealth v. Agogo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of Defendant’s motion to suppress in this case concerning the scope of the emergency aid exception and the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a warrant on the ground that the warrant was predicated on observations made during an unconstitutional warrantless search. The superior court allowed the motion. The appeals court reversed, concluding that the warrantless search was permissible under the emergency aid doctrine. The Supreme Court granted further appellate review and affirmed the order allowing the motion to suppress, holding (1) the warrantless search was not justified under the emergency aid exception; and (2) the search was not justified under the probable cause and exigent circumstances exception. View "Commonwealth v. Arias" on Justia Law

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Kanter pleaded guilty to mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341, based on his submission of bills to Medicare for non-compliant therapeutic shoes and shoe inserts. Due to his felony conviction, he is prohibited from possessing a firearm under both federal and Wisconsin law, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) and Wis. Stat. 941.29(1m). He challenged those felon dispossession statutes under the Second Amendment, as applied to nonviolent offenders. The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment upholding the laws. Even if felons are entitled to Second Amendment protection, so that Kanter could bring an as-applied challenge, the government met its burden of establishing that the felon dispossession statutes are substantially related to an important government interest in preventing gun violence. Congress and the Wisconsin legislature are entitled to categorically disqualify all felons—even nonviolent felons like Kanter—because both have found that such individuals are more likely to abuse firearms. The “bright line categorical approach … allows for uniform application and ease of administration.” View "Kanter v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to suppress and sentencing Defendant, holding that the evidence was not obtained in violation of Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights and that Defendant was properly sentenced. Defendant was convicted for producing six videos depicting him sexually assaulting a three-year-old child. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence recovered from his residence and statements he made to law enforcement at his residence and during a later interrogation. The district court concluded that Defendant knowingly and voluntarily consented to the search of his residence and that there was no Fourth Amendment violation. At sentencing, Defendant argued that the charges were multiplicitous because the videos were taken during one continuous sexual assault. The district court disagreed and sentenced Defendant to a fifty-year term of imprisonment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) even assuming that law enforcement committed a Fourth Amendment violation before encountering Defendant, any prior illegality did not influence Defendant’s subsequent consent to the search of his computer and hard drives, and Defendant’s consent to the search was knowing and voluntary; and (2) the proper unit of prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 2251(a), the federal child pornography statute, is each video depicting the victim. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a nonprofit organization, “[t]akes legal action challenging entanglement of religion and government, government endorsement or promotion of religion.” FFRF paid its co-presidents a portion of their salaries in the form of a housing allowance, seeking to challenge 26 U.S.C. 107, which provides: In the case of a minister of the gospel, gross income does not include— (1) the rental value of a home furnished to him as part of his compensation; or (2) the rental allowance paid to him as part of his compensation, to the extent used by him to rent or provide a home. Having unsuccessfully sought refunds from the IRS based on section 107 they sued. The district court granted FFRF and its employees summary judgment, finding that the statute violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Seventh Circuit reversed, applying the “Lemon” test. The law has secular purposes: it is one of many per se rules that provide a tax exemption to employees with work-related housing requirements; it is intended to avoid discrimination against certain religions in favor of others and to avoid excessive entanglement with religion by preventing the IRS from conducting intrusive inquiries into how religious organizations use their facilities. Providing a tax exemption does not “connote[] sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the [government] in religious activity.” FFRF offered no evidence that provisions like section 107(2) were historically viewed as an establishment of religion. View "Gaylor v. Peecher" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal from an order entered in the circuit court dismissing without prejudice Appellant’s pro se civil rights complaint for failure to provide proof of service in compliance with Ark. R. Civ. P. 4(i)(1), holding that the order appealed from was not final. The Supreme Court noted that a plaintiff who has had his case dismissed without prejudice under Rule 4(i) may refile those claims. Because this was the first dismissal of Appellant’s underlying complaint, his complaint may be refiled under the provisions of Ark. R. Civ. P. 41. Therefore, the Court held that there was no final order on the merits and this Court did not have appellate jurisdiction. View "Nooner v. Kelley" on Justia Law