Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

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The case revolves around Chris Corbitt, a holder of an Enhanced Concealed Carry License (ECCL), who filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against Arkansas State University (ASU) and its trustees. Corbitt sought a declaration that he was entitled to enter the First National Bank Arena (FNB Arena), located on ASU's campus, with a firearm, except for areas hosting a collegiate sporting event. He also sought an order enjoining ASU from prohibiting ECCL holders from entering FNB Arena with a firearm. The FNB Arena is covered by an Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) permit, held by NEA Sports Club, which authorizes the consumption and sale of beer and wine on the premises during designated events.The Craighead County Circuit Court granted ASU's motion for summary judgment. The court found that under Arkansas law, FNB Arena can be covered by an ABC permit and ASU can lawfully prohibit firearms in FNB Arena to maintain the alcohol permit while complying with Ark. Code Ann. § 5-73-306(11)(B) as well as Title 3 permit requirements and ABC regulations.The Supreme Court of Arkansas affirmed the lower court's decision. The court held that ASU can lawfully prohibit firearms at FNB Arena under section 5-73-306. The court reasoned that while universities do not have the discretion to prohibit firearms, ASU is prohibiting firearms at FNB Arena because the facility is covered by an alcohol permit, not because it is attempting to exercise discretion. The court concluded that the unambiguous language of subdivision (11)(B) supports ASU’s position that an ECCL holder may not enter FNB Arena with a firearm. View "CORBETT V. ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY" on Justia Law

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In this case, a taxi driver, Lufti Said Saalim, sued Walmart and several individuals, including deputy sheriffs, alleging violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and state law claims following an incident at a Walmart in Toledo, Ohio. Saalim claimed that while waiting for his passengers at a loading zone, he was approached by a Walmart employee and subsequently by Deputy Sheriff Jeffrey Bretzloff, who was working as a private security guard for Walmart. Saalim alleged that Bretzloff used excessive force during the encounter, including pulling him out of his cab and using a taser on him.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court's decision that granted Bretzloff qualified immunity on Saalim's Fourth Amendment claim. The court held that Saalim plausibly alleged that Bretzloff's use of force was unreasonable and violated the Fourth Amendment. The court also found that this right was clearly established at the time of the incident.However, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Saalim's Fourteenth Amendment claim, agreeing that it was identical to his Fourth Amendment claim. The court also affirmed the dismissal of Saalim's state law claims of assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false arrest, and false imprisonment, as they were barred by the statute of limitations.The court remanded the case for further proceedings on Saalim's Fourth Amendment claim against Bretzloff; his § 1983 municipal liability claim against Sheriff Navarre; and his state law claims of negligent hiring, supervision, training, and retention and vicarious liability against the Walmart Defendants and McNett. View "Saalim v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law

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Four ninth-grade football players at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Missouri, were suspended or expelled after one of them created an online petition titled "Start Slavery Again" and the others posted comments favoring the petition. They filed a lawsuit against the Park Hill School District and various school officials, claiming that their rights to equal protection and due process were violated.In their suit, the students argued that they were deprived of substantive and procedural due process in the disciplinary procedures. They also claimed that they were deprived of equal protection because another student, who they alleged was a willing participant in creating the petition, was not punished. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri granted summary judgment for the school district, dismissing all of the students' claims.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The appellate court found that the students received adequate notice and meaningful opportunity to present their case in the school disciplinary proceedings, satisfying the requirements of due process. The court further held that the disciplinary actions taken by the school district were not so egregious as to violate the students' substantive due process rights. Lastly, the court rejected the students' equal protection claim on the basis that the student who was not punished was not similarly situated to the plaintiffs given their greater involvement in creating and supporting the petition. View "Plaintiff A v. Park Hill School District" on Justia Law

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In the early hours of a snowy morning, police officer Owen McGuinness responded to a hit-and-run accident in Rockford, Illinois. Upon arrival, he received conflicting accounts from Daniel Madero, who was accused of being the driver of the hit-and-run vehicle, and three witnesses who claimed they had followed the vehicle and identified Madero as the driver. Madero was arrested for aggravated battery and issued traffic citations. An investigation later concluded that Madero's vehicle was likely not involved in the hit-and-run accident, and no charges were pressed against him.Madero subsequently filed a federal complaint claiming false arrest in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court granted summary judgment to Officer McGuinness, determining that he had probable cause to arrest Madero based on the information available at the time.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court concluded that Officer McGuinness had probable cause to arrest Madero given the testimony of the three witnesses who insisted that Madero was the driver of the hit-and-run vehicle, despite Madero's denial. Discrepancies in the witnesses' accounts and later recantations did not dispel the probable cause at the time of arrest. Therefore, Madero's claim of false arrest was rejected. View "Madero v. McGuinness" on Justia Law

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The case involves the death of Andrew Dawson Bell, who committed suicide while detained at the Washington County Detention Center (WCDC) in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Bell's mother, Judy Lynn Smith-Dandridge, filed a lawsuit against several Fayetteville Police Department officers, WCDC employees, nurses, and Washington County itself, alleging that they were deliberately indifferent to Bell's serious medical needs, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, Arkansas Code Ann. § 16-123-105. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants, and Smith-Dandridge appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.Bell had a history of mental illness and substance abuse. On the day he died, Bell had called the police several times, reporting hallucinations of people trying to break into his apartment. Officers responded but found no evidence of a break-in. They arrested Bell for terroristic threats, disorderly conduct, and carrying a weapon. When Bell was processed into WCDC, he informed the intake officers of his mental health history, including a history of suicidal ideation. Despite this, he was placed in the general population.The main issue on appeal was whether the police officers and WCDC personnel had knowledge of Bell's substantial risk of suicide and deliberately disregarded it. Smith-Dandridge argued that the officers’ interactions with Bell and their review of his arrest history established they had the requisite knowledge to establish deliberate indifference. However, the court found that while Bell's behavior put the officers on notice of signs of mental illness, it did not make it obvious to them that Bell had a substantial risk of suicide. Similarly, the court found that the WCDC personnel's inaction to prevent Bell's suicide did not constitute criminal recklessness.The court also dismissed Smith-Dandridge's claim that Washington County was deliberately indifferent in its failure to train jail staff. The court found that Smith-Dandridge failed to show that the alleged deficient training caused WCDC personnel to be deliberately indifferent to Bell's substantial risk of suicide. As such, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of all defendants. View "Smith-Dandridge v. Geanolous" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Iowa ruled in a case involving an individual, Faron Alan Starr, who was arrested and denied his request to call a family member to get an attorney. Starr was suspected of an assault and stealing two firearms. After his arrest, he was taken to a police station where he initially equivocated about speaking to the police without an attorney. However, he later requested to call his father to obtain a lawyer, which was refused by the police officer. The officer proceeded to question Starr about his actions and whereabouts of the stolen firearms.Starr was charged with multiple offenses, and he subsequently filed a motion to suppress his statements and any evidence derived from them, asserting violations of his constitutional and statutory rights. The district court granted the motion, finding a violation of Starr's rights under Iowa Code section 804.20, which mandates that an arrested person be allowed to call and consult a family member or an attorney without unnecessary delay upon arrival at the place of detention.The Supreme Court of Iowa affirmed the lower court's decision, holding that while public safety concerns could potentially justify a delay in honoring an arrested person's rights under Iowa Code section 804.20, the circumstances of this case did not warrant such a delay. The court noted that the police did not address the issue of the missing firearms until nearly two hours after Starr was taken into custody for questioning at the police station. Therefore, the delay in permitting Starr to call a family member was deemed unnecessary. View "State of Iowa v. Starr" on Justia Law

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A Black woman, Erika Buckley, filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of the Army, alleging that her former colleagues at Martin Army Hospital engaged in conduct that was racially discriminatory. Buckley, a speech pathologist, claimed her colleagues diverted white patients from her care, encouraged white male patients to complain about her, and engaged in other race-based harassing conduct. The Secretary moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted on all counts. Buckley appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld the lower court's decision regarding Buckley's retaliation claims, but vacated the lower court's decision on her race-based disparate treatment claim and her race-based hostile work environment claim. The court found that Buckley had provided enough evidence to suggest that her race played a role in the decision-making process leading to her dismissal, even if her race was not the but-for cause of the dismissal. The court also concluded that Buckley had provided sufficient evidence to establish a hostile work environment claim. The case was sent back to the district court for further proceedings consistent with the appeals court's opinion. View "Buckley v. Secretary of the Army" on Justia Law

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The case involves Maria Acosta, who sued six Miami-Dade officers involved in the arrest of her son, Maykel Barrera, who died after the encounter. Acosta alleged federal excessive-force claims and state wrongful-death claims. The district court granted summary judgment to the officers, and Acosta appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to five of the six officers on Acosta’s excessive-force claims and to all of the officers on Acosta’s wrongful-death claims.The Court of Appeals found that, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Acosta, the officers used excessive force when they tased and kicked Barrera while he was subdued, on the ground, and no longer resisting arrest, violating clearly established Fourth Amendment rights.Furthermore, the court vacated the summary judgment on Acosta’s wrongful-death claim, concluding that there was enough evidence for the case to go to trial. The court ruled that the district court erred in emphasizing Acosta’s lack of expert evidence directed to the cause of Barrera’s death since she did not have to present expert testimony to show causation. View "Acosta v. Miami-Dade County" on Justia Law

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In the case under review, the appellant, Lafayette Deshawn Upshaw, was convicted of crimes associated with two separate incidents occurring on the same day: a gas station robbery and a home invasion. Following exhaustion of state court remedies, Upshaw sought habeas relief in federal court, upon which the district court granted relief on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and violation of the Batson rule.The ineffective assistance of counsel claim was based on trial counsel's failure to investigate potential alibi witnesses. The Batson rule violation claim was derived from the State’s use of peremptory challenges to strike six Black jurors. The Warden appealed the district court's decision, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the lower court's ruling.The court found that the trial counsel's failure to investigate potential alibi witnesses and to request an adjournment to rectify the situation was unreasonable and prejudicial to Upshaw, constituting ineffective assistance of counsel. The court also found that the State's failure to provide race-neutral reasons for striking certain jurors, coupled with the trial court's failure to properly evaluate the State's justifications, constituted a violation of the Batson rule. The court held that even a single racially motivated peremptory strike requires relief. The court concluded that both of these errors entitled Upshaw to habeas relief. View "Upshaw v. Stephenson" on Justia Law

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In a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Thurman King sued Officers Zachary Abbate and Jason Bradley, the City of Rockford, the Rockford Public Safety Department, and other municipal officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law for incidents stemming from a 2019 traffic stop. The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the defendants but denied their motion for summary judgment on qualified and governmental immunity grounds for King’s federal and state tort claims against Abbate and Bradley. The court also denied their motion on King’s Monell claim against the City and Department. The defendants appealed this denial.The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part, and reversed in part, the district court’s denial of qualified and governmental immunity to Abbate and Bradley. The court found that Abbate was entitled to qualified and governmental immunity for his takedown maneuver against King but not for the subsequent conduct on the ground. The court also dismissed the City and Department’s appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction.The court found a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Abbate and Bradley had probable cause to believe that King committed any underlying crimes, which defeated the officers' claims for summary judgment on King’s false arrest claim. The court affirmed the district court's denial of governmental immunity to Abbate and Bradley for their conduct on the ground but reversed the denial of governmental immunity to Abbate for his takedown maneuver. The court also affirmed the district court’s denial of governmental immunity to Abbate and Bradley for King’s false arrest claim. View "King v. City of Rockford, MI" on Justia Law