Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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On December 14, 2021, the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion in this case, upholding the district court's rejection of Plaintiff's challenge to an ATF rule determining that bump stocks are "machineguns" for purposes of the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the federal statutory bar on the possession or sale of new machine guns.However, after a majority of the eligible circuit judges voted in favor of hearing the case en banc, the court vacated its prior opinion so the entire court could hear the case. View "Cargill v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Several public-sector employees filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 seeking to recover any agency fees taken from their paychecks by the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association and Santa Clara County. Specifically, Plaintiffs sought a refund for fees paid before the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Janus v. Am. Fed’n of State, Cnty., & Mun. Emps., Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018) (prohibiting public-sector unions from collecting compulsory agency fees).In the district court, Defendants successfully moved for summary judgment, claiming they were entitled to a good-faith defense because their actions were expressly authorized by then-applicable United States Supreme Court law and state law. Plaintiffs appealed.On appeal, Plaintiffs acknowledge that Danielson v. Inslee, 945 F.3d 1096 (9th Cir. 2019) precludes their claim against the Union. The Ninth Circuit held that the rule announced in Danielson also applies to municipalities because "precedent recognizes that municipalities are generally liable in the same way as private corporations in sec. 1983 actions." Thus, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' claim against both the Union and the County. View "SEAN ALLEN V. SANTA CLARA CNTY CORR. POA" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the portion of the superior court order granting partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs as to liability against Westlo Management, LLC on counts one, two, three, and seven of Plaintiffs' third-amended complaint, holding that the record was inadequate for a determination of whether the hearing justice abused his discretion in granting the motion to intervene filed by The Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights.Plaintiff Curtis Andrade filed a charge of discrimination with the Commission. The Commission found probable cause that Defendants had violated Plaintiff's rights. Plaintiff then filed this action, after which the hearing justice granted the Commission's motion to intervene as a party plaintiff. The hearing justice granted Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on four counts against Westlo, finding that Westlo had discriminated against Plaintiff by denying him the reasonable accommodation of having his dog his residence. The Supreme Court vacated the decision below, holding that Westlo failed provide the Court with a proper transcript of the hearing on the Commission's motion to intervene this Court was unable to conduct a meaningful review of the superior court's decisions on the issue of the Commission's intervention. View "Andrade v. Westlo Management LLC" on Justia Law

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The Department of Public Safety and Corrections (“DPSC”) regularly engages local parish jails to house convicted state prisoners. Five of the locally housed prisoners brought claims under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 against local jail officials and DPSC officials. They alleged that the DPSC officials, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, looked away from the administrative failure they knew was leaving prisoners in jail who had served their sentences. The DPSC officials challenged the district court’s denial of qualified immunity.   Plaintiffs proceeded against Defendants under two theories, arguing that DPSC officials violated the Plaintiffs’ clearly established right to timely release from prison by: (1) failing to adopt policies ensuring the timely release of DPSC prisoners; and (2) directly participating in the conduct that caused their over detention.   The Fifth Circuit concluded that a reasonable jury could find that Defendants knew of a “pattern of similar constitutional violations,” such that their inaction amounted to a disregard of an obvious risk. DPSC’s Lean Six Sigma study revealed that 2,252 DPSC prisoners were annually held past their release date. Defendants cannot avoid the evidence that the study exposed unlawful detentions of prisoners. A reasonable factfinder could conclude that Defendants’ awareness of this pattern of delays and their conscious decision not to address it rises to the level of deliberate indifference. Further, because a reasonable jury may find that Defendants’ inaction was objectively unreasonable in light of this clearly established law, they have failed to show they are entitled to qualified immunity. View "Crittindon, et al v. LeBlanc, et al" on Justia Law

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City Union Mission is a Kansas City, Missouri nonprofit organization located near Margaret Kemp Park that provides food, shelter, employment, and a Christian discipleship program to poor and homeless individuals. A Missouri law prohibits persons convicted of certain sex offenses (Affected Persons) from being present in or loitering within 500 feet of any public park containing playground equipment. After the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office informed City Union Mission that the statute prohibited some of its guests from being present within 500 feet of the park, even when receiving City Union Mission’s charitable services, City Union Mission filed suit, bringing 12 claims against the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County, and the Sheriff in his official capacity (collectively, the County), as well as one claim against the Sheriff in his individual capacity. The State of Missouri (the State) intervened, and the district court dismissed City Union Mission’s 12 claims against the County and granted summary judgment on City Union Mission’s claim against Sheriff Sharp in his individual capacity, finding that Sheriff Sharp was entitled to qualified immunity.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed and concluded that City Union Mission’s claims seeking broad injunctive relief prohibiting Sheriff Sharp and Jackson County from “enforcing or threatening to enforce” Section 566.150 against City Union Mission or Affected Persons are moot. Further, City Union Mission did not direct the court to any case that clearly establishes its constitutional right to provide services to Affected Persons within 500 feet of a park with playground equipment. View "City Union Mission, Inc. v. Mike Sharp" on Justia Law

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A father going through a contentious divorce was accused by his young daughter of sexual abuse. A Department of Human Services social worker observed the forensic interview, believed it was credible, obtained additional information primarily from the mother, and obtained an ex parte court order requiring the father to leave the family home. An ensuing adversary proceeding determined that the allegation was unfounded and that the mother had “wanted [the father] out of the house.” The DHS finding was set aside and, eventually, the father obtained physical care of the children. In the father's subsequent suit, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment.The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed. The claim of intentional interference with the parent-child relationship fails because that claim applies to extralegal actions— such as absconding with a child—not to judicially-approved acts. The claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress fails because the conduct here did not reach the level of an “outrage” necessary to sustain such a claim. The unreasonable search and seizure claim cannot succeed because there was no showing that the DHS social worker falsified the affidavit she submitted to the court or that the removal order would not have been granted without her questioned statements. The substantive due process claim fails because DHS’s conduct does not “shock the conscience.” A procedural due process claim cannot prevail because the father was provided with adequate process, which ultimately cleared his name. View "Lennette v. State of Iowa" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs—five organizations and two individual voters from Gwinnett County, Georgia—alleged that absentee ballot applications and voting-related information should have been, but were not, provided in both English and Spanish to voters in Gwinnett County during the 2020 election cycle. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit was tasked with determining whether Defendants—the Gwinnett County Board of Registrations and Elections, the Board’s individual members, and Georgia Secretary of State—violated Section 203 and Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. Section 10503, requires certain States and their political subdivisions to provide voting materials in languages in addition to English.The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred in concluding that Plaintiffs lacked standing. Plaintiffs sufficiently pleaded standing under a diversion of resources theory, and while some of Plaintiffs’ claims were moot, others remained live and amenable to meaningful relief from the court. The court, therefore, vacated the district court’s dismissal of the suit pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1).The court held that the district court was correct, however, in concluding that Plaintiffs failed to state causes of action under either Section 203 or Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act and in not granting Plaintiffs leave to file their proposed supplemental complaint. The court, therefore, affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the suit pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and its denial of leave for Plaintiffs to file the supplemental complaint pursuant to Rule 15(d). View "Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, Inc., et al. v. Gwinnett County Board of Registration and Elections, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged they were sexually abused by Tyler, a Kentucky probation and parole officer, 2017-2019, while Plaintiffs served sentences for state convictions. In 2018, one victim filed a sexual harassment complaint but Tyler’s supervisor, Hall, concealed the complaint. The state terminated Hall and charged Tyler with rape in the first degree, sodomy in the first degree, sexual abuse in the first degree, tampering with physical evidence, official misconduct in the first degree, and harassment.Plaintiffs brought their claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Thirteenth Amendment, arguing that Defendants directly violated their rights. to be free from involuntary sexual servitude guaranteed by the Thirteenth Amendment and violated Plaintiffs’ Thirteenth Amendment rights to be free from “unwanted sexual physical contact,” “unwanted intrusion upon Plaintiffs’ person(s) for the sexual gratification of Defendants’ employee,” “sexual physical assault,” and “unwanted sexual contact.” Because the section 1983 limitations period had expired, Plaintiffs amended their complaint and claimed that their action arose out of the Thirteenth Amendment exclusively, disclaimed their arguments against Governor Beshear, and asserted that jurisdiction was proper under 28 U.S.C. 1331. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit; the Thirteenth Amendment neither provides a cause of action for damages nor abrogates state sovereign immunity against private damages actions. The court rejected Plaintiffs’ argument that no state or federal law prohibits them from filing suit directly against the Commonwealth. View "Smith v. Commonwealth of Kentucky" on Justia Law

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Kansas City Officer (“Officer”) shot and killed the victim during a foot chase. Family members of the victim filed suit and the district court concluded that the Officer was entitled to both qualified and official immunity. In addition to contesting the grant of summary judgment on appeal, Plaintiffs argued they should receive a trial on their claims against the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and the other municipal officials named in their complaint.   In evaluating the family’s excessive-force claim against the Officer, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. The court explained that the key issue requires answering whether the officer’s actions violated a constitutional right and then whether the right was clearly established. The court reasoned that the Supreme Court has explained that “the focus” of the clearly-established-right inquiry “is on whether the officer had fair notice that [his] conduct was unlawful.” Kisela v. Hughes, 138 S. Ct. 1148 (2018). Here, “judged against the backdrop of the law at the time of the conduct,” a reasonable officer would not have had “fair notice” that shooting the victim under these circumstances violated the Fourth Amendment.     Additionally, to prevail in this case under Kisela, the family would need to establish “the right’s contours were sufficiently definite that any reasonable official in the defendant’s shoes would have understood that he was violating it.” Here, the family failed to show that the Officer acted in bad faith or with malice. Finally, there is not enough evidence to find that the municipal defendants liable under a deliberate indifference theory. View "N.S. v. Kansas City Board of Police" on Justia Law

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The FBI issued three national security letters ("NSLs") with indefinite nondisclosure requirements to the appellant communications service provider (“Provider”). Provider complied and took no action until 2018 when it requested that the government initiate judicial review pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 3511(b)(1)(A)–(B). The district court then reviewed in camera confidential declarations pertaining to the three NSLs and found continued nondisclosure statutorily authorized.   On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reviewed whether the nondisclosure requirements in the district court’s order are narrowly tailored to serve the government’s compelling interest in national security. The court affirmed the district court’s order requiring the recipient of three national security letters to comply with the nondisclosure requirements set forth in 18 U.S.C. Section 2709(c) “unless and until the Government informs it otherwise.” The court explained that here, the district court reviewed the three NSLs and related materials in camera and found that, given the important government interests at stake, nondisclosure remained authorized for an indefinite period and court scheduled review was unnecessary to ensure that nondisclosure continued no longer than justified. The communication service provider did not contest the government’s compelling interest or the necessity of continued nondisclosure. The court rejected the provider’s assertion that a district court is constitutionally required on its own accord to schedule future judicial review once it finds a nondisclosure order to be statutorily authorized for the foreseeable future. Finally, the court found no constitutional infirmity in the order of the district court. View "MERRICK GARLAND V. UNDER SEAL" on Justia Law