Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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Defendant appealed a judgment of the district court committing him to the custody of the Attorney General for medical care and treatment under 18 U.S.C. Section 4246. The court found that Defendant presently suffered from a mental disease or defect as a result of which his release from custody posed a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the findings underlying the commitment were not clearly erroneous. The court explained that the district court’s finding that Defendant posed a substantial risk to persons or property was adequately supported in the record. The court relied on the unanimous recommendation of the experts. The experts observed that the most reliable predictor of future violence is past violence, and they detailed Defendant’s history of random and unpredictable violent actions. The court further found that the parties have not made a sufficient showing to justify sealing the briefs in this appeal. View "United States v. Dewayne Gray" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 lawsuit stemming from her son’s death while under the supervision of employees at an Arkansas jail. She alleged that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to her son’s serious medical needs. The district court denied Defendants’ motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity.   The Eighth Circuit reversed. The court explained that it disagreed with the district court’s opinion that a layperson would recognize seizure-like activity as a serious medical need that one of the Defendant’s deliberately ignored. The court reasoned that a reasonable jury could not conclude from this description of events that Defendant was aware of a serious medical need. Second, a reasonable officer would not necessarily infer that seizure-like activity in these circumstances required him to take additional action. The decedent was behaving normally at booking, though very thirsty and reportedly under the influence of methamphetamine. It isn't unreasonable to believe that whatever medical episode he experienced during transport (if he actually experienced one) had fully resolved itself by the time Defendant encountered him.   Further, the court explained that in these circumstances, Defendants can't be faulted for presuming that the medical staff best knows the quantity and quality of information needed for assessments. And even though the decedent was obviously sick, recognizing that someone is sick is not the same as knowing that he is receiving inadequate care from a trained medical professional. View "Donna Reece v. S. Williams" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was electrocuted by a powerline owned and operated by the City of Sibley, Iowa. Plaintiff sued the City, in relevant part, for negligence and negligence per se. Plaintiff’s wife also brought a loss of consortium claim. The district court granted summary judgment.   The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to negligence and affirmed as to negligence per se. The court reinstated the loss of consortium claim. Plaintiff alleged that the City violated the Iowa Administrative Code, specifically (1) its adopted NESC standards and (2) Iowa Administrative Code 199- 25.4(1). The City argued that the NESC, as adopted by Iowa regulations, establishes the standard of care. But it hasn’t pointed to any authority stating that compliance with Iowa regulations is conclusive of the standard of care in ordinary negligence actions. The court reasoned that compliance with Iowa regulations is not dispositive of the standard of care for negligence. Because a jury could find that the City breached its duty, Plaintiff’s negligence claim has genuine issues of fact for trial. Further, the court held that the public-duty doctrine does not bar Plaintiff’s negligence claim because it involves City misfeasance. View "Victor Maldonado v. City of Sibley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued the government pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), asserting multiple negligent and intentional tort causes of action after being sexually assaulted by an employee of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The government moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The district court granted the government’s motion. Plaintiff appealed the district court’s determination that the assault occurred outside the scope of the employee’s employment.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the FTCA makes clear that the scope-of-employment test is defined by state law, not the employer. Plaintiff argued that the district court erred in concluding that the provider’s duties were restricted to providing battlefield acupuncture therapy (BFA). The court explained that initially, the provider denied sexually assaulting or massaging Plaintiff. He later admitted to the sexual assault and admitted that it was inappropriate for him to massage a patient. He also failed to document anything that occurred after the BFA therapy, including the massage. This is consistent with the finding that the massage and subsequent sexual assault exceeded the scope of his treatment authority. The court explained that in light of the pleadings and undisputed evidence, the district court did not err, determining that the provider acted outside the scope of his employment. View "Jane Doe v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff argued with a police officer during a protest in downtown St. Louis. Defendant- Lieutenant saw the confrontation and, fearing for the other officer’s safety, pepper-sprayed him. Plaintiff alleged that the force used was both excessive and retaliatory the district court granted qualified immunity. Plaintiff brought excessive force and First Amendment retaliation claims against the Lieutenant and a municipal liability claim against the City of St. Louis.   The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s federal claims at summary judgment and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over what remained. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiff’s arguments are just general complaints about the Lieutenant’s “true motivations, intentions, and testimonial fabrications.” None of these arguments make any difference because “evil intentions will not make a Fourth Amendment violation out of an objectively reasonable use of force.” Further, even viewing the facts in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, causation is missing. As Plaintiff acknowledged, the Lieutenant “was not even in the area” when he criticized the Bicycle Response Team. Nor did Plaintiff “have any interaction with him” during the mere seconds between the beginning of the incident and the use of pepper spray. Accordingly, the court’s conclusion that the Lieutenant did not violate Plaintiff’s First or Fourth Amendment rights also forecloses his constitutional claims against the City of St. Louis. View "Derek Laney v. City of St. Louis, Missouri" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff States’ requested to preliminarily enjoin the United States Secretary of Education (“Secretary”) from implementing a plan to discharge student loan debt under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003(“HEROES Act”). The States contend the student loan debt relief plan contravenes the separation of powers and violates the Administrative Procedure Act because it exceeds the Secretary’s authority and is arbitrary and capricious. The district court denied the States’ motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction after determining none of the States had standing to bring the lawsuit.   The Eighth Circuit granted the Emergency Motion for Injunction Pending Appeal. The court concluded that at this stage of the litigation, an injunction limited to the plaintiff States, or even more broadly to student loans affecting the States, would be impractical and would fail to provide complete relief to the plaintiffs. MOHELA is purportedly one of the largest nonprofit student loan secondary markets in America. It services accounts nationwide and had $168.1 billion in student loan assets serviced as of June 30, 2022. Here the Secretary’s universal suspension of both loan payments and interest on student loans weighs against delving into such uncertainty at this stage. View "State of Nebraska v. Joseph Biden, Jr." on Justia Law

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The Arkansas Video Service Act of 2013 (VSA) establishes a statewide franchising scheme for authorizing video service providers to provide services in political subdivisions within the state. Netflix and Hulu were already providing online video streaming services prior to the passage of the VSA; they have not applied for certificates of franchise authority. The City of Ashdown, Arkansas, filed a putative class action against Netflix and Hulu in 2020, seeking both a declaration that they must comply with the VSA and damages for their failure to pay the required fee. The district court granted Netflix and Hulu’s motions to dismiss, concluding, among other things, that the VSA does not give Ashdown a right of action to bring this suit. Ashdown appealed, arguing that the district court misinterpreted the VSA.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that the fact that the VSA does not “prevent” a party from exercising a right does not, itself, confer a right. This provision is more logically read to preserve existing rights of action. The reference to “other laws” in the section title supports this conclusion. Further, the court wrote that the VSA does not establish such a “high duty of care” for video service providers, nor does it signal a strong public policy of protecting municipalities. Thus, the court concluded that recognizing a right of action would circumvent the intent of the VSA. View "City of Ashdown, Arkansas v. Netflix, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court’s1 order upholding the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration’s (Commissioner) denial of Social Security disability insurance benefits, arguing that the Commissioner’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence. Plaintiff challenged two aspects of the Commissioner’s decision. First, Plaintiff argued that the ALJ committed legal error by improperly evaluating the medical evidence. Second, Plaintiff argued that the ALJ’s RFC assessment was unsupported by substantial evidence. 
 The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the RFC to “perform light work . . . ; except, she should avoid extreme cold and wetness, avoid work in direct sunlight, and avoid loud noises.” Central to this finding was the ALJ’s conclusion that Plaintiff’s surgically implanted neurostimulator resulted in “on-going symptom control without a consistent description of debilitating pain or the inability to function.” A lack of evidence of treatment in the months prior to the hearing undermines Plaintiff’s claim of disabling headaches. The court ultimately concluded that the ALJ’s RFC assessment is within the “available zone of choice” provided by the whole record. View "Lisa Austin v. Kilolo Kijakazi" on Justia Law

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The St. Louis County Police Department (“SLCPD”) in Missouri utilizes what it calls a “Wanteds System.” This system allows officers to issue electronic notices (“Wanteds”) authorizing any other officer to seize a person and take him into custody for questioning without any review by a neutral magistrate before issuance. The Wanteds may pend for days, months, or, in some cases, indefinitely.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of qualified immunity to Officers and its dismissal of the municipal liability claim and Count Three. The court reversed the district court’s grant of qualified immunity to the Detective. The court explained that the Wanteds System is broad enough to encompass situations that do not violate the Constitution, including those involving an arrest immediately after an officer has entered a wanted. The court wrote that Plaintiffs’ facial challenge to the Wanteds System fails. Further, the court explained that the SLCPD Wanteds System, although fraught with the risk of violating the Constitution in certain circumstances and/or the danger of evidence being suppressed due to an invalid arrest, is not facially unconstitutional. The burden is then on Plaintiffs to show a persistent pattern of unconstitutional misconduct. The court concluded that the evidence in the record does not show a persistent pattern of unconstitutional arrests so pervasive that it can be said to constitute custom or usage with the force of law. Nor do the proposed classes describe a group of individuals who demonstrate that such a custom or practice exists. The district court did not err in dismissing the Plaintiffs’ municipal liability claim. View "Dwayne Furlow v. Jon Belmar" on Justia Law

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=Public Water Supply District No. 1 of Greene County, Missouri (“PWSD”) and the City of Springfield, Missouri (the “City”) filed cross motions for summary judgment, and the district court1 granted summary judgment in favor of the City. The district court also denied PWSD’s subsequent motion to alter or amend the judgment under Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. PWSD appealed these decisions. PWSD asserts its claims are timely under the continuing-violations doctrine because the City continues to provide water to customers within the Disputed Subdivisions.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the finding that PWSD’s claims are time-barred. Here, it is undisputed that the City began serving each of the Disputed Subdivisions in or before 1994. Based on the principles set forth above, a § 1926(b) violation must occur (and the statute of limitations accrues) when a municipality begins providing service to a new subdivision, and “not when it continues to do so.” Contrary to PWSD’s contention, it is not a continuing violation, and the statute of limitations does not reset when a municipality continues to add and provide service to customers in a subdivision it already serves. View "Public Water Supply District No. 1 of Greene Co v. City of Springfield, Missouri" on Justia Law