Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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Plaintiffs, a transgender youth, their parents, and two healthcare professionals, sought to enjoin Arkansas Act 626, which prohibits healthcare professionals from providing gender transition procedures to any individual under the age of 18 or from referring any such individual to any healthcare professional for gender transition procedures. The district court enjoined the Act, and the State appealed.The Eighth Circuit held that because a minor's sex at birth determines whether or not the minor can receive certain types of medical care under the law, Act 626 discriminates on the basis of sex. Thus, to be valid, the Act must be supported by an exceedingly persuasive justification. The Eighth Circuit determined that the Act prohibits medical treatment that conforms with the recognized standard of care for adolescent gender dysphoria and that the purpose of the Act is not to ban a treatment but to ban an outcome the State deems undesirable. Thus, the district court did not err in granting an injunction. View "Dylan Brandt v. Leslie Rutledge" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff resigned from his employment as a surgeon with Mayo Clinic (“Mayo”) after an internal committee recommended his termination following an investigation into allegations of his misconduct. Plaintiff sued Mayo and his supervisor, alleging discrimination and reprisal. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Mayo and the supervisor.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court explained that Plaintiff argues Mayo’s recommendation to terminate his employment was based on his race, religion, and national origin. Because Said does not offer direct evidence of discrimination, Plaintiff must create a sufficient inference of discrimination under the McDonnell Douglas framework to survive summary judgment.   Here, Plaintiff claims another similarly situated former employee, who also received complaints, from Mayo received preferential treatment. The court concluded that even if Plaintiff was similarly situated to the other employee, the court concluded that Plaintiff does not present sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude he received disparate treatment from the other employee. The court further explained that the record overwhelmingly demonstrates that Mayo believed Plaintiff was guilty of making unwelcomed advances toward female coworkers and of other misconduct. Said fails to “create a real issue as to the genuineness of” Mayo’s perceptions. Finally, regarding Mayo’s reporting of Plaintiff’s resignation to the State Board, as already discussed, the record demonstrates Mayo believed it was required to report Plaintiff’s termination to the State Board because Plaintiff resigned during an open investigation into his misconduct. Thus, Plaintiff fails to present sufficient evidence showing this was a pretext for retaliatory intent. View "Sameh Said v. Mayo Clinic" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued, now retired, police officer, after an encounter that led to Klein’s arrest and a truncated prosecution. The district court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of his claims alleging unlawful seizure, false arrest, and malicious prosecution.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the seizure and arrest claims were untimely and that the malicious prosecution claim fails on the merits. The court explained that Plaintiff’s false arrest claim accrued when he was bound over for trial on June 20, 2017, and his unlawful seizure claim accrued at the time of the seizure, on June 19, 2017. The action filed on November 6, 2019, was therefore untimely as to these claims as well. The district court properly granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims alleging false arrest and unlawful seizure under both federal law and Iowa law.Moreover, the court concluded that Defendant had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff or possession with intent to deliver more than five grams of methamphetamine, and failure to possess a tax stamp for seven grams of methamphetamine. Plaintiff argues that Defendant lacked probable cause because his search for the evidence violated the Fourth Amendment and the Iowa Constitution. The existence of probable cause in a civil action, however, is measured based on all evidence known to the arresting officer, whether or not it would have been admissible at trial. View "Michael Klein v. Warren Steinkamp" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff initiated action against Experian Information Solutions (“Experian”), alleging a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. Section 1681 (“FCRA”). The district court found that Plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence to create a jury question on damages.   Plaintiff contends that a genuine dispute of material fact exists on damages because she provided evidence of financial and emotional harm. The court explained that to maintain a claim for negligent violation of the FCRA, a plaintiff must offer proof of “actual damages sustained by the consumer as a result of the failure. Further, Plaintiff argues that she sustained financial injury based on the denial of her application for a Chase Bank credit card after a hard inquiry on her Experian report. However, her deposition testimony refutes this claim. The record bolsters the conclusion that the bankruptcy drove Chase’s decision to deny Plaintiff’s credit card application. Thus, Plaintiff’s assertion of financial harm is insufficient to create a jury question on damages. Finally, the court wrote that like in other decisions where the court has denied damages for emotional distress, the record reveals that Plaintiff “suffered no physical injury, she was not medically treated for any psychological or emotional injury, and no other witness corroborated any outward manifestation of emotional distress. View "Christa Peterson v. Experian Information Solutions" on Justia Law

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In 2020, Kansas City began restricting participation in its Minority Business Enterprises and Women’s Business Enterprises Program to those entities whose owners satisfied a personal net worth limitation. Mark One Electric Co., a woman-owned business whose owner’s personal net worth exceeds the limit, appeals the dismissal of its lawsuit challenging the Kansas City Program as unconstitutional because of the personal net worth limitation.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that to survive strict scrutiny, the government must first articulate a legislative goal that is properly considered a compelling government interest, such as stopping the perpetuation of racial discrimination and remediating the effects of past discrimination in government contracting. Here, Mark One does not dispute that the City has a compelling interest in remedying the effects of race and gender discrimination on City contract opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses. And Mark One has conceded the 2016 Disparity Study provides a strong basis in evidence for the MBE/WBE Program to further that interest.The City’s program must be narrowly tailored, which requires that “the means chosen to accomplish the government’s asserted purpose are specifically and narrowly framed to accomplish that purpose. Mark One claims that its exclusion from the Program despite its status as a woman-owned business shows that the Program is unlawful Indeed, Mark One has declared that it has suffered past discrimination, as the Program requires for certification. But the City does not have a constitutional obligation to make its Program as broad as may be legally permissible, so long as it directs its resources in a rational manner not motivated by a discriminatory purpose. View "Mark One Electric Company v. City of Kansas City, Missouri" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Defendant, a police officer in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, for use of excessive force, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. Defendant moved for summary judgment, raising the defense of qualified immunity. The district court denied Defendant’s motion, and Defendant appealed. The Eighth Circuit reversed the denial of qualified immunity and remanded with instructions to dismiss the case.At this stage, the court viewed the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Here, Plaintiff did attempt to flee, but Defendant had grabbed him by the time he reached the closed door. The officers knew Plaintiff was unarmed, and the offense they were there to arrest him for was nonviolent. The reasonableness of the use of force is a fact-intensive inquiry. The court held that it affirmed the district court’s conclusion that the disputed facts are material to the question of whether Defendant used excessive force and that, viewing those facts in Plaintiff’s favor, Defendant’s use of force was excessive. However, the court found, that even if his use of force was excessive, Defendant is entitled to qualified immunity unless the excessiveness of the force was clearly established on the date of the incident, August 13, 2017. Thus, the court found that Defendant was entitled to qualified immunity because the court could not identify a case or body of case law that clearly established as of August 13, 2017, that Defendant’s use of force was excessive, even viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. View "Randy McDaniel v. Markeith Neal" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights
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Plaintiff worked at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) as the women’s softball head coach and part-time Director of Operations for the women’s hockey team. After UMD relieved Plaintiff of her hockey duties, she sued, claiming that she was fired for being gay. The district court granted summary judgment to UMD, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed.   The court explained that Title VII plaintiff can survive summary judgment either by (1) presenting direct evidence of discrimination, or (2) “creating the requisite inference of unlawful discrimination through the McDonnell Douglas analysis, including sufficient evidence of pretext.” Towery v. Miss. Cnty. Ark. Econ. Opportunity Comm’n, Inc., 1 F.4th 570 (8th Cir. 2021)   Here, Plaintiff did not present any direct evidence of discrimination, so the court analyzed her claims under the familiar McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. The court explained that. even assuming that Plaintiff could establish a prima facie case of discrimination, she has not met her burden of showing that UMD’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory justification for nonrenewal is pretextual. Plaintiff argued that UMD’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory justification isn’t credible because the accepted Division I practice of “cleaning house” when a head coach leaves is limited to firing coaching staff—not operations staff. The court reasoned that it finds it credible that UMD would want to allow its new head coach to choose her Director of Operations. Further, the court found that Plaintiff has not carried her ultimate burden of persuading the court that she was the victim of intentional discrimination. Out of four part-time hockey staff members, three were openly gay. View "Jen Banford v. Board of Regents of U of MN" on Justia Law

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Defendant believes that the statute criminalizing reentry into this country after removal violates his equal-protection rights. See 8 U.S.C. Section 1326(a), (b). He did not raise this issue before the district court. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling and denied the pending motion for judicial notice.   The court explained that even constitutional arguments can be forfeited. Forfeiture occurs when a party has an argument available but fails to assert it in time. The court wrote that failure to raise an equal-protection challenge before the district court is a classic example of forfeiture. During the six months before he pleaded guilty, Defendant filed more than a dozen motions raising all sorts of issues, but not one of them questioned the constitutionality of the illegal-reentry statute or mentioned equal protection. Had he done so, the district court would have had an opportunity to potentially correct or avoid the alleged] mistake in the first place.   The court explained that under these circumstances, Defendant’s constitutional argument receives, at most, plain-error review. Here, to succeed, Defendant’ had to show, among other things, that there was a clear or obvious error under current law. In this case, there is one district court case on his side, see Carillo-Lopez, 555 F. Supp. 3d at 1001, but at most it shows that the issue is subject to reasonable dispute. The court explained that picking one side of a reasonable dispute cannot be clearly or obviously wrong. View "United States v. Salvador Nunez-Hernandez" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former employee at Nebraska State College System’s (NSCS) Peru State College, brought Equal Pay Act and Title VII claims against NSCS after she received a terminal contract in 2018. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of NSCS on all of Plaintiff’s claims, and Plaintiff appealed.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the ruling. The court explained that the parties do not dispute that another employee was paid more for the same position from when Plaintiff and the other employee were hired until Plaintiff’s promotion in 2017; thus, it is undisputed that Plaintiff set forth a prima facie case. The parties dispute, however, whether NSCS satisfied its burden to prove that the pay differential was based on a factor other than sex. The court agreed with the district court that NSCS met its burden. NSCS offered sufficient evidence that the other employee received a higher salary because he had significantly more experience than Plaintiff.Further, the court wrote that while Plaintiff maintains that her being hired before the other employee demonstrates her superior experience. This assumption is erroneous, as Plaintiff conflates Peru State’s hiring and salary decisions. Finally, even if Plaintiff proves causation, Plaintiff failed to put forth evidence demonstrating pretext in response to NSCS’s legitimate reason for issuing her a terminal contract. View "Ronicka Schottel v. Nebraska State College System" on Justia Law

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This class action arises out of claims by commercial truck drivers who assert that they were not paid proper amounts while working for Werner Enterprises, Inc., and Drivers Management, LLC, (collectively Defendants) as part of Defendants’ Student Driver Program. In a previous appeal, we considered Defendants’ challenge to a jury verdict in favor of Philip Petrone and others (collectively, Plaintiffs) on some of Plaintiffs’ claims, concluding that the district court erred in amending the scheduling order to allow Plaintiffs to submit an expert report past the disclosure deadline without good cause.   Because the expert evidence was integral to the jury’s verdict, the Eighth Circuit determined that this error was not harmless, and vacated the judgment. The case returned to the court after the district court, on remand, entered judgment in favor of Defendants. The court then vacated the judgment. The court explained that read in its entirety, the decision left the door open for the district court to consider how to proceed in light of the Circuit Court’s ruling that the district court should not have granted the motion to amend the scheduling order. The court explained that its mandate thus did not direct the district court to affirmatively find in Defendants’ favor, and their suggestion to the contrary is without merit.   Finally, while the district court properly determined that Plaintiffs could not present evidence of damages through summary evidence pursuant to Rule 1006, it failed to conduct an analysis pursuant to Rule 37(c)(1) and failed to address Plaintiffs’ request for appointment of an expert pursuant to Rule 706. View "Philip Petrone v. Werner Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law