Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion to preliminarily enjoin enforcement of Bel-Nor's Ordinance 983, which restricts the number of signs displayed on private property. The court held that Ordinance 983 is a content based restriction that is not narrowly-tailored to achieve the compelling government interests of government safety and aesthetics. The court held that the ordinance is also facially overbroad; plaintiff was likely to succeed on his First Amendment claim; and the district court erred in denying the motion for a preliminary injunction. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Willson v. City of Bel-Nor" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254 to petitioner, who was convicted of four counts of capital murder and sentenced to death on each count. The court held that trial counsel was not constitutionally ineffective for failing to adequately investigate and present mitigating evidence related to petitioner's childhood abuse, fetal-alcohol exposure, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In this case, counsel satisfied his obligation under Strickland v. Washington and his decision not to interview distant family members was reasonable. Counsel conducted a thorough investigation and reasonably decided to pursue a theory of imperfect self-defense. Furthermore, counsel's decision to hire an expert to evaluate the effect of petitioner's abusive childhood on his mental health was reasonable in the circumstances and counsel did not fail to act while potentially powerful mitigating evidence stared him in the face. View "Kemp v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit dismissed police officers' interlocutory appeal of the district court's order denying summary judgment based on qualified immunity in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by plaintiff, alleging violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as common law rights. The court held that it lacked jurisdiction over the officers' appeal because there were questions of material fact as to plaintiff's consent, whether the seizure of Syn incense was in plain view, and whether the administrative search exception applied to a warrantless search in 2012. View "Riggs v. Gibbs" on Justia Law

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FTN filed suit against the City, alleging that its indecent exposure ordinance violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the City and held that Ways v. City of Lincoln, 331 F.3d 596 (8th Cir. 2003) was controlling in this case. In Ways, this court upheld an ordinance prohibiting the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering on any part of the areola and nipple against an equal protection challenge. In this case, like in Ways, the City's ordinance was substantially related to its important governmental interests in promoting public decency and proscribing public nudity to protect morals, public order, health, and safety. View "Free the Nipple - Springfield Residents Promoting Equality v. City of Springfield" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that five Iowa State Penitentiary (ISP) employees were deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical needs. While plaintiff was serving a life sentence at ISP, he suffered a serious hip injury from an assault by a fellow inmate. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by failing to consider plaintiff's request for substitute appointed counsel. In this case, appointed counsel did not withdraw, and there was no request for substitute counsel. Furthermore, there was no basis in the summary judgment record to suspect that appointment of new counsel would affect the district court's decision. The court also held that there was no evidence in the record that the treating physician or any other medical provider or prison staff provided substandard care and no evidence that defendants ever acted in deliberate disregard of plaintiff's serious medical needs. View "Cejvanovic v. Ludwick" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who uses a wheelchair, filed suit against a restaurant owner and the owner of real property where the restaurant is located, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The district court dismissed the complaint as moot after the owners made changes to the accessibility of the parking lot. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, because plaintiff lacked standing to sue over alleged deficiencies in the overflow lot. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's motion for leave to amend her complaint to add alleged violations inside the restaurant. The court modified the judgment to dismiss the ADA claims without prejudice. View "Davis v. Morris-Walker, LTD" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, on behalf of his minor sons and a class of current and former students of the school district who were videotaped in the nude by Defendant Hansen, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against several district defendants. The district court entered default judgment against Hansen in his individual capacity and summary judgment for the district defendants. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district's failure to provide more supervision and training did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation where plaintiff presented no evidence of a pattern of misconduct that would alert the district that its training and supervision were insufficient to prevent Hansen's conduct, and, without notice, the district's failure to provide more training or supervision was not deliberately indifferent. The court also held that plaintiff waived his Child Abuse Victims Rights Act of 1986 (CAVRA) claim because CAVRA is not a predicate statutory violation for a section 1983 claim. View "Doe v. Fort Zumwalt R-II School District" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint in an action brought by plaintiff and his wife after plaintiff refused to allow Menards home supply store employees, pursuant to posted store policy, to search the trunk of his vehicle as he exited a Menards lumberyard in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The court held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on the Fourth Amendment seizure claims because they had arguable reasonable suspicion in detaining plaintiff when he refused to open his vehicle's trunk; there was no unreasonable delay or unreasonable force in the detention and the officers did not arrest plaintiff; and it was reasonable for the officers to briefly handcuff plaintiff in light of his unpredictability, evasiveness, argumentative demeanor, refusal to disobey legitimate officer commands, and the size difference between plaintiff and the officers. The court also held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on the wife's Fourth Amendment seizure claim where the wife was a passenger in the car and the officers had reasonable suspicion for detaining her; a de minimis use of force could not, as here, form the basis for a Fourth Amendment excessive force claim; plaintiff failed to adequately plead a compensatory damages claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 arising from the officers' search of the vehicle's trunk; and plaintiff's remaining First Amendment and state law claims were rejected. View "Waters v. Madson" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of petitioner's motion to vacate his conviction under 28 U.S.C. 2255, based on the ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington. Taking petitioner's assertions as true, the court held that counsel provided false assurance that petitioner's conviction for robbery would not result in his removal from this country and nothing in the record contradicted petitioner's factual assertions about counsel's advice. Furthermore, petitioner showed prejudice by asserting that he would have rejected the plea and insisted on trial but for counsel's misadvice. Therefore, the court held that the record did not conclusively show that petitioner was entitled to no relief and the district court abused its discretion by denying relief without an evidentiary hearing. Accordingly, the court remanded for an evidentiary hearing. View "Dat v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer, alleging violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's MHRA claims on alternative grounds. The court held that, assuming that the company took adverse action against plaintiff during a meeting when the CEO raised an "exit strategy," plaintiff failed to show that the action was taken because of protected opposition to an unlawful employment practice under the MHRA. Furthermore, the decision to arrange an exit strategy was not motivated by plaintiff's marital status. View "Harrell v. Handi Medical Supply, Inc." on Justia Law