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

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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Appellants, a class of sex offenders civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) pursuant to the Minnesota Civil Commitment and Treatment Act: Sexually Dangerous Persons and Sexual Psychopathic Personalities, codified at Minnesota Statute 253D (MCTA), filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against various MSOP managers and officials as well as the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.On appeal for a second time, the Eighth Circuit clarified the legal standard applicable to the conditions of confinement claims brought by these civilly committed individuals. The court concluded that the district court properly dismissed Count 3 of appellants' Third Amended Complaint after applying the "shocks the conscience" standard. However, the district court erred as a matter of law when it applied the "shocks the conscience" standard to Counts 5, 6, and 7, which appellants allege that they were subjected to punitive conditions of confinement. The court instructed the district court, on remand, to consider the claim of inadequate medical care under the deliberate indifference standard outlined in Senty-Haugen v. Goodno, 462 F.3d 876, 889-90 (8th Cir. 2006), and to consider the remaining claims under the standard for punitive conditions of confinement outlined in Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). View "Karsjens v. Lourey" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Golden China on plaintiff's Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claim. The court dismissed the complaint without prejudice based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that plaintiff failed to demonstrate that he has Article III standing to bring his ADA claim. In this case, plaintiff unequivocally acknowledged in his deposition that his intent in visiting Red Wing was not to patronize Golden China but rather to test various establishments for ADA violations. He had never been to Golden China and his amorphous level of intention to return to the restaurant is, at most, aspirational, which is insufficient to establish an injury in fact. Even if the court were to accept plaintiff's post hoc attempt to establish an injury in fact, the court would still find that his declaration asserts nothing more than an uncertain intention to some day return to Golden China. View "Smith v. Golden China of Red Wing, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota alleging retaliation and sex discrimination under Title IX. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that the University violated Title IX by (1) retaliating against her for supporting a former coach in a sexual harassment investigation by not allowing her to redshirt; and (2) discriminating against her on the basis of sex.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the University's motion to dismiss because plaintiff did not have an actionable claim for retaliation under Title IX and she failed to show that she was treated differently because of her sex. In this case, plaintiff failed to allege that she engaged in a protected activity, and no part of Title IX designates participation in a sexual harassment investigation on the side of the accused as protected activity. In regard to plaintiff's claim that she was discriminated against on the basis of her sex when she was denied the right to redshirt, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to support a claim of sex discrimination in violation of Title IX. View "Du Bois v. The Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's adverse grant of summary judgment on her claims against the County, her former employer, alleging that it retaliated against her for participating in protected activity in violation of Title VII and the Minnesota Whistleblower Act (MWA).The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Title VII suspension-based claim, concluding that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation. In this case, plaintiff failed to show that she engaged in statutorily protected activity because she did not communicate or report any sexual harassment before her suspension. In regard to the termination-based claim, the court applied the burden-shifting McDonnell Douglas framework and concluded that, assuming plaintiff made a prima facie case, the County articulated several legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons for her discharge. Furthermore, plaintiff has not shown that the County's reasons are sufficiently intertwined or fishy that rebutting only some of the reasons discredits them all. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the termination-based claim under Title VII. However, given the relatively novel questions of state law, the court dismissed the MWA claims without prejudice so that they can be taken up by the Minnesota state courts. View "Kempf v. Hennepin County" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit dismissed defendants' appeal of the district court's decision permanently enjoining as unconstitutional a South Dakota law regulating ballot-petition circulation, as well as plaintiffs' cross-appeal of the district court's failure to decide all of their claims. While defendants' appeal was pending, the South Dakota Legislature enacted SB 180, which substantially changed the ballot-petition process, replacing HB 1094. Therefore, defendants' appeal is moot and the court lacked jurisdiction. The court also concluded, based on considerations of public interest, that defendants failed to show their entitlement to vacatur and the court declined to vacate the district court's judgment. In regard to plaintiffs' cross-appeal, the court concluded that the district court has not yet decided all of plaintiffs' claims and thus the court lacked jurisdiction over the cross-appeal based on the lack of a final order. View "SD VOICE v. Noem" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against two police officers after plaintiff found the officers, guns drawn, searching their home without a warrant at 3:00 a.m. The district court denied the officers qualified immunity and granted plaintiff and his wife partial summary judgment on their claims that the officers unlawfully entered and searched their home and its curtilage, concluding that the circumstances were insufficient to create an exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement.The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, concluding that the officers are entitled to qualified immunity for some but not all their actions on the night in question. The court concluded that the officers are entitled to qualified immunity for their entry into plaintiffs' curtilage under the community caretaker function. In this case, the officers had reason to believe that an intoxicated thief was in the vicinity, and an open garage door was a likely place where he could enter and perhaps damage property. Furthermore, the officers are entitled to qualified immunity under the community caretaker exception because an open door into a home late at night, when no one had responded to their repeated knocking at the outside doors, arguably warranted a limited protective entry. However, the community caretaker exception cannot justify the severe, warrantless intrusion into the home in this case where the officers observed no signs of criminal activity; the officers were responding to a call from a cab driver reporting that a petty thief had run, not that a burglar was on the prowl, and reasonable officers acting as community caretakers should have left the home. The court explained that it was clearly established by controlling Fourth Amendment precedents that the officers' full blown search of the entire home without a warrant was objectively unreasonable. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Luer v. Clinton" on Justia Law

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Arkansas Times filed suit against various members of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees (UABT) in their official capacities as trustees concerning Arkansas Act 710 of 2017, seeking a preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of the Act and alleging that it violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Act is entitled "An Act to Prohibit Public Entities from Contracting with and Investing in Companies That Boycott Israel; and for Other Purposes." The district court denied Arkansas Times's motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the case.Considering the Act as a whole, the Eighth Circuit concluded that the term "other actions" in the definition of "boycott Israel" and "boycott of Israel" encompasses more than "commercial conduct" similar to refusing to deal or terminating business activities. Instead, the court explained that the Act requires government contractors, as a condition of contracting with Arkansas, not to engage in economic refusals to deal with Israel and to limit their support and promotion of boycotts of Israel. As such, the Act restricts government contractors' ability to participate in speech and other protected, boycott-associated activities recognized by the Supreme Court in N.A.A.C.P. v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886 (1982). Therefore, the court concluded that the Act prohibits the contractor from engaging in boycott activity outside the scope of the contractual relationship "on its own time and dime," and such a restriction violates the First Amendment. View "Arkansas Times LP v. Waldrip" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Arkansas prisoners who are or were on death row for capital murder convictions, filed suit alleging that Arkansas's method of execution violated the Eighth Amendment. In an effort to obtain the necessary information about the existence of known and available alternatives that would significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain, they served subpoenas on several state correctional departments, including the NDCS. After the NDCS objected, the district court determined that the Eleventh Amendment did not categorically bar the subpoena. NDCS appealed. While the appeal was pending, the Arkansas district court dismissed the inmates' suit and the Nebraska Supreme Court ordered public disclosure of the documents.The Eighth Circuit held that this case has been rendered moot where there is no effective relief that the court could grant because the materials at issue are already public. The court explained that requiring the return or destruction of the subpoenaed documents would provide no effective relief, and the court declined to do either. Finally, no exception to the mootness doctrine is applicable here. View "McGehee v. Nebraska Department of Correctional Services" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against a deputy and the County under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violations of his Fourth Amendment rights. In this case, defendant was arrested at a halfway house and booked for second-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity where a jury could find that plaintiff's constitutional rights were violated when the deputy body-slammed plaintiff to the floor, knocking him out. Assuming that plaintiff was a nonviolent, nonthreatening misdemeanant who pulled his arm away from the officer, Karels v. Storz, 906 F.3d 740, 747 (8th Cir. 2018), put the deputy on notice that his body slam was excessive force. View "MacKintrush v. Hodge" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit in state court against Amber Pharmacy and others, alleging claims of discrimination, retaliation, demotion and a hostile work environment. After removal to federal court, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on all but a portion of plaintiff's Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (NFEPA) claim.In regard to plaintiff's claim of age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), the Eighth Circuit assumed that plaintiff established a prima facie case, but that defendants articulated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for eliminating plaintiff's position and demoting her: the need to restructure the financial department to put a stronger emphasis on accounting and more effectively implement the new operating system. The court concluded that plaintiff's evidence was insufficient and did not satisfy her burden of showing age was a motivating factor in defendants' decision to restructure. The court also concluded that defendants are entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's federal claims under Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).Given the similarities between the federal and state ADEA claim, the court concluded that it was appropriate for the district court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction and grant summary judgment on the Nebraska ADEA claim. Because plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress was neither novel nor complex, the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction would not offend principles of comity and fairness. The court concluded that the district court erred in splitting plaintiff's claim that her employer retaliated against her for reporting Medicaid and HIPPA issues and for filing charges with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission. The court vacated the district court's order on the NFEPA claim with instructions to remand the claim in its entirety to state court so that Nebraska courts may resolve the novel questions of state law. View "Starkey v. Amber Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law