Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint in district court, alleging sex, race, and age discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The Eighth Circuit found that plaintiff likely adequately exhausted her remedies, and her pleadings indicated this prerequisite, especially on a motion to dismiss. Even if the lack of an initial verified charge would have indicated lack of exhaustion, the documents plaintiff supplied with her objections, including a copy of the verified charge mailed on July 28 and received by the EEOC, plus the Notice of Right to Sue, indicated she had cured any deficiency in the exhaustion requirements. Finally, the district court's failure to conduct a de novo review after plaintiff filed timely and specific objections was reversible error. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with directions to allow plaintiff to amend her pleadings. View "Rush v. Arkansas DWS" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2255 petition, holding that the district court correctly found that Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989), barred the application of the Supreme Court's decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010). Given the importance of protecting the finality of criminal convictions, the court joined its sister circuits and held that the Teague limit on retroactivity applies to collateral review of both state and federal convictions. The court also held that Teague's bar applied to federal petitioners raising ineffective assistance of counsel claims. View "Barajas v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Libertarian Party filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against the Arkansas Secretary of State, claiming that the ballot access statutory scheme violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. During the Secretary's appeal of the district court's judgment, the Arkansas General Assembly amended its statute to allow new political parties to hold their nominating convention and submit their certificates of nomination at 12:00 p.m. on the day of the major parties' primary election. The Fifth Circuit held that the Libertarian Party's claim for declaratory relief has been rendered moot. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with directions to dismiss the complaint. The court affirmed the award of costs and attorney's fees. View "Libertarian Party of Arkansas v. Martin" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity in an action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that UMKC's decision not to renew plaintiff's contract was in retaliation of his free speech rights as a public employee. The court held that plaintiff's speech regarding the school's preferential treatment of student athletes was unprotected speech done pursuant to his duties as a lecturer. Plaintiff failed to show, using the particularized inquiry required, that his right to make this speech in these circumstances was clearly established. In this case, defendants could reasonably conclude that plaintiff spoke solely as an aggrieved lecturer in asking the Chancellor to investigate grading policies for student athletes. View "Lyons v. Vaught" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the dean of the University of Iowa College of Law had rejected her applications to teach legal analysis and writing at the law school due to political discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. After two remands and a jury trial, plaintiff challenged the denial of her motion for a new trial. The Eighth Circuit noted the routine failure of plaintiff's main brief to cite the parts of the record on which she relied and rejected some of her arguments on that basis. The court denied plaintiff's claim that she was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on her discrimination claim based on lack of jurisdiction. Finally, any claims of error regarding the district court's decision not to instruct the jury on punitive damages was moot in light of the jury's verdict. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Manning v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, former participants in the Drug Court, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the County and others, alleging that Scott Edwards, the former lieutenant of the sheriff's department, violated their substantive due process rights by committing repeated acts of sexual abuse while serving in his position as the "tracker" (monitor) of Drug Court participants. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of the county's post-verdict motion. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's finding that the county was deliberately indifferent to the obvious risk that its failure to supervise Edwards would result in violation of plaintiffs' rights. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the county's motion for a new trial based on the jury's damage awards. View "S.M. v. Lincoln County, Missouri" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a petition for writ of certiorari, vacated the district court's judgment, and remanded for further consideration in light of Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016). The Eighth Circuit applied the categorical approach and held that petitioner's prior conviction for use of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3) is not a predicate offense under the Armed Career Criminal Act. The court held that section 924(c)(3) is not divisible where a judge decides whether an underlying offense constitutes a crime of violence, and the definition of crime of violence as it is used in section 924(c)(1) is contained in a separate statutory section, section 924(c)(3). Furthermore, petitioner's substantial rights were affected. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err in applying a four-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(b)(6)(B). Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "United States v. Boman" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in an action alleging that plaintiff was arrested in violation of his First and Fourth Amendment rights, as well as the statute authorizing the arrest. Plaintiff was participating in a highway overpass protest when he was arrested for not following a state trooper's orders to disperse from a crowd. The court held that qualified immunity protected State Trooper Jenkins from First Amendment damages because he had no reason to know, based on preexisting law, that his order was unlawful; qualified immunity also protected Jenkins from the Fourth Amendment damages claim; the statute authorizing arrest, 43.170 RSMo, did not violate the First Amendment by being overbroad; 43.170 RSMo was not unconstitutional as applied to plaintiff nor on its face for being unconstitutionally vague; and plaintiff presented no facts to support his request for an injunction and declaratory relief. View "Weed v. Jenkins" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of excessive force claims in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action filed by the estate of Fallon Frederick. Frederick was shot and killed by an officer when she charged another officer with a knife. The court agreed with the district court that the officers were objectively reasonable in tasing Frederick and then shooting her when she charged them, and that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because they did not violate Frederick's clearly established Fourth Amendment rights. The court held that existing precedent did not place "beyond debate" that the officers violated Frederick's Fourth Amendment rights when they discharged a taser at Frederick in these circumstances. View "Frederick v. Motsinger" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition and motion to reconsider. The court rejected petitioner's Brady claims, holding that there was no agreement that a witness and the state entered into that the government could have failed to disclose; assuming the state's decision to make relocation payments to a witness was Brady information, its nondisclosure did not undermine confidence in the verdict; petitioner defaulted any claims that he may have had concerning the witness's testimony regarding a gun used in the crime; and because petitioner failed to show that the district court clearly erred in finding that no "non-prosecution" agreement existed, the state did not suppress any information in violation of Brady. The court also rejected petitioner's argument that the district court failed to consider the cumulative effect of the suppression of Brady materials. View "Kennell v. Dormire" on Justia Law