Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the superintendent of the school district under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794, after their son committed suicide, alleging that the school had discriminated against their son on the basis of disability by failing to adequately protect him from being bullied by other students. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendant, holding that there was nothing in the record to establish that school officials knew of any specific instance of bullying before the son's death, aside from an October 7 altercation, which the school district responded to immediately and there were no further issues. Even crediting the evidence discovered after the son's death that he was being harassed at school, there was no evidence that the school district knew or even should have known about it. The court further held that, even under the deliberate indifference standard, plaintiffs failed to meet the standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Davis v. Monroe Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 526 U.S. 629 (1999). Finally, there was no authority for plaintiffs' claim that a school district can discriminate against a disabled student in violation of Section 504 after his death by failing to investigate harassment that might have occurred before he died. View "Barnwell v. Watson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that a court administrator discriminated against him on the basis of his race when plaintiff applied to represent indigent murder defendants. The court held that plaintiff's second amended complaint did not adequately allege an injury in fact, and therefore did not vest the district court with jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court denied as moot plaintiff's pending motions to take judicial notice, vacated the judgment of the district court, and remanded with instructions to dismiss the case without prejudice. View "Ashford v. Does" on Justia Law

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A coram nobis petitioner whose motion for 28 U.S.C. 2255 relief was denied while he was in custody must obtain authorization from a three-judge panel of the court of appeals in accordance with section 2244(b)(3)(B). The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's (AEDPA) restrictions on the grant of successive relief set forth in section 2255(h)(1) and (2) limit the grant of coram nobis relief to a petitioner whose motion for section 2255 relief was denied while he was still in custody. In this case, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's post conviction motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255. Petitioner was convicted of conspiracy to import machine guns from Eastern Europe by submitting forms with false entries to the ATF and sentenced to sixty months in prison and three years of supervised release. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that there was no fundamental error in petitioner's case that warranted issue of the writ. View "Baranski v. United States" on Justia Law

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Missouri Revised Statute Sections 328.020 and 329.030, which require African-style hair braiders to have a license to work for pay, is rationally related to a legitimate state interest in protecting consumers and ensuring public health and safety. In this case, the State offered evidence of health risks associated with braiding such as hair loss, inflammation, and scalp infection. The Eighth Circuit held that the Missouri statutes did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment rights of the African-style hair braiders, and affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the State. View "Niang v. Carroll" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Rock-Tenn in a civil rights action alleging religion and sex discrimination. The Eighth Circuit held that Title VII did not impose a legal obligation to provide an employee an articulated basis for dismissal at the time of firing, and an employer was certainly not bound as a matter of law to whatever reasons might have been provided; rather, it was well-established that a employer may elaborate on its explanation for an employment decision; and, in this case, there was no contradiction between the explanation given to plaintiff at the time of his termination and the non-discriminatory reasons for termination that Rock-Tenn articulated during this litigation. The court also held that plaintiff failed to show sufficient evidence that Rock-Tenn's proffered reasons for firing him -- poor performance -- were pretexts for discrimination. View "Rooney v. Rock-Tenn Converting Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of a petition for habeas relief, holding that Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), does not excuse a procedural default that occurs in the appeal of a collateral state court proceeding. The court reasoned that Martinez was inapposite to this case because petitioner's default occurred during the appeal from the initial-review proceeding rather than during the proceeding itself, and petitioner did not complain about his ability to present his claim to the state circuit court, only that his inability to timely appeal that court's decision constitutes cause because he was not represented by an attorney. View "Franklin v. Hawley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the county under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the county jail's postcard-only incoming-mail policy for non-privileged mail violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by impermissibly restricting her ability to communicate with her son who was then an inmate. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's exclusion into evidence of incoming-mail policies from other institutions that permitted inmates to receive multi-page letters, holding that the district court's exclusion of the other institutions' mail policies was harmless error and the postcard-only incoming-mail policy was constitutional. The court held that the postcard-only policy was rationally related to the legitimate penological interests of an efficiently run and secure institution. Furthermore, alternative means of communications were available and the policy did not limit the number of cards that could be sent. The court explained that accommodating plaintiff would result in a significant reallocation of resources and would interfere with the jail's ability to maintain security and efficiency. View "Simpson v. County of Cape Girardeau" on Justia Law

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After Walter Louis Franklin, II was shot to death by officers, his estate filed suit against defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging claims of excessive force, wrongful death, and negligence. On appeal, the officers challenged the denial of qualified immunity. The Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal based on lack of jurisdiction, holding that qualified immunity did not prevent suit in this case because the precise question for trial was the factual question, an issue which was inseparable from, and necessarily informed, the legal one. The court explained that factual arguments made by the officers on appeal regarding materiality and sufficiency should be made to a jury and did not run to a legal issue on appeal. View "Franklin v. Peterson" on Justia Law

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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