Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Eighth Circuit granted rehearing en banc and vacated the panel opinion in Faidley v. United Parcel Serv. of Am., Inc., 853 F.3d 447 (8th Cir. 2017). The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for UPS in an action alleging that UPS violated the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA) when it placed him on medical leave from his long time position as a package car driver and then failed to reasonably accommodate his physical disability. The court held that UPS did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or ICRA by refusing plaintiff's request for an eight-hour work day because that accommodation would have made him unqualified to perform the essential job functions of a package car driver. The court also held that no reasonable jury could find that UPS's decision to instead pursue reassignment to full-time jobs which plaintiff had suggested, and for which he was immediately qualified, was disability discrimination; UPS did not violate the ADA when it refused to accommodate an expert's restrictions of working certain hours per day; and a reasonable jury could not find that UPS acted in bad faith. View "Faidley v. United Parcel Service" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity and state statutory immunity. Plaintiff had filed suit against defendant and others, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for deliberate conduct that shocks the conscience and a state law claim for outrage. The court held that plaintiff failed to demonstrate sufficient facts to give rise to a triable question as to an alleged violation of a constitutional right. In this case, while law enforcement corruptly conducting an investigation with a view towards presenting knowingly false charges against an innocent person might well represent an instance of conscience-shocking behavior, plaintiff has not presented any evidence beyond surmise that would allow a reasonable finder of fact to conclude that this happened. Therefore, the district court erred in denying qualified immunity to defendant. Likewise, plaintiff's state law claim failed for the same reasons as the federal claim. The district court did not err in denying summary judgment for defendant on the ground of state statutory immunity. View "Williams v. Mannis" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling that the City was not immune from a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit in a putative class action alleging that the City's policy or custom of automatically issuing arrest warrants was unconstitutional. In this case, the City automatically issues an arrest warrant whenever someone ticketed for violating its traffic and vehicle laws fails to pay a fine or appear in court. The court held that municipalities, unlike States, did not enjoy a constitutionally protected immunity from suit under the Eleventh Amendment; the court rejected the City's contention that it enacted or maintained the contested practices as an arm of the State; and the court rejected the City's contention that it was also immune from suit since all of the individuals the complaint identified as participating in the contested practices were personally immune from suit. The court has long held that a municipality may be held liable for its unconstitutional policy or custom even when no official has been found personally liable for his conduct under the policy or custom. View "Webb v. City of Maplewood" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that he was improperly rejected for the position of Criminal Investigator with the USPS in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621 et seq., and that he should have been given preference for the position due to his status as a veteran. The district court granted the Postmaster General’s motion to dismiss the action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Eighth Circuit held that the district court erred in dismissing the ADEA claim because plaintiff alleged a prima facie case of discrimination where he demonstrated that he had the educational and professional experience required for the position. Accordingly, the court reversed as to the ADEA claim and remanded for further proceedings. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "McPherson v. Brennan" on Justia Law

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Defendant was committed to the custody of the Missouri Department of Mental Health for treatment after he was found not guilty by reason of insanity under Missouri state law when he fired shots in the direction of two officers. Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against defendants, alleging that he had been deprived of his substantive due process right to liberty during his in-patient commitment as well as during his period of conditional release. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants based on qualified immunity, holding that the evidence viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff did not show that defendants' actions "shocked the conscience." In this case, plaintiff gave no reason to believe any medical opinion was offered in bad faith and the evidence did not suggest that any of defendants' representations to the circuit court were inspired by malice or otherwise untruthful. Furthermore, the ultimate decision to grant release lay with the circuit court and it repeatedly declined to grant release. View "Andrews v. Schafer" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an age discrimination claim. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in deciding not to admit a Department of Corrections internal investigation report because plaintiff was allowed to elicit the content of the report during her questioning of the Warden and providing the report to the jury would have added little beyond the information already in evidence. Therefore, plaintiff failed to establish reversible error in how the district court handled this evidentiary issue. View "Parker v. Arkansas Department of Correction" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss an action filed by plaintiff, challenging the termination of his employment from the University. The court held that plaintiff's speech stemmed from his professional responsibilities and was made in furtherance of those responsibilities, and was therefore not protected under the First Amendment; the pre- and post-termination procedures did not violate plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment due process rights; plaintiff failed to establish a substantive due process claim because he failed to show that the University President's decision to terminate him was both conscience shocking and in violation of one or more fundamental rights; the district court properly dismissed the individual capacity claims against the University President based on qualified immunity; and the district court properly dismissed the claims against defendants in their official capacity. View "Groenewold v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a class action against Harne defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the State's failure to share annual payments under a Settlement Agreement, where Minnesota released and forever discharged tobacco companies from claims that they violated state consumer protection statutes in exchange for substantial period payments, constituted a taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss, holding that res judicata barred the claim. In this case, plaintiff's takings claim in federal court was identical to the federal takings claims asserted in Harne v. State, No. A14-1985, 2015 WL 4523895; Harne involved the same parties; under Minnesota law, the dismissal of the claims in Harne as time-barred was a final judgment on the merits; and plaintiff and Harne actually litigated their federal claims in Harne. View "Foster v. Minnesota" on Justia Law

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Officers Richter and Sullivan, patrolling a high crime neighborhood, observed McLemore standing by a BMW parked at a residence frequented by gang members. Days earlier, investigating reports of a nearby shooting, Richter and Officer Del Valle had seen Rode exit the BMW. They learned that Rode was affiliated with the gang and may have been the victim of an unreported shooting. Richter radioed Del Valle, patrolling in a different car, and told her to follow the BMW. Del Valle saw that it had a dealer advertising plate instead of a rear license plate and a temporary paper card taped inside of the rear window. Del Valle radioed that she had “no violations yet” but “you can see a plate, but you can’t read what’s on it.” Sullivan replied, “there you go.” Del Valle made an “equipment stop.” She did not examine whether the temporary card was valid (it was) because “I already had the probable cause.” During the stop, Del Valle smelled marijuana, and Richter discovered a firearm during his pat-down search of McLemore. The district court ruled that the stop violated the Fourth Amendment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The government failed to identify what violation of state law the BMW operator was suspected of committing and did not introduce into evidence either the BMW’s temporary registration card or a copy of the standard-form card; neither officer testified that they can usually read temporary cards at night or that they had previous problems with fraudulent or invalid cards. View "United States v. McLemore" on Justia Law

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After being arrested, Whitney was taken to the St. Louis University Hospital for treatment of an irregular heartbeat. He attempted to escape and said that he wanted the police to take his life so that he would not be sent back to prison. He was determined to be suicidal. After being treated by psychiatry and showing improvement, he was released and transported to the St. Louis City Justice Center. Two days later, Whitney was moved to a medical unit, suffering from detoxification from heroin use, congestive heart failure, hypertension, and diabetes. Sharp was assigned to monitor Whitney in his cell via closed-circuit television. Sharp last saw Whitney pacing by the shower area at 9:05 a.m. Within the next 14 minutes, she discovered that he had hanged himself, using his ripped hospital gown. The district court dismissed 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims by Whitney’s estate. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The complaint failed to allege that Sharp knew that Whitney presented a suicide risk. There was no claim that any identifiable jail official had knowledge or suspected that Whitney was suicidal or was harming himself; the complaint fails to allege any constitutional violation arising out of a municipal policy that would expose the city to Monell liability. View "Whitney v. City of St. Louis" on Justia Law