Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of summary judgment to a police officer based on qualified immunity in an action brought by plaintiff under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the officer applied excessive force when he brought plaintiff to the ground. The court held that, viewed in a light most favorable to plaintiff, the facts gave rise to a question of unreasonable and excessive force for the ultimate finder of fact. In this case, plaintiff neither posed a threat to anyone's safety nor resisted arrest at the time that the officer executed the arm-bar takedown, and therefore his right to be free from unreasonable and excessive force was violated. Furthermore, the right was clearly established at the time. View "Neal v. Ficcadenti" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, which alleged violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court held that the Rehabilitation Act and section 1983 claims concerned the denial of a public education and thus plaintiffs were required to exhaust their administrative remedies first. Because plaintiffs failed to do so, these claims were properly dismissed. Likewise, the exhaustion requirement applied to the IDEA claim and no exception to the exhaustion requirement applied in this case. View "Smith v. Rockwood R-VI School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sought a certificate of innocence under 28 U.S.C. 2513 and, simultaneously but separately, filed the instant case against Defendants Garrett and Sharp, among others, under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The jury subsequently returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff in the section 1983 action and defendants appealed. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in excluding evidence of plaintiff's prior arrests on drug offenses; in permitting limited testimony by the U.S. Attorney who prosecuted defendant Garrett as the evidence helped the jury understand the criminal charges which had been filed; and in permitting plaintiff to introduce expert testimony on police practices from a psychologist who was also a former police captain and police psychologist. The court also held that there was sufficient evidence to establish a conspiracy to violate plaintiff's civil rights and to support the jury's verdict on his state law claims for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. Finally, the court rejected challenges to jury instructions on conspiracy, malicious prosecution, and damages. View "Holmes v. Garrett" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity at summary judgment for an officer in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging excessive force. The court held that the district court did not err in finding the officer's action in tasing plaintiff constituted a violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force and that the right was clearly established at the time. In this case, it was clearly established that intentionally tasering, without warning, an individual who has been stopped for a nonviolent misdemeanor and who was not resisting or fleeing while his hands were visible violated the Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. View "Thompson v. Singleton" on Justia Law

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Charter school parents sought to intervene in the St. Louis public school desegregation litigation to enforce a 1999 Desegregation Settlement Agreement. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the charter parents' motion to intervene, holding that the charter parents had standing. In this case, their pleading alleged that the charter schools will suffer a loss of funding and a decline in funding if plaintiffs prevailed and tens of millions of dollars could be transferred from the charter schools. Therefore, such an injury was neither conjectural nor hypothetical, and was sufficiently imminent to constitute an injury in fact. The court also held that the charter parents have established the elements of traceability and redressability. The court remanded for the district court to determine in the first instance whether the charter parents meet the requirements under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 for intervention as of right or for permissive intervention. View "Ross v. Special Administrative Board of the Transitional School District of the City of St. Louis" on Justia Law

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The NAACP filed suit against the school district for voter dilution under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that (1) the NAACP had proved the preconditions for a section 2 vote dilution claim, and (2) the totality of the circumstances indicated that the district's black voters had less opportunity to elect their preferred candidate than other members of the electorate. The court held that the district court found a section 2 violation after engaging in the requisite precondition analysis and conducting a thorough totality-of-the-circumstances balancing. View "NAACP v. Ferguson-Florissant School District" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for DFJ on his age discrimination and retaliation claims brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); (2) disability discrimination and retaliation claims brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and (3) state-law claim for age and disability discrimination and retaliation brought under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993 (ACRA). The court held that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to his federal claims where his termination played no part in the initial EEOC charge because the right-to-sue letter preceded the date of the termination; plaintiff's ACRA claim failed because no genuine issues of material fact exist on whether plaintiff was qualified to do the essential job functions of his position and whether the termination was due to his disability. The court also held that plaintiff's hostile work environment claim failed because the alleged harassment was not severe enough to support his claim, and plaintiff's ADA claims also failed because he was unable to perform the essential functions of his job, with or without accommodation, and he failed to show but-for causation as to retaliation. View "Moses v. Dassault Falcon Jet Corp." on Justia Law

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An Arkansas trial judge filed suit against the Arkansas Supreme Court and justices in their official capacities, alleging that they violated his constitutional rights by permanently barring him from presiding over death penalty cases. The district court dismissed claims against the Arkansas Supreme Court as barred by sovereign immunity and denied the justices' motion to dismiss. The Eighth Circuit granted the justices' motion for writ of mandamus and directed plaintiff to dismiss the complaint with prejudice. The court held that plaintiff's free speech claim failed because he did not allege that he engaged in a protected activity where the recusal order applied to him in his role as a public employee and where recusal from death penalty cases was not an adverse employment action; the recusal order did not affect defendant's right to practice religion and his Free Exercise Clause claim failed; plaintiff's claim under the Arkansas Religious Restoration Act also failed; plaintiff was not deprived of his due process rights where he alleged no cognizable life, liberty or property interest; plaintiff failed to plausibly allege an equal protection claim; and the district court erred in allowing plaintiff's civil conspiracy claim to proceed were he failed to allege a plausible constitutional violation to support the claim. View "In Re: Honorable John Kemp" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against defendants in an action alleging claims under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2721-25. The court held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's claims against Defendant Kopp as untimely under the applicable statute of limitations; plaintiff failed to state a claim for direct municipal liability against Duluth because she failed to plead sufficient facts supporting an inference that the City knowingly allowed Kopp to access the database for any reason other than her official duties; and plaintiff failed to preserve any vicarious liability claim. View "Loeffler v. City of Duluth" on Justia Law

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Patrolling I-30, Arkansas State Police Corporal Goodman stopped a Tornado bus for following too closely. Goodman regularly received High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area summaries that reported seizures from Tornado buses; traffickers were storing drugs in unlabeled luggage. Goodman observed that bus driver was “pretty nervous” and said he was driving to Milwaukee from southern Texas while passenger manifest indicated the destination was Chicago. Goodman thought it suspicious that the company would undertake a costly cross-country trip with only four passengers. The driver consented to a search and opened doors to a luggage compartment. Goodman saw six bags with name tags plus “a black bag all by itself with no apparent markings" and no name tag. Goodman opened the black bag and reached inside, feeling what he believed was a false bottom. While trying to access the hidden compartment, Goodman saw a tag bearing Tuton’s name trapped beneath the bag’s collapsed handle. Goodman stopped searching, requested a canine unit, and questioned the passengers. Goodman testified that Tuton was “very nervous,” said his journey began in El Paso, and gave answers that “didn’t make sense.” Goodman did not ask Tuton for consent to search. About four minutes after Goodman requested the canine unit, Corporal Rapert arrived with his dog, Hemi. Hemi jumped into the luggage compartment and immediately showed behavioral changes. Rapert concluded Hemi had given a “profound alert,” but did not give a “final indication” on any bag. Rapert advised Goodman that Hemi’s behavior provided probable cause to search. Officers searched all the bags and, in Tuton’s, found eight pounds of cocaine under the false bottom. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of Tuton’s motion to suppress. Discovery of the cocaine was not caused by Goodman’s prior unlawful search of the bag; Hemi’s sniff and alert were unaffected by that search. View "United States v. Tuton" on Justia Law