Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Plaintiff, along with her late husband, filed suit challenging a city ordinance that requires at least fifty percent of their residential yard to contain turf grass. The Eighth Circuit affirmed plaintiff's substantive due process claim, but held that the district court was without jurisdiction to dismiss the Eighth Amendment claim on the merits. In this case, plaintiff's claim that the city's ordinance violated her due process rights was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Furthermore, the Eighth Amendment claim was not ripe for review, because it is unknown whether the city will impose sanctions or, if sanctions are imposed, what they might be. View "Duffner v. City of St. Peters" on Justia Law

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After police shot and killed a suspect, the administrators of the decedent's estate filed suit against the officer who fired the fatal shots, alleging that the officer violated the decedent's constitutional rights by using unreasonable force. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity because his use of force, even if just over the line of reasonableness, violated a clearly established right. In this case, the officer was suddenly confronted, at a distance of only three feet, with a suspect who was armed with a knife after ignoring multiple commands to drop it. View "Swearingen v. Judd" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The court held the ineffective assistance of counsel claim regarding petitioner's plea was properly denied, because a reasonable attorney could have determined that the record, including the government's uncontested evidence and petitioner's own colloquy with the magistrate judge, established an adequate factual basis for petitioner's guilty plea to the money laundering charge. The court also held that petitioner's claim that trial counsel improperly coerced the plea was properly rejected. Finally, the issue of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel was not included in the certificate of appealability and the court declined to address it. View "Meza-Lopez v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the deputy warden, alleging that the deputy warden failed to protect him from harm by fellow inmates. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the deputy warden's motion for judgment as a matter of law, and held that the evidence did not establish that the deputy warden acted with deliberate indifference. In this case, plaintiff's statements to the deputy warden were speculative and non-specific, and plaintiff's stated suspicions were insufficient to show that the deputy warden knew of a specific risk to plaintiff if he returned to general population. View "Blair v. Terry" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the City, the County, and officials, alleging violations of their constitutional right to privacy and of Arkansas tort law in connection with defendants' decisions to release information identifying them as victims of childhood sexual abuse. Plaintiffs are sisters and stars of the popular reality show 19 Kids and Counting. Plaintiffs were interviewed along with others as part of a police investigation into sexual misconduct by plaintiffs' brother. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to the defendant officials. In this case, the information released about the minors interviewed in the investigation was highly personal and involved the most intimate aspects of human affairs. Furthermore, the information was inherently private and entitled to constitutional protection. Therefore, the court held that plaintiffs have stated a plausible claim for the violation of their constitutional right to confidentiality, and the right of minor victims of sexual abuse not to have their identities and the details of their abuse revealed to the public was clearly established at the time. Because plaintiffs have sufficiently pleaded intentional torts, the officials are not entitled to statutory or qualified immunity on plaintiffs' state law claims at this stage of the proceedings. View "Dillard v. Hoyt" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by an investor, alleging that Missouri fraudulently induced a loan between the investor and EngagePoint and illegally discriminated against EngagePoint. The court held that the investor failed to plead fraud with particularity. The court also held that the investor's unlawful discrimination claims failed because it has failed to identify any impaired contractual relationship under which it had rights, and 42 U.S.C. 1981 does not allow the investor to sue on EngagePoint's behalf. Similarly, the investor failed to state a discrimination claim under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. View "FCS Advisors, LLC v. Missouri" on Justia Law

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MDI, a Minnesota nonprofit organization, and one of its members filed suit under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's motion to dismiss the action based on res judicata grounds, because the action was precluded by the final judgment on the merits in a prior suit by MDI and one of its members. The court explained that the dismissal of the second suit was a product of MDI's decision to assert associational standing claims as a co-plaintiff on behalf of its members in the MDI-Testa suit and then to dismiss its representational claims on the merits. The court noted that the only nonparty individuals bound by these tactics are members of MDI at the time. View "Midwest Disability Initiative v. JANS Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee, filed suit against defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendants deprived him of dental care in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In this case, plaintiff suffered from multiple cavities and tooth pain. The district court ultimately granted summary judgment to defendants. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in setting aside the entry of default against Defendant Collier where Collier had a meritorious defense and plaintiff was not significantly prejudiced. The court also held that plaintiff failed to meet the substantial evidentiary threshold required to show that the MEND Defendants and Collier were deliberately indifferent. In this case, defendants regularly responded to plaintiff's sick calls and followed protocol. Furthermore, any delay in permanently filling plaintiff's cavities did not show any unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain that was sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. View "Johnson v. Leonard" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's adverse grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claims against law enforcement officers, Defendants Lesan and Hein, for unlawful seizure, unlawful arrest, and excessive force. In this case, Lesan responded to a citizen's report and encountered plaintiff in Hickman, Nebraska. Plaintiff was known by officers as a dangerous individual who had made threats against law enforcement in the past and had access to weapons. Based on plaintiff's prior encounters with the police, Lesan asked for his license and registration. Lesan then discovered that a police department broadcast was issued for plaintiff due to a disturbance that had occurred in Lincoln city limits. The court held that Lesan did not seize plaintiff in Hickman and that, therefore, he has shown no violation of his Fourth Amendment rights; Hein and Lesan did not violate plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights by arresting him outside of the Lincoln city limits; excessive force arguments were raised for the first time on appeal and would not be considered; and the exhibits submitted in support of defendants' motion for summary judgment were properly admitted. View "Oglesby v. Lesan" on Justia Law

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After a police officer shot and killed 17 year old Keagan Schweikle, his parents and others filed suit against the officer, the Chief of Police, and the City under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Arkansas law. The district court granted qualified immunity to the officers and judgment on the pleadings. The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that, in light of the circumstances, the officer's actions were not objectively reasonable and Keagan's right to be free from excessive force was clearly established at the time. In this case, the officer shot a non-resisting, non-fleeing minor as he moved his gun in compliance with the officer's commands to drop his gun. Therefore, no reasonable officer could conclude that Keagan posed an immediate threat of serious physical harm. Consequently, the court reversed the dismissal of the Monell claims and vacated the dismissal of the state law claims. Finally, the court held that the parents failed to allege a due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment to a familial relationship, where they failed to allege that the shooting was directed at their relationship with their son. View "Partridge v. City of Benton" on Justia Law