Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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Defendant was arrested in connection to a narcoticcs trafficking operation after police pulled over the vehicle he was riding in as a passenger. The driver consented to a search, during which offers found heroin. Officers seized Defendant's phone and obtained a warrant on the basis that Defendant was a drug dealer.The district court denied Defendant's motion to suppress the contents of his phone under the Wiretap Act, as well as his statements to police. The court later denied his motions for a directed verdict and new trial. Defendant appealed the denial of his motions as well as his sentence.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Regarding the motion to suppress, officers had probable cause to approach the car based on the evidence in the officers' possession. The Eighth Circuit also found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion for a directed verdict and motion for a new trial.Finally, the Eighth Circuit found that the district court reviewed all the evidence that Defendant presented to the court and did not err in weighing the evidence differently than Defendant would have preferred. View "United States v. Eric Griggs" on Justia Law

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Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm, preserving his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress. The Eighth Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction, finding that the traffic stop that led to the discovery of the challenged evidence was supported by reasonable suspicion. The police officer's decision to pull Defendant over after learning that he was driving a vehicle that had been reported stolen was sufficient to at least give rise to reasonable suspicion. View "United States v. Patrick James" on Justia Law

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Several dog owners sued the City of Council Bluffs challenging the constitutionality of an ordinance prohibiting “pit bulls" under 42 Sec. 1983. The trial court granted the City's motion for summary judgment, finding that the ordinance had the "required rational relationship to the health, safety, and public welfare interests of the city to survive rational basis review." The dog owners appealed the trial court's ruling pertaining to their equal protection and substantive due process claims.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court first noted that the parties agreed that rational-basis review was appropriate. However, the dog owners claimed that their evidence "negates every conceivable basis for the Ordinance’s rational relationship," presenting expert testimony that showed, among other things, pitbulls were not any more dangerous than other breeds of dogs that were permitted under the ordinance. ultimately, the court concluded that the City had a conceivable basis to believe banning pit bulls would promote the health and safety of Council Bluff citizens. View "Rachael Danker v. The City of Council Bluffs" on Justia Law

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A jury found Defendant guilty of sex trafficking of a minor. Defendant raised several issues on appeal. First, he argues that the district court violated his Sixth Amendment right to self-representation by denying his requests to proceed pro se. Second, he contends that the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain his conviction. Third, he argues that the district court admitted unfairly prejudicial evidence. Finally, he submits that two of the special conditions of supervised release imposed by the district court are impermissibly vague and overbroad.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed but remand for clarification of the two special conditions. In regards to the special conditions the court explained that although a sentencing judge has “broad discretion” when imposing terms of supervised release, we have said that a special condition of supervised release is unconstitutionally vague when it “fails to convey sufficiently definite warning as to the proscribed conduct . . . when measured by common understanding and practices.” The court held that Defendant is correct that the two special conditions are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, respectively. The court remanded for the narrow purpose of amending the written judgment as it relates to Special Conditions 2 and 3. View "United States v. Anthony Atkins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff attended protests in downtown St. Louis. While she was leaving, an armored St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (“SLMPD”) vehicle fired tear gas in her direction. Plaintiff sued the City of St. Louis, 12 police officers who were members of the SWAT team on duty that night, and several SLMPD officials for constitutional and state law violations. The district court denied a motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity for four Defendant officers specifically alleged to have been in the armored vehicle at the time of the incident. As to eight Defendant officers not specifically alleged to have been in the vehicle, the district court denied the motion to dismiss on the grounds that additional discovery was needed.   The Eighth Circuit reversed the denial of qualified immunity as to the eight Defendant officers for whom specific allegations were not made. The court affirmed as to the four defendant officers for whom specific allegations were made. The court explained that Plaintiff’s allegation, and the district court’s finding, that Plaintiff was not committing a crime when she was tear-gassed is enough to plausibly allege the tear-gassing was in retaliation for the First Amendment activity.  Further, the complaint did not plausibly allege that the eight officers were personally involved in the violation of clearly established constitutional rights. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s denial of the Officers’ motion to dismiss. View "Megan Green v. Cliff Sommer" on Justia Law

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The St. Louis County Police Department (“SLCPD”) in Missouri utilizes what it calls a “Wanteds System.” This system allows officers to issue electronic notices (“Wanteds”) authorizing any other officer to seize a person and take him into custody for questioning without any review by a neutral magistrate before issuance. The Wanteds may pend for days, months, or, in some cases, indefinitely.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of qualified immunity to Officers and its dismissal of the municipal liability claim and Count Three. The court reversed the district court’s grant of qualified immunity to the Detective. The court explained that the Wanteds System is broad enough to encompass situations that do not violate the Constitution, including those involving an arrest immediately after an officer has entered a wanted. The court wrote that Plaintiffs’ facial challenge to the Wanteds System fails. Further, the court explained that the SLCPD Wanteds System, although fraught with the risk of violating the Constitution in certain circumstances and/or the danger of evidence being suppressed due to an invalid arrest, is not facially unconstitutional. The burden is then on Plaintiffs to show a persistent pattern of unconstitutional misconduct. The court concluded that the evidence in the record does not show a persistent pattern of unconstitutional arrests so pervasive that it can be said to constitute custom or usage with the force of law. Nor do the proposed classes describe a group of individuals who demonstrate that such a custom or practice exists. The district court did not err in dismissing the Plaintiffs’ municipal liability claim. View "Dwayne Furlow v. Jon Belmar" on Justia Law

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Dakotans for Health (“DFH”), a South Dakota ballot question committee, sought to place a constitutional amendment measure on South Dakota’s 2022 general election ballot. To get on the ballot, DFH would need to submit nearly 34,000 valid signatures to the South Dakota Secretary of State. When DFH filed its complaint, it employed a paid petition circulator, Pam Cole, to help it obtain these signatures. The district court preliminarily enjoined South Dakota officials from enforcing these requirements. On appeal, the Appellants argued DFH does not have standing to challenge SB 180. Alternatively, they argue the preliminary injunction was unwarranted and improper and thus the district court abused its discretion by entering it.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded DFH is likely to succeed in showing SB 180 is facially invalid as overbroad in that it violates the First Amendment in a substantial number of its applications. It discriminates against paid circulators for reasons unrelated to legitimate state interests, reduces the pool of circulators available to DFH, and restricts the speech of DFH by sweeping too broadly in its requirements. Put another way, SB 180 is not narrowly tailored to serve South Dakota’s important interests.   Further, the court concluded that the balance of harms and the public interest also favor DFH. While South Dakota has important interests in protecting the integrity of the ballot initiative process, it has no interest in enforcing overbroad restrictions that likely violate the Constitution. Thus, the court found that DFH has satisfied the requirements for issuance of a preliminary injunction and that the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "Dakotans for Health v. Kristi Noem" on Justia Law

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In response to President Biden's Executive Order 13990, the State of Missouri and twelve other States ("the States") then filed this action against President Biden, the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases and other agencies, asserting four causes of action: (1)“Violation of the Separation of Powers;” (2) “Violation of Agency Statutes;” (3)“Procedural Violation of the APA”; and (4) “Substantive Violation of the APA.”The district court concluded the States lack Article III standing and their claims are not ripe for adjudication, granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and denied Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction as moot. The States appealed.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, finding that the States' request for the court to grant injunctive relief that directs “the current administration to comply with prior administrations’ policies on regulatory analysis [without] a specific agency action to review,” is “outside the authority of the federal courts” under Article III of the Constitution. View "State of Missouri v. Joseph Biden, Jr." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued police officer under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 after the police officer deployed pepper spray in Plaintiff’s face. The district court concluded that Plaintiff was engaged in protest activity protected by the First Amendment, and that there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that the police officer used force against Plaintiff because she exercised her constitutional right to freedom of speech. Defendant appealed, and argued that he is entitled to qualified immunity from suit.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed finding that there is no reversible error. The court explained that the district court’s determination that a reasonable jury could find that the police officer acted with retaliatory motive is a matter of evidence sufficiency that is not appealable at this juncture. The court further held that the police officer’s argument based on “arguable probable cause” fails for other reasons as well. Probable cause is a constitutional standard under the Fourth does not argue that this case involves a search or seizure, and he does not explain why the asserted existence of “arguable probable cause” would be dispositive as a matter of law on a claim alleging retaliatory use of force in violation of the First Amendment. View "Essence Welch v. Daniel Dempsey" on Justia Law

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Appellants distribute food to homeless people in the City of St. Louis and wish to continue doing so as part of their charitable and religious practice a St. Louis police officer observed Appellants distributing bologna sandwiches and issued each a citation for violating a city ordinance requiring a permit for the distribution of “potentially dangerous food.”Appellants filed this suit, claiming that the City’s enforcement of the ordinance violated their federal and state constitutional rights and Missouri statutes. The district court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state claims.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the provisions ensure that health inspectors have an opportunity to determine whether the temporary food establishment is complying with the Ordinance. When operating a temporary food establishment, Appellants would also have to ensure: that they take steps to prevent contamination of any ice served to consumers; that tableware provided to consumers is only in single-service and single-use articles; that any equipment is located and installed in a way that avoids food contamination and to facilitate cleaning; that food-contact surfaces are protected from consumer contamination; and that they have water available for cleaning utensils and equipment and to make convenient handwashing facilities available for any employees. Without these provisions regarding the distribution of potentially hazardous food to the public, the City’s goal of preventing foodborne illness would be achieved less effectively. Moreover, the court noted that nothing about the City’s enforcement of the Ordinance against Appellants prevents them from conveying their religious message in other ways. View "Raymond Redlich v. City of St. Louis" on Justia Law