Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

by
Plaintiff, an Arkansas state prisoner, filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit against his former parole officer and another police officer, alleging violations of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the officers' motions to dismiss, holding that the district court erred in denying the officers qualified immunity. The court held that, even assuming the officers violated the Fourth Amendment by failing to knock and announce their presence before entering plaintiff's dwelling, it was not clearly established in January 2015 that failing to knock and announce before entering the dwelling of a parolee was unlawful. The court also rejected plaintiff's claim that there was a robust consensus of persuasive authority on the question. View "Lane v. Boyd" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit granted defendants' petition for rehearing en banc and vacated the previous opinion. The court reversed the district court's ruling that plaintiff had alleged sufficient claims to state 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims against a police officer, the police chief, and the city. The court held that, in the absence of any intentional acquisition of physical control terminating plaintiff's freedom of movement through means intentionally applied, no seizure occurred. In this case, plaintiff was not ordered to stop and to remain in place, plaintiff's decision to remain with his companion during the companion's altercation with the officer rather than complying with the officer's lawful command to return to the sidewalk was that of his own choosing, and plaintiff was able to leave the scene following the discharge of the officer's weapon gives lie to his argument that the place of the officer's vehicle prevented him from doing so. The court also held that the claim of supervisory liability against the police chief and municipal liability against the city failed because there was no constitutional violation. View "Johnson v. City of Ferguson" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against the sheriff and several other county employees, alleging various claims related to the treatment plaintiff asserted he suffered as a result of his political beliefs and associations. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the sheriff on the First Amendment discrimination and retaliation claims. The court held that both claims suffered from the same fatal flaw because they lacked an adverse employment action. In this case, none of the complained-of actions, either together or separately, constitute an adverse employment action. View "Charleston v. McCarthy" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against a police deputy, alleging that the deputy violated plaintiff's rights under the First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the deputy based on qualified immunity. The court held that the initial encounter at the rest stop presented no colorable claim that plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights were violated where an objectively reasonable officer would have articulable suspicion to conduct a Terry stop; the seizure of plaintiff on the highway exit ramp did not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment and was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference; pointing a firearm at plaintiff for a few seconds while removing him from his vehicle did not constitute excessive force, and did not violate the Fourth Amendment; and, in light of the deputy's legitimate motive to investigate, plaintiff failed to draw the requisite causal connection to state a First Amendment retaliation claim. View "Clark v. Clark" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the school district in an action originally alleging that plaintiff's daughter, a young student with autism and significant intellectual deficits, was not provided a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Plaintiff also brought additional claims for constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983, disability discrimination and retaliation under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, disability discrimination under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and violations of Arkansas law. The court found no clear error in the district court's factual findings and gave due weight to the hearing officer's credibility determinations, concluding that the child was not denied a FAPE. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's motions for extensions of time and her motion to accept her summary judgment response out of time. The court also held that some of plaintiff's claims were barred for failure to exhaust and that her retaliation claim based on a violation of the IDEA also failed. View "Albright v. Mountain Home School District" on Justia Law

by
The Constitution does not imply a cause of action under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), if a federal law-enforcement officer lies, manipulates witnesses, and falsifies evidence. In this case, the allegations were that a federally deputized officer duped prosecutors and a grand jury into believing that plaintiffs were part of a multistate sex-trafficking conspiracy. The Eighth Circuit declined to extend Bivens and remanded with respect to the 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims against defendant for the district court to consider the applicability of section 1983 in the first instance. In regard to the unlawful arrest claim, the court held that defendant was not entitled to qualified immunity because her actions constituted a violation of a clearly established right. In this case, a reasonable officer would know that deliberately misleading another officer into arresting an innocent individual to protect a sham investigation was unlawful, regardless of the difficulties presented by the case. View "Farah v. Weyker" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, alleging that they violated her son's constitutional rights when two officers used deadly force against him. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants, holding that there was no potentially admissible evidence in the record supporting plaintiff's allegations that the decedent was unarmed, did not point his gun at officers, and did not shoot at an officer. The court also held that the district court correctly ruled that the officers were reasonable in using deadly force. Therefore, the district court properly rejected the assault, battery, and wrongful death claims, as well as properly dismissed the Monell claim. Finally, because the individual officers fulfilled their constitutional obligations, the Board and the Police Chief cannot be liable for failing to train them. View "Smith v. Kilgore" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging claims of excessive force, as well as failure to train and supervise. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the officer on the excessive force claim based on qualified immunity, holding that a reasonable officer could have believed plaintiff was resisting arrest and posed a threat to his safety. In this case, the officer faced a tense and unpredictable situation where he was the only officer on the scene with two hostile intoxicated individuals. Furthermore, the amount of force the officer used was objectively reasonable when he employed an arm-bar takedown to restrain and handcuff plaintiff. View "Fischer v. Hoven" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity to a state trooper, in an action brought by plaintiff alleging claims of First Amendment retaliation and Fourth Amendment unreasonable seizure. The trooper arrested plaintiff for disorderly conduct after plaintiff yelled a two-word expletive at him from a moving vehicle. The trooper believed the shout constituted unreasonable or excessive noise in violation of state law. The court held that the trooper lacked even arguable probable cause for an arrest and thus violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure. In this case, plaintiff's conduct may have been offensive, but it was not an unreasonable or excessive noise. The court also held that the district court did not err as to the First Amendment retaliation claim where the trooper had neither probable cause nor arguable probable cause to arrest plaintiff, because plaintiff's profane shout was protected activity and the arrest was an action that would chill continued activity by a person of ordinary firmness. View "Thurairajah v. Hollenbeck" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion to preliminarily enjoin enforcement of Bel-Nor's Ordinance 983, which restricts the number of signs displayed on private property. The court held that Ordinance 983 is a content based restriction that is not narrowly-tailored to achieve the compelling government interests of government safety and aesthetics. The court held that the ordinance is also facially overbroad; plaintiff was likely to succeed on his First Amendment claim; and the district court erred in denying the motion for a preliminary injunction. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Willson v. City of Bel-Nor" on Justia Law