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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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Plaintiff filed suit challenging the South Dakota State Penitentiary's pornography policy under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff named as defendants four South Dakota corrections officials in their official capacities. The district court granted in part and denied in part the parties' motions for summary judgment.In regard to plaintiff's as-applied challenges, the Eighth Circuit applied the Turner v. Safely, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), factors and concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for plaintiff on his claim that the policy is unconstitutional as applied to two erotic novels because defendants were within their discretion to censor these books. However, the district court properly granted summary judgment for plaintiff on his claim that the policy is unconstitutional as applied to the art book and nine pictures of Renaissance artwork.In regard to plaintiff's facial challenges, the court dismissed as moot plaintiff's claim that the prohibition on nudity is overbroad, but plaintiff's claim that the prohibition on sexually explicit content is overbroad remains a live case or controversy based on the court's reversal of the district court's ruling on his as-applied challenges regarding the erotic novels. The court read the policy in light of the doctrine of constitutional avoidance and concluded that plaintiff failed to show that the policy's prohibition on sexually explicit content is "substantially overbroad." The court concluded that although plaintiff's resolution of plaintiff's as-applied challenges does not moot his claim that the policy's prohibition on sexually explicit content is overbroad, this claim fails on the merits. Finally, the court dismissed as moot plaintiff's request for coercive sanctions, denied his request for compensatory sanctions, and denied plaintiff's request for sanctions for defendants' alleged violations of the district court's orders. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sisney v. Kaemingk" on Justia Law

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In 2009, the original Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) director resigned. President Obama replaced him with Acting Director DeMarco, under 12 U.S.C. 4512(f). The President's nomination of a new director stalled. During DeMarco’s 52 months as Acting Director, the FHFA and Treasury Department entered into a third amendment to the agreement governing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shareholders. DeMarco signed the amendment for the FHFA, as conservator for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The district court dismissed a suit by shareholders, alleging that the amendment would collapse the value of their holdings.The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part, citing the Supreme Court’s 2021 "Collins" decision. The shareholders have standing to seek retrospective, but not prospective, relief. The de facto officer doctrine bars any Appointment Clause relief. Although the doctrine might not apply to an initially defective appointment, there was no such defect. Even if the Acting Director overstayed some implied limit, any defect was resolved when subsequent FHFA directors ratified the third amendment.The court rejected an argument that Congress unlawfully delegated authority to the FHFA under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, 12 U.S.C. 4617 The delegation directs the FHFA to act as a “conservator,” with clear and recognizable instructions.The FHFA leadership structure impermissibly limits the President’s removal authority, violating the separation of powers but the Acting Director was removable at will, defeating any argument for setting aside the third amendment entirely. All the officers who headed the FHFA were properly appointed. The court remanded to determine whether the unconstitutional removal restriction caused compensable harm to shareholders. View "Bhatti v. Federal Housing Finance Agency" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against University officials, alleging that the University's then-existing events policy was unconstitutional facially and as applied to them under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. In this case, after Students for a Conservative Voice (SCV) brought Ben Shapiro to speak at the University, officials rejected various proposed venues for the event, citing security concerns. Ultimately, the officials approved a smaller, more remote venue than what SCV had requested.The Eighth Circuit concluded that SCV's facial challenges and requests for injunctive relief are now moot and that plaintiffs lack standing to maintain their as-applied claim. The court explained that the University's "Large Scale Event Process" policy had been replaced with a new "Major Events" policy, which was more detailed and pertains to the entirety of the University's campus, and plaintiffs failed to show that it is "virtually certain" that the prior policy will be reenacted. In regard to plaintiffs' as-applied claim, they have failed to show that the policy was in fact applied to them. The court stated that the record reflects that the officials' decisions were independent of the Large Scale Event Process and made within the scope of each officials' position at the University, but plaintiffs' complaint presents no First Amendment challenge to the officials' actions apart from the application of the now repealed policy. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's orders with respect to those claims and remanded with instructions to dismiss without prejudice. View "Young America's Foundation v. Kaler" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to officers in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that plaintiff's constitutional and state-law rights were violated when he was arrested for committing capital murder and abuse of a corpse. In this case, the officers moved for summary judgment, contending, pursuant to Messerschmidt v. Millender, 565 U.S. 535 (2012), that the prosecuting attorney's approval of the warrant affidavit entitles them to qualified immunity. The court concluded that the district court properly denied the second motion for summary judgment, which was based entirely on Messerschmidt and asserted reliance on counsel. The court explained that, given the prosecutor's testimony, a rational jury could find that the officers did not rely on her informed legal advice in making the challenged omissions or statements in the affidavit. View "Wheeler v. Kidder" on Justia Law

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On a well-lit summer evening in a Des Moines neighborhood with community-reported drug crimes, police officers Minnehan and Steinkamp lawfully stopped Haynes for suspected (mistaken) involvement in a drug deal. The exceedingly polite and cooperative exchange between the three did not make either officer view Haynes as a safety risk. Haynes could not find his driver’s license but shared three separate cards bearing his name. Steinkamp then handcuffed him. While the polite interaction continued, the cuffs stayed on. They also stayed on after a clean frisk and a consensual pocket search. They stayed on after the officers declined Haynes’s invitation to search another pocket and Haynes’s car. The officers declined another squad car’s offer to help.The district court rejected, on summary judgment, Haynes’s Fourth Amendment claims. 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Eighth Circuit reversed. Handcuffs constitute “greater than a de minimus intrusion,” their use requires the officer to demonstrate that the facts available to the officer would warrant a man of reasonable caution in believing that the action taken was appropriate. Here, the officers failed to point to specific facts supporting an objective safety concern during the encounter. Minnehan and Steinkamp had fair notice that they could not handcuff Haynes without an objective safety concern. View "Haynes v. Minnehan" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's adverse grant of summary judgment based on qualified immunity in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by a pretrial detainee against prison officials, alleging violation of his constitutional rights when he was denied visitation with his children due to a blanket policy of prohibiting detainees from visitations by minor children. The court determined that its case law up to now has not necessarily made clear that the prison officials violated plaintiff's constitutional rights by enforcing the blanket prohibition on visitation with minor children, and thus qualified immunity was appropriate to protect defendants from liability.However, the court noted that the time is ripe to clearly establish that such behavior may amount to a constitutional violation in the future. The court joined the Seventh Circuit in holding that prison officials who permanently or arbitrarily deny an inmate visits with family members in disregard of the factors described in Turner v. Safely, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), and Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126 (2003), have acted in violation of the Constitution. View "Manning v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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In an action arising from a constitutional challenge to Missouri's remedial parole review process for individuals sentenced to mandatory life without the possibility of parole for homicide offenses committed as juveniles, a class of Missouri inmates who were sentenced to mandatory life without parole for such juvenile homicide offenses filed suit claiming that Missouri's parole review policies and practices violate their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and their rights to due process of law under the U.S. Constitution and the Missouri Constitution. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court that Missouri's policies and practices, when implemented and considered in combination, worked to deprive plaintiffs of their Eighth Amendment right to a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based upon demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. The court explained that, because the parole review process in place under Senate Bill 590 failed to adequately ensure that juveniles whose crimes reflect only transient immaturity—and who have since matured—will not be forced to serve a disproportionate sentence, it violated the Eighth Amendment.The court affirmed the order of the district court determining that the parole review process of SB 590 violated plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment rights, and affirmed the order determining that Missouri cannot use a risk assessment tool in its revised parole proceedings unless it has been developed to address the unique circumstances of the JLWOP Class. The court vacated the order regarding appointment of counsel and remanded for further proceedings. Finally, the court denied plaintiffs' motion to strike. View "Brown v. Precythe" on Justia Law

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In 1994, the jury convicted Desmond and Jesse Rouse, their cousin Russell Hubbeling, and another cousin of sexually abusing five nieces. Defendants ultimately raised claims in Rule 60(b)(6) motions seeking relief from the dismissal of their initial 28 U.S.C. 2255 motions. The district court denied the Rule 60(b)(6) motions as successive section 2255 motions and granted certificates of appealability.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that newly discovered evidence in support of a claim previously denied and a subsequent change in substantive law justifying relief - fall squarely within the class of Rule 60(b) claims to which the Supreme Court has applied section 2244(b) restrictions. Furthermore, the motions were an improper attempt to circumvent the procedural requirements of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty (AEDPA). Assuming arguendo that petitioners' Rule 60(b)(6) motions were not unauthorized second or successive motions subject to section 2244(b)(3), the district court did not err in determining that the allegations, including claims of newly discovered victim recantations, medical evidence and claims of juror bias, did not meet the extraordinarily high burden of proving actual innocence, a complete miscarriage of justice, or are evidence that would produce an acquittal in a new trial. View "Rouse v. United States" on Justia Law

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After child abuse investigators removed seven minor children from their home, plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging claims against the Governor, DHS, Garland County, and numerous employees of the State and Garland County in their official and individual capacities. The district court dismissed the official capacity claims and granted qualified immunity on all individual capacity claims but one. The district court subsequently granted Defendant Finnegan and Garland County's motions for summary judgment and dismissed all claims with prejudice.The Eighth Circuit affirmed and concluded that the district court properly applied the Heartland test and found that the existence of exigent circumstances justified the taking of the children. Moreover, the removal was ordered in executing a warrant issued by a magistrate who was advised removal was intended. Even if the Fourth Amendment applies in this situation, defendants are entitled to qualified immunity because it was not clearly established in the Eighth Circuit when the children were removed from their home. In regard to post removal proceedings, the court concluded that Finnegan was entitled to qualified immunity where plaintiffs introduced no evidence that Finnegan's find true determination and testimony in administrative and judicial proceedings were "fabricated" or came anywhere near this level of conscience-shocking behavior. View "Stanley v. Hutchinson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, female truck drivers, filed suit against CRST alleging Title VII claims of retaliation and hostile work environment on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, as well as individual constructive discharge claims on behalf of themselves. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of CRST on the class and individual retaliation claims, as well as on the individual hostile work environment and constructive discharge claims.The Eighth Circuit concluded that CRST's removal policy does not constitute per se retaliation. With respect to the pre-2015 members of the class, the court concluded that the removal policy led to a net decrease in the women's pay; the removal policy was materially adverse; but there was no direct evidence that CRST had any motivative discriminatory bias. With respect to the post-2015 members of the class, the court concluded that these members were subject to adverse employment and the district court should address in the first instance the question whether direct or circumstantial evidence establishes that CRST took this adverse employment action in retaliation for the post-2015 class members' Title VII-protected activity.In regard to plaintiffs' individual hostile work environment claims, the court concluded that Plaintiff Fortune has not created a genuine factual dispute whether CRST's response was actionably deficient; plaintiffs have not established the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact whether CRST knew or should have known about ongoing coworker-on-coworker harassment and thereafter failed to take prompt remedial action that was reasonably calculated to end it; and plaintiffs have failed to show such discrimination on the part of CRST itself and therefore have failed to show that the employer created intolerable working conditions or took otherwise discriminatory action. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sellars v. CRST Expedited, Inc." on Justia Law