Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Plaintiff, T.M.'s mother, filed suit against the County and others after T.M., a middle school student, was arrested for a fight on school property, taken to a juvenile detention center, and subjected to a strip and cavity search. Plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that the strip and cavity search violated T.M.'s Fourth Amendment rights. The district court granted partial summary judgment for the County on the Fourth Amendment claim. The court applied the deferential test in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders because the deference given to correctional officials in the adult context applies to correctional officials in the juvenile context as well. Applying Florence, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to make a substantial showing that the Center's search policy is an exaggerated or otherwise irrational response to the problem of Center security. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Mabry v. Lee County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against three officers and the City of Fort Worth, alleging violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. Plaintiff's suit stemmed from his arrest after he was video recording a police station from a public sidewalk and refused to identify himself to officers. The district court granted the officers' motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The court concluded that all three officers are entitled to qualified immunity on the First Amendment claim because there was no clearly established First Amendment right to record the police at the time of plaintiff's activities. The court explained for the future that First Amendment principles, controlling authority, and persuasive precedent demonstrate that a First Amendment right to record the police does exist, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. The court also concluded that Officer Grinalds and Dyess's initial questioning or detention of plaintiff before he was handcuffed was objectively unreasonable in light of clearly established law. Therefore, Grinalds and Dyess are entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's claim that they violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from detention absent reasonable suspicion. However, the court concluded that no objectively reasonable person in these officers' position could have believed that there was probable cause to arrest plaintiff and thus they are not entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim that the officers violated his right to be free from warrantless arrest absent probable cause. Finally, Lieutenant Driver is entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claims where Driver acted objectively reasonably in light of the circumstances. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to this claim. View "Turner v. Driver" on Justia Law

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The court treated plaintiff's Petition for Rehearing En Banc as a Petition for Panel Rehearing and denied the Petition. The court withdrew the prior opinion and substituted this opinion. This interlocutory appeal arose out of a wrongful termination suit filed by plaintiff, a nurse supervisor, against the Medical Center. Plaintiff alleged that the Medical Center discharged her in retaliation for raising age-discrimination complaints. The district court dismissed plaintiff's claims for pain and suffering damages and punitive damages because Fifth Circuit precedent bars such recoveries under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 623(d). The court concluded that the district court correctly determined that Dean v. Am. Sec. Ins. Co., required dismissal of plaintiff's pain and suffering and punitive damages claims. The court explained that Dean is not distinguishable from this case and an intervening change in law did not justify setting Dean aside. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Vaughan v. Anderson Regional Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Lufkin, his former employer, alleging, inter alia, that the employer violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that he was discharged in retaliation for complaining that his direct supervisor racially harassed him. The district court dismissed and refused to grant plaintiff an extension of time to file additional objections to the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation, which the district court adopted. The court concluded that plaintiff is entitled to relief because he has demonstrated that his supervisors, motivated by retaliatory animus, took acts intended to cause an adverse employment action, and those acts were a but-for cause of his termination. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. The court dismissed Lufkin's cross-appeal. View "Fisher v. Lufkin Industries" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee, filed suit pro se under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendants provided him inadequate security and impermissibly delayed medical care. The district court dismissed plaintiff's amended complaint. The court concluded that the district court correctly dismissed plaintiff's failure-to-protect claims against Chief of Security George Byrnes, Administrative Assistant Sheila Spinner, Warden Lance Moore, Captain Kelly Moore, and Captain Jackie Johnson; the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's claims of inadequate medical care against Administrative Assistant Sheila Spinner, Warden Lance Moore, and Head Nurse Debra Cowan; and, although the district court correctly dismissed plaintiff's failure-to-protect claims and plaintiff's medically related claims against Administrative Assistant Sheila Spinner, Warden Lance Moore, and Head Nurse Debra Cowan, the dismissal should have been without prejudice because it is not clear that plaintiff amended his complaint with a sufficient understanding of the inadequacies in his original pleading or that he has pleaded his best case. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further consideration. View "Alderson v. Concordia Parish Correctional Facility" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Parker County Deputy Sheriffs Hollis and Iglesias, alleging that the deputies arrested him without probable cause in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The district court granted the deputies' motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. Defendant was arrested for interfering with an officers' duties after he refused to follow the deputies' orders to move his truck. The court explained that Texas courts have found that failure to comply with an officer's instructions under similar circumstances violates Texas Penal Code 38.15 and is not protected speech. In Haggerty v. Tex. S. Univ., the court has held that failure to comply with a police officer’s instruction to stand back is not protected speech and gives the officer probable cause to arrest under Texas Penal Code 38.15. Therefore, based on this precedent, the court concluded that a reasonable officer could have believed that there was a fair probability that plaintiff violated Texas Penal Code 38.15 by failing to comply with Iglesias' instruction to move the truck. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Childers v. Iglesias" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was arrested during a protest at a Planned Parenthood, he filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The district court held that individual officers were entitled to qualified immunity and that plaintiff failed to create a dispute of fact for municipal liability for the City of Stafford. The court concluded that the district court improperly granted summary judgment in favor of Officers Flagg and Jones where plaintiff was arrested without probable cause in violation of clearly established law; rejected plaintiff's claim that the City had an official policy of improperly applying Texas Penal Code 38.02 and affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City on plaintiff's section 1983 municipality liability claim; concluded that the district court correctly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's claim for liability of Chief Kahn in his individual capacity where plaintiff's evidence failed to create a material dispute of fact as to deliberate indifference; and agreed with plaintiff that the district court failed to address his claims that defendants' understanding of sections 38.02 and 42.03 and plaintiff's arrest resulted in an as-applied violation of his First Amendment rights. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Davidson v. City of Stafford, Texas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging, inter alia, violation of his First and Fourth Amendment rights after he was silenced and then ejected at a city council meeting. The court dismissed Councilman Roberts's appeal of the district court's denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity because a factual dispute exists as to whether Roberts's conduct was viewpoint-based; affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Roberts as to punitive damages where there is no question that Roberts's conduct did not rise to the level of reckless indifference or evil intent; affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Black on the First Amendment claim because his actions as sergeant-at-arms were not objectively unreasonable in light of clearly established law; affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Black on the Fourth Amendment claim based on qualified immunity; affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the false arrest claim; and dismissed Black’s cross-appeal on the state tort claims for lack of jurisdiction. View "Heaney v. Roberts" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendant's use of force was objectively unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. The district court granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and denied defendant qualified immunity. The court concluded that, under the facts in this record, permitting a police dog to continue biting a compliant and non-threatening arrestee is objectively unreasonable. Because plaintiff's right was clearly established at the time, the court affirmed the order denying qualified immunity. The court dismissed the appeal of the partial summary judgment for plaintiff for want of appellate jurisdiction. View "Cooper v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Ahmede Bradley and Officer Eric Copeland were involved in a fight that ended with Copeland firing three shots at Bradley, killing him. Plaintiffs, Bradley's heirs, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Copeland violated Bradley's Fourth Amendment rights, used excessive force, and used unlawful lethal force. Officer Copeland appealed the district court's denial of qualified immunity. The court held that the district court erred in holding that—in the absence of video evidence—eyewitness testimony should not be considered for summary judgment purposes until subject to cross examination. In this case, giving full weight to the undisputed eyewitness testimony, the court concluded that plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment argument is waived; Copeland’s conduct prior to the shooting was neither excessive nor unreasonable; and because plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate a constitutional violation, the court held that they have failed to satisfy their burden of showing that Copeland is not entitled to qualified immunity. Accordingly, the court reversed and held that Copeland is entitled to qualified immunity. View "Orr v. Copeland" on Justia Law