Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims against the City and Eddie Salame, Chief of the Grapevine Police Department (GPD). The court also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Officer Robert Clark on plaintiff's remaining excessive force claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on the basis of qualified immunity. Ruben Garcia-Villalpando was shot and killed by Clark. Given the tense and evolving factual circumstances, the court held that Clark reasonably believed that Garcia-Villalpando posed a threat of serious harm. In this case, Garcia-Villalpando fled the scene of a serious crime, drove recklessly and endangered others, refused to obey roughly thirty commands, and approached Clark on a narrow highway shoulder directly adjacent to speeding traffic. The court explained that the fact that Garcia-Villalpando was ultimately found to have been unarmed was immaterial. Because plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Garcia-Villalpando's Fourth Amendment rights were violated, her claims against the City and Salame for failure to train and inadequate screening/hiring failed as well. View "Romero v. Grapevine, Texas," on Justia Law

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Johnson, Every, Green, and Robinson were riding in a truck. Thibodaux Officer Amador recognized Robertson and knew she had an outstanding warrant. He stopped the truck, asked Robertson to exit, and handcuffed her. Every opened her door. Amador told her to get back in; she complied. More officers arrived and asked the passengers for identification. Green said she did not have any, but provided her name. She was not arrested. Johnson and Every refused to identify themselves. The officers arrested them for resisting an officer by refusing to identify themselves during a supposedly lawful detention (Louisiana Revised Statute 14:108) and pulled the women from the truck. Every ran; an officer used his Taser. The officers took the women to jail. They brought 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims. The court generally denied motions in limine seeking to exclude the testimony of the city’s experts on orthopedic surgery and on arrest techniques, police procedures, police training, and use of force, but prohibited testimony as to plaintiffs’ drug use, prior incidents with doctors or law enforcement, or the facts. A jury returned a verdict for the officers. The Fifth Circuit reversed as to Johnson’s unlawful arrest claims against four officers but otherwise affirmed. Under the Fourth Amendment, officers may not require identification absent an otherwise lawful detention based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Johnson’s detention lasted longer than necessary to effect the purpose of the stop, without any evidence that would support a finding of reasonable suspicion. View "Johnson v. Thibodaux City" on Justia Law

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In accordance with a written plea agreement, Salas is serving a 288-month federal sentence for trafficking in cocaine and heroin. The Fifth Circuit denied Salas, authorization to file a second or successive 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion. None of Salas’s proposed claims are based on newly discovered evidence. The court rejected a claim that he is entitled to relief under Burrage v. United States (2014). In Burrage, the Supreme Court held that, in order to apply the mandatory sentence under 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(C) for a death resulting from the defendant’s drug trafficking, it is necessary to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the death would not have occurred “but for” the defendant’s conduct. However, Burrage was decided on direct appeal; nothing suggests that the Supreme Court has made Burrage retroactive to cases on collateral review. In addition, the Burrage Court was interpreting a statute and did not announce a new rule of constitutional law. View "In Re: Salas" on Justia Law

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Sam, aged 16, walked with friends to Walmart, where they split up. The group left the store; Stag, stole a jacket. At 9:49 p.m., Officer Richard responded to the reported theft, encountered Sam’s group, and activated his emergency lights. Sam’s group scattered. Another officer threatened to release a dog if they didn’t stop. Sam lay face down on the ground, with his hands on the back of his head. Sam stated in deposition that Richard slapped Sam's face, kneed him, handcuffed him, and shoved him against a car. The slap did not break the skin, but a scrape drew blood from Sam’s hip. Richard agreed that Sam did not resist, but denied using force. Another officer handcuffed Stag. Both were placed in Richard’s patrol car. Richard returned to Walmart at 10:03 p.m. A security guard identified Stag as the thief. At 10:45 p.m., Richard drove the boys to the police station. Sam’s mother picked him up. Sam did not visit a doctor that night. One of Sam’s friends stated in deposition that Sam “looked like he got hit” and “his face was a little red and bruised.” Medical records generated about six weeks later indicate that Sam complained of lingering hip pain. The district court dismissed Sam’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint. The Fifth Circuit vacated in part. Sam’s evidence of excessive force is sufficient to survive a summary judgment motion. The court affirmed rejection of an unjustified detention claim. View "Sam v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was convicted in a state court of two murders and subsequently acquitted of the second murder. As to the second murder, the district court granted habeas relief after concluding that material evidence, favorable to petitioner, had been withheld prior to trial; and the state courts' contrary decisions had unreasonably applied clearly-established federal law, as proscribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that petitioner established actual innocence to overcome the statute of limitations for his application where he presented substantial exculpatory evidence related to both murders; the State withheld favorable, material evidence, in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); and the district court correctly applied AEDPA in concluding that, in denying Floyd post-conviction relief in state court, those courts unreasonably applied clearly-established federal law. View "Floyd v. Vannoy" on Justia Law

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Private persons cannot sue in federal district court to enforce the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA), 49 U.S.C. 41705. Although the Fifth Circuit determined that private persons could sue in federal district court to enforce the ACAA in Shinault v. American Airlines, Inc., 936 F.2d 796, 800 (5th Cir. 1991), the Supreme Court's intervening decision in Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275, 286–91 (2001), mandated a different result. In light of Sandoval, the court joined the Second, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits and held that the ACAA was enforceable only by the agency charged with administering it because no private right of action exists to enforce the ACAA in district court. View "Stokes v. Southwest Airlines" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of qualified immunity to three officers who responded to a shooting incident involving plaintiff's father. The court held that, although the officers violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights by detaining her for four hours without probable cause, such a right was not so clearly established that the officers could be liable. The court explained that it, as well as other circuits, have determined that officers acting under similar circumstances—detaining a sole witness for questioning and investigative preservation—did not violate any clearly established right. The court reasoned that it followed that these officers similarly were not bound by any such clearly established law. View "Lincoln v. Colleyville, Texas" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff and her husband's claims against LSU. The court held that the district court properly granted LSU’s motion for judgment as a matter of law for plaintiff's Title VII gender discrimination in pay claim where plaintiff failed to show circumstantial or direct evidence of discrimination; the district court properly granted LSU's motion for judgment as a matter of law for plaintiff's Louisiana whistleblower statute claim where plaintiff failed to prove that LSU retaliated against her for disclosing that the School of Art imposed unauthorized course fees that violated the Louisiana Constitution; and the district court properly granted LSU's motion for summary judgment for plaintiff's Louisiana state law spoliation claim where no LSU policy required the professor at issue to maintain, preserve, or provide his notes that were taken during the faculty member panel meeting that included a discussion of plaintiff's reappointment. View "Herster v. Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff and her husband's claims against LSU. The court held that the district court properly granted LSU’s motion for judgment as a matter of law for plaintiff's Title VII gender discrimination in pay claim where plaintiff failed to show circumstantial or direct evidence of discrimination; the district court properly granted LSU's motion for judgment as a matter of law for plaintiff's Louisiana whistleblower statute claim where plaintiff failed to prove that LSU retaliated against her for disclosing that the School of Art imposed unauthorized course fees that violated the Louisiana Constitution; and the district court properly granted LSU's motion for summary judgment for plaintiff's Louisiana state law spoliation claim where no LSU policy required the professor at issue to maintain, preserve, or provide his notes that were taken during the faculty member panel meeting that included a discussion of plaintiff's reappointment. View "Herster v. Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted of capital murder of a police officer and sentenced to death, argued that he was entitled to federal habeas relief on his claim that the press coverage of the crime and the presence of uniformed police officers in the gallery during his trial created an inherently prejudicial atmosphere that violated his right to a fair trial. On the merits, the Fifth Circuit held that 28 U.S.C. 2254(e)(2) barred consideration of the media reports included in petitioner's federal petition, and the district court properly declined to consider them. The court also held that petitioner's fair trial claim did not warrant habeas relief. The court explained that other courts have declined to find the mere presence of officers in a courtroom sufficient to support inherent prejudice, and the record before the court did not suggest the police presence intimidated the jury or disrupted the factfinding process in any way. Furthermore, even assuming that section 2254(e)(2) did not bar this court's consideration of the media-related evidence presented for the first time in petitioner's federal habeas petition, his fair trial claim still failed. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying discovery, nor did it err in resting its conclusion on the evidence presented in the federal habeas petition. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of relief on the merits. View "Jones v. Davis" on Justia Law