Articles Posted in Civil Rights

by
The panel opinion, special concurrence, and dissent previously issued in this case were withdrawn, and the following opinions were substituted in their place. Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, BNSF, for disability discrimination and retaliation after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and later placed on medical leave. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to BNSF on plaintiff's disability discrimination claim because there was a fact issue as to whether BNSF discriminated against plaintiff. However, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the retaliation claim and held that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of an unlawful retaliation. View "Nall v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for rehearing and petition for rehearing en banc. The court substituted this opinion in place of its prior opinion. The court affirmed the district court's judgment as to plaintiff's hostile work environment claim and held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged sustained harassment that undermined his ability to work. In this case, he was repeatedly subjected to behavior that was hostile, intimidating, and bullying, and it was done publicly over a period of more than three years. Furthermore, defendant was deliberately indifferent to this racially hostile work environment. The court also affirmed as to the 42 U.S.C. 1981 claim and held that defendant retaliated after plaintiff complained about discrimination by transferring him to the night shift in a different division. Therefore, plaintiff's allegations supporting unlawful retaliation establish a violation of his constitutional rights, one that a reasonable official would know was unlawful. However, the court held that defendant was entitled to qualified immunity on the First Amendment retaliation claim where it was not clearly established that an internal complaint of discrimination made only to supervisors, primarily to vindicate one's own rights, qualified as speech made as a "citizen" rather than as an "employee." View "Johnson v. Halstead" on Justia Law

by
A former student filed suit against the school district for violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, alleging that the school district was deliberately indifferent to her alleged sexual harassment and that the school district retaliated against her by withholding Title IX protections. The district court granted in part and denied in part the school district's motion for summary judgment. At issue on appeal was the deliberate indifference claim. The Fifth Circuit rejected plaintiff's contention that the question of whether a school district acted with deliberate indifference generally should be decided by a jury. The court held that summary judgment in the school district's favor was appropriate because there was no genuine dispute that the school district was not deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's claims of harassment. The court rejected plaintiff's claim that allowing deliberate-indifference claims to be resolved by jury deliberations served the underlying purpose of discouraging gender-based discrimination. View "I.F. v. Lewisville Independent School District" on Justia Law

by
In Blum v. Gulf Oil Corp., 597 F.2d 936 (5th Cir. 1979), the Fifth Circuit held that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The court held that Blum remained binding precedent. Nonetheless, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in an action alleging that Phillips 66 discriminated against an employee based on the employee's transgender status. The court held that the district court correctly granted summary judgment for the employer because the employee failed to present sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case of discrimination, and because the employee failed to present a genuine issue of material fact concerning pretext. In this case, the employee did not present evidence that any non-transgender applicants were treated better, and Phillips 66 identified a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for rescinding the offer—namely, the employee's misrepresentations regarding her prior employment. View "Wittmer v. Phillips 66 Co." on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit withdrew the prior opinion and substituted the following opinion. In this case, a nurse alleged that an assisted living center allowed a hostile work environment to continue by not preventing a resident's repetitive harassment. Plaintiff filed suit under Title VII after she was terminated in part for refusing to care for an aggressive patient in a nursing home. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the harassment claim and held that the evidence of persistent and often physical harassment by the aggressive patient was enough to allow a jury to decide whether a reasonable caregiver on the receiving end of the harassment would have viewed it as sufficiently severe or pervasive even considering the medical condition of the harasser. In this case, an objectively reasonable caregiver would not expect a patient to grope her daily, injure her so badly she could not work for three months, and have her complaints met with laughter and dismissal by the administration. The court allowed the district court to consider plaintiff's retaliation claim via direct evidence for the first instance on remand. View "Gardner v. CLC of Pascagoula, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas relief as successive. The court found that petitioner's previous habeas petition challenged a judgment distinct from the one he challenged in the present habeas petition. In this case, petitioner's 2013 petition challenged only his 20 year sentence and his current petition challenging his seven year sentences concerned a new judgment. View "Parker v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
The phrase "officials or employees of any governmental agency with responsibility for the administration of juvenile justice," as it is used in 34 U.S.C. 12601(a), does not include the judges of a county youth court. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in an action under section 12601, alleging that Lauderdale County and its two Youth Court judges operated a "school-to-prison pipeline" and, through their administration of the juvenile justice process, were engaged in patterns or practices that denied juveniles their constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The court held that the district court did not err in dismissing the lawsuit against the judges on the basis that they are outside the scope of Section 12601, and because the government has affirmatively waived any other argument for continuing the lawsuit against the County. View "United States v. Lauderdale County" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, an inmate at the Allred Unit of the TDCJ, filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against an officer at the Allred Unit, a disciplinary captain, and the former director of TDCJ. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part, holding that plaintiff's due process claim regarding the disciplinary hearing must be raised in a habeas corpus petition and plaintiff's due process claim regarding the seizure of his personal property was not cognizable under section 1983. The court also held that the district court correctly dismissed plaintiff's claim that he was denied access to the courts because he failed to establish the actual harm necessary, and the retaliation claim because he failed to demonstrate a retaliatory intent. The court denied in part, holding that the seizure of plaintiff's religious materials burdened a sincere religious practice and defendants failed to put forward any legitimate government interest justifying the seizure. However, the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's free exercise claim against the disciplinary captain and the former director. View "DeMarco v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for federal habeas relief for petitioner, who was convicted of capital murder and was sentenced to death. The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding photographs from petitioner's childhood that were offered as mitigation evidence during the sentencing phase where the exclusion of the photographs did not have a substantial or injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict; while the furlough testimony would not have been accurate if given after the legislative amendment, it was valid at the time it was given and a subsequent change to the statute did not make the earlier testimony—based on an earlier version of the law—invalid; and the state court was not unreasonable in rejecting petitioner's Batson challenges. View "Rhoades v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
Provider Plaintiffs and Individual Plaintiffs filed suit seeking a preliminary injunction against the OIG's decision to terminate the Medicaid provider agreements to Planned Parenthood affiliates throughout the state. The district court held that the Individual Plaintiffs possessed a private right of action under the "qualified-provider" provision of the Medicaid Act and issued a preliminary injunction. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court erred in evaluating the evidence de novo, rather than under the arbitrary and capricious standard, and in applying the reasoning in Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast v. Gee, 862 F.3d 445 (5th Cir. 2017), to its determination of a "qualified" provider in this context. Therefore, the district court erred legally and plaintiffs were unlikely to show a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim. Accordingly, the court vacated the preliminary injunction and remanded for the district court to limit its review to the agency record under an arbitrary-and-capricious standard. View "Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Family Planning and Preventative Health Services v. Smith" on Justia Law