Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Plaintiff was arrested for felony cyberstalking for repeatedly sending mean-spirited messages to her ex-husband, but the charges were later dropped. Plaintiff then filed suit against her ex-husband and others under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that her First and Fourth Amendment rights had been violated. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff, holding that plaintiff failed to show that the ex-husband acted under color of state law. The court need not address the parties' other arguments. View "Moody v. Farrell" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1988, alleging that defendants violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights during his arrest. The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiff presented sufficient facts to allege a violation of his constitutional right to be free from excessive force against Officers Fruge, Garza, and Nevue; the law at the time of the arrest clearly established that it was objectively unreasonable for several officers to tackle an individual who was not fleeing, not violent, not aggressive, and only resisted by pulling his arm away from an officer's grasp; the failure to intervene claim was waived; and summary judgment was appropriate as to plaintiff's municipal liability claim against Round Rock and plaintiff's failure to train or supervise claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Trammell v. Fruge" on Justia Law

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The limitation on voter choice expressed in Tex. Elec. Code 61.033 impermissibly narrows the right guaranteed by Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act. In this case, OCA challenged the Texas voting law, which imposes a restriction on the interpretation assistance that English-limited voters may receive. The district court entered summary judgment for OCA and issued an injunction against Texas. After determining that it had jurisdiction, the Fifth Circuit held that the VRA validly abrogated state sovereign immunity; the Texas statute could not restrict the federally guaranteed right to the act of casting a ballot by enacting a statute tracking its language, then defining terms more restrictively than as federally defined; but the injunction exceeded the scope of the parties' presentation. Accordingly, the court vacated the injunction and remanded for the entry of a new injunction. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "OCA-Greater Houston v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his defamation and false light claims against the New York Times (NYT) and two of its authors, under Louisiana's anti-SLAPP statute (Article 971). Plaintiff, an economics professor, alleged that the NYT misrepresented his statements in an article that attributed racist views to libertarian scholars. The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that plaintiff has created a genuine issue of material fact as to the falsity of the NYT article; dismissal for failure to create a fact issue as to actual malice was premature; and dismissal for failure to create a genuine fact issue as to whether the article had a defamatory meaning was premature. View "Block v. Tanenhaus" on Justia Law

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Petitioner challenged the dismissal of his habeas petition based on failure to exhaust available state remedies. The Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that petitioner satisfied 28 U.S.C. 2241's exhaustion requirement because he asserted his Double Jeopardy claim before every available state judicial forum, short of undergoing a second trial. The court explained that requiring petitioner to endure a second prosecution before being able to assert his claim in federal court placed him in precisely the same impermissible position as the petitioner in Fain v. Duff, 488 F.2d 218 (5th Cir. 1973): forced to forfeit the protections of his federal right before being permitted to seek its vindication in federal court. Because the district court did not address petitioner's Double Jeopardy claim and because the record was not sufficiently developed to enable the court to do so in the first instance, the court did not address it. Therefore, the court remanded for adjudication of the Double Jeopardy claim. View "Montano v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2241. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the ineffective assistance of counsel and violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies; affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's parole revocation claim; affirmed the denial of credit towards his sentence for the time he spent in prison in the United Kingdom; affirmed the dismissal of petitioner's claims for ineffective assistance of counsel and unlawful seizure of his property in his original criminal case and the denial of his motion for compensation; and declined to consider defendant's claim that the district court should have resolved his actions filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as ancillary matters to his section 2241 petition. View "Fillingham v. United States" on Justia Law

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After Jermaine Darden suffered a heart attack and died during his arrest, the administrator of Darden's estate filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the arresting officers and the City. The district court granted summary judgment for all defendants. The Fifth Circuit held that Officer Snow was not entitled to qualified immunity where there were genuine disputes of material fact as to whether Darden was actively resisting arrest and whether the force Officer Snow used was clearly excessive and clearly unreasonable. Therefore, the district court erred in granting his motion for summary judgment. The court held that a reasonable jury could conclude that Officer Romero used excessive force, and thus he was not entitled to qualified immunity. Therefore, the district court erred in granting his motion for summary judgment. Because plaintiff had adequately alleged facts that made out violations of a clearly established constitutional right, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of the claims against the City and remanded the case for further consideration of municipal liability. View "Darden v. City of Fort Worth" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that members of the Livingston Parish Council and Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office maliciously conspired to prosecute him in retaliation for his online comments about certain Council members. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's First and Fourth Amendment claims. The court held that the arrest warrants did not insulate defendants from liability at this stage because plaintiff pleaded that defendants' false and misleading affidavits tainted the magistrate's deliberations. Although plaintiff pleaded a Fourth Amendment violation, the violation was not clearly established at the time because the court could not say that every reasonable officer would understand that he was seized for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. Finally, the district court did not err by dismissing plaintiff's First Amendment claim where plaintiff's allegations were insufficient to allege curtailment of his speech. View "McLin v. Ard" on Justia Law

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The Constitution does not require that officers always take arrestees suspected to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or reported by relatives to be at risk, to a hospital against their wishes. Diana Simpson's family filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the county violated Simpson's constitutional rights when she died in the county jail from a probable suicide-caused drug overdose the evening after she was arrested for public intoxication. The district court granted summary judgment to the county and dismissed the complaint. The court held that, although Simpson's decision to take her own life was tragic, the county could not be held responsible for fatal decisions she made that were, under all the circumstances, not obvious to government employees. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment to the extent it rejected plaintiffs' episodic acts and omissions claim. The court vacated and remanded for consideration in the first instance of plaintiffs' unconstitutional conditions of confinement claim. View "Sanchez v. Young County, Texas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an inmate in custody and an adherent to the Rastafari religion who has dread locks, filed suit seeking a declaration that the Department of Corrections grooming policies violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and an injunction against the grooming policies being applied to him. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of relief, holding that the Department failed to satisfy its burden to show the polices were the least restrictive means of serving a compelling interest. In this case, the Department had a full and fair opportunity during a two-day bench trial to satisfy this burden. The court rendered judgment granting plaintiff's request for a declaration that the grooming policies, as applied to him, violated RLUIPA and enjoining the Department from enforcing the grooming policies against him. View "Ware v. Louisiana Department of Corrections" on Justia Law