Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Plaintiffs, several Texas healthcare providers licensed to perform abortions in the state, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the costs imposed by regulations regarding the disposal of embryonic and fetal tissue would violate Due Process by burdening the rights of women seeking an abortion. The district court granted a preliminary injunction, finding that some terms in the regulations were unconstitutionally vague and that the rules impermissibly burdened abortion access. While the appeal was pending, the Texas legislature signed into law SB8, a larger abortion-related bill that specified legitimate methods for disposing of fetal remains. The Bishops subsequently filed an emergency appeal from an extraordinary discovery order by the district court to a religious body, compelling document production of the group's internal communications. The Fifth Circuit denied plaintiffs' motion to dismiss and reversed the district court's order denying the motion to quash and compelling discovery of internal communications within TCCB. The court held that the district court discounted the burdens of production on TCCB and failed to require more than a minimal, if any, rationale for discovery of TCCB's internal communications. The district court abused its discretion because it was too quick to reject TCCB's privilege claims and thus deprived TCCB of a fair opportunity to make its case for quashing the discovery. View "Whole Woman's Health v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging, among other things, that the initial bite from a police dog and the continued biting were excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The district court dismissed the initial bite claim on a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion and denied summary judgment to the officer. The Fifth Circuit held that there was no Fourth Amendment violation because the totality of the circumstances and the Graham factors established that the officer's use of force was not objectively unreasonable. In this case, police were chasing plaintiff after he assaulted his wife, they were informed that they would have to kill plaintiff to get him, he had a knife, and was bitten by the dog until he was fully handcuffed by the police. Therefore, the court reversed the denial of qualified immunity to the officer. The court dismissed the cross-appeal for lack of jurisdiction and remanded. View "Escobar v. Montee" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of Texas's motion for summary judgment on the basis that petitioner's habeas corpus petition was time-barred. Petitioner argued, and the state conceded, that his 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition was timely because his state conviction became final on July 16, 2014—90 days after the TCCA refused his petition for discretionary review on April 16, 2014 and his time to file a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court expired. The court held that, because petitioner filed the application on November 12, 2015 -- before the November 25, 2015 deadline -- his section 2254 application was timely. View "Erickson v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to defendants in an action brought by plaintiff, an African-American man, who claimed violation of his constitutional right to equal protection of the law. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that defendants, each mayors of the City of Naples at times when plaintiff was employed by the city, paid two specific white employees at a higher rate than he was paid. The court held that plaintiff failed to show a violation of his constitutional rights where there was no genuine dispute that plaintiff's job was not nearly identical to that of his proffered comparators. Therefore, the court remanded with instructions to enter judgment for defendants. View "Mitchell v. Mills" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a nursing assistant, filed suit under Title VII against her employer after she was terminated in part for refusing to care for an aggressive patient in a nursing home. At issue on appeal were plaintiff's claims of hostile work environment and retaliation. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the employer and held that the hostile work environment claim could proceed to trial where a jury could conclude that 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. Furthermore, the employer knew or should have known of the hostile work environment and should have taken reasonable measures to try to abate it. The court also held that the retaliation claim could proceed to trial where there was a triable issue on the "but for" causation element. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Gardner v. CLC of Pascagoula, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former officer with the police department, filed suit against defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that he was terminated after reporting acts of misconduct by his former supervisor in violation of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants, holding that the supervisor was entitled to qualified immunity on all properly pleaded claims against him and that plaintiff's claims against the City were barred by res judicata. View "Sims v. City of Madisonville" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Texas Constitution after an assistant principal ordered a mass, suspicionless strip search of twenty-two female students in the sixth grade choir. After $50 went missing, the assistant principal ordered that each student be strip searched by the school nurse. The court held that the complaint alleged a claim for municipal liability where the students were searched in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights; plaintiffs adequately alleged an official municipal policy on which section 1983 liability may rest where the school district failed to train its employees about their legal duties not to conduct unreasonable searches; and, to the extent the amended complaint plausibly alleged deliberate indifference, it also plausibly alleged causation. The court also held that the district court erred by dismissing the Texas cause of action for failure to state a claim. View "Littell v. Houston Independent School District" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted respondent's petition for rehearing en banc and withdrew the prior opinion, substituting the following opinion. The court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 application. The court held that, under Gonzalez v. Crosby, petitioner's purported Rule 59(e) motion was not an unauthorized successive section 2254 application and, if timely filed, would toll the deadline for filing a notice of appeal until the entry of the order disposing of the motion. In this case, petitioner's Rule 59(e) motion, which was delivered by petitioner's "next friend," was timely filed and tolled the deadline for filing a notice of appeal. Finally, the court held that petitioner was not entitled to section 2254 relief because the circumstances in this case did not rise to the level of the extreme situations wherein courts have previously imputed juror bias. View "Uranga v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was sentenced to death for the murder of a seventy-year old woman. The court held that petitioner was not intellectually disabled and not ineligible for execution under Atkins v. Virginia; he did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal and, even if counsel was deficient, petitioner could not establish prejudice; and his trial counsel was not ineffective by failing to conduct an adequate sentencing investigation or by failing to present an adequate mitigation case during the penalty phase of trial. View "Busby v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 and related state-law claims against the city and the police department after the police chief revoked plaintiff's city-issued towing permit. The revocation was based on a complaint by a competing tow company that plaintiff's state-issued licenses had lapsed. The court held that the district court acted within its discretion when it considered the city's motion before dismissing the amended complaint; plaintiff's class-of-one equal protection claim was properly dismissed where he was not treated differently than others similarly situated; and the false arrest claim was properly dismissed because plaintiff did not obey an officer's apparently lawful order to leave the site of a towed car and the officer was not objectively unreasonable in believing that he had probable cause to arrest plaintiff. View "Rountree v. Dyson" on Justia Law