Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the Board and its president, alleging that defendants unlawfully deprived him of the use of several of his properties. After a jury returned a verdict for plaintiff, the district court denied the Board's motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial. The Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that there was legally sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that the Board ratified the unlawful initiation of condemnation proceedings. The court rejected the Board's challenges to the jury instructions and held that, even if the instructions were erroneous, they could not have affected the outcome of the case. View "Young v. Board of Supervisors of Humphreys County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former deputy constable, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against defendants, alleging that they violated his First Amendment rights when he was terminated for reporting the illegal acts of the then-Constable and others to law enforcement authorities. Applying Texas law, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the county and the Constable in his official capacity as barred by res judicata where plaintiff had previously filed a state court action against the county. The court also affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the Constable in his individual capacity based on qualified immunity, because it was not clearly established at the time whether a law enforcement officer's involvement in an investigation with outside law enforcement enjoyed protection under the First Amendment. Furthermore, the Constable was entitled to qualified immunity on the First Amendment's Petition Clause claim where plaintiff's grievance from his termination did not constitute a matter of public concern and plaintiff did not allege that he was treated differently than similarly situated deputy constables. View "Harmon v. Dallas County" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied petitioner a certificate of appealability (COA), dismissed his appeal for lack of jurisdiction, and sanctioned him for appealing his collateral attack on his conviction. The court held that a denial of a motion to quash a writ of execution under 28 U.S.C. 1291 is a final decision. The court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's request to quash the government's writ of execution. The court held that the statutes governing restitution granted petitioner the right to reduce his restitution order based on subsequent civil judgments. However, the court rejected petitioner's collateral attack on the restitution order and held that he did not meet the evidentiary requirements of 18 U.S.C. 3664(j)(2). View "United States v. Parker" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit treated respondent's petition for rehearing en banc as a petition for panel rehearing and granted it, withdrawing the court's prior opinion and substituting the following. The court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's federal application for post-conviction relief and denial of further investigative funding. The court held that no Supreme Court precedent holds that Miranda violations are not subject to harmless-error analysis, and the Court of Criminal Appeals' (CCA) decision to apply harmless-error analysis did not conflict with clearly established federal law. Furthermore, the CCA did not unreasonably apply Chapman v. California. Finally, the district court did not improperly deny petitioner investigative funding under 18 U.S.C. 3599(f) where the district court viewed the request for additional funding as effectively seeking a full retrial of the issues already litigated in the state court. View "Jones v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The district court held that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' application of Witherspoon v. Illinois and its progeny was unreasonable because the state trial court violated petitioner's constitutional right to an impartial jury under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments when it excluded a member of the venire for having moral, conscientious, or religious objections to the death penalty. The State appealed. The Fifth Circuit held that the state court proceedings concerning the exclusion of the member as a juror did not result in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States. Furthermore, the state court proceedings did not result in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding. However, the district court did not give appropriate deference to the TCCA's determination that the trial court did not violate the federal constitution when it removed the member for cause. The court also held that petitioner was not entitled to habeas relief on this claim of ineffective assistance of counsel where, even assuming counsel's performance was deficient, petitioner failed to establish prejudice. Finally, petitioner failed to cite any decision of the Supreme Court holding that the severely mentally ill are ineligible for execution. Accordingly, the court reversed in part to the extent that the district court conditionally granted habeas relief to petitioner on his first claim of relief and otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "Smith v. Davis" on Justia Law

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After petitioner was convicted of second-degree murder, the state court overturned the conviction on direct appeal. Then the State retried petitioner and reconvicted him. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, rejecting petitioner's contention that his prior conviction should be construed as an implicit acquittal that barred the reconviction. The court held that petitioner could not surmount the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's relitigation bar where he failed to identify any Supreme Court precedent that was opposite to or materially indistinguishable from this case. Furthermore, petitioner failed to show an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. Finally, even if the court were to set aside AEDPA's relitigation bar and reviewed the claim de novo, petitioner still could not prove his second jury necessarily determined anything regarding his specific intent. View "Langley v. Prince" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a motion for an order authorizing the filing and consideration of a second-or-successive habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Assuming arguendo that movant's claim was not time-barred and he could not have previously discovered the factual predicate for the claim using due diligence, the court held that he could not establish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found him guilty of the underlying offense. Therefore, movant failed to make a prima facie showing sufficient to warrant authorization for a second-or-successive habeas petition on the ground that the state destroyed exculpatory evidence such that it is no longer available for testing, in violation of California v. Trombetta and Arizona v. Youngblood. The court also rejected movant's claim under Giglio v. United States that the state's forensic serologist falsely referred to exculpatory serological results; claim of a Brady violation, and claim of actual innocence. View "In re: Raby" on Justia Law

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After DNA evidence exonerated Phillip Bivens, Bobby Ray Dixon, and Larry Ruffin, who spent a collective 83 years in prison for the rape and murder of a woman in Forrest County, their estates filed a civil rights law suit against the County. At issue in this appeal was whether two of the County's law enforcement liability policies require the insurers to defend the civil rights suit. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that there is a duty to defend, because the policies are triggered when injuries occur during the policy period, even though the wrongful acts that caused the injuries occurred before the policy period. In this case, the provisions of the Travelers and Scottsdale policies cover bodily injuries occurring during the policy period, and the estates' complaint alleges those injuries during the relevant time periods. Therefore, both insurers have a duty to defend the County and its officers. View "Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit treated the petition for rehearing en banc as a petition for panel rehearing pursuant to Fifth Circuit Internal Operating Procedures under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 35. The court denied the petition for rehearing, withdrew its prior opinion, and issued the following opinion in its place. The court affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The court held that, under federal law, if an actual-innocence claim were presented in a successive federal habeas petition, a clear-and-convincing-evidence standard would be applied; federal law does not require states to apply a less demanding standard in a successive state habeas proceeding; and, in the alternative, applying a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard, the TCCA's decision denying petitioner's Atkins claim was not based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented to it. In this case, no expert has ever opined that petitioner is intellectually disabled. The court also rejected petitioner's claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal, and that his trial counsel was 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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Petitioner challenged the district court's denial of his petition for habeas relief relating to his alleged incompetence to stand trial on capital sentencing. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court erroneously granted a hearing on the merits of petitioner's claims and denied relief. The court denied a certificate of appealability (COA) because petitioner's claims were procedurally barred. In the alternative, petitioner's claims lacked merit because all of the evidence brought to bear in the district court on the issue of petitioner's competency in 1995 supported the conclusion that reasonable jurists cannot debate the denial of the Pate claim; reasonable jurists could not debate the district court's decision to reject the claim that counsel provided ineffective assistance; and the claim involving the district court's retrospective competency hearing was waived. View "Gonzales v. Davis" on Justia Law