Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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Plaintiff brought a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 action against several DeKalb County, Georgia investigators, alleging that they violated his constitutional rights during his arrest. Plaintiff claimed that S.D. used excessive force when he shot him three times, that V.J. used excessive force when he pistol-whipped him, and that all three Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants on every claim.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for V.J. on the pistol-whip claim. But affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for S.D. on the shooting claim and for all Defendants on the deprivation of medical care claim.   The court held that V.J. used excessive force in pistol-whipping Plaintiff and that Plaintiff’s right to be free of V.J.’s use of force was clearly established at the time. Further, viewing the facts through the appropriate lens, V.J. could not have reasonably believed that Plaintiff was resisting when he tried to sit up after communicating that he needed to do so to breathe. And because “a handcuffed, non-resisting [suspect’s] right to be free from excessive force was clearly established” at the time, V.J is not entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff’s excessive force claim against him.   Finally, even though Plaintiff met his burden that Defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights, the court concluded that there was no established law on how long before officers must request medical care for a suspect that has been shot to constitute deliberate indifference. View "Nicholas C. Wade v. Solomon Daniels, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs—five organizations and two individual voters from Gwinnett County, Georgia—alleged that absentee ballot applications and voting-related information should have been, but were not, provided in both English and Spanish to voters in Gwinnett County during the 2020 election cycle. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit was tasked with determining whether Defendants—the Gwinnett County Board of Registrations and Elections, the Board’s individual members, and Georgia Secretary of State—violated Section 203 and Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. Section 10503, requires certain States and their political subdivisions to provide voting materials in languages in addition to English.The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred in concluding that Plaintiffs lacked standing. Plaintiffs sufficiently pleaded standing under a diversion of resources theory, and while some of Plaintiffs’ claims were moot, others remained live and amenable to meaningful relief from the court. The court, therefore, vacated the district court’s dismissal of the suit pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1).The court held that the district court was correct, however, in concluding that Plaintiffs failed to state causes of action under either Section 203 or Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act and in not granting Plaintiffs leave to file their proposed supplemental complaint. The court, therefore, affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the suit pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and its denial of leave for Plaintiffs to file the supplemental complaint pursuant to Rule 15(d). View "Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, Inc., et al. v. Gwinnett County Board of Registration and Elections, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff retained an attorney of the Advocacy Law Firm to sue Defendants for alleged ADA violations following Plaintiff’s visit to Defendants’ place of business. The attorney has filed hundreds of lawsuits under the ADA on behalf of Plaintiff and others. As the prevailing party, Plaintiff  moved for attorney’s fees.. While the district court found that Plaintiff was entitled to attorney’s fees, the district court determined that the requested amount was grossly disproportionate given the case’s circumstances. The district court therefore reduced the requested fees.   Plaintiff argued that the district court abused its discretion in reducing the amount he requested for attorney’s fees.  The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the award, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the attorney billed an excessive number of hours given the complexity of the case. The court noted that the attorney has been involved in hundreds of ADA lawsuits, including 140 during the case. Additionally, the district court found that the pleadings and motions filed here were “boilerplate” and much like filings in the attorney’s other ADA cases.   Further, the record reflects that the attorney was unduly litigious and engaged in unnecessary motion practice. Accordingly, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the attorney unnecessarily prolonged the litigation which, in turn, unnecessarily increased the amount of attorney’s fees. View "Howard Michael Caplan v. All American Auto Collision, Inc., et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (together, “NetChoice”)—are trade associations that represent internet and social-media companies. They sued the Florida officials charged with enforcing S.B. 7072 under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. They sought to enjoin enforcement of Sections 106.072 and 501.2041 on a number of grounds, including, that the law’s provisions (1) violate the social-media companies’ right to free speech under the First Amendment and (2) are preempted by federal law.   The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it preliminarily enjoined those provisions of S.B. 7072 that are substantially likely to violate the First Amendment. But the district court did abuse its discretion when it enjoined provisions of S.B. 7072 that aren’t likely unconstitutional.   The court reasoned that it is substantially likely that social-media companies—even the biggest ones—are “private actors” whose rights the First Amendment protects, that their so-called “content-moderation” decisions constitute protected exercises of editorial judgment and that the provisions of the new Florida law that restrict large platforms’ ability to engage in content moderation unconstitutionally burden that prerogative. The court further concluded that it is substantially likely that one of the law’s particularly onerous disclosure provisions—which would require covered platforms to provide a “thorough rationale” for each and every content-moderation decision they make—violates the First Amendment. However, because it is unlikely that the law’s remaining disclosure provisions violate the First Amendment, the companies are not entitled to preliminary injunctive relief with respect to them. View "NetChoice, LLC, et al. v. Attorney General, State of Florida, et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed the district court’s denial of his 28 U.S.C. Section 2254 habeas petition. The Eleventh Circuit issued a certificate of appealability and concluded that the district court properly denied Section 2254 habeas petition. The court reviewed Petitioner’s ineffective assistance claims under the two-prong test set forth in Strickland. To prevail on an ineffective-assistance claim, the petitioner must show (1) that counsel’s performance was deficient and (2) that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense.   The court held that counsel’s failure to assert the failure-to-inform theory as trial court error in briefing Petitioner’s appeal could not amount to ineffective assistance under Strickland. The fact that Petitioner was concerned about a joint trial, not joint representation, fully supports the Florida District Court of Appeal (“DCA”) rejection of this ineffective assistance claim. The court reasoned that the trial court appropriately responded to Petitioner’s concern by explaining why Petitioner would not be prejudiced by a joint trial: because the State had charged Petitioner as a principal in the armed robbery, all of the evidence that would be introduced in co-defendant’s trial would be introduced in his as well.   Further, the district court correctly concluded that Petitioner failed to establish that the DCA’s affirmance of this ineffective assistance claim constituted an adjudication that was “contrary to, or an incorrect application of,” the Supreme Court’s holdings in Strickland. View "Gregory Lamar Blackmon v. Secretary, Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, several organizations and an individual, sued the City of Pensacola (“City”) and the Secretary of State of Florida (“Secretary”) in state court because the Pensacola City Council voted to remove a Confederate cenotaph from one of the City’s parks. The complaint included both federal and state constitutional claims, a claim under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, and state statutory and common-law claims.   Plaintiffs appealed 1) the denial of leave to file a proposed amended complaint; 2) the District Court’s grant of the City’s and the Secretary’s motions to dismiss; 3) the District Court’s denial of the motion for reconsideration of remand back to state court.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ complaints against Defendants in state court with instructions for the District Court to remand this case back to state court. The court held that Plaintiffs do not have standing because their allegations do not amount to an injury under Article III. The court reasoned that standing requires Plaintiffs to allege enough facts to establish injury-in-fact, causation, and redressability. Here, most of Plaintiffs’ allegations of harm go only to the general disagreement with taking down the cenotaph and a general notion that such action by the government would violate their constitutional rights, both of which fall short of the concreteness standard under Gardner v. Mutz, 962 F.3d 1329 (11th Cir. 2020) and Diamond v. Charles, 476 U.S. 54 (1986) respectively. View "Ladies Memorial Association, Inc., et al. v. City of Pensacola, Florida, et al." on Justia Law

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Previously, a panel of 11th Circuit judges affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiff's 42 Sec. 1983 claims under the three-strikes rule of the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"). The panel based its decision on precedent holding that a "dismissal for failure to exhaust qualifies as a strike under the PLRA."The court voted, deciding to hear the appeal en banc. Thus, the panel's decision was vacated. View "Jeremy John Wells v. Warden, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an Iraq War veteran, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Two sheriff’s deputies conducted a welfare check after a report that the plaintiff had slit his wrist with a knife. When the deputies arrived, the plaintiff was calm and posed no threat to them. Although the plaintiff expressed his willingness to be arrested, one of the deputies suddenly body-slammed him headfirst, causing a serious neck injury.The Eleventh Circuit held that the deputy had probable cause to seize the plaintiff; therefore, the deputy and supervisor are entitled to qualified immunity from unlawful seizure claims. However, the deputy is not entitled to qualified immunity because the way he did so was excessive. The plaintiff satisfied his burden of proving that the supervisor violated his constitutional right, and the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation. Therefore, the sheriff's supervisor was not entitled to qualified immunity from the plaintiff’s claim of supervisory liability. Finally, vicarious liability is unavailable under the Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. View "Kirby Ingram v. Louis Kubik, et al." on Justia Law

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Under its Social Media Policy, Defendants, the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Department, disciplined appellants, two firefighters who work for the department. The termination resulted from an exchange the appellants had on an invitation-only social medial page associated with one of Appellant’s campaigns for the presidency of the local firefighters’ union. Appellants accused Defendants of conspiring to misuse member-donated paid time off. The court reviewed the case by examining four factors developed from Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 U.S. 563 (1968), and Connick v. Myer, 461 U.S. 138 (1983). The court held that the district court (“DC”) erred in finding that Appellants’ speech did not address a matter of public concern at step one of the four-part test.Further, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the DC’s dismissal of Appellants’ free-association claim, finding that it is a free speech claim at its core. Finally, the court found that the Social Media Policy in question suffers from “astonishing breadth,” as it expressly prohibits “disseminating content” that “could be reasonably interpreted as having an adverse effect upon Fire Rescue morale, discipline, operations, the safety of staff, or perception of the public.” The court vacated the DC’s summary judgment on the overbreadth claim and affirmed the DC’s decision rejecting Appellants’ facial-vagueness claim. View "AJ O'Laughlin, et al. v. Palm Beach County" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's Americans with Disabilities lawsuit based on lack of Article III standing, concluding that plaintiff has at least alleged an Article III qualifying stigmatic injury. In this case, plaintiff alleged that she suffered a concrete injury when she viewed a hotel's website that omitted accessibility-related information required by federal regulations and as a result, she says, experienced "frustration and humiliation"—even though she admits that she had (and has) no intention to personally visit the hotel.Despite the absence of a close common-law comparator, the court concluded that under existing precedent plaintiff has alleged a concrete intangible injury. The court explained that plaintiff's allegations satisfy Article III under a narrower reading of Sierra v. City of Hallandale Beach, 996 F.3d 1110 (11th Cir. 2021). Because she claims not only that she suffered illegal discrimination but also that the discrimination resulted in "frustration and humiliation" and a "sense of isolation and segregation," the court concluded that plaintiff has adequately pleaded a concrete stigmatic injury. And because her emotional injury is her emotional injury, it affects her "in a personal and individual way" and is therefore sufficiently particularized. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Laufer v. Arpan LLC" on Justia Law