Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Plaintiff filed suit against the Georgia district attorney and others under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendants conspired to violate his First Amendment rights. Plaintiff, employed as the director of the police department's crime lab, was terminated from his position after the district attorney contacted the police chief to express his concerns that plaintiff had written an expert report for and planned to testify on behalf of the defense in a criminal case. The Eleventh Circuit held that prosecutors were not entitled to absolute immunity for their alleged actions in this case because those actions were not taken in their role as advocates. However, the prosecutors were entitled to qualified immunity because they were acting within the outer perimeter of their discretionary skills in expressing concerns about plaintiff's outside work, and the law was not clearly established at the time. Accordingly, the court reversed the denial of the prosecutors' motion for judgment on the pleadings based on qualified immunity and remanded. View "Mikko v. Howard" on Justia Law

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Georgia law by its terms does not provide for negligence actions directly against dogs. In this case, plaintiff filed suit against a police canine, Draco, and others after Draco inflicted serious damage to plaintiff when Draco refused to release his bite. The Eleventh Circuit held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because no binding precedent clearly established that their actions in allowing Draco to apprehend plaintiff violated defendant's Fourth Amendment rights; the County and Chief Ayers in his official capacity have sovereign immunity; and Defendants Fransen, Towler, Ross, and Ayers were entitled to official immunity for the claims against them in their individual capacities View "Jones v. Officer S. Fransen" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied J.W. Ledford, Jr.'s motion for an emergency stay of execution, holding that Ledford's 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint challenging Georgia's method of execution was time-barred. The court further held that, even if the claims were not time-barred, Ledford's allegations and supporting documents did not establish a substantial risk of serious harm, much less a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his claims; Ledford has not alleged sufficient facts to render it plausible that a firing squad was a feasible and readily implemented method of execution in Georgia that would significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain; and, under all the particular facts and circumstances of this case, Ledford failed to show that he has met the equitable requirements for a stay of execution. View "Ledford, Jr. v. Commissioner, GA Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's determination that granting Anthony Boyd leave to amend his complaint would be futile, and affirmed the dismissal of his suit alleging an Eighth Amendment violation regarding Alabama's new lethal injection protocol. Instead of identifying an alternative method of lethal injection that would be feasible, readily implemented, and substantially less risky than the midazolam protocol or opting for death by electrocution, Boyd alleged that Alabama should execute him by hanging or firing squad. The Eleventh Circuit held that Boyd has not come close to pleading sufficient facts to render it plausible that hanging and firing squad are feasible, readily implemented methods of execution for Alabama that would significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain. Alabama is under no constitutional obligation to experiment with execution by hanging or firing squad. Finally, Body's remaining claims were filed well beyond the two-year statute of limitations governing section 1983 claims in Alabama. View "Boyd v. Warden, Holman Correctional Facility" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to defendants in a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging inadequate medical care while plaintiff was in jail. Plaintiff was diagnosed with meningitis while he was a pretrial detainee in the jail and subsequently suffered multiple strokes resulting in permanent injuries. In this case, all of the health care providers acted within the course and scope of their discretionary authority in providing care to plaintiff. Nurse Wilt, Nurse Preston-Mayle, Nurse Scott, Nurse Roberts, Nurse Densmore, and Doctor Ogunsanwo did not violate plaintiff's constitutional rights by being deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs and were entitled to qualified immunity. Because there was no constitutional deprivation, there was no basis for supervisor liability. View "Nam Dang v. Sheriff, Seminole County, Florida" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment to defendants on plaintiff's suit alleging unlawful discrimination because plaintiffs could not effectively communicate with hospital staff in the absence of auxiliary aids or services. The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiffs had Article III standing to seek prospective injunctive relief; rejected the district court's substantive standard for liability; and concluded that for an effective-communication claim brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (RA), 29 U.S.C. 794, there is no requirement that a plaintiff show actual deficient treatment or to recount exactly what plaintiff did not understand. Rather, the relevant inquiry is whether the hospitals' failure to offer an appropriate auxiliary aid impaired the patient's ability to exchange medically relevant information with hospital staff. In this case, plaintiffs have offered sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment where the record demonstrated that plaintiffs' ability to exchange medically relevant information was impaired. On remand, the district court was directed to consider the deliberate-indifference issue in regards to monetary damages. View "Silva v. Baptist Health South Florida" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to defendants in plaintiff's suit seeking damages for civil rights violations and claims arising under state law. Plaintiffs filed suit after two officers shot and killed Michael Knight and injured Latasha Cure. The Eleventh Circuit held that the trial court did not abuse its considerable discretion in any of the challenged trial rulings regarding the inclusion of defendants' police-practices expert; the exclusion of plaintiffs' ballistics and reconstruction experts; the exclusion of evidence showing violations of the Police Department's pursuit policy; the refusal to give a specific jury instruction; the admission of some criminal-history evidence; and the failure to address the prejudicial nature of defendants' opening and closing statements. Furthermore, the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment to the County, the supervising officers, or the detectives. View "Knight v. Miami-Dade County" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of a federal habeas petition and remanded for further proceedings, holding that petitioner's motion under Rule 3.800(c), Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, tolled the limitations period for a federal habeas petition. The Eleventh Circuit explained that a Rule 3.800(c) motion is an application for collateral review that tolls the time a petitioner could petition for federal habeas relief because it is an application for judicial reexamination of a judgment or claim in a proceeding outside of the direct review process. View "Rogers v. Secretary, Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of five sex-related crimes involving minors. When defense counsel returned a few minutes late from a lunch break on the third day of defendant's six-day trial, he missed a small part of the testimony of the 12th of 13 government witnesses. Counsel had missed 7 minutes of a trial that lasted 31.4 hours. In this case, the parties agreed that it was Sixth Amendment error for inculpatory testimony to be taken in the absence of defense counsel. The court held that the harmless error rule was applicable to this brief absence of counsel from the courtroom. The court explained that the error that occurred when the trial resumed before counsel returned from lunch was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because overwhelming evidence offered while counsel was present went to and proved the charges in Counts 2–5, which were the only counts relevant to the testimony given during counsel's absence; the same questions were repeated and not objected-to after counsel returned to the courtroom; and there was no reasonable doubt that counsel's brief absence was harmless. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Roy" on Justia Law

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Defendant filed suit against his former employer under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601-2654, alleging that the employer interfered with the exercise of his FMLA rights and later retaliated against him for asserting those rights. The district court granted summary judgment for the employer. Because plaintiff likely waived his FMLA right to reinstatement by taking an additional 30 days of medical leave, because he failed to submit a fitness-for-duty certification by the end of his FMLA leave, and because the record was devoid of proof challenging the employer's contention that its fitness-for-duty certification policy was implemented in a uniform fashion, plaintiff lost the right to be reinstated after failing to comply with this policy. Therefore, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to show that he was denied a benefit to which he was entitled under the FMLA, and the district court properly granted summary judgment as to the interference claim. The court affirmed as to this claim. The court held that temporal proximity, for the purpose of establishing the causation prong of a prima facie case of FMLA retaliation, should be measured from the last day of an employee's FMLA leave until the adverse employment action at issue occurs. In this case, plaintiff has met his burden of raising a genuine dispute as to whether his taking of FMLA leave and his termination were casually related. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment as to the retaliation claim and remanded for further proceedings. View "Jones v. Gulf Coast Health Care of Delaware, LLC" on Justia Law