Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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A fully nude strip club filed suit challenging the administrative action the city had taken against the club, the laws authorizing that action, and ordinances the city later enacted that regulated the fully nude strip club business. The district court dismissed all sixteen claims. The Eleventh Circuit held that counts III through VI failed to state claims and that one of the remaining claims was not ripe. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of one more of those claims because the club lacked standing to pursue it. However, the court held that the eight remaining appealed claims were ripe for the district court's review. In this case, counts XIII, XIV, and XV assert that the Ordinance was preempted by state and federal law; further factual development cannot assist in resolution of these facial challenges, which raise purely legal issues; and no institutional concerns of the court or the city render the issues unfit for review. Furthermore, the club's as-applied challenges, asserting an unconstitutional burden and tax on speech, an equal protection violation, and a contract clause violation, required no more factual development to be ripe for review. Finally, count XVI, challenging the ordinance under the Fourth Amendment, was also fit for review. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in part. View "Club Madonna, Inc. v. City of Miami Beach" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief. The district court granted petitioner a certificate of appealability (COA) on whether he is intellectually disabled and thus ineligible for the death penalty under Atkins v. Virginia, and the court granted petitioner's request to expand the COA to include a Batson challenge. The court held that the Supreme Court's recent holding in Moore v. Texas did not apply retroactively to petitioner's intellectual disability claim, and that the state court's denial of his intellectual disability claim was not an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. In this case, the state court considered petitioner's ability to conceal his crime, ability to take care of his mother, and his scores on certain mathematics and reading tests as adaptive strengths that outweighed his apparent deficits. The court held that this approach was acceptable at the time. The court also held that the state court's denial of petitioner's claims that the prosecutor at his state trial struck jurors on the basis of gender and national origin in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments was not contrary to Batson v. Kentucky and its progeny, an unreasonable application of Batson, or an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented to the state courts. View "Smith v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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After Ricky Hinkle died in the Birmingham City Jail after being shocked with a taser, his son filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging several claims on Hinkle's behalf. The district court denied the officers' motion for qualified immunity. The Eleventh Circuit held that the facts as pleaded showed that Deputy Dukuzumuremyi violated Hinkle’s clearly established constitutional right to be free from excessive force. In this case, Dukuzumuremyi clearly crossed the constitutional line, when, having already tased Hinkle once —dropping him to the floor, rendering him motionless, and causing him to urinate on himself—Dukuzumuremyi shocked him again a full eight seconds later. However, the court held that plaintiff's allegations did not show a causal connection between either the use of force against Hinkle or any deliberate indifference to Hinkle's serious medical needs, on the one hand, and any policy or custom implemented by Sheriff Hale or Captain Eddings, on the other. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to Dukuzumuremyi but reverse as to Sheriff Hale and Captain Eddings. View "Hunter v. Hale" on Justia Law

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The City of Miami filed suit alleging that defendant institutions, major nationwide banks, carried on discriminatory lending practices that intentionally targeted black and Latino Miami residents for predatory loans. The City alleged that this resulted in disproportionate foreclosures on homeowners of those races, diminished property values in predominantly minority neighborhoods, substantially reduced tax revenue for the City, and increased expenditures by the City for municipal services. On remand from the Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit held that the City has adequately pled proximate cause in relation to some of its economic injuries when the pleadings are measured against the standard required by the Fair Housing Act. Considering the broad and ambitious scope of the FHA, the statute's expansive text, the exceedingly detailed allegations found in the complaints, and the application of the administrative feasibility factors laid out by the Supreme Court in Holmes v. Securities Investor Protection Corp., 503 U.S. 258 (1992), the court was satisfied that the pleadings set out a plausible claim. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the FHA claims and remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Miami v. Wells Fargo & Co." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition. The court rejected petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim and held that counsel's performance in presenting petitioner's case in mitigation was not objectively unreasonable where counsel's decisions were strategic and did not fall outside the wide range of reasonable professional assistance the Sixth Amendment required. The court also held that the trial court did not err in requiring petitioner to wear a stun belt during the resentencing trial where the stun belt was not visible to the jury or the public, and the state trial court's opinion was not contrary to and did not involve an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court. View "Nance v. Warden, Georgia Diagnostic Prison" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of correctional officers in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by plaintiff, alleging excessive force and deliberate indifference claims. Plaintiff, a Florida inmate, alleged that the officers physically assaulted him and that one of them sprayed a chemical agent on him for 16 minutes after he was handcuffed and compliant. Plaintiff also alleged that three supervisory officers watched the attack without doing anything to intervene. The court held that the district court may have mistakenly relied on O'Bryant v. Finch, 637 F.3d 1207 (11th Cir. 2011), to exclude plaintiff's statements from consideration, or it may have viewed the evidence submitted by the officers as establishing the kind of record that no reasonable jury could disbelieve regardless of sworn statements to the contrary. Regardless, the district court erred in not accepting plaintiff's version of events as true for purposes of summary judgment. View "Sears v. Roberts" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment as well as its denial of plaintiff's original and renewed motions for preliminary injunction. The court also denied plaintiff's motion for a stay of execution because he failed to show a substantial likelihood of success with respect to either his Fourteenth Amendment equal-protection claim or his Eighth Amendment method-of-execution claim. In regard to the Fourteenth Amendment claim, the state did not violate his right to equal protection by not permitting him to elect nitrogen hypoxia as a method of execution. In this case, plaintiff had the same opportunity as every other inmate to elect nitrogen hypoxia, but he did not timely choose that method of execution. The court held that a rational basis exists for the thirty-day rule—the efficient and orderly use of state resources in planning and preparing for executions, and plaintiff failed to negate this rational basis for the thirty-day election requirement. In regard to the Eighth Amendment claim, although plaintiff has shown that nitrogen hypoxia is an available alternative method of execution that is feasible and readily implemented, he has not established a substantial likelihood that he would be able to show that nitrogen hypoxia significantly reduces a substantial risk of pain when compared to the three-drug protocol. View "Price v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's amended complaint because the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act did not give rise to a federal right enforceable under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Plaintiff, formerly employed by the police department, filed suit against the city, seeking to have it issue her the type of identification card required by the Act. The Act allows a qualified retired law enforcement officer who is carrying the identification required by the Act to carry a concealed firearm, notwithstanding most State or local restrictions. The court held that no provision of 18 U.S.C. 926C compelled the state to provide Act-complaint identification and thus the Act did not confer such a right. View "Burban v. City of Neptune Beach" on Justia Law

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After Almus Taylor died in a jail holding cell, plaintiff filed suit against the jail guards under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Alabama law, alleging deliberate indifference to Almus's serious medical needs. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal and held that qualified immunity did not shield the guards from plaintiff's deliberate indifference claims where a reasonable jury could conclude that the guards were not entitled to rely on a trooper's statement that Almus was just drunk, particularly because Almus reported injuries from a car accident. Furthermore, a reasonable jury could conclude that the guard's willful disregard of what they heard and observed during the night made them deliberately indifferent to Almus's serious medical needs, and the district court erred by requiring plaintiff to present evidence that the guards knew the cause of Almus's injury and the specific nature of his medical problem. The court also held that the state agent immunity and Alabama Code 14-6-1 did not shield the guards from plaintiff's state law claims if the guards potentially violated Almus's constitutional rights. View "Taylor v. Hughes" on Justia Law

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On petition for rehearing, the Eleventh Circuit held, as an initial matter, that a meaningful comparator analysis must be conducted at the prima facie stage of McDonnell Douglas's burden-shifting framework, and should not be moved to the pretext stage. With regard to the McDonnell Douglas standard, the court held that the proper test for evaluating comparator evidence is neither plain-old "same or similar" nor "nearly identical," as the court's past cases have discordantly suggested. The court held that a plaintiff asserting an intentional-discrimination claim under McDonnell Douglas must demonstrate that she and her proffered comparators were "similarly situated in all material respects." Because the plaintiff in this case failed to do so, the court remanded to the panel for further proceedings. View "Lewis v. City of Union City" on Justia Law