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

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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Zen Group, Inc., is “a Florida Medicaid provider of services to developmentally-disabled minors.” Zen Group alleges that beginning in 2018, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration wrongfully attempted to recoup payments rendered under the Agency’s “Behavior Analysis Services Program.” Zen Group asserts that the officials made baseless referrals for investigation of fraud and suspended payments to Zen Group in retaliation for the previous exercise of its constitutional rights in an administrative proceeding. Zen Group complained that the officials’ retaliation violated its due-process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and its speech and petition rights under the First Amendment. The district court dismissed the complaint.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that Zen Group’s due process and First Amendment claims for damages are both barred by qualified immunity. And Zen Group lacks standing to seek injunctive relief. The court explained that Zen Group alleged that it had “completely ceased operations” in June 2020. It did not allege that it had resumed providing services to Medicaid recipients. The court explained that in that context, the most it can fairly infer from the assertion that Zen Group “remains a Florida Medicaid provider” is that Zen Group remains an active corporation authorized by the state to provide Medicaid services, even though it is not currently doing so. The allegations in the amended complaint do not support the inference that Zen Group faces anything more than a speculative risk of future injury if it resumes providing services or the officials decide to engage in retaliatory fraud referrals against an inactive provider with respect to services rendered in the past. View "Zen Group, Inc., et al v. State of Florida Agency for Health Care Administra, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was the Chief Meteorologist at CBS46, an Atlanta news station. But during his tenure, female colleagues raised repeated complaints that he engaged in inappropriate conduct and sexual harassment—including “compliments” about appearance, sexually charged language, requests for nude photos, and more. Plaintiff, who is white, alleges that he was terminated because of his race in violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1981. The sexual harassment justification, he says, was just a pretext. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court wrote that the ultimate question in any discrimination case is whether the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff based on race. Here, Plaintiff failed to show that a reasonable jury could conclude that Defendant terminated his employment because he was white.   The court explained that Plaintiff notes that the station’s new meteorologist is a Hispanic woman. However, Plaintiff mostly argued that the existence of race data on the corporate form meant that he was fired because he was white. The court explained Plaintiff lacked direct evidence of discrimination, he lacked evidence that Defendant treated his race as a factor favoring his termination, and he lacked evidence that Defendant treated similarly situated non-white employees more favorably. On the other hand, Defendant has produced extensive evidence of Plaintiff’s sexual harassment, which is a valid, nondiscriminatory reason for his termination. The court explained that on this record, no reasonable jury could infer that Defendant’s justification was pretext for race discrimination. View "Paul Ossmann v. Meredith Corporation" on Justia Law

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A nine-year-old girl took her own life after a classmate repeatedly delivered racist insults to her. The girl's mother and grandmother sought to hold the school system and several school officials accountable for her death. The family filed a lawsuit asserting claims arising under federal and state law against the school system and the school officials. The district court granted summary judgment to the school system and its officials, concluding that the family failed to satisfy various elements of their federal statutory claims and that qualified immunity barred at least one of the claims. The court concluded that the state law claims failed on immunity grounds. The family appealed.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. Although the response of the school system and its officials was "truly discouraging," the standard for relief in cases of student-on-student harassment was not met. The court explained that a reasonable jury could not find that DCS acted with deliberate indifference, that it intentionally discriminated against the girl, or that Defendants' actions were arbitrary or conscience-shocking. Thus, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to the defendants on the family's Title IX, Title VI, equal protection, and substantive due process claims. View "Jasmine Adams, et al v. Demopolis City Schools, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued The Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc. (“SCAD”) for race discrimination and retaliation after he was fired from his job as Head Fishing Coach. As part of his employment onboarding, however, Plaintiff signed a document agreeing to arbitrate—not litigate—all legal disputes that arose between him and SCAD. Accordingly, SCAD moved to dismiss and compel arbitration. The district court, approving and adopting the magistrate judge’s Report and Recommendation (“R & R”), granted SCAD’s motion. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the district court erred by ignoring that his agreement with SCAD was unconscionable and that SCAD waived its right to arbitrate. He also argued that the district court abused its discretion in rejecting his early discovery request.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting SCAD’s motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. The court concluded that the Plaintiff’s arbitration agreement is neither substantively nor procedurally unconscionable. Further, the court found that SCAD did not waive its right to enforce arbitration and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Plaintiff’s request for early discovery. In short, the court concluded that Plaintiff is bound by his agreement to arbitrate his legal claims against SCAD. View "Isaac Payne v. Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc." on Justia Law

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During a domestic dispute, Plaintiff shot his unarmed twenty-two-year-old son, killing him. He was arrested and prosecuted for murder but was acquitted after a jury trial. Plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the City of Apopka, Florida and some of its police officers. He asserted a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 claim that he was arrested without probable cause, a Florida state law claim for false arrest based on the same contention, and a Section 1983 claim that the officers’ search of his home violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Plaintiff challenged the denial of his motion for a new trial that based on the failure to give a municipal liability jury instruction that he requested. On remand, the district court followed the Eleventh Circuit’s mandate. It determined that there was actual probable cause to support Plaintiff’s arrest and that even in light of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial. Plaintiff contended, among other things, that he was arrested without probable cause.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to give Plaintiff’s requested instruction because the issue of custom or practice liability was not, as the court pointed out, properly before the jury. The court explained that the district court, as it was required to do, followed the Eleventh Circuit’s mandate when it determined that the issue of custom or practice municipal liability was not properly before the jury. View "Timothy Davis, Sr. v. City of Apopka" on Justia Law

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Defendant, who has long struggled with serious mental-health issues—has a pattern of threatening judges. This case arises out of a threat that he recently made against a federal magistrate judge in his hometown of Fort Pierce, Florida. Defendant was convicted in federal court of (1) mailing a threatening communication in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 876(c) and (2) threatening a federal official. For his crimes, he was sentenced to 60 months in prison. Defendant now challenged his convictions and sentence on five grounds.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the judge expressly considered two other factors when making his sentencing decision, both of which he cited as bases for an upward departure: (1) Defendant’s history of making threats; and (2) the evidence of racial animus. Further, even if the district judge’s reference to his own religious experience was improper, it didn’t “substantially affect his selection of Defendant’s sentence”—and, therefore, was harmless. View "USA v. Lawrence F. Curtin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that Defendant falsely arrested him, used excessive force in doing that, and then was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s alleged medical needs. The district court granted Officer Miller’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed Plaintiff’s case for failure to state a claim.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s entry of summary judgment in part and reversed in part. The court explained that the dash-cam recording from Plaintiff’s interaction with Defendant proves definitively that Defendant did not falsely arrest Plaintiff. And though the dash-cam recording does not resolve Plaintiff’s deliberate indifference claim, Plaintiff hasn’t shown that any violation Defendant may have committed was clearly established. So Defendant is entitled to qualified immunity on that claim as well. As for Plaintiff’s excessive-force claim, the recording did not capture Defendant’s physical arrest of Plaintiff. Accordingly, the court wrote that it must rely on the default summary-judgment rule and assume the truth of Plaintiff’s attestations that Defendant used excessive force in arresting him. Thus the court concluded that the excessive-force claim survives summary judgment. View "Eric K. Brooks v. D Miller" on Justia Law

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This appeal centers around section 4(a)(1)–(3) of Alabama’s Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act (the “Act”). Section 4(a)(1)–(3) of the Act states that “no person shall engage in or cause” the prescription or administration of puberty-blocking medication or cross-sex hormone treatment to a minor “for the purpose of attempting to alter the appearance of or affirm the minor’s perception of his or her gender or sex if that appearance or perception is inconsistent with the minor’s sex.” Shortly after the Act was signed into law, a group of transgender minors, their parents, and other concerned individuals challenged the Act’s constitutionality, claiming that it violates the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As part of that lawsuit, the district court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining Alabama from enforcing section 4(a)(1)–(3) of the Act.   The Eleventh Circuit vacated the preliminary injunction. The court held that the district court abused its discretion in issuing this preliminary injunction because it applied the wrong standard of scrutiny. The plaintiffs have not presented any authority that supports the existence of a constitutional right to “treat [one’s] children with transitioning medications subject to medically accepted standards.” Nor have they shown that section 4(a)(1)–(3) classifies on the basis of sex or any other protected characteristic. Accordingly, section 4(a)(1)–(3) is subject only to rational basis review. The court explained that the district court erred by reviewing the statute under a heightened standard of scrutiny, its determination that Paintiffs have established a substantial likelihood of success on the merits cannot stand. View "Paul Eknes-Tucker, et al. v. Governor of the State of Alabama, et al." on Justia Law

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Following an investigation, Rollins determined that Plaintiff- John Doe violated its sexual misconduct policy. Doe was able to graduate and receive his undergraduate degree but was not allowed to participate in commencement/graduation ceremonies. Rollins imposed a sanction of dismissal, resulting in permanent separation of Doe without the opportunity for readmission; privilege restrictions, including a prohibition on participating in alumni reunion events on or off campus; and a contact restriction as to Roe. Doe sued Rollins in federal court, asserting two claims under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. Section 1681—one for selective enforcement and one for erroneous outcome—and a third claim under Florida law for breach of contract. Following discovery, the district court excluded the opinions proffered by Doe’s expert as to Rollins’ purported gender bias. Then, on cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court (a) entered summary judgment in favor of Rollins on the Title IX claims and (b) entered partial summary judgment in favor of Doe on the breach of contract claim.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in precluding Doe’s expert from presenting opinions about Rollins’ purported gender bias and that it correctly granted summary judgment in favor of Rollins on Doe’s two Title IX claims. On the breach of contract claim, the court wrote that it cannot review Doe’s challenge to the district court’s partial denial of summary judgment because materiality is not a purely legal issue under Florida law and was later resolved by the jury. View "John Doe v. Rollins College" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment dismissing Plaintiff’s claims against Polk County and two employees who worked at the jail, alleging that the Jail and its employees interfered with his right to communicate freely and confidentially with his attorneys by forcing him to scan his legal mail into a computer with a memory chip.  When Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at that Jail, the Jail required him to scan his legal mail into a computer that contained a memory chip. Though Plaintiff does not know whether anyone other than he read his mail, he worried that the Jail could and may have since it had access to the computer into which he had scanned his mail. Plaintiff sued Polk County and two employees who worked at the Jail. He alleged, among other things, that the Jail and its employees interfered with his right to communicate freely and confidentially with his attorneys by forcing him to scan his legal mail into a computer with a memory chip.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded. The court held that Plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to allow for the reasonable inference that the Jail’s mail-scanning policy infringed on his free-speech rights. However, the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claim under the Due Process Clause. The court explained that because Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee and because his claim involves the deprivation of a “basic necessity” like access to recreational activity, he must satisfy the Eighth Amendment’s objective and subjective standards to prevail on his claim under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. And that’s where his problem arises, as he argues only that the conditions of his confinement were objectively unreasonable. View "Rickey Christmas v. Lieutenant J. Nabors, et al." on Justia Law