Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Department of Correction impoundments do not violate the First Amendment but the failure to give proper notice of them does violate the Fourteenth Amendment. PLN filed suit contending that the Department's impoundments of its monthly magazine violated its constitutional rights. Applying the Turner standard to determine whether the impoundments of PLN's magazine violated the First Amendment, the court held that limiting three-way calling ads, pen pal solicitation ads, cash-for-stamps ads, prisoner concierge and people locator ads was not so remote from the Department's security and safety interests as to render the impoundments arbitrary or irrational; there were alternative means for PLN to send alternate publications; the impact of accommodating the asserted right favored the Department; and the Department's decision to impound was not an exaggerated response. The court held, however, that the power to impound comes with a duty to inform PLN of the reasons for the impoundments, and thus the district court did not abuse its discretion in entering an injunction to require the Department to adhere to its own notice rules. View "Prison Legal News v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the City's motions for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial in an inverse condemnation action. In this case, the underlying dispute involved a beachfront parcel owned by plaintiffs, which experienced significant public usage. The court held that the evidence at trial supported the jury's finding that a physical taking occurred through the continuous occupation of plaintiffs' property by members of the general public where the City encouraged public occupation by placing beach access signs, clearing vegetation, creating nearby parking spaces, hosting events at the property, and refusing to remove trespassers. The court also held that there was no basis to grant a new trial. Finally, on the City's request for fee simple ownership of the beach parcel upon payment of the judgment—the court held that such relief was not warranted under Florida law and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the City's request to transfer title. The court held that the City has paid for, and was entitled to, a permanent easement across plaintiffs' beach property for the benefit of the public and directed the district court to amend its judgment to reflect this permanent easement. View "Chmielewski v. City of St. Pete Beach" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants for violation of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2721-2725. The Eleventh Circuit held that the DPPA permitted punitive damages against municipal agencies; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it assessed liquidated damages for both occasions when Defendant Thomas accessed plaintiff's information; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to certify a class action; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to grant a new trial; and the district court did not err when it instructed the jury that punitive damages should bear a reasonable relationship to compensatory damages. View "Truesdell v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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The State Executive Clemency Board appealed the district court's orders in favor of appellees James Michael Hand and eight other convicted felons who have completed their sentences and sought to regain their voting rights in Florida. The Eleventh Circuit held that the State Executive Clemency Board has made a sufficient showing under Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 426 (2009), to warrant a stay. The court explained that the Fourteenth Amendment expressly empowered the states to abridge a convicted felon's right to vote; binding precedent held that the Governor had broad discretion to grant and deny clemency, even when the applicable regime lacked any standards; and, although a reenfranchisement scheme could violate equal protection if it had both the purpose and effect of invidious discrimination, appellees have not alleged -- let alone established as undisputed facts -- that Florida's scheme has a discriminatory purpose or effect. View "Hand v. Scott" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a writ of habeas corpus vacating his convictions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court held that petitioner was not denied due process or access to the courts because he was unable—due to the unavailability of a transcript of his criminal trial—to prove in collaterally attacking his convictions that his trial attorneys rendered ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The court held that the state court's decision affirming the collateral-attack court's denial of relief was not contrary to, nor involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established United States Supreme Court precedent. View "Bush v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus. The court held that federal habeas relief was not warranted on petitioner's claim that his Sixth Amendment right to self-representation was violated under Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975). The court held that there was no basis to conclude that the Florida Supreme Court's denial of petitioner's Sixth Amendment self-representation claim was either contrary to or an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent, or that it resulted from an unreasonable determination of the facts. View "Barnes v. Secretary, Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a 28 U.S.C. 2241 petition, but on different grounds. Petitioner was convicted of murdering Eleventh Circuit Judge Robert Vance and sentenced to death. The court held that petitioner had Article III standing to challenge Alabama's exercise of custody given his previously-imposed federal sentences, and that his second claim did not constitute an unauthorized second or successive section 2254 petition. The court held, however, that petitioner's claims failed on the merits. The court's own precedent foreclosed petitioner's substantive assertion that the Alabama execution could not be carried out until the federal sentences of life imprisonment were complete. View "Moody v. Warden Holman CF" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, a deputy in the sheriff's office, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights were violated when the deputy seized his iPhone after plaintiff took photos and videos of a car accident crash scene from an interstate grass median. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's determination that the seizure constituted a Fourth Amendment violation. Furthermore, plaintiff's rights were clearly established at the time of the seizure such that defendant was not entitled to qualified immunity. View "Crocker v. Deputy Sheriff Steven Eric Beatty" on Justia Law

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The Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) excepts authorized acts of lobbying from its purview. The Eleventh Circuit denied plaintiffs' appeal of an adverse summary judgment granted for defendants, holding that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants violated the DPPA by obtaining and disclosing each plaintiff's driver's license photo for an impermissible purpose. The court held that the distribution of the photos related directly to Defendant Fewless' lobbying efforts, and when he distributed the photos, he was acting on behalf of a Federal, State, or local agency in carrying out its functions. Therefore, the district court correctly determined that defendants were entitled to summary judgment. In the alternative, defendants were entitled to qualified immunity where there was no case law clearly establishing that Fewless' use of the photos was impermissible. Furthermore, plaintiffs were required to show that no reasonable officer in the officers' position could have believed that he was accessing or distributing the photos for a permissible use under the DPPA. View "Baas v. Fewless" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court held that the Supreme Court of Georgia reasonably concluded that petitioner's attorneys were not deficient for failing to uncover mitigating evidence from petitioner's childhood. The court also held that the state court reasonably concluded that the attorneys' failure to hire an independent crime-scene expert to corroborate petitioner's account of the murders did not prejudice him. View "Morrow v. Warden, Georgia Diagnostic Prison" on Justia Law