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

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that defendant, in his official capacity as the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), violated his constitutional rights by continuing to publish his personally identifiable information on FDLE's sex offender registry website even after plaintiff had completed probation and was no longer subject to Florida registration laws. The court held that, although plaintiff has not waived his continuing violation argument, his claims are time-barred because there was no continuing violation. Furthermore, Nichols v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1113 (2016), does not affect the accrual of plaintiff's claims under Florida's statute of limitations. View "McGroarty v. Swearingen" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment based on qualified immunity to defendants in an 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by plaintiff, alleging that police officers used excessive force, among other things, when they tased, beat, and broke plaintiff's jaw after a routine accident investigation. The court held that the district court did not view the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff before ruling against him. The court stated that, at the summary judgment stage, the Graham factors favor an excessive force finding for both the tasing and the later force applied when plaintiff was taken out of the truck. Furthermore, striking a compliant suspect who has surrendered his hands and stopped all resistance amounts to a clearly established constitutional violation. View "Stryker v. City of Homewood" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against a Miami-Dade police officer under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the officer shot him without provocation while his truck was stopped at a red light. Plaintiff is presently incarcerated, after a Florida state jury convicted him of aggravated assault and fleeing to elude among other crimes.The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff has not waived this appeal by failing to object to the report and recommendation, because it did not inform plaintiff of all of the consequences on appeal for failing to object. On the merits, the court held that Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), does not bar plaintiff's lawsuit and the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the officer. In this case, the officer focuses on just two of plaintiff's state court convictions -- for aggravated assault and fleeing to elude, conceding as he must that plaintiff's remaining convictions could not be negated if his section 1983 action were to succeed. Therefore, the entry of a judgment in plaintiff's favor on his section 1983 excessive force suit would not necessarily imply the invalidity of his state court convictions. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Harrigan v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court misapplied the Anderson-Burdick framework when it enjoined the State defendants' enforcement of a long-standing Georgia absentee ballot deadline, which requires ballots to be received by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day to be counted. The district court, instead, manufactured its own ballot deadline so that the State is now required to count any ballot that was both postmarked by and received within three days of Election Day. Because the State defendants have met all four prongs of the Nken test, the court granted their motion to stay the injunction.The court concluded that the State defendants have shown that they will likely succeed on the merits of their claim because the district court did not properly apply the appropriate framework. The court explained that Georgia's decades-old absentee ballot deadline is both reasonable and nondiscriminatory, while its interests in maintaining that deadline (especially now that absentee voting has already begun) are at least "important"—as the district court itself recognized—and likely compelling. In this case, the district court erred by finding that Georgia's Election Day deadline severely burdened the right to vote, and by improperly weighing the State's interests against this burden. The court also concluded that Georgia will suffer irreparable harm absent a stay and a stay is in the public interest. Therefore, because Georgia's decades-old Election Day deadline for absentee ballots does not threaten voting rights, and is justified by a host of interests, the court stayed the district court's injunction of that deadline. View "The New Georgia Project v. Raffensperger" on Justia Law

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The City of Miami moved to terminate a consent decree that regulated how the City of Miami treats its homeless residents twenty years after its adoption based on changed circumstances, fulfillment of its purpose, and substantial compliance with its requirements. The district court ruled that the City had not violated the consent decree, granted its motion for termination, and denied the opposing motion for contempt. The district court terminated the decree because the City had substantially complied with the core purpose of the settlement agreement, that is, to stop the criminalization of homelessness. Furthermore, the district court found no evidence that would negate a finding of substantial compliance. The district court also found changed circumstances in Miami, but did not rely on those findings as a basis for termination.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the termination of the consent decree and the denial of the contempt motion, holding that the district court correctly interpreted the decree and did not abuse its discretion by terminating the decree. Applying Florida contract law, the court held that, although the homeless identify one misinterpretation of the consent decree, they failed to identify any errors that establish noncompliance by the City. The court also held that the district court correctly applied the burden of proof on the City's motion for termination by bifurcating its analyses; did not abuse its discretion by granting the motion for termination; and did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion for contempt. View "Peery v. City of Miami" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit dismissed defendant's appeal of the district court's order that he claims denied him qualified immunity. The court held that the order is not appealable because the district court did not enter an appealable order denying defendant qualified immunity, but instead dismissed the complaint and granted plaintiffs leave to amend it. Therefore, a different finality rule applies: an order dismissing a complaint for leave to amend within a specified time becomes a final judgment if the time allowed for amendment expires. In this case, defendant filed his notice of appeal two days before the order granting plaintiffs leave would become final and there is no later judgment that could have cured defendant's premature notice of appeal. Therefore, defendant did not appeal from a final order of the district court and the court lacked jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291 over the appeal. View "Fuller v. Carollo" on Justia Law

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When a defendant could not pay fines imposed by Gardendale, Alabama's municipal court immediately, she was placed on probation. A for-profit company, PPS, supervised probationers until they fully paid their fines, fees, and costs. PPS was compensated for its services, “not by the City, but by [the] sentenced offenders.” PPS collected $40 fees from its supervisees for every month that they remained on probation. The judge gave pre-signed, blank Sentence of Probation forms to PPS, which filled in the blanks to enhance probationers’ sentences by extending the duration of probation, increasing the fines, or adding conditions of probation. No judge ever reviewed those enhancements. Until a probationer satisfied all obligations imposed by PPS, she remained in probationary status, subject to jail-time for noncompliance.The plaintiffs committed misdemeanor offenses and were placed on probation. PPS enhanced each of their sentences: doubling one probationary term, increasing a fine by $100, and imposing additional conditions. The district court dismissed their claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The contract was subsequently terminated. PPS no longer operates in Gardendale.The Eleventh Circuit reversed. The Due Process Clause forbids adjudication by a judge who has a financial interest in the outcome of his decisions, provided that the interest—personal or otherwise—is substantial enough to give him a “possible temptation” to forsake impartiality. PPS performed a judicial function, acting in a “quasi-judicial capacity,” when it imposed binding sentence enhancements that were final and were consistently treated as binding. View "Harper v. Professional Probation Services Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution against a county sheriff's deputy. Plaintiff alleged that the deputy, or one of her law enforcement colleagues, planted the marijuana they found on his property. The district court denied the deputy's motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The deputy then sought an interlocutory appeal of the district court's qualified immunity ruling.The Eleventh Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the deputy's appeal challenging the factual sufficiency of the district court's determination that there is a genuine dispute as to whether the marijuana evidence was planted. In this case, the deputy does not present a legal question but simply asks the court to review the factual sufficiency of the district court's determination. View "Hall v. Flournoy" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254 to petitioner, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the kidnapping, forcible rape, and malice murder of two little girls. At issue was whether the lawyers who represented petitioner at the 1999 retrial deprived him of his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel in failing to attain and present mitigation evidence.The court held that, on this record, it would be hard put to say that the district court erred in rejecting petitioner's Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder claim. Furthermore, petitioner failed to demonstrate that defense counsel's conduct in connection with the retrial of the penalty phase fell below Strickland v. Washington's performance standard. As for its prejudice standard, the court held that a retrial of the penalty phase would result in the same verdict, a death sentence. View "Presnell v. Warden" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Petitioner was sentenced to death for three murders and two attempted murders of two young children. Petitioner alleged that trial counsel were constitutionally ineffective at sentencing because they relied on residual doubt and because they failed to investigate and present additional mitigating evidence concerning petitioner's childhood, substance abuse, and cognitive deficits.The court held that counsels' performance was not constitutionally deficient. Furthermore, the state court's determination that petitioner suffered no prejudice on account of any alleged deficiencies in the performance of his counsel was neither contrary to nor an unreasonable application of clearly established law, nor was it based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented. View "Franks v. GDCP Warden" on Justia Law