Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Hard Candy's request for a jury trial in an action under the Lanham Act. In this case, Hardy Candy sought every remedy permitted by the Act besides actual damages: an injunction to prevent future infringement, an accounting and the disgorgement of profits that the defendant made from the allegedly infringing goods, and declaratory relief, along with fees and costs. The court held that the remedy of an accounting and disgorgement of profits for trademark infringement is equitable in nature and has long been considered that way, and thus a plaintiff seeking the defendant's profits in lieu of actual damages is not entitled to a jury trial. The panel also held that the district court did not err in its merits determinations on infringement and fair use. View "Hard Candy, LLC v. Anastasia Beverly Hills, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit dismissed this insurance dispute case, holding that Gerber, as assignee of the insured, did not have standing to bring a declaratory judgment class action against GEICO. In this case, the action did not assert any claims for money damages and there was no substantial likelihood that the insured would suffer a future injury. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint for lack of standing. View "A&M Gerber Chiropractic LLC v. Geico General Insurance Co." 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

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In the underlying action, a death row inmate brought an as-applied challenge to Alabama's lethal injection protocol. After the inmate's case was dismissed, members of the press intervened, seeking access to the protocol. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to grant intervenors access to a redacted version of the protocol. The court held that Alabama's lethal injection protocol—submitted to the court in connection with a litigated dispute, discussed in proceedings and motions by all parties, and relied upon by the court to dispose of substantive motions—was a judicial record. The court explained that the public had a valid interest in accessing these records to ensure the continued integrity and transparency of our governmental and judicial offices. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in balancing the interests of Alabama, and the intervenors and concluding that Alabama had not shown good cause sufficient to overcome the common law right of access. Furthermore, the district court also properly granted intervention under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 for intervenors seeking to assert their common law right of access to the lethal injection protocol. View "Advance Local Media, LLC v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to a police officer in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging that the officer used excessive force during a routine traffic stop. The court held that a police officer, like the one here, was not entitled to qualified immunity when he intentionally applies unnecessarily tight handcuffs to an arrestee who is neither resisting arrest nor attempting to flee, thereby causing serious and permanent injuries. In this case, plaintiff was in handcuffs for more than five hours and suffered nerve damage to his hands and risks. The court held that such injuries that were not de minimus. View "Sebastian v. Ortiz" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his wife filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. 1983, on behalf of themselves and their daughter, alleging that the assistant principal violated the daughter's rights under the Fourth Amendment when he searched her cellphone, the superintendent violated plaintiff's rights under the First Amendment by restricting his communication with school personnel and access to school property and by prohibiting him from addressing the school board, and other officials violated plaintiff's rights under the Fourth Amendment when they removed him from school premises. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the school officials based on qualified immunity. The court held that the search of the cellphone did not violate clearly established law; the superintendent did not violate clearly established law when he prohibited plaintiff from appearing on school premises and from addressing the school board; and the school officials did not violate clearly established law by removing plaintiff from the volleyball game. View "Jackson v. McCurry" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging a policy that the Georgia Board of Regents set requiring Georgia's three most selective colleges and universities to verify the "lawful presence" of all the students they admit. Plaintiffs, students who are otherwise qualified to attend these schools, are lawfully present in the country based on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) memorandum. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action, holding that the policy did not regulate immigration, was not field preempted, and was not conflict preempted. As to plaintiffs’ equal protection claim, the court declined to extend strict scrutiny and heightened scrutiny, holding that the policy was rationally related to the state's legitimate interest in responsibly investing state resources. In this case, the Regents could have decided to prioritize those students who are more likely to stay in Georgia after graduation, and the Regents might have decided that DACA recipients were less likely to do so because they are removable at any time. The court reasoned that it would be rational for the Regents to conclude that refugees, parolees, and asylees were more likely to stay in Georgia after graduation because they have more permanent ties to the United States than DACA recipients. Therefore, refugees, parolees, and asylees were not similarly situated to DACA recipients. View "Estrada v. Becker" on Justia Law