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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Eleventh Circuit certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Georgia under O.C.G.A. 15-2-9: Does O.C.G.A. 45-5-3.2 conflict with Georgia Constitution Article VI, Section VIII, Paragraph I(a) (or any other provision) of the Georgia Constitution? View "Gonzalez v. Governor of the State of Georgia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against a deputy sheriff and others, alleging that the deputy violated plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment rights in two ways: (1) by using unconstitutionally excessive force when he placed plaintiff in an unventilated, un-air-conditioned transport van and kept him there for an unreasonable amount of time; and (2) by exhibiting deliberate indifference when he recklessly disregarded plaintiff's serious medical needs. Plaintiff also alleged state law claims. The district court granted the deputy's motion for summary judgment.The Eleventh Circuit held that, although the deputy violated plaintiff's constitutional rights by applying excessive force, it was not clearly established at the time of his transport. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to this claim. The court also held that the deputy exhibited deliberate indifference to plaintiff's serious medical need when he ignored plaintiff's resulting distress, which included unconsciousness, shaking, profuse sweating, and labored breathing. Furthermore, the deputy was on notice that he was confronted with a serious medical need and did nothing to aid plaintiff. Therefore, the deputy was not entitled to qualified immunity on the deliberate indifference claim. Finally, the court held that the district court erred in rejecting plaintiff's adjunct state-law claims on official immunity grounds. View "Patel v. Smith" on Justia Law

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SmileDirect filed suit against the Georgia Board of Dentistry, including the Board’s members in their individual capacities, alleging inter alia, antitrust, Equal Protection, and Due Process violations related to the amendment of Ga. Bd. of Dentistry R. 150-9-.02. On appeal, the Board members challenged the denial of their motion to dismiss the complaint with respect to the alleged antitrust violations.After determining that it does have appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that, based on the facts alleged in SmileDirect's complaint, the Board members are not entitled to state-action immunity under Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341 (1943), at this point in the litigation, and the district court properly denied their motion to dismiss. In this case, the Board members have failed to satisfy the Midcal test by failing to meet the "active supervision" prong of the test and both prongs are necessary to satisfy the test. Furthermore, the court rejected the Board members' argument that ipso facto state-action immunity is available merely because of the Governor's power and duty, and without regard to his actual exercise thereof. The court explained that the Board members have established no more than the mere potential for active supervision on the part of the Governor, and thus they have fallen far short of establishing that the amended rule was "in reality" the action of the Governor. View "SmileDirectClub, LLC v. Battle" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a recent high school graduate and a transgender young man, filed suit against the school board through his next friend and mother, alleging violations of his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment granting plaintiff relief on both claims and held that the school district's policy barring plaintiff from the boys' restroom does not square with the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and Title IX's prohibition of sex discrimination. Applying heightened scrutiny, the court held that the record does not demonstrate that the school board has met its "demanding" constitutional burden by showing a substantial relationship between excluding transgender students from communal restrooms and student privacy. In this case, the policy is administered arbitrarily; the school board's privacy concerns about plaintiff's use of the boys' bathroom are merely hypothesized, with no support in the factual record; and the bathroom policy subjects plaintiff to unfavorable treatment simply because he defies gender stereotypes as a transgender person. Therefore, because the record reveals no substantial relationship between privacy in the school district restrooms and excluding plaintiff from the boys' restroom, the bathroom policy violates the Equal Protection Clause.Applying the Supreme Court's recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, 590 U.S. ___, 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020), the court held that excluding plaintiff from the boys' bathroom amounts to sex discrimination in violation of Title IX. The court explained that Title IX protects students from discrimination based on their transgender status; the school district treated plaintiff differently because of his transgender status and this different treatment caused him harm; and nothing in Title IX's regulations or any administrative guidance on Title IX excuses the discriminatory policy. Furthermore, plaintiff's discrimination claim does not contradict Title IX's implementing regulation. View "Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus based on lack of jurisdiction as an unauthorized second or successive petition. In this case, the state trial court granted in part petitioner's motion to correct sentence, pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.800(a), and issued an amended sentence nunc pro tunc, which removed a 10-year mandatory minimum term on one of his counts of conviction.The court held that the district court properly determined that petitioner's latest section 2254 petition was an unauthorized second or successive petition over which it lacked jurisdiction. The court explained that, because the amended sentence was entered nunc pro tunc under Florida law, it related back to the date of the original judgment and it was not a "new judgment" for purposes of section 2244(b). View "Osbourne v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" 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 pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual battery on a child between the ages of 12 and 18 years old by someone in familial or custodial authority, one count of possession of child pornography with intent to promote, four counts of possession of child pornography, and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.The court held that the district court did not violate Clisby v. Jones, 960 F.2d 925 (11th Cir. 1992) (en banc), by failing to address all claims fully, and petitioner never presented an independent coercion claim; the district court did not err in denying, without an evidentiary hearing, petitioner's claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him of a prosecutorial vindictiveness defense; and the district court did not err in denying, without an evidentiary hearing, petitioner's claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him of a double jeopardy defense to the charges of possession of child pornography and possession of child pornography with intent to promote. The court explained that the vindictive prosecution claim and double jeopardy defense would not have succeeded and petitioner suffered no prejudice from counsel's failure to raise the claims. View "Barritt v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that Paez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 947 F.3d 649, 652–53 (11th Cir. 2020), is not controlling in this case and vacated the district court's dismissal of the petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254. In Paez, the court held that the district court acted within its discretion when it sua sponte dismissed a habeas petition as untimely.In this case, the district court, unlike in Paez, dismissed the petition based on a date that was neither in the record, nor provided by petitioner, nor expressly judicially noticed—a date that, even if properly judicially noticed, was the wrong one for purposes of calculating the timeliness of the petition. Therefore, the court held that the district court abused its discretion in sua sponte dismissing the habeas petition as untimely. The court remanded for the district court to determine the correct remittitur date and proceed accordingly. View "Bryant v. Ford" on Justia Law

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The Independent Party of Florida and the Party for Socialism and Liberation seek to place their presidential candidates on the ballot in Florida without satisfying the requirements of Fla. Stat. 103.021(4)(a)–(b). Under the law, minor parties may access the presidential ballot either by satisfying a one-percent signature requirement or by affiliating with a qualified national party.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the minor parties' motion for a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of these requirements. The court first held that the Party for Socialism and Liberation has Article III standing. In this case, the party will be injured if its candidate is denied access to the ballot; the future injury is impending; the injury is fairly traceable; and the injury could be redressed by an injunction forbidding the Secretary to deny the party access to the ballot based on the challenged provisions.The court applied the Anderson-Burdick test to resolve equal-protection challenges to a ballot-access requirement and held that Florida's goal of accounting for the national interest in presidential elections justifies its decision to provide different paths to the ballot for minor parties that affiliate with a qualified national party and those that do not. Therefore, the minor parties are unlikely to succeed on their claims that the ballot-access requirements unconstitutionally burden their First Amendment rights and deny them equal protection of the laws. View "Independent Party of Florida v. Secretary, State of Florida" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of capital murder for killing a DEA special agent. The court agreed with the district court that the 31 claims in the petition are time-barred and that the extraordinary remedy of equitable tolling cannot excuse the simple negligence of an attorney. In this case, petitioner alleged that his state petition was not properly filed because his attorneys neither paid the filing fee nor filed a motion to proceed without paying the fee until more than one year after his conviction had become final. Petitioner further alleged that counsel received misinformation from the state court clerk's office and thus the federal limitations period should be equitably tolled.The court also held that, although petitioner's Atkins claim was timely, it failed on the merits because the state court's determination that petitioner failed to demonstrate either significant subaverage intellectual functioning or significant deficits in adaptive functioning was neither contrary to nor an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court law, nor was it based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented. View "Clemons v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit granted rehearing en banc and affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to plaintiff's retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. 1981. The court first held that plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Kia's stated reason for firing her -- solicitation of another employee to sue the company -- was a pretext to mask a retaliatory motive, and thus she has necessarily failed to show that a reasonable jury could find that but for the filing of her EEOC charge she would not have been fired.The court also held that an employee's oppositional conduct under Title VII is not protected if the means by which the employee has chosen to express her opposition so interferes with the performance of her job that it renders her ineffective in the position for which she is employed. In this case, Kia held a good faith belief that plaintiff had abandoned her responsibility to try to resolve an employee's dispute without litigation when she instead actively solicited a complaining employee to sue the company and provided the employee with the name of an attorney to use; Kia determined it could no longer keep her as its Manager of Team Relations, the department to which unhappy employees were sent to air their complaints; and Kia fired plaintiff because she chose to act in a way that conflicted with the core objectives of her sensitive and highly important position. View "Gogel v. KIA Motors Manufacturing of Georgia, Inc." on Justia Law