Articles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals

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McKamey, a private non-profit corporation that contracted with Chattanooga to provide animal-welfare services, received complaints about conditions at United pet store. McKamey employees Walsh and Nicholson discovered animals without water, and with no working air conditioning. Aided by Hurn, they removed animals and business records from the store and proceeded to revoke its pet-dealer permit. United filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit against the city; McKamey; and the employees, in their individual and official capacities, alleging that removal of its animals and revocation of its permit without a prior hearing violated procedural due process and that the warrantless seizures violated the Fourth Amendment. The Sixth Circuit held that Hurn, acting as a private animal-welfare officer, may not assert qualified immunity as a defense in the personal capacity suit. Walsh and Nicholson, however, acted as both private animal-welfare officers and specially-commissioned city police officers; they are entitled to summary judgment of qualified immunity on the procedural due-process claims based on the seizure of the animals and of the permit. Regarding the Fourth Amendment claims: Walsh and Nicholson are entitled to summary judgment of qualified immunity on claims based on the seizure of the animals. Nicholson is entitled to summary judgment on the claim based on seizure of the business records. Walsh is denied summary judgment on the claim based on the seizure of business records. Qualified immunity is not an available defense to an official-capacity suit. View "United Pet Supply, Inc. v. City of Chattanooga" on Justia Law

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In 2010, federal prisoner Himmelreich filed a complaint against several defendants, alleging multiple causes of action. The district court dismissed for failure to state a claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of most of the claims and defendants, but vacated and remanded a claim of retaliation in violation of the First Amendment based on Himmelreich’s placement in administrative detention for 60 days in 2009, allegedly in retaliation for filing a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and a claim of failure to protect in violation of the Eighth Amendment based on an assault on Himmelreich by another inmate in 2008. Based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a),and a finding that the Eighth Amendment claim was barred because he had elected to file a claim under the FTCA regarding the assault incident, the district court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit vacated, finding that Himmelreich’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies should have been excused and that the FTCA’s judgment bar does not apply to this case. View "Himmelreich v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons" on Justia Law

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Henness was indicted for murder with prior calculation and design; aggravated robbery-murder; and kidnap-murder. He also was charged with aggravated robbery, kidnapping, four counts of forgery, and having a weapon while under disability. Henness pled guilty to the forgery counts and was convicted of the remaining counts. The trial court adopted the jury’s recommendation that he be sentenced to death. The Ohio Court of Appeals and Ohio Supreme Court affirmed. In 1996, Henness filed a state post-conviction petition, which the trial court denied. The Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed. The Ohio Supreme Court denied Henness permission to further appeal this decision. In 2001, Henness moved to reopen his direct appeal. The court denied the motions because Henness had not established good cause for his failure to timely file the motions. The Ohio Supreme Court rejected his appeal as untimely. In 2001, Henness filed his 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition, which the district court dismissed as meritless. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. In 2013, Henness filed the current Rule 60(b)(6) motion, seeking to revisit the previous dismissal of several ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of the motion as meritless. View "Henness v. Bagley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, physicians and Medicaid providers, wanted to support candidates in the 2010 election, but were barred from doing so by Ohio Rev. Code 3599.45, which limits campaign contributions from Medicaid providers. They sued , arguing that the statute was unconstitutional on its face under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The court rejected that position on plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and on summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding unconstitutionality “clear” and “unavoidable.” The district court then entered a permanent injunction. Plaintiffs sought attorneys’ fees and costs (42 U.S.C. 1988) of $665,645.68. A magistrate recommended an award of $454,635.53 in fees and $6,442.03 in costs, with a $100,183 reduction for investigatory work performed before plaintiffs signed a fee agreement; a 25 percent reduction on discovery fees; and a 25 percent reduction on appellate fees. The district court awarded only $128,908.74 in fees and $6,315.00 in costs, drastically cutting hourly rates, striking hours spent on third-party discovery and other miscellaneous matters, and reducing appellate hours by 50 percent. After arriving at its lodestar calculation, the district court further reduced the fees by 35 percent under the Johnson factors. The court expressed concern that “taxpayers will ultimately bear the burden … Plaintiffs are medical doctors presumably abundantly capable of paying for representation” and that “counsel was merely scouring through campaign laws hoping to find an old one … to challenge in the hope of raking in overstated fees.” The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded for recalculation before a different judge. View "Lavin v. Husted" on Justia Law

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Kathleen was a tenured professor of geology at Central Michigan University (CMU). In 2011, her husband Christopher, a CMU student, sponsored a vote of no confidence in the president and provost of the university. Shortly after, in accordance with the faculty’s collective bargaining agreement, Kathleen took a semester of sabbatical leave, agreeing to return to CMU for at least a full year following sabbatical or return any compensation received during her leave. While Kathleen was on sabbatical, she became eligible for and requested a pay supplement. Her department recommended denial. The reviewing dean agreed. Kathleen appealed, but resigned before a final decision. CMU requested that Kathleen return her sabbatical compensation. When she refused, CMU sued in state court for breach of contract. Because Christopher’s tuition had been remitted for Spring 2012 as part of Kathleen’s benefits and Kathleen was contractually obligated to repay her benefits for that semester, CMU determined that Christopher had an outstanding tuition balance and placed a hold on his transcript. The couple sued in federal court alleging retaliation because of Christopher’s role in the no-confidence resolution. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part, finding sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether CMU filed suit against Kathleen and placed a hold on Christopher’s transcript in retaliation for Christopher’s exercise of his First Amendment rights. CMU, as represented by its president in his official capacity, cannot shield itself from liability by invoking qualified immunity. View "Benison v. Ross" on Justia Law

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U.S. Marshals arrived at Krause’s Redford home on December 12, 2008 with a warrant for Krause’s arrest for felony possession of more than 50 grams of cocaine. When Krause saw the Marshals, he slammed the door shut and ran into a bedroom. The Marshals followed. One entered the bedroom but left when he found Krause standing in the corner pointing a handgun at him. As the others took up positions around the bedroom, they again announced themselves and explained they had a warrant for his arrest. Krause told them he had multiple guns and would kill anyone who tried to enter. A negotiator began talking to Krause from the hallway outside the open bedroom door. They talked for about eight hours. Sometimes Krause yelled and screamed; sometimes he “got very quiet.” Officers brought in Krause’s father and girlfriend to talk to Krause, without success. Eventually, the officers used a “flash bang” device in an effort to stun Krause. In the seconds that followed, Krause fired a shot at the officers; an officer fatally shot Krause in response. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court granted qualified immunity to the officers. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The decisions to use a flash bang and to shoot Krause were reasonable, not “reckless,” View "Krause v. Jones" on Justia Law

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In 1983 Esparza shot and killed Melanie Gerschults during the armed robbery of a Toledo restaurant, during which $110 was taken from the cash register. Another employee escaped and sought help. At trial, a fellow inmate and a sibling testified that Esparza had confessed. During the penalty phase, Esparza’s lawyers focused on his troubled youth. He was sentenced to death. After Ohio state courts refused to alter his sentence, Esparza unsuccessfully sought federal habeas relief. The Supreme Court reversed in 2003. On remand, the district court reconsidered and rejected Esparza’s claims and granted him a certificate of appealability on ineffective-assistance and continuance claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed; Ohio courts reasonably rejected his claims. Essentially, Esparza argued that his lawyers developed too much bad evidence at the penalty phase of his trial and not enough good. Esparza failed to show prejudice in his denial-of-continuance claim. The court stated that its “decision is not necessarily the end of the road for Esparza. Among other things, he has the right to file a clemency application with the governor to reduce his sentence from death to life in prison. In light of the many uninvited difficulties in his childhood, this application may be worth a serious look.” View "Esparza v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Dearborn hosted the Arab International Festival from 1995 until 2012, welcoming roughly 250,000 people with carnival attractions, entertainment, and international food. The 2012 Festival had 85 vendors, information tables, and booths, including several affiliated with Christian and other groups. Bible Believers attended the 2011 Festival, bearing “Christian signs, banners, and t-shirts” that provoked confrontations. Preparing for the 2012 Festival, their attorney wrote a letter, asserting that the sheriff sided with “the violent Muslims,” that “officers have a duty to protect speakers … from … hostile audiences,” and demanding protection. Counsel responded, stating that the sheriff “owes a duty to the public as a whole and is not required to serve as a security force for the sole benefit of … Believers … cannot protect everyone from the foreseeable consequences that come from speech that is designed and perhaps intended to elicit a potentially negative reaction.” The sheriff claims to have allocated more personnel to the Festival than to “the World Series or the President of the United States.” At the 2012 Festival, Believers displayed messages including “Islam Is A Religion of Blood and Murder.” One carried a severed pig’s head on a stick; others preached, using a megaphone, referring to a “pedophile” prophet. The crowd yelled, threw debris, and shoved a Believer to the ground. Officers detained debris-throwers and attempted to quell the crowd. As the confrontation intensified, Believers continued to preach. Officers reiterated safety concerns. Officers escorted the Believers out. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the county defendants. Finding no constitutional violations, it did not address qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the plan for Festival security was content-neutral and that the Believers were not treated differently than the counter-protestors. View "Bible Believers v. Wayne Cnty. " on Justia Law

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Batey’s minor nephew Matthew was admitted to a mental health facility. Matthew’s older brother Jason told his parents that Batey had been sexually abusing Matthew and Jason for years. Matthew confirmed the abuse. At Batey’s trial on two counts of criminal sexual conduct, Matthew and Jason testified that Batey had abused them. Their mother testified that Matthew’s behavior had worsened leading up to his breakdown and confirmed that, Jason revealed Batey’s abuse. Batey’s defense was that the parents manufactured the accusations because he is gay and because he had encouraged the boys to explore their homosexual feelings; he argued that it was Jason who sexually abused Matthew. Jason had molested Matthew and told the police as much when he accused Batey. Fearing a confusing “fishing expedition” and unduly prejudicial information about Matthew’s sexual history, the trial court granted the state’s motion in limine prohibiting any exploration of Matthew and Jason’s sexual history with each other in accordance with Michigan’s rape-shield law. Batey was permitted to challenge the boys’ credibility on their mental health issues, inconsistencies in their testimony, Jason’s drug and alcohol abuse, and his tendency to lie. The jury convicted Batey and the judge sentenced him to 15 to 45 years. Batey’s direct appeals were unsuccessful. He is on parole. The district court denied his federal habeas petition based on an alleged Confrontation Clause violation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The probative value of evidence about Jason’s molestation of Matthew was marginal and any error was harmless. View "Batey v. Haas" on Justia Law

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Dr. Kiser is trained as a general dentist and as an endodontist specializing in root canal procedures. In 2009, the Ohio State Dental Board issued a warning to Kiser for practicing “outside the scope” of his declared specialty, stating, “if you wish to continue to declare yourself as a specialist in endodontics, you must advertise accordingly, and limit your practice per the ADA’s definition. If you would prefer to practice in areas outside the scope of endodontics, you may do so by no longer holding yourself out as a specialist in endodontics. You can be a general dentist, and then advertise and perform specialty services you are qualified to perform, so long as you also state you are a general dentist.” The Board took no further action and declined to answer Kiser’s 2012 inquiry about signage including the terms “endodontist” and “general dentist.” Kiser challenged the regulations as chilling his exercise of First Amendment commercial speech rights. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed, applying the Supreme Court decision, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus (2014) and finding that Kiser alleged facts demonstrating that he faces a credible threat that the regulations will be enforced against him in the future, so that he has standing to assert his pre-enforcement challenge. View "Kiser v. Reitz" on Justia Law