Justia Constitutional Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals
DeVries v. Driesen, et al.
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 two years and four months after his claims related to a traffic stop arose. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action as time barred under Iowa's two-year statute of limitations governing personal injury claims. The tolling provision plaintiff relied on comes from the Iowa Tort Claims Act, Iowa Code Ch. 669, not from the personal injury statute, and it has no application in this case. View "DeVries v. Driesen, et al." on Justia Law
O’Brien, Jr., et al. v. Dept. of HHS, et al.
The court reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim for relief under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. 2000bb-1(a) to (c), and vacated the dismissal of plaintiffs' remaining claims. The court concluded that, in light of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., plaintiffs' complaint submitted a facially plausible claim for relief under the Act. View "O'Brien, Jr., et al. v. Dept. of HHS, et al." on Justia Law
Aipperspach v. McInerney, et al.
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that law enforcement officers used excessive force when they shot and killed her brother (Mahir S. Al-Hakim). The district court granted summary judgment to the City, its police chief, and Officers Ballard and Westrich. The court also granted summary judgment to the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and Officers McLaughlin. The court agreed with the district court that the officers' use of deadly force was objectively reasonable and therefore Al-Hakim's Fourth Amendment rights were not violated. The court rejected plaintiff's primary argument that the district court erred in disregarding video footage taken from a news helicopter. The court concluded that the district court viewed the video and concluded that it could not answer the issue of objective reasonableness from the perspective of an officer on the ground. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Aipperspach v. McInerney, et al." on Justia Law
Annex Medical, Inc., et al. v. Sebelius, et al.
Annex, Stuart Lind, and Tom Janas filed suit challenging HHS' contraceptive mandate under the Religioous Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. 2000bb-1(a). Lind, a controlling shareholder of Annex, opposed insurance coverage of contraceptives for Annex's employees. The district court denied Annex and Lind's motion for a preliminary injunction respecting the contraceptive mandate's enforcement. The court concluded that Janas lacks standing to appeal because he did not join the preliminary injunction motion which forms the basis of the appeal; the mandate does not apply to Annex because Annex has fewer than fifty full-time employees and has no government-imposed obligation to offer health insurance of any kind; the only alleged injury is that independent third parties - private health insurance companies not involved in this case - are unable to sell Annex a health insurance plan that excludes healthcare inconsistent with Lind's religious relief; and, ultimately, it is unclear whether Annex's alleged injury is caused by the government defendants and redressable by the federal courts. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's denial and remanded for the district court to conduct more fact-finding to determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists. View "Annex Medical, Inc., et al. v. Sebelius, et al." on Justia Law
281 Care Committee, et al. v. Arneson, et al.
Appellants, two Minnesota-based, grassroots advocacy organizations and their leaders, filed suit claiming that a provision of the Minnesota Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA), Minn. Stat. 211B.01 et seq., inhibits appellants' ability to speak freely against school-funding ballot initiatives and, thereby, violates their First Amendment rights. The court rejected the county attorney's renewed challenge to standing; because the speech at issue occupies the core of the protection afforded by the First Amendment, the court applied strict scrutiny to legislation attempting to regulate it; the county attorneys failed to demonstrate that the interests advanced in support of section 211B.06 - preserving fair and honest elections and preventing fraud on the electorate - is narrowly tailored to meet a compelling government interest where the section is both overbroad and underinclusive and is not the least restrictive means of achieving any stated goal; and the attorney general is immune to suit. Accordingly, the court dismissed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "281 Care Committee, et al. v. Arneson, et al." on Justia Law
Williams v. Holley
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against a former police officer in his individual capacity, alleging that the officer used excessive force in tasing and shooting her father. The district court denied summary judgment to the officer based on qualified immunity. The district court found that the circumstantial evidence raised questions of fact regarding material aspects of the officer's account of the event. The court concluded that a reasonable juror could find that plaintiff's father had been raising his arms to defend himself from the officer's gunshots rather than attacking the officer as described. These inferences taken together would support a reasonable conclusion that the father was not the threat that the officer described and the officer's use of lethal force against the father was unreasonable. Accordingly, the court concluded that the district court did not err in denying the officer's motion for summary judgment on this claim. The court affirmed. View "Williams v. Holley" on Justia Law
Red River Freethinkers v. City of Fargo
The Red River Freethinkers filed suit challenging a Ten Commandments monument in Fargo, North Dakota. On remand, the district court granted summary judgment to the City and Freethinkers appealed. The court concluded that the monument in this case is permissible under Van Orden v. Perry and ACLU Nebraska Found. v. City of Plattsmouth. The City did not adopt a religious point of view, instead citing legal challenges, the City's interest in ending anguished debate, and the importance of embracing and tolerating all people. By adopting the petition, the City did not necessarily endorse the specific meaning that any particular petitioner sees in the monument. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the City, concluding that the monument does not violate the Establishment Clause. View "Red River Freethinkers v. City of Fargo" on Justia Law
Lee v. Borders
Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, an employee of the Center, in state court for battery and under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for deprivation of her substantive due process right to bodily integrity. Plaintiff also filed suit against the Center and the Department, who removed the case to federal court and were subsequently dismissed from the case. The case stemmed from defendant's sexual assault of plaintiff while plaintiff was a resident at the Center. The jury returned a verdict against defendant on both counts and awarded plaintiff $1 million in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages. The court affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law where there was sufficient evidence to find that defendant was acting under color of state law when he assaulted plaintiff. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of defendant's motion for a new trial where the district court's consent jury instruction was proper; even if the jurors were confused by the instruction, defendant's substantial rights were not affected; the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding the jury's compensatory damages award was sufficiently supported by the evidence presented; and the punitive damages award was not unconstitutionally excessive. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Lee v. Borders" on Justia Law
Gibson v. Cook, et al.
Plaintiff filed suit asserting various state and federal claims against, inter alia, arresting officers, the City, his public defender, his probation officer, and two county sheriffs for delaying plaintiff's release. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing his 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims against defendants. The court concluded that the officers had probable cause to arrest plaintiff on three different occasions; plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to suggest that the public defender reached an understanding with the prosecutor or other state actors to violate his constitutional rights; the county sheriffs properly deferred to the MDOC, which held him in extended custody for an extra day; and claims against the city were foreclosed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Gibson v. Cook, et al." on Justia Law
K.B. v. Waddle, et al.
Plaintiff, a juvenile sexually assaulted by another juvenile, filed suit against several public employees, alleging that they were aware of a threat by the assailant but failed to take steps to prevent the abuse by notifying plaintiff's parents. Plaintiff and the assailant were not under state supervision at the time of the assault, plaintiff was not in state custody when she voluntarily participated in the Center's after-school program, and there was no evidence that plaintiff and the assailant were even under the supervision of any of the officials or their agencies at the time of the assault at the pool. The court concluded that the facts alleged do not establish a violation of the Due Process Clause so the officials are entitled to judgment on the federal claim; a state's failure to protect an individual against private violence generally does not violate the Constitution; in this case, neither the custodial duty exception nor the creation of danger exception applied; and the officials are entitled to official immunity as to plaintiff's state-law negligence claims where public employees are not entitled to immunity for torts committed when they are acting in a ministerial capacity. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of all claims. View "K.B. v. Waddle, et al." on Justia Law