Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, Dow, alleging discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq. The district court granted summary judgment for Dow. The court concluded that plaintiff failed to produce any evidence that he was treated less favorably than others similarly situated outside of his protected class, and thus his Title VII discrimination claim failed as a matter of law. In regard to the retaliation claim, the court concluded that no reasonable fact finder could conclude that plaintiff would not have been fired but for his decision to engage in activity protected by Title VII. The court explained that poor performance was not an activity protected by Title VII and, even assuming that plaintiff completed the Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), his negative, post-PIP evaluation independently justified plaintiff's termination. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Alkhawaldeh v. Dow Chemical Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Harris County, after Constable Alan Rosen terminated plaintiff's employment while he was on leave recovering from back surgery. Plaintiff alleged discrimination and retaliation claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., and the Texas Labor Code (TLC), as well as a First Amendment retaliation claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court granted summary judgment to the County. The court concluded that, because plaintiff failed to provide evidence showing any available reasonable accommodations that would have enabled him to perform the essential functions of his job, he cannot establish that he was qualified under the ADA at the time of his termination; because plaintiff failed to raise a material issue of fact on the question of whether he was qualified for his job under the ADA, he also failed to make out a prima facie retaliation claim under the ADA; the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's Title II claims where plaintiff presented no evidence that Harris County discriminated against him outside of the employer–employee context, or that Harris County was not a covered entity under the ADA; and, to the extent plaintiff was not speaking as an employee, he failed to provide evidence showing that he was terminated because of his protected speech under the First Amendment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Moss v. Harris County Constable Precinct One" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a detective in the Sheriff's Department, filed suit against former Sheriff James Michael Byrd and Jackson County, alleging claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., and under Mississippi tort law, including claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). The district court granted Byrd's motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) and denied plaintiff's motion for JMOL. The court found that the district court erred in "decoupling" the evidence when considering Byrd's motion for JMOL and thus reversed as to that issue. The court remanded for reinstatement of the jury's verdict and entry of judgment thereon. The court found no other errors and affirmed the district court in all other respects. View "Seibert v. Jackson County, Mississippi" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff filed an administrative complaint claiming disability discrimination by the Postal Service, the Postal Service and EEOC determined that her case was subsumed within a pending administrative class action. Plaintiff then filed suit against the Postmaster General. On remand, the magistrate judge subsequently determined that plaintiff's claim was properly subsumed within the class action and dismissed plaintiff's case for failure to exhaust. The court concluded that the district court properly determined that plaintiff's claims were subsumed within the McConnell v. Potter class action; the EEOC's notice of plaintiff's right to sue did not establish that she exhausted her administrative remedies with respect to the merits of her disability discrimination claims; the court rejected plaintiff's contention that the magistrate judge erred in dismissing her complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6); and, even if the magistrate judge had dismissed plaintiff's claims under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the dismissal would have been without prejudice and the court's review would remain unchanged. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Ruiz v. Brennan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a math professor at Southern University's New Orleans campus, filed suit against the University, alleging that plaintiff's supervisor engaged in a campaign of harassment that has continued through the filing of this lawsuit. Plaintiff sued the University under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., and the supervisor individually under section 1983. The magistrate judge granted summary judgment for defendants. Principally at issue on appeal was whether the continuing violation doctrine required consideration of a lengthier period of time in evaluating the merit of plaintiff's claims. Like the Tenth Circuit, the court expressly recognized that the court's post-National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan test for the continuing violation doctrine has long implicitly acknowledged: Morgan overruled the court's prior cases to the extent they held that the continuing violation doctrine does not apply when an employee was or should have been aware earlier of a duty to assert her rights. Therefore, the magistrate judge erred by using this factor to prevent plaintiff from showing a continuing violation that would enable her to support her harassment claim with conduct occurring more than 300 days before she filed her EEOC charge. The court further concluded that Morgan's disclaiming of an "on notice" inquiry should also apply to section 1983 hostile work environment claims; concluded that plaintiff has alleged a continuing course of conduct dating back to her return from leave in 2011; remanded for the magistrate judge to evaluate the full scope of the allegedly harassing conduct; and affirmed the dismissal of the Title VII retaliation claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Heath v. Southern University System" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the mother of E.M., filed suit alleging a number of procedural and substantive causes of action under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq., and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794. The court agreed with the district court's holding that the majority of E.M.'s IDEA claims were barred by the one-year statute of limitations period and that E.M. failed to administratively exhaust his Rehabilitation Act claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Reyes v. Manor Independent School District" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was terminated by his employers, he filed suit against them, alleging violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants. The court held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for defendants on the ADA claim because plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the reasons defendants gave for terminating him - a reduction in force - were pretextual. Because the pretext arguments plaintiff raised with respect to the ADA apply equally to the FMLA, the court held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the FMLA claim. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Caldwell v. KHOU-TV" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted of murder and sentenced to death by legal injection, sought a certificate of appealability (COA) to allow review of the district court's rejection of his most recent federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Petitioner argued that the district court erred by affording deference to the state court's determination of federal law— specifically, by applying the deferential standard of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. 2253. The court denied the COA, concluding that, even under a de novo standard of review, no jurist of reason could disagree with the district court's resolution of his constitutional claims or conclude that the issues presented were adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further. View "Ruiz v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, T.M.'s mother, filed suit against the County and others after T.M., a middle school student, was arrested for a fight on school property, taken to a juvenile detention center, and subjected to a strip and cavity search. Plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that the strip and cavity search violated T.M.'s Fourth Amendment rights. The district court granted partial summary judgment for the County on the Fourth Amendment claim. The court applied the deferential test in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders because the deference given to correctional officials in the adult context applies to correctional officials in the juvenile context as well. Applying Florence, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to make a substantial showing that the Center's search policy is an exaggerated or otherwise irrational response to the problem of Center security. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Mabry v. Lee County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against three officers and the City of Fort Worth, alleging violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. Plaintiff's suit stemmed from his arrest after he was video recording a police station from a public sidewalk and refused to identify himself to officers. The district court granted the officers' motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The court concluded that all three officers are entitled to qualified immunity on the First Amendment claim because there was no clearly established First Amendment right to record the police at the time of plaintiff's activities. The court explained for the future that First Amendment principles, controlling authority, and persuasive precedent demonstrate that a First Amendment right to record the police does exist, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. The court also concluded that Officer Grinalds and Dyess's initial questioning or detention of plaintiff before he was handcuffed was objectively unreasonable in light of clearly established law. Therefore, Grinalds and Dyess are entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's claim that they violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from detention absent reasonable suspicion. However, the court concluded that no objectively reasonable person in these officers' position could have believed that there was probable cause to arrest plaintiff and thus they are not entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim that the officers violated his right to be free from warrantless arrest absent probable cause. Finally, Lieutenant Driver is entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claims where Driver acted objectively reasonably in light of the circumstances. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to this claim. View "Turner v. Driver" on Justia Law