Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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In this interlocutory appeal, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to a police officer who stopped, frisked, and handcuffed a person who had been watching another police officer perform traffic stops. The court agreed with the district court that genuine issues of material fact preclude the officer from receiving qualified immunity at this stage. In this case, under Walker v. City of Pine Bluff, 414 F.3d 989 (8th Cir. 2005), the officer violated plaintiff's clearly established right to watch police-citizen interactions at a distance and without interfering. View "Chestnut v. Wallace" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an assistant professor at Macalester College, filed suit against the college after she was terminated for violating the college's policies on student-teacher relationships. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims for discriminatory discharge based on disability under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). The court held that plaintiff's claim regarding the departing provost was raised for the first time on appeal and therefore could not be considered by the court; the district court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that plaintiff's motion to amend her complaint to add claims under the Family Medical Leave Act was untimely and futile; and, even if plaintiff made a prima face case of discrimination, the court concluded on de novo review that the college articulated a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating plaintiff based on her sexual relationship with a former student. Finally, the court held that plaintiff's claim for failure to accommodate her disability under section 504 failed as a matter of law. View "Naca v. Macalester College" on Justia Law

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A Missouri statute and two regulations that regulate retail advertising by alcohol producers and distributors violated the First Amendment right to free speech. The Eighth Circuit held that, although the statute on its face does not restrict speech, its practical operation restricts speech based on content and speaker identity, and thus the statute implicates the First Amendment. Furthermore, Missouri's authority under the Twenty-First Amendment cannot save the statute from its First Amendment implications. Under the Central Hudson test, the court held that Missouri has not demonstrated that the harm of undue influence is real or that the Statute alleviates this harm to a material degree. Furthermore, Missouri has also failed to prove that the Statute’s speech restriction as applied is not more extensive than necessary to serve its interest. Like the statute, the court held that the regulations failed to meet Central Hudson's third and fourth prongs. View "Missouri Broadcasters Assoc. v. Schmitt" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an amended complaint seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that each individual defendant violated his constitutional right to procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment when the local animal shelter, after a five-day holding period, put a stray dog up for adoption and spayed the dog before delivering it to the adopting family. Defendants did not know that the stray dog was plaintiff's young German Shepherd, which boasts world champion lineage and had escaped from plaintiff's back yard two weeks earlier. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court failed to devote sufficient attention to whether plaintiff had a protected procedural due process property interest and if so, the nature and extent of that interest. The court agreed with the Supreme Court of Arkansas that affirmative pre-deprivation notice is not constitutionally required in this situation, when an animal shelter holds a stray dog for more than five days and then adopts out and spays the dog after the owner fails to file a claim. The court also held that plaintiff failed to prove that each individual defendant's conduct violated his right to procedural due process. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's order insofar as it denied summary judgment to the individual defendants acting in their individual capacities, remanding with directions. View "Lunon v. Botsford" on Justia Law

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Vianney appealed the district court's summary judgment rulings on their Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) claims, Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Missouri RFRA) claim; and inverse condemnation claim under Missouri's Constitution. The Eighth Circuit affirmed as to the RLUIPA claims, holding that the city's lighting and sound regulations did not substantially burden, rather than merely inconvenienced, Vianney's religious exercise. In this case, Vianney has not demonstrated that a requirement that it avail itself of alternatives would substantially burden its religious exercise, and the record demonstrated that Vianney was not treated less favorably than other schools. The court also affirmed as to the inverse condemnation claim, holding that Missouri courts have held that the reasonable exercise of a city's police power does not constitute a taking and the regulations here did not impose unusually restrictive limitations. However, the court vacated as to the Missouri RFRA claim, because the district court abused its discretion in deciding this state law claim on the merits after granting the city summary judgment on the RLUIPA claims. Accordingly, the court remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss the claim without prejudice. View "Marianist Province of the U.S. v. City of Kirkwood" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's adverse grant of summary judgment in his 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against Police Chief Kitch and Officers Karr, Bland and McIntosh. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's official capacity claims and that Kitch was entitled to summary judgment in his individual capacity. The court also held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's claim that Karr violated his rights by conducting a traffic stop of his vehicle; the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on plaintiff's claim that Karr violated his rights by extending the traffic stop for a drug-dog sniff because, at the time of the traffic stop, it was not clearly established that the extension of the stop was unconstitutional; Karr and Bland were entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's claim that they violated his rights by searching his truck; McIntosh was entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's claim related to his arrest on a stolen property charge, because it was beyond genuine dispute that, when McIntosh submitted his probable cause statement, he was aware of facts warranting a belief that plaintiff had possessed stolen property; and the district court did not resolve the issues surrounding plaintiff's claim that Karr violated his rights by arresting him for violating a city obstruction ordinance. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded for consideration of the obstruction claim. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "Sours v. Karr" on Justia Law

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After the Supreme Court struck down the Armed Career Criminal Act's residual clause as unconstitutionally vague in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551, 2557, 2563 (2015), petitioner moved for permission to file a second or successive 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate the life sentence imposed on count 3. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not err on remand by applying the concurrent sentence doctrine. The court held that, in light of the life sentence imposed on count 2 and the sentencing court's specific statements that petitioner remain in prison for life, there was no error in the district court's conclusion that the resulting sentence for the murder conviction would remain the same even assuming petitioner had set forth a valid Johnson challenge. Furthermore, the district court was not required to order a full resentencing; petitioner was not prejudiced; and petitioner's clemency argument lacked merit. View "Oslund v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the employer's motion for summary judgment in an action brought by plaintiff, a former employee, alleging gender-based discrimination. The court held that summary judgment was appropriate where, assuming his assertions were true, none of plaintiff's purported direct evidence established the required specific link between his termination and gender-based animus; plaintiff failed as a matter of law to provide sufficient evidence to give rise to a jury question on the issue of disparate treatment; and any error in declining to consider plaintiff's direct evidence argument was harmless. View "Rinchuso v. Brookshire Grocery Co." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was terminated, she filed suit against the President of Henderson State University for employment discrimination. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendant, holding that plaintiff was an at-will employee at the time of her termination. In this case, passing a proposed budget including plaintiff's name, title, and salary, did not create an employment contract. Therefore, plaintiff had no property right in continued employment. In regard to plaintiff's claim that she has a protected liberty interest in her reputation, which entitled her to a name-clearing hearing, the court held that plaintiff presented no evidence of defendant directly accusing her of stealing or mismanagement. Furthermore, any claims that plaintiff was stigmatized by innuendo or defendant's commenting on any part of the audit report failed. Therefore, plaintiff failed to establish that she was deprived of a protected liberty interest in her reputation. View "Correia v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging an Arkansas anti-loitering law that bans begging in a manner that is harassing, causes alarm, or impedes traffic. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a statewide preliminary injunction preventing Arkansas from enforcing the ban while plaintiffs pursue their claim that the law violates the First Amendment. The court held that plaintiffs had standing to seek a preliminary injunction where plaintiff's chilled speech amounted to a constitutional injury, the injury was fairly traceable to the potential enforcement of the anti-loitering law, and the injury would be redressable by an injunction. The court held that plaintiffs were likely to prevail on their First Amendment claim, because Arkansas failed to establish that the law was narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling interest. Furthermore, plaintiffs have established that the law likely violates the First Amendment, and thus they have satisfied the remaining three Dataphase factors. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in applying the preliminary injunction statewide rather than limiting its application to plaintiffs. View "Rodgers v. Bryant" on Justia Law