Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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On a well-lit summer evening in a Des Moines neighborhood with community-reported drug crimes, police officers Minnehan and Steinkamp lawfully stopped Haynes for suspected (mistaken) involvement in a drug deal. The exceedingly polite and cooperative exchange between the three did not make either officer view Haynes as a safety risk. Haynes could not find his driver’s license but shared three separate cards bearing his name. Steinkamp then handcuffed him. While the polite interaction continued, the cuffs stayed on. They also stayed on after a clean frisk and a consensual pocket search. They stayed on after the officers declined Haynes’s invitation to search another pocket and Haynes’s car. The officers declined another squad car’s offer to help.The district court rejected, on summary judgment, Haynes’s Fourth Amendment claims. 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Eighth Circuit reversed. Handcuffs constitute “greater than a de minimus intrusion,” their use requires the officer to demonstrate that the facts available to the officer would warrant a man of reasonable caution in believing that the action taken was appropriate. Here, the officers failed to point to specific facts supporting an objective safety concern during the encounter. Minnehan and Steinkamp had fair notice that they could not handcuff Haynes without an objective safety concern. View "Haynes v. Minnehan" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's adverse grant of summary judgment based on qualified immunity in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by a pretrial detainee against prison officials, alleging violation of his constitutional rights when he was denied visitation with his children due to a blanket policy of prohibiting detainees from visitations by minor children. The court determined that its case law up to now has not necessarily made clear that the prison officials violated plaintiff's constitutional rights by enforcing the blanket prohibition on visitation with minor children, and thus qualified immunity was appropriate to protect defendants from liability.However, the court noted that the time is ripe to clearly establish that such behavior may amount to a constitutional violation in the future. The court joined the Seventh Circuit in holding that prison officials who permanently or arbitrarily deny an inmate visits with family members in disregard of the factors described in Turner v. Safely, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), and Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126 (2003), have acted in violation of the Constitution. View "Manning v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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In an action arising from a constitutional challenge to Missouri's remedial parole review process for individuals sentenced to mandatory life without the possibility of parole for homicide offenses committed as juveniles, a class of Missouri inmates who were sentenced to mandatory life without parole for such juvenile homicide offenses filed suit claiming that Missouri's parole review policies and practices violate their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and their rights to due process of law under the U.S. Constitution and the Missouri Constitution. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court that Missouri's policies and practices, when implemented and considered in combination, worked to deprive plaintiffs of their Eighth Amendment right to a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based upon demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. The court explained that, because the parole review process in place under Senate Bill 590 failed to adequately ensure that juveniles whose crimes reflect only transient immaturity—and who have since matured—will not be forced to serve a disproportionate sentence, it violated the Eighth Amendment.The court affirmed the order of the district court determining that the parole review process of SB 590 violated plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment rights, and affirmed the order determining that Missouri cannot use a risk assessment tool in its revised parole proceedings unless it has been developed to address the unique circumstances of the JLWOP Class. The court vacated the order regarding appointment of counsel and remanded for further proceedings. Finally, the court denied plaintiffs' motion to strike. View "Brown v. Precythe" on Justia Law

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In 1994, the jury convicted Desmond and Jesse Rouse, their cousin Russell Hubbeling, and another cousin of sexually abusing five nieces. Defendants ultimately raised claims in Rule 60(b)(6) motions seeking relief from the dismissal of their initial 28 U.S.C. 2255 motions. The district court denied the Rule 60(b)(6) motions as successive section 2255 motions and granted certificates of appealability.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that newly discovered evidence in support of a claim previously denied and a subsequent change in substantive law justifying relief - fall squarely within the class of Rule 60(b) claims to which the Supreme Court has applied section 2244(b) restrictions. Furthermore, the motions were an improper attempt to circumvent the procedural requirements of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty (AEDPA). Assuming arguendo that petitioners' Rule 60(b)(6) motions were not unauthorized second or successive motions subject to section 2244(b)(3), the district court did not err in determining that the allegations, including claims of newly discovered victim recantations, medical evidence and claims of juror bias, did not meet the extraordinarily high burden of proving actual innocence, a complete miscarriage of justice, or are evidence that would produce an acquittal in a new trial. View "Rouse v. United States" on Justia Law

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After child abuse investigators removed seven minor children from their home, plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging claims against the Governor, DHS, Garland County, and numerous employees of the State and Garland County in their official and individual capacities. The district court dismissed the official capacity claims and granted qualified immunity on all individual capacity claims but one. The district court subsequently granted Defendant Finnegan and Garland County's motions for summary judgment and dismissed all claims with prejudice.The Eighth Circuit affirmed and concluded that the district court properly applied the Heartland test and found that the existence of exigent circumstances justified the taking of the children. Moreover, the removal was ordered in executing a warrant issued by a magistrate who was advised removal was intended. Even if the Fourth Amendment applies in this situation, defendants are entitled to qualified immunity because it was not clearly established in the Eighth Circuit when the children were removed from their home. In regard to post removal proceedings, the court concluded that Finnegan was entitled to qualified immunity where plaintiffs introduced no evidence that Finnegan's find true determination and testimony in administrative and judicial proceedings were "fabricated" or came anywhere near this level of conscience-shocking behavior. View "Stanley v. Hutchinson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, female truck drivers, filed suit against CRST alleging Title VII claims of retaliation and hostile work environment on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, as well as individual constructive discharge claims on behalf of themselves. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of CRST on the class and individual retaliation claims, as well as on the individual hostile work environment and constructive discharge claims.The Eighth Circuit concluded that CRST's removal policy does not constitute per se retaliation. With respect to the pre-2015 members of the class, the court concluded that the removal policy led to a net decrease in the women's pay; the removal policy was materially adverse; but there was no direct evidence that CRST had any motivative discriminatory bias. With respect to the post-2015 members of the class, the court concluded that these members were subject to adverse employment and the district court should address in the first instance the question whether direct or circumstantial evidence establishes that CRST took this adverse employment action in retaliation for the post-2015 class members' Title VII-protected activity.In regard to plaintiffs' individual hostile work environment claims, the court concluded that Plaintiff Fortune has not created a genuine factual dispute whether CRST's response was actionably deficient; plaintiffs have not established the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact whether CRST knew or should have known about ongoing coworker-on-coworker harassment and thereafter failed to take prompt remedial action that was reasonably calculated to end it; and plaintiffs have failed to show such discrimination on the part of CRST itself and therefore have failed to show that the employer created intolerable working conditions or took otherwise discriminatory action. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sellars v. CRST Expedited, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the City of Bloomington, the Hennepin County Attorney, and two Bloomington police officers, seeking a declaration that a state harassment statute and a city ordinance are unconstitutional under the First Amendment, injunctive relief against enforcement of those laws, and nominal damages. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from her desire to produce photographs and video recordings of activities in a public park, where the images captured would include children.The Eighth Circuit dismissed as moot plaintiff's challenge to the harassment statute, which has been superseded by the state legislature; affirmed as to plaintiff's claims for damages against the police officers and the City based on alleged enforcement of the former harassment statute; and reversed and directed entry of judgment for plaintiff on her claim that the city ordinance forbidding photography and video recording in the public park is unconstitutional under the First Amendment as applied to her activity on which the claim is based. The court explained that, because the ordinance is significantly over-inclusive with respect to the City's asserted interest, it is not narrowly tailored and fails strict scrutiny as applied to plaintiff's proposed conduct. View "Ness v. City of Bloomington" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner in an action where petitioner was found guilty of two first-degree murder counts. Although the Missouri Court of Appeals' conclusion that petitioner's counsel performed effectively relied on unreasonable determinations of fact, petitioner failed to show how the error was prejudicial. In this case, the trial court's ruling to deny severance was reasonable and did not amount to an abuse of discretion. Furthermore, even if petitioner could show a substantial probability of severance on appeal, he cannot show an overall reasonable probability of a different outcome in the case. In this case, the evidence against petitioner was convincingly incriminating on both murders and he has not met his burden of showing a reasonable probability of a different outcome in either case even if there was a severance of the cases. View "Donelson v. Steele" on Justia Law

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After the school districts sought modification of existing desegregation consent decrees to allow their exemption from Arkansas's Public School Choice Act, Ark. Code. Ann. 6–18–1906, the district court granted the motions and modified the consent decrees to explicitly limit the transfer of students between school districts. The Department appealed, alleging that the modification imposed an impermissible interdistrict remedy.After a panel of the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's modifications, the Department moved for rehearing, at which point the United States—for the first time—involved itself in the case and asked the court to reconsider its opinion. The court accepted the invitation, received supplemental briefing from the parties, and reversed the judgment of the district court.The court agreed with the Department that the district court abused its discretion by modifying the consent decrees because the 2017 amendments were not a significant change in circumstances supporting modification of the decrees and—even if they were—the district court did not impose a suitably tailored modification. Because no vestige of discrimination traces to interdistrict school transfers, the district court abused its discretion in expanding the consent decrees to prohibit such transfers. View "United States v. Arkansas Department of Education" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against North Homes, a private entity, under 42 U.S.C. 1983 after it confined her when she was 15 years old in a residential correctional unit where an employee sexually assaulted her for three days. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's section 1983 claims. Construing the complaint in her favor, the court concluded that plaintiff plausibly alleged that North Homes's exercise of a public function (the state's authority to detain her) caused her involuntary detainment in a corrections unit. View "Doe v. North Homes, Inc." on Justia Law