Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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An administrative panel's denial of a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction typically is the law of the case, ordinarily to be adhered to in the absence of clear error or manifest injustice. After the Eighth Circuit affirmed petitioner's sentence for a drug offense, he then filed a motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The district court denied the motion, but granted a certificate of appealability. Seeing no error or manifest injustice, the court proceeded to the merits of the case and held that, because petitioner made the same Rule 11 argument in his direct appeal, the court declined to relitigate the issue; petitioner has not shown that the government's silence regarding a twelve-year sentence amounted to a promise that induced him to plead guilty; and defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim failed because he failed to point to sufficient contemporaneous evidence to support his post hoc assertion that he would not have pleaded guilty absent his attorney's advice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the denial of petitioner's section 2255 motion. View "Thompson v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity against a trooper who shot and killed plaintiff's dog when the dog ran onto a highway and obstructed traffic. The court held that the issue was not whether the trooper had the authority to seize the dog, but whether the degree of force he employed was reasonable to accomplish the necessary seizure. In this case, the trooper's actions were objectively reasonable under the circumstances and he was entitled to qualified immunity. Even assuming a constitutional violation, the trooper was entitled to qualified immunity because his conduct did not violate a clearly established Fourth Amendment right. Plaintiff has not cited, and the court has not found, any case concluding that an officer violated the Fourth Amendment when he shot and killed an unrestrained, unsupervised dog creating a serious risk to public safety and avoiding numerous attempts to control him without force. View "Hansen v. Black" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the petition for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254 as time-barred. The court held that the state did not knowingly and intelligently waive its statute-of-limitations defense; the district court properly analyzed the state's motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) in analyzing whether to address the state's statute-of-limitations defense; the court rejected petitioner's claim that the district court incorrectly applied 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A) as the trigger for his one-year limitations period; petitioner was not entitled to tolling under section 2244(d)(1)(B); the district court did not fail to toll the statute of limitations for any time during which petitioner's application was "pending" and thus his habeas petition was not timely filed under section 2244; and, whether or not the court applied the stop-clock approach, petitioner was not eligible for equitable tolling. View "Coulter v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against individual defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law, alleging claims related to the Township Board's decision to install a culvert and to refund leftover grant money to FEMA without holding public meetings. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of qualified immunity as to the First Amendment retaliation claim where the district court concluded that the facts viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiffs established that the individual defendants retaliated against plaintiffs for exercising their First Amendment rights; affirmed the denial of qualified immunity as to the First Amendment association claim where the district court concluded that the individual defendants violated Plaintiff Mary Lee's right to freedom of association by excluding her from Township Board meetings despite her elected role as Township Board Clerk; and reversed the denial of qualified immunity as to the First Amendment right to petition claim where there was no First Amendment right to participate in a non-public government meeting as a member of the public. In regard to the cross-appeal, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the free speech claim. View "Lee v. Driscoll" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for MJ Optical in plaintiff's suit alleging that she was the victim of sex discrimination, age discrimination, and a hostile work environment. The court held that plaintiff did not suffer an adverse employment action and thus her claims for disparate treatment on the basis of sex failed. Likewise, plaintiff's claim of age discrimination failed because she could not maintain a claim for disparate treatment on account of her age. Finally, plaintiff's hostile work environment claim failed because she did not indicate in a timely manner the complained-of conduct was unwelcome. View "Blake v. MJ Optical, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2255 petition, holding that his prior Wisconsin conviction for battery of a law enforcement officer constituted a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(1). In this case, the Wisconsin conviction necessarily involved the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another. View "Jones v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the City and SMG on plaintiff's claim that defendants violated his First Amendment free-speech rights. In this case, plaintiff was ticketed and arrested for trespassing after he distributed leaflets in the plaza area of the Pinnacle Bank Arena, which activity was prohibited by the Arena's Exterior Access and Use Policy. The court held that, while the physical characteristics of the Plaza Area may be suggestive of a conclusion that it was a public forum, the use for which the Plaza Area was designed does not suggest that it should be considered a traditional public forum. After considering relevant factors such as the Plaza Area's physical characteristics; its use, function, and purpose; and the City's intent in constructing the space, the court agreed with the district court that the Plaza Area was a nonpublic forum. The court also held that the district court did not err in concluding that the Policy was reasonable and thus constitutional as not unduly restrictive of plaintiff's First Amendment rights to engage in expressive activity in a nonpublic forum. View "Ball v. City of Lincoln" on Justia Law

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After police officers shot and killed Ahmed Guled, Guled's father filed suit against the City and the officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging excessive force. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the City, holding that the father lacked standing to bring a section 1983 claim because he was not a trustee under Minnesota's wrongful death statute. In this case, the father had an opportunity to obtain compensation resulting from Guled's death: He was able to obtain trustee status, though it was later revoked. Had the father obtained the consent of Guled's brother, he could have secured trustee status again. The court also held that Minnesota's statutory scheme generally provides the opportunity for a trustee to pursue a section 1983 claim, and therefore was not inconsistent with section 1983's purpose of compensating injured parties or preventing abuses of power. View "Estate of Ahmed M. Guled v. Minneapolis" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to police officers in plaintiff's suit alleging violation of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. Determining that it had jurisdiction over the interlocutory appeal, the court held that, under Minnesota law, it was not objectively reasonable for the officers to believe they had probable cause to arrest plaintiff for obstruction. In this case, plaintiff stood in his own lighted doorway 30-40 feet from the officers and plaintiff's wife, and exercised directed verbal criticism at the officers while conveying a message that his wife was disabled and could not follow police instructions. The court held that plaintiff's criticism did not amount to anything resembling "fighting words" and that plaintiff's communications were protected First Amendment activity. The officers' actions had a chilling effect on defendant's right to free speech, and a jury must decide whether plaintiff has shown a causal connection between his verbal conduct and the adverse actions taken against him. View "Hoyland v. McMenomy" on Justia Law

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When plaintiff learned that the State Bar Association of North Dakota (SBAND) was using his compulsory fees to oppose a measure that he volunteered time and money to support, he filed suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. In Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, 567 U.S. 298 (2012), a public-sector union provided an annual Hudson notice calculating germane expenses and permitting non-members to opt out of non-germane expenses by objecting within thirty days. The Eighth Circuit held that the opt-out issue debated by the Supreme Court in Knox was simply not implicated by SBAND's revised license fee statement. Accordingly, because Knox did not overrule prior cases holding that the First Amendment does not require an opt-in procedure, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment and dismissal of the case. View "Fleck v. Wetch" on Justia Law