Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action, alleging that defendant, a deputy sheriff, used excessive force. The court held that defendant was entitled to qualified immunity because his actions did not violate any clearly established rights. In this case, defendant's action of intentionally firing at a dog and unintentionally shooting a ten year old did not violate any clearly established Fourth Amendment rights. View "Corbitt v. Vickers" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of Secular Humanists and atheists, filed suit challenging the county's practice of opening its meetings with a religious invocation. Plaintiffs alleged that the opening prayers violated the Establishment Clause, and the county wrongfully barred plaintiffs from offering invocations of their own. The Eleventh Circuit held that the county's process of selecting invocation speakers violated the Establishment Clause because it selected invocation speakers in a way that favors certain monotheistic religions and categorically excludes from consideration other religions solely based on their belief systems. In this case, members of the county board of commissioners have plenary authority, on a rotating basis, to invite whomever they want to deliver invocations, with no consistent standards or expectation of inclusiveness. View "Williamson v. Brevard County" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254 to petitioner, who was convicted of three murders and sentenced to death. The court held that the superior court reasonably determined that trial counsel were not ineffective for failing to investigate mitigating evidence and to present it during the penalty phase; the superior court's determination that the Georgia burden of proof for intellectual disability did not violate the due process clause was not an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law; and petitioner failed to establish his intellectual disability by clear and convincing evidence. View "Raulerson v. Warden" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted of murder and sentenced to death, sought habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254, alleging that his lawyer provided ineffective assistance of counsel. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of relief based on petitioner's mitigation claim. The court held that the district court erred by deciding Strickland prejudice de novo without finding that the state court's decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts and with no basis to say that the state court unreasonably applied Strickland v. Washington. Furthermore, the district court failed to presume that the state courts' findings of fact were correct, which the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act requires. Finally, the court affirmed the denial of relief based on counsel's failure to object when petitioner testified before the jury during the penalty phase in shackles. View "Whatley v. Warden, Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights by employing excessive force in effecting his arrest and his Eighth Amendment rights by being deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. The Eleventh Circuit held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on the excessive force and deliberate indifference claims and vacated the district court's conclusion to the contrary. The court held that the officers' conduct in taking plaintiff to the ground and fist-striking him were objectively reasonable uses of force to get plaintiff to produce his hands for cuffing. In this case, plaintiff had just stabbed the victim in the throat and the officers had no way of being sure he was not still armed at the time, and plaintiff repeatedly failed to comply with instructions. The court also held that the officers were not deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical needs where the evidence demonstrated that he did not have a serious medical need. Rather, plaintiff's injuries were merely superficial and non-life threatening. View "Hinson v. Bias" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas relief and partial grant of summary judgment for the Government regarding petitioner's claim that USCIS should have exercised jurisdiction over his application for asylum. The court held that the improper inclusion of irrelevant documents in the administrative record and its subsequent supplementation with relevant documents did not prejudice petitioner and any errors on the part of the Government in this respect were harmless; USCIS's decision not to exercise jurisdiction over petitioner's asylum claim was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law; and petitioner's habeas petition was moot because he did not otherwise argue that any meaningful relief could be granted to him via a habeas petition. View "Salmeron-Salmeron v. Spivey" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of S&M's complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the State of Georgia. S&M alleged several constitutional and state-law violations based on Georgia's scheme of tobacco regulation. S&M sought to enjoin the Attorney General from requiring it to use a revised escrow agreement. The court held that S&M has not plausibly alleged a Contract Clause violation where S&M's escrow agreement did not give rise to any reasonable contractual expectations that implicate the Contract Clause; S&M has not plausibly alleged an Equal Protection violation where the provisions that it challenges are not provisions with respect to which participating manufacturers (PMs) and non-participating manufacturers (NPMs) are similarly situated; and S&M's state law claim was barred by sovereign immunity. View "S&M Brands, Inc. v. State of Georgia ex rel Carr" on Justia Law

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A fully nude strip club filed suit challenging the administrative action the city had taken against the club, the laws authorizing that action, and ordinances the city later enacted that regulated the fully nude strip club business. The district court dismissed all sixteen claims. The Eleventh Circuit held that counts III through VI failed to state claims and that one of the remaining claims was not ripe. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of one more of those claims because the club lacked standing to pursue it. However, the court held that the eight remaining appealed claims were ripe for the district court's review. In this case, counts XIII, XIV, and XV assert that the Ordinance was preempted by state and federal law; further factual development cannot assist in resolution of these facial challenges, which raise purely legal issues; and no institutional concerns of the court or the city render the issues unfit for review. Furthermore, the club's as-applied challenges, asserting an unconstitutional burden and tax on speech, an equal protection violation, and a contract clause violation, required no more factual development to be ripe for review. Finally, count XVI, challenging the ordinance under the Fourth Amendment, was also fit for review. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in part. View "Club Madonna, Inc. v. City of Miami Beach" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief. The district court granted petitioner a certificate of appealability (COA) on whether he is intellectually disabled and thus ineligible for the death penalty under Atkins v. Virginia, and the court granted petitioner's request to expand the COA to include a Batson challenge. The court held that the Supreme Court's recent holding in Moore v. Texas did not apply retroactively to petitioner's intellectual disability claim, and that the state court's denial of his intellectual disability claim was not an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. In this case, the state court considered petitioner's ability to conceal his crime, ability to take care of his mother, and his scores on certain mathematics and reading tests as adaptive strengths that outweighed his apparent deficits. The court held that this approach was acceptable at the time. The court also held that the state court's denial of petitioner's claims that the prosecutor at his state trial struck jurors on the basis of gender and national origin in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments was not contrary to Batson v. Kentucky and its progeny, an unreasonable application of Batson, or an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented to the state courts. View "Smith v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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After Ricky Hinkle died in the Birmingham City Jail after being shocked with a taser, his son filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging several claims on Hinkle's behalf. The district court denied the officers' motion for qualified immunity. The Eleventh Circuit held that the facts as pleaded showed that Deputy Dukuzumuremyi violated Hinkle’s clearly established constitutional right to be free from excessive force. In this case, Dukuzumuremyi clearly crossed the constitutional line, when, having already tased Hinkle once —dropping him to the floor, rendering him motionless, and causing him to urinate on himself—Dukuzumuremyi shocked him again a full eight seconds later. However, the court held that plaintiff's allegations did not show a causal connection between either the use of force against Hinkle or any deliberate indifference to Hinkle's serious medical needs, on the one hand, and any policy or custom implemented by Sheriff Hale or Captain Eddings, on the other. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to Dukuzumuremyi but reverse as to Sheriff Hale and Captain Eddings. View "Hunter v. Hale" on Justia Law