Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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After plaintiff was attacked by his cellmate, he filed suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and five prison employees under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S. Ct. 1999 (1971). Plaintiff alleged that prison officials negligently assigned the cellmate to plaintiff's cell and that their conduct also violated his Eighth Amendment rights.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's FTCA claim against the United States based on the discretionary function exception to the FTCA's waiver of sovereign immunity. The court explained that inmate-classification and housing-placement decisions fall squarely within the discretionary function exception. The court also affirmed the district court's dismissal without prejudice of plaintiff's Bivens claim against the prison employees for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. View "Shivers v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who seeks to knock down his beachfront mansion and to build a new one, filed suit against the town, claiming that the criteria the town's architectural review commission used to deny his building permit violated his First Amendment free speech rights and his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. In this case, plaintiff wants to knock down his "traditional" beachfront mansion and to build a new one, almost twice its size, in the midcentury modern style. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the town.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that summary judgment was not granted too early and affirmed on the First Amendment claim because there was no great likelihood that some sort of message would be understood by those who viewed plaintiff's new beachfront mansion. The court also affirmed the district court's summary judgment on the Fourteenth Amendment claims because the commission's criteria were not unconstitutionally vague and plaintiff has not presented evidence that the commission applied its criteria differently for him than for other similarly situated mansion-builders. View "Burns v. Town of Palm Beach" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal without prejudice of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the State of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC), and about 42 correctional officials.The court agreed with its sister circuits that a plaintiff's duplicative complaint is an abuse of the judicial process and is properly dismissed without prejudice as malicious under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The court explained that, given plaintiff knowingly filed the third complaint at issue here containing claims duplicative of claims he had already asserted in two other pending civil actions, and in light of his history as a prolific serial filer, the district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing this third complaint without prejudice as malicious under 28 U.S.C. 1915A(b)(1). The court also concluded that the district court did not err in alternatively dismissing plaintiff's complaint as barred by the three strikes provision of the PLRA where the complaint as a whole does not sufficiently allege that plaintiff was under imminent danger of serious physical injury. View "Daker v. Ward" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of her complaint against Floridian, in an action alleging that Floridian violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) based on barriers to access she encountered at the hotel property (Count I) and deficiencies in its online reservation system (Count II). The district court dismissed Count II for improper claim splitting, given that plaintiff had made a claim in her first lawsuit about Floridian's online reservation system. The district court subsequently dismissed Count I with prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that plaintiff did not have standing to seek injunctive relief.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Count I for lack of standing, except to the extent that the district court dismissed the claim with prejudice. In this case, the totality of relevant facts simply do not support the conclusion that plaintiff faced a real and immediate threat of future discrimination at the Hotel. Therefore, the court remanded for the district court to amend its judgment as to Count I. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Count II for claim splitting because Count II and Floridian I arise from the same transaction and are based on facts that are sufficiently related in time, space, origin, and motivation. View "Kennedy v. Floridian Hotel, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the school district, claiming discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act; interference with her Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rights; and retaliation in violation of all three statutes. Principally, plaintiff alleged that, in ending her employment, the school district discriminated against her because she suffers from major depressive disorder and retaliated against her for asserting her statutory rights.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the school district. The district court concluded that the school district had terminated plaintiff's employment because of her conduct—the threats she made against her own life and the lives of others—not because she had major depressive disorder or because she had participated in statutorily protected activity. In regard to plaintiff's disability discrimination claims under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, the court ultimately concluded that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the school district's proffered reasons for terminating her employment were pretextual. In regard to plaintiff's retaliation claims, the court concluded that, besides the temporal proximity between when plaintiff asserted her ADA rights and when the school district asked her to resign, no evidence suggests that the school district's stated reasons for ending her employment were merely an excuse to cover up retaliation. In regard to the FMLA interference claim, the court concluded that plaintiff cites nothing from the record to show that the school district's decision to end her employment related in any way to her decision to take FMLA leave. View "Todd v. Fayette County School District" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order dismissing plaintiffs' Title VII retaliation claims against Bradley Arant and grant of summary judgment to Marion Bank on the Title VII retaliation claims. Bradley Arant is an Alabama law firm that represented the Bank in litigation related to this case. Plaintiffs are related to Ragan Youngblood, a former Bank employee who was hired in February 2008 and fired seven months later, in September 2008. Ragan was the personal assistant to the Bank's president and CEO, Conrad Taylor. After Ragan was fired, she filed an EEOC charge alleging that Taylor had sexually harassed her and retaliated against her for complaining about that harassment. Plaintiffs claim that the Bank and the law firm took adverse action against them in retaliation for Ragan's protected conduct.Pursuant to Thompson v. N. Am. Stainless, LP, 562 U.S. 170, 174–75 (2011), the court concluded that plaintiffs must meet two prerequisites to even get out of the starting gate on a third-party Title VII retaliation claim against the Bank. In regard to plaintiffs' retaliation claim based on litigation filed by the firm on the Bank's behalf, and assuming the viability of plaintiffs' claim, the court assumed without deciding that the district court correctly concluded that plaintiffs qualified under Thompson as proper third-party retaliation claimants. The court concluded that summary judgment is warranted for the Bank based on the McDonnell Douglas standard. In this case, plaintiffs have failed to produce evidence sufficient to support a reasonable inference that but for Ragan's claim of sexual harassment, the Bank would not have engaged in the litigation that plaintiffs characterize as excessive.In regard to plaintiffs' claims based on the Bank's decision to stop referring legal work to Plaintiff Greg, the court assumed without deciding that his third-party claim can proceed. Analyzing the claim under the McDonnell Douglas framework, the court concluded that the Bank articulated a neutral, nonretaliatory reason for no longer referring legal work to Greg based on a conflict of interest. Furthermore, Greg has failed to produce any evidence of pretext. Finally, in regard to plaintiffs' claims against the law firm, the court concluded that the district court correctly dismissed these claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) where plaintiffs failed to allege an employment relationship between themselves and the firm. View "Tolar v. Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the Douglas County Sheriff, in his official capacity, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the Sheriff operates the jail with a policy that allows "cross-gender supervision of inmates without reasonable safeguards in place." Plaintiff alleged that a sheriff's deputy fondled her, kissed her, and watched her shower, all without her consent, when she was an inmate in the county jail. Plaintiff reasoned that the sheriff's deputy, who is male, could do these things because of the cross-gender supervision policy.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the Sheriff's motion to dismiss, concluding that the district court correctly held that the Sheriff was entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity under Purcell ex rel. Estate of Morgan v. Toombs County, 400 F.3d 1313 (11th Cir. 2005). The court declined to overrule Purcell and Manders v. Lee, 338 F.3d 1304 (11th Cir. 2003) (en banc), based on the court's prior precedent rule. Furthermore, the court has categorically rejected any exception to that rule based on a perceived defect in the prior panel's reasoning or analysis as it relates to the law in existence at that time. View "Andrews v. Biggers" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The court concluded that the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals' (CCA) denial of petitioner's guilt-phase ineffective assistance claim was not an unreasonable determination of the facts or contrary to clearly established law; federal law does not clearly establish that Alabama's hearsay rules create a due process violation; and the CCA's determination that the prosecution did not shift the burden of proof to petitioner was neither unreasonable nor contrary to clearly established law.In this case, the Rule 32 court's determinations that petitioner's trial counsel's performance was not deficient, and that petitioner could not show prejudice, were not unreasonable. Furthermore, Alabama's application of its hearsay rules to exclude testimony at petitioner's state habeas evidentiary hearing did not violate his due process rights under clearly established federal law. Finally, the prosecutor's comments appeared to concern the failure of the defense to counter the evidence presented by the government, not petitioner's failure to show evidence of his innocence. View "Broadnax v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal based on lack of standing of his claims against the City under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that the district court erred in relying on the test articulated in Price v. City of Ocala, 375 F. Supp. 3d 1264 (M.D. Fla. 2019), to determine if plaintiff suffered an injury in fact. The court explained that Price is a district court opinion, and thus it does not constitute binding precedent. Even if the court were bound by it, Price is unhelpful here because it is fundamentally different from this case. The court also concluded that the district court erred in finding that plaintiff did not have standing. Rather, plaintiff has standing to bring his claim under Title II, as he adequately alleged a stigmatic injury. In this case, plaintiff, as an individual with a disability, was personally and directly subjected to discriminatory treatment when the City published videos on its website that he accessed but could not understand. Therefore, he suffered a concrete and particularized injury. View "Sierra v. City of Hallandale Beach" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the Alabama Deputy Fire Marshal and several law enforcement officers, ATF Agents, and other unnamed officers, alleging claims related to a fire inspection the Fire Marshal performed on plaintiff's nightclub.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the ATF Agents and the entry of summary judgment for the Fire Marshal. The court concluded that the district court's reliance on the suppression-hearing transcript was proper and that it committed no error in finding that the Fire Marshal was entitled to qualified immunity. In this case, a reasonable officer in the Fire Marshal's position could have believed that he had plaintiff's effective consent to enter the club to conduct an inspection. Furthermore, the Fire Marshal was entitled to qualified immunity for his search of plaintiff's bedroom. The court also concluded that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the individual-capacity claims against the ATF Agents because they were improperly served, and the official-capacity claims against them are barred by sovereign immunity. View "Fuqua v. Turner" on Justia Law