Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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Plaintiff filed suit against her employer and its CEO for interference and retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and for retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. 1981. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the employer on the FMLA claim, holding that plaintiff's visit to her counselor did not count as treatment by a health care provider under the statute. In regard to the Title VII claim against the employer, the court held that plaintiff failed to offer any evidence that the CEO knew she had complained about race or sex discrimination, and thus she cannot show a relationship between her firing and that protected activity. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to impeach the CEO's testimony or present circumstantial evidence of his knowledge beyond temporal proximity. Therefore, summary judgment was appropriate on this claim because a jury could find discrimination only based on speculation, rather than on evidence. Finally, plaintiff's section 1981 claims were abandoned on appeal. View "Martin v. Financial Asset Management Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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Harbourside filed suit against the town, moving for a pre-enforcement preliminary injunction against Ordinance 1-16. The ordinance, among other things, established a two-tiered scheme for the use of amplified sound at non-residential properties and contains a separate section relating to outdoor live musical performances. The district court denied injunctive relief. The Eleventh Circuit applied limited review, without definitively addressing the merits, and affirmed the district court's judgment. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that Harbourside failed to establish a likelihood of success on its claims that it qualifies as an outdoor venue and that the challenged sections of the Jupiter Code are content-based. View "Harbourside Place, LLC v. Town of Jupiter" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit stayed an injunction that was issued by the district court against the County and the Director of the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitations Department (MDCR), requiring defendants to employ numerous safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and imposing extensive reporting requirements. Metro West inmates had filed a class action challenging the conditions of their confinement under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and seeking habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241 for the named plaintiffs with a "medically vulnerable" subclass of inmates. The court held that defendants established that they are likely to prevail on appeal. In this case, the district court likely committed errors of law in granting the preliminary injunction when it incorrectly collapsed the subjective and objective components of the deliberate indifference inquiry. Defendants are also likely to succeed on appeal because plaintiffs offered little evidence to suggest that defendants were deliberately indifferent. Furthermore, defendants have shown that they will be irreparably injured absent a stay where defendants will lose the discretion vested in them under state law to allocate scarce resources among different county operations necessary to fight the pandemic. Finally, the balance of the harms and the public interest weigh in favor of the stay. Because defendants have satisfied all four Nken factors for a stay, the court granted the stay pending appeal and motion to expedite the appeal. View "Swain v. Junior" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for habeas relief. Petitioner alleged that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), by failing to adequately investigate and present mitigating evidence during the sentencing phase of his capital-murder trial. The court held that, even assuming that counsel performed deficiently in failing to investigate and present the mitigation evidence that petitioner now raises—thus satisfying the first prong of the two-part Strickland standard that governs ineffective-assistance claims—petitioner failed to carry his burden of demonstrating resulting prejudice. View "Knight v. Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Roper Pump and its affiliated companies, alleging a claim for retaliation and race discrimination in violation of Title VII. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Roper Pump on plaintiff's retaliation claim, holding that there was enough evidence in the record, when taken in a light most favorable to plaintiff, to support his claim that Roper Pump responded to a claim of race discrimination by conditioning continued employment on a release of claims and firing plaintiff for refusing to sign the release. However, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the race discrimination claim, agreeing with the trial court that plaintiff failed to proffer comparators that were similar in all material respects. View "Knox v. Roper Pump Co." on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal is whether several voters and organizations have standing to challenge a law that governs the order in which candidates appear on the ballot in Florida's general elections. The voters and organizations alleged that the law violates their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments because candidates who appear first on the ballot—in recent years, Republicans—enjoy a "windfall vote" from a small number of voters who select the first candidate on a ballot solely because of that candidate's position of primacy. The district court permanently enjoined the Secretary from preparing ballots in accordance with the law. The Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of justiciability, holding that the voters and organizations lack standing to sue the Secretary, because none of them proved an injury in fact. Furthermore, any injury they might suffer is neither fairly traceable to the Secretary nor redressable by a judgment against her because she does not enforce the challenged law. Rather, the county officials independent of the Secretary (the Supervisors) are responsible for placing candidates on the ballot in the order the law prescribes. Therefore, the court held that the district court lacked authority to enjoin those officials in this action and it was powerless to provide redress. View "Jacobson v. Florida Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who has been convicted and sentenced to death for murder. The court held that the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reasonably applied Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), in rejecting petitioner's claim that he was provided constitutionally ineffective assistance during the penalty phase of his second trial by counsel's failure to investigate or present mitigating evidence. The court held that petitioner failed to show a reasonable probability that his counsel's performance affected the outcome of his sentencing proceeding. View "James v. Warden, Holman Correctional Facility" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied a motion for a stay of a preliminary injunction that enjoins certain applications of a public health order issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Alabama. The public health order, published on March 27, 2020, mandated the postponement of all dental, medical, or surgical procedures. Plaintiffs, abortion providers in Alabama, sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing enforcement of the public health order as applied to pre-viability abortions. After the district court issued a TRO, the state filed a motion to dissolve the TRO and included clarifications. The district court subsequently adopted the state's clarifications and issued an April 3rd order, staying the TRO in part. The state later changed its interpretation again. Based on the evidence presented at the preliminary injunction hearing, the district court determined that the medical restrictions, as read pursuant to the state's earlier interpretation, violate the Fourteenth Amendment. The court held that the state has not made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its appeal or that it will be irreparably injured absent a stay. In this case, because of the state's shifting interpretations of the March 27th and April 3rd orders, the district court had ample authority to issue a preliminary injunction to preserve the status quo and prevent the state from reverting to its initial and more restrictive interpretations. The district court considered Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Smith v. Avino, but read them together with cases holding that the Fourteenth Amendment generally protects a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy. Applying both the Jacobson framework and the Casey undue-burden test together, the district court concluded that the April 3rd order imposed a plain, palpable invasion of rights, yet had no real or substantial relation to the state's goals. The court held that the district court was permitted to reach this conclusion and to issue a status quo preliminary injunction to ensure that the state did not deviate from the Alabama State Health Officer's interpretation of the April 3rd order at the preliminary injunction hearing. View "Robinson v. Planned Parenthood Southeast Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff asked her employer, Rural, for a temporary light-duty or dispatcher assignment for the duration of her pregnancy because her physician advised her to refrain from lifting more than 50 pounds while pregnant, Rural declined plaintiff's request for accommodation. Plaintiff filed suit against Rural, alleging discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's grant of Rural's motion for summary judgment, holding that the district court erroneously factored into the "similar in their ability or inability to work" evaluation the distinct, post-prima-facie-case consideration of Rural's purported legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for treating plaintiff and the non-pregnant employees differently. The court explained that neither a non-pregnant EMT who is limited to lifting 10 or 20 pounds nor a pregnant EMT who is restricted to lifting 50 pounds or less can lift the required 100 pounds to serve as an EMT. Consequently, neither can meet the lifting requirement and are thus the same in their "inability to work" as an EMT. The court held that plaintiff's prima facie requirement to establish that she was similarly situated to other employees in their ability or inability to work was satisfied. The court remanded for the district court to determine the remaining issues in the first instance. View "Durham v. Rural/Metro Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendants violated her Fourth Amendment rights by falsely arresting her and by unlawfully detaining her. Plaintiff also alleged state law claims for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Sheriff on the Monell claim related to plaintiff's detention. Because plaintiff was kept in custody pursuant to (and because of) the Sheriff's mandatory eight-hour hold policy after her two breathalyzer test results registered blood-alcohol readings of 0.000 and after she posted bond, the only remaining question is whether a reasonable jury could find that the hold policy, as applied to plaintiff violated her Fourth Amendment rights. The court agreed with the Fifth Circuit that, following a warrantless DUI arrest based on probable cause, officers do not have an affirmative Fourth Amendment duty to investigate or continually reassess whether the arrestee is or remains intoxicated while in custody. The court held that where, as here, the officers seek and obtain information which shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the arrestee is not intoxicated—in other words, that probable cause to detain no longer exists—the Fourth Amendment requires that the arrestee be released. In this case, a reasonable jury viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff could find that her continued detention pursuant to the Sheriff's eight-hour hold policy violated the Fourth Amendment. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "Barnett v. MacArthur" on Justia Law