Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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The Eleventh Circuit held that the City of LaGrange did not enjoy state-action immunity when it ties its water-utility service to its natural-gas service for customers in unincorporated Troup County, Georgia. In this case, the Georgia legislature could have foreseen that cities would use their water monopoly to increase their share of an unrelated market and that such an anticompetitive move was not the inherent, logical, or ordinary result of the legislative scheme. Therefore, the district court correctly denied the City's motion to dismiss for state-action immunity and the court affirmed the district court's judgment in this interlocutory appeal. View "Diverse Power, Inc. v. City of LaGrange" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's stay of execution, holding that 18 U.S.C. 3599 did not create a right that was enforceable under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the states. Plaintiff wanted to pursue his 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim that Florida interfered with his right under section 3599 to have attorneys in the Capital Habeas Unit (CHU) of the Federal Public Defender's Office represent him before the Florida Clemency Commission and Board. Therefore, because plaintiff sought to enforce a right under section 1983 that Congress did not make enforceable against the states, he failed to show a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his section 1983 claim before the district court. Consequently, he failed to show a substantial likelihood of success on his appeal of the district court's denial of his motion to stay his execution. Finally, the court held that plaintiff failed to show that he was otherwise entitled to the stay. View "Bowles v. Desantis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the City, the police department, and others, alleging claims of disability and/or racial or gender discrimination. In regard to the disability discrimination claim, the Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff's evidence was insufficient to meet her prima facie burden of demonstrating that she was actually disabled, but was sufficient on whether she was regarded as disabled; the district court erred in holding that plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence that she was a qualified individual; plaintiff met her prima facie burden of demonstrating that the city discriminated against her because of her perceived disability; and plaintiff produced sufficient evidence that she was not a direct threat. In regard to the race and gender discrimination claims, the court held that the evidence of arbitrary personnel decisions surrounding plaintiff's termination, the pretextual justifications offered for the same, the differing treatment of her white male colleagues, and other evidence amounted to sufficient circumstantial evidence to create a triable issue of material fact on whether the police department's actions were discriminatory on the basis of race and/or gender. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's municipal liability claim under 42 U.S.C. 1981 for the police chief's discriminatory actions as the final decisionmaker. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Lewis v. City of Union City" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit overruled Basco v. Machin, 514 F.3d 1177, 1183–84 (11th Cir. 2008), and its progeny inasmuch as those cases held that the Housing Act of 1937 or its implementing regulations create a right enforceable by 42 U.S.C. 1983 to a termination decision made by a preponderance of the evidence. The court granted rehearing en banc to consider this narrow issue. In this case, plaintiff filed suit because the hearing officer issued a written decision that she says failed to meet the preponderance standard. Even accepting her allegation as true, the hearing officer violated the regulation but not the statute. Therefore, plaintiff's case failed as a result. View "Yarbrough v. Decatur Housing Authority" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2255 application seeking an order authorizing the district court to consider a second or successive motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his federal sentence. The court held that, although petitioner can demonstrate that United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019), is a new rule of constitutional law that applied retroactively to cases on collateral review, he failed to show a reasonable likelihood that he would benefit from the Davis rule. The court held that Davis addressed only 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(B)'s residual clause, but the companion crime for which petitioner was convicted (armed robbery of a credit union) qualifies as a "crime of violence" under section 924(c)(3)(A)'s use-of-force clause. View "In re: Drew Pollard" on Justia Law

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When a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition states a legally sufficient claim for relief, a district court must order the State to respond, even if the petition appears untimely. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of a section 2254 petition for a writ of habeas corpus and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that the district court erred when the district court, on its own initiative and without hearing from the State, decided that the statute of limitations barred the petition. In this case, the district court ordered no State response to the petitioner before dismissing. View "Paez v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" 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. Petitioner argued that he was entitled to habeas relief under Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619 (1993), for the constitutional errors that occurred during his state trial. The court held that, although there was a substantial Griffin error in this case where the prosecutor commented on defendant's choice not to testify, the error did not actually prejudice petitioner in light of the overwhelming evidence against petitioner. The court also held that petitioner failed to show a Confrontation Clause error. View "Al-Amin v. Warden" on Justia Law

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The City filed suit against Wells Fargo, alleging that Wells Fargo violated the Fair Housing Act by steering black and Hispanic borrowers into higher-cost loans than similarly situated white borrowers. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Wells Fargo, holding that the district court should have dismissed the action for lack of standing. In this case, the City failed to satisfy the injury or causation elements of standing, because the City's evidence of a risk that loan HC2 will go into foreclosure at some point in the future did not satisfy the requirement that a threatened injury be imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical. Furthermore, the evidence that loan HC2 may go into foreclosure also failed to satisfy the requirement of causation. The court held that the City failed to satisfy its burden of calling to the district court's attention any outstanding discovery on the issue of standing. Therefore, the City has failed to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists concerning standing. View "City of Miami Gardens v. Wells Fargo & Co." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded the district court's grant of defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint alleging that defendant demoted plaintiff because of his multiple sclerosis in violation of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court weighed the balancing factors to determine whether an entity acts as an arm of the state entitled to sovereign immunity, and held that, when defendant demoted plaintiff, it did not act as an arm of the state and was thus not entitled to sovereign immunity. In this case, the Alabama Supreme Court previously held that a communications district was not an arm of the state; there was no evidence that the State of Alabama exerts any control over the particular function at issue here; where the entity derives its funds, did not support granting sovereign immunity; and Alabama would not be financially responsible for a judgment against defendant. View "McAdams v. The Jefferson County 911 Emergency Communications District, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit previously concluded that petitioner had made a prima facie showing that his prior convictions for resisting arrest and assault and battery—which had served as predicates for the enhancement of his federal sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA)—no longer qualified as violent felonies under the ACCA in light of the ruling of the Supreme Court in Samuel Johnson v. United States that the ACCA's residual clause is unconstitutionally vague. After sentencing but during the pendency of petitioner's direct appeal, there were significant developments relevant to the issue of whether the residual clause was the sole basis for his ACCA enhancement. At issue in this appeal was when a claimant challenged his ACCA enhancement on direct appeal, whether the relevant time frame for this inquiry is limited to the sentencing hearing or if it extends through the claimant's direct appeal. The court held that, where a claimant challenged his ACCA enhancement on direct appeal, the relevant time frame to consider when determining whether the residual clause solely caused the enhancement of a claimant's sentence extends through direct appeal. In this case, the court held that petitioner carried his burden of showing that it is more likely than not that the residual clause, and only the residual clause, caused his sentence to be enhanced and that he no longer has three ACCA predicate convictions. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's order denying his 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion and remanded for resentencing. View "Weeks v. United States" on Justia Law