Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment to the DOC in an action alleging that the DOC's policy of not accommodating the dietary restrictions imposed by plaintiff's Nazarite Jewish faith violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). The court held that, in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Holt v. Hobbs, 135 S. Ct. 853 (2015), the district court failed to appreciate the substantial showing that the government must make to justify burdening an individual plaintiff's practice of a sincerely held religious belief. In this case, fact questions remain as to whether the DOC's interest was compelling and its means were the least restrictive in light of plaintiff's suggested alternatives. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings and denied the DOC's motion to vacate the judgment and remand as moot. View "Williams v. Annucci" on Justia Law

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The district court rejected Plaintiffs’ claim that New York’s ban on gravity knives was void for vagueness under the Due Process Clause as applied to “[k]nives that are designed to resist opening from their folded and closed position,” or common folding knives. New York law defines a gravity knife as a knife that can be opened to a locked position with a one‐handed flick of the wrist; Plaintiffs argued that the wrist‐flick test is so indeterminate that ordinary people cannot reliably identify legal knives. The Second Circuit affirmed. Because plaintiffs’ claim would, if successful, effectively preclude all enforcement of the statute, and because plaintiffs sought to prove their claim chiefly with hypothetical examples of unfair prosecutions that are divorced from their individual facts and circumstances, the court deemed it a facial challenge. Plaintiffs were required to show that the gravity knife law is invalid in all applications, including as it was enforced against them in three prior proceedings. They did not meet their burden under this strict standard. View "Copeland v. Vance" on Justia Law

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New York law provides that a court may order that a person who has information material to a criminal proceeding be detained to secure her attendance at the proceeding, N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 620.10–50. In 2008, McKinnies, a New York Police Officer, was under investigation for potential insurance fraud. McKinnies’ car, which she had reported stolen, had turned up in a “chop shop” covertly run by the NYPD. McKinnies stated her friend “Alexandra Griffin” was the last person to drive her car. But “Alexandra Griffin” stated that she had never been given the vehicle, did not have a driver’s license, and that her surname was Simon. Her real name is Dormoy, she is Simon's daughter. Simon was twice taken to the precinct and held for a total of 18 hours over two days. Simon sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming false arrest and imprisonment. Simon alleged that the warrant, on its face, directed officers to bring Simon to court at a fixed date and time for a hearing to determine whether she should be detained as a material witness. Simon was never presented to the court. The district court held that the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity and granted summary judgment in their favor. The Second Circuit vacated and remanded. With the facts taken in the light most favorable to Simon, the defendants violated Simon’s clearly established Fourth Amendment rights and are not entitled to qualified immunity. View "Simon v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendants' motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that defendants, police officers, used excessive force when they used a long-range acoustic device (LRAD or sound gun) to disperse non-violent protesters. This appeal arose out of the NYPD's response to a December 2014 protest in Manhattan. The court held that purposefully using a LRAD in a manner capable of causing serious injury to move non‐violent protesters to the sidewalks violated the Fourteenth Amendment under clearly established law. The court noted that, when viewing the evidence from the perspective of a reasonable officer, defendants may yet be entitled to qualified immunity. View "Edrei v. Bratton" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for a new trial in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that a police officer used excessive force by slamming plaintiff's head into the bars and wall of his holding cell. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied plaintiff's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a) motion for a new trial when it determined that the jury's verdict could be harmonized and thus plaintiff was not entitled to compensatory damages as a matter of law. The court also held that, when attempting to harmonize a seemingly inconsistent verdict, the court was not limited to the specific theories of the case presented by the parties, but may adopt any reasonable view of the case that was consistent with the facts and the testimony adduced at trial. In this case, the jury's causation finding was ambiguous and might have referred only to the de minimus injuries that plaintiff suffered while being forced into the holding cell. View "Ali v. Kipp" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a police officer and former police union official, filed suit alleging that defendants violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech by retaliating against him for criticizing management decisions by police officials. The district court ruled in favor of defendants. The Second Circuit held that plaintiff's union remarks were not made under his official duties as a police officer and thus he spoke as a private citizen for purposes of the First Amendment. However, Defendants Moran and Mueller were entitled to qualified immunity, and plaintiff failed to allege a plausible claim for municipal liability against the city. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Montero v. City of Yonkers" on Justia Law

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When a stay has been issued, an immigrant is not held pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1231(a) because he is not in the "removal period" contemplated by statute until his appeal is resolved by this court. The Second Circuit reversed the district court's determination that petitioner was detained under 8 U.S.C. 1231, holding that petitioner was detained under 8 U.S.C. 1226(c). In light of the uncertainty surrounding this area of detention after the Supreme Court's decision in Jennings v. Rodriguez, 138 S. Ct. 830 (2018), the court remanded to the district court for reconsideration of the habeas petition under the correct statutory provision. View "Hechavarria v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against police officers, alleging that they used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In this interlocutory appeal, the officers challenged the district court's order of a new trial. Insofar as the officers argued that the district court erred in finding the jury's verdict to be against the weight of the evidence, the Second Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the issues before the court turned on disputed facts. The court noted that, given the district court's conclusion that the jury's verdict was against the weight of the evidence, that verdict did not resolve the factual disputes. View "Bryant v. Meriden Police Department" on Justia Law

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The First Amendment protects a prisoner's right not to serve as a prison informant or provide false information to prison officials. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in a First Amendment retaliation claim. Plaintiff alleged that his constitutional rights were violated when he was put on a restricted status known as Involuntary Protective Custody for over six months because he refused the demands of prison guards to act as a snitch, or to falsify his account of a minor incident in the commissary. The court held that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because the court had not previously recognized the speech and speech‐related activity as protected by the First Amendment. View "Burns v. Martuscello" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against senior federal law enforcement officials and 25 named and unnamed federal law enforcement officers, alleging that federal officers retaliated against plaintiffs when plaintiffs refused to serve as informants and put plaintiffs on the No Fly List in violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq. The district court held that RFRA did not permit the recovery of money damages against federal officers sued in their individual capacities. The Second Circuit held, however, that RFRA permitted a plaintiff to recover money damages against federal officers sued in their individual capacities for violations of RFRA's substantive protections. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Tanvir v. Tanzin" on Justia Law