Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court held that the trial court's exclusion of three defense witnesses violated petitioner's constitutional right to present a complete defense. Therefore, the court remanded with instructions to the district court to issue the writ. View "Scrimo v. Lee" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal on summary judgment of plaintiff's claim that a hospital violated section 504 the Rehabilitation Act by failing to provide her with an ASL interpreter. At issue was whether and when hospital staff members may be considered to be acting as officials or policymakers of the hospital so that their conduct may be attributed to the hospital and thereby establish plaintiff's right to damages on the ground that the defendant institution was deliberately indifferent to a violation of the Act. The court held that material issues of fact preclude summary judgment where the record contains evidence that the hospital staff at issue had knowledge of the deprivation of plaintiff's right to an interpreter, had the power to cure that violation, and failed to cure it View "Biondo v. Kaleida Health" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's award of summary judgment to defendants on plaintiff's state law claims of sex discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment. The court held that summary judgment was correctly entered in favor of AutoZone on plaintiff's Connecticut claims of discriminatory discharge based on sex, retaliatory discharge for reporting sexual harassment, and a sex hostile work environment because plaintiff failed to adduce sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could resolve any of these claims in her favor; the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff's own deposition testimony could not raise a genuine issue of fact as to AutoZone's having notice of plaintiff's sexual harassment by a co‐worker before August 2014 because that testimony was unequivocally contradicted by her own earlier sworn and written statements, and she failed plausibly to explain the numerous contradictions; and the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff failed to raise a genuine issue of fact as to the harassing co‐worker being a supervisor, which was required for AutoZone to be strictly vicariously liable for any ensuing hostile work environment. View "Bentley v. AutoZoners, LLC" on Justia Law

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Where a university takes an adverse employment action against an employee, in response to allegations of sexual misconduct, following a clearly irregular investigative or adjudicative process, amid criticism for reacting inadequately to allegations of sexual misconduct by members of one sex, these circumstances support a prima facie case of sex discrimination. When contesting an inference of bias based on procedural irregularity, an employer cannot justify its abandonment of promised procedural protections by recharacterizing specific accusations in more generic terms. Where a student files a complaint against a university employee, the student is motivated, at least in part, by invidious discrimination, the student intends that the employee suffer an adverse employment action as a result, and the university negligently or recklessly punishes the employee as a proximate result of that complaint, the university may be liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint against Hofstra under Title VII and the New York State Human Rights Law, alleging that Hofstra discriminated against him because of his sex when it fired him in response to allegedly malicious allegations of sexual harassment. The court held that the district court's decision conflicted with circuit precedent in Doe v. Columbia University, 831 F.3d 46 (2d Cir. 2016), and relied on improper factual findings. In this case, the complaint alleged circumstances that provide at least a minimal support for an inference of discriminatory intent. On remand, the court noted that the district court should consider Hofstra's potential liability under a cat's paw theory. View "Menaker v. Hofstra University" on Justia Law

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The parties dispute the district court's award of attorney's fees to plaintiff in an action successfully claiming a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The Second Circuit affirmed and held that plaintiff was entitled to attorney's fees as a prevailing party; plaintiff may not obtain fees for the administrative proceedings for failure to identify "the discrete portion of the work product from the administrative proceedings" for which fees might have been awarded, North Carolina Dep't of Transportation v. Crest Street Community Council, Inc., 479 U.S. 6, 15 (1986); and the 50 percent reduction was appropriate. View "Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield County, Inc. v. Litchfield Historic District Commission" on Justia Law

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Defendants, athletics officials at Binghampton, appealed the district court's denial in part of their motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The Second Circuit held that the district court erroneously conflated the distinct Title VII and 42 U.S.C. 1983 standards for both vicarious liability and causation. The court clarified the differences between discrimination claims brought under Title VII and those brought under section 1983. The court held that section 1983 claims for discrimination in public employment require plaintiffs to establish that the defendant's discriminatory intent was a "but‐for" cause of the adverse employment action; section 1983 claims for discrimination in public employment cannot be based on a respondeat superior or "cat's paw" theory to establish a defendant's liability; and defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because, even when interpreted in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the record cannot support the conclusion that they violated her "clearly established" constitutional rights. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's order in regard to the section 1983 claims against defendants, entered judgment for defendants, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Naumovski v. Norris" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit held that defendants violated plaintiff's constitutional rights and denied qualified immunity to defendants for the week of administratively imposed post‐release supervision (PRS) after plaintiff's determinate sentences had expired. In regard to the period of PRS that plaintiff served from her initial release from prison on October 5, 2007, until her determinate sentences expired on November 27, 2008, the court held that there were material issues of fact as to whether that period of PRS was more onerous than the period of conditional release she would have been subjected to without PRS and consequently whether she was deprived of a liberty interest during that period. Therefore, the court lacked jurisdiction to determine whether defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and dismissed the appeal, remanding for further proceedings. View "Reyes v. Fischer" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of Sarah Palin's defamation complaint against The New York Times for failure to state a claim. The court held that the district court erred in relying on facts outside the pleadings to dismiss the complaint. The court also held that Palin's Proposed Amended Complaint plausibly stated a claim for defamation and may proceed to full discovery. In this case, a jury could plausibly find that The Times editor knew before publishing the editorial that it was false to claim that Palin or her political action committee were connected to the Loughner shooting that injured Representative Gabby Giffords; certain aspects of the drafting and publication process of the editorial at The Times permitted an inference of actual malice; and a reasonable reader could view the challenged statements as factual, namely that Palin, through her political action committee, was directly linked to the Loughner shooting. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Palin v. The New York Times Co." on Justia Law

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The Nnebe plaintiffs, taxi drivers, filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that their constitutional rights were violated when their licenses were suspended following their arrests and they were not given meaningful post-suspension hearings to consider whether their licenses should be reinstated. The Second Circuit held that the Taxi and Limousine Commission's suspension procedures did not afford plaintiffs adequate process, because the drivers' property interests in their licenses was substantial, the risk of erroneous deprivation was unacceptably high, and defendants could institute a more meaningful process at minimal financial and administrative costs. Therefore, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The Stallworth plaintiffs, also taxi drivers, brought a similar action challenging the same regulatory regime. The court held that the district court erroneously dismissed their complaint for failure to state a claim in reliance on its Nnebe ruling. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Nnebe v. Daus" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against NYIT, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). Plaintiff alleged that NYIT discriminated against him based on his homosexuality and mental health disability. The Second Circuit affirmed in part, holding that plaintiff's 2010-11 claims were untimely, and the continuing violation doctrine did not apply to these claims. However, the court held that the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's 2013-14 claims under the ADA and Title IX, because the four month statute of limitations for a New York State Article 78 Proceeding did not apply to these claims. Rather, a three year statute of limitations applied to both claims, and thus his claims were timely. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded. View "Purcell v. N.Y. Institute of Technology - College of Osteopathic Medicine" on Justia Law