Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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Plaintiffs, a group of state and local governments and a group of non-profit organizations, filed separate suits under the Administrative Procedure Act, both challenging the validity of a DHS rule interpreting 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4), which renders inadmissible to the United States any non-citizen deemed likely to become a public charge. The district court entered orders in both cases to enjoin implementation of the rule nationwide.After determining that the States and the Organizations have Article III standing to challenge the rule and that they fall within the zone of interests of the public charge statute, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining the implementation of the rule. The court held that plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the rule is contrary to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The court explained that, in reenacting the public charge ground in 1996, Congress endorsed the settled administrative and judicial interpretation of that ground as requiring a holistic examination of a non-citizen's self-sufficiency focused on ability to work and eschewing any idea that simply receiving welfare benefits made one a public charge. Furthermore, the rule makes receipt of a broad range of public benefits on even a short-term basis the very definition of "public charge." Therefore, that exceedingly broad definition is not in accordance with law.The court also held that plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the rule is arbitrary and capricious. In this case, DHS has not provided a reasoned explanation for its changed definition of "public charge" or the rule's expanded list of relevant benefits. The court further held that plaintiffs have established irreparable harm, and that the balance of the equities and the public interest tips in favor of granting the injunction. However, the court modified the scope of the injunctions to cover only the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. View "New York v. United States Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Officers Miller and Clarke for using excessive force and failing to intervene during her arrest. Plaintiff's claims arose from an encounter with her ex-boyfriend and a group of teenagers.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of summary judgment as to Clarke where a reasonable jury could find that plaintiff was not physically resisting arrest before she was brought to the ground, and that Clarke used unreasonable force on an individual who was not resisting arrest and who was secured in such a manner that she posed no threat to public safety. Furthermore, it was clearly established at the time that it is impermissible to use significant force against a restrained arrestee who is not actively resisting. The court reversed the district court's denial of summary judgment as to Miller and held that, even assuming that Miller observed Clarke's use of force, there is no evidence in the record that would suggest he had a realistic opportunity to intervene that he then disregarded. Nor is there any clearly established law that would require Miller to abandon his crowd control duties and intervene to stop Clarke's use of force. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Lennox v. Miller" on Justia Law

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After expungement of his disciplinary record of theft, plaintiff filed suit against prison officials under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming violations of the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court dismissed the Eighth Amendment claim with prejudice at the pleading stage and then awarded summary judgment to defendants on the due process claims.The Second Circuit held that plaintiff received adequate notice in regard to the charges against him. However, the court held that plaintiff's disciplinary conviction was not sufficiently supported by the evidence and the proceedings were tainted by procedural lapses that violated plaintiff's' due process rights. In this case, the defendant prison officers failed to consult readily available prison records to identify the officers with relevant information, limiting defendant's ability to defend against the charges. The court also held that the district court exceeded the permissible bounds of its discretion in dismissing plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim without providing him a meaningful opportunity to seek leave to amend his complaint. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in part. View "Elder v. McCarthy" on Justia Law

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New Hope Family Services, a voluntary and privately funded Christian ministry devoted to providing adoption services, filed suit alleging that OCFS violated its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by advising New Hope that it either had to change its policy of not recommending adoptions by unmarried or same-sex couples or close its operation. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim and denied New Hope's motion for a preliminary injunction as moot.The court held that the pleadings, viewed in the light most favorable to New Hope, state plausible claims under the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the Constitution because they (a) raise a plausible suspicion that OCFS acted with hostility towards New Hope because of the latter's religious beliefs, (b) plausibly allege that New Hope would be compelled to speak or associate in violation of those beliefs if the regulation in question were enforced, and (c) do not permit a court to conclude as a matter of law that New Hope's speech equates to government speech merely because New York State has authorized New Hope to provide adoption services.The court also held that this case is not analogous to Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, 922 F.3d 140 (3d Cir. 2019), cert. granted, 140 S. Ct. 1104 (2020), now pending before the Supreme Court. Furthermore, because New Hope's Free Exercise and Free Speech claims should not have been dismissed, the court held that its motion for a preliminary injunction was not moot and should not have been denied on that ground. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's judgment insofar as it dismissed New Hope's Free Exercise and Free Speech claims, and vacated the judgment insofar as it denied New Hope's motion for a preliminary injunction. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "New Hope Family Services, Inc. v. Poole" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a state prisoner, filed suit against various corrections officials alleging that (1) New York DOCCS Rule 105.13 banning gang insignia or materials is unconstitutionally vague as applied to his photographs depicting family and friends wearing blue and making hand signs and (2) his placement in a special housing unit for six months following a prison disciplinary hearing determination that he had violated Rule 105.13 by possessing those photographs violated his due process rights.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, holding that Rule 105.13 provides adequate standards for prison guards to determine whether pictures of people wearing blue and intentionally making "C" hand signs are prohibited. In this case, no reasonable prison guard could have doubted that plaintiff's possession of photographs of people wearing blue and making "C" hand signs violated Rule 105.13 and, therefore, there was no danger that the Rule's enforcement would be arbitrary with regard to plaintiff's photographs. The court also held that plaintiff received a hearing that provided the minimal requirements of procedural due process. The court considered plaintiff's remaining arguments and found them to be without merit. View "Williams v. Korines" on Justia Law

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Healthcare insurers filed suit challenging an emergency regulation promulgated in 2017 by New York's Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services that would have significantly reduced the amount of risk adjustment funding to which plaintiffs were entitled in 2017 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and subsequent years using HHS's federal methodology.The Second Circuit held that New York's emergency regulation was preempted by the ACA and HHS's regulations. The court held that New York's regulation interferes with, indeed reverses, some of the central "criteria and methods" that HHS, acting within its statutory authority, established for implementing a risk adjustment program and methodology. Accordingly, the court reversed the portion of the district court's judgment that dismissed plaintiffs' preemption claim and remanded with instructions to grant summary judgment in plaintiffs' favor on that claim. The court also vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' takings and exaction claims, remanding for further proceedings. View "UnitedHealthcare of New York, Inc. v. Lacewell" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit held that California's Anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (anti-SLAPP) statute is inapplicable in federal court because it conflicts with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12 and 56. In this case, plaintiff's claims arose from an incident where she spoke at a city council meeting to oppose California's sanctuary-state law. A social media activist posted a photo showing plaintiff with open mouth in front of a minority teenager and the photo's caption stated that persons (unnamed) had yelled specific racist remarks at the young man in the photo. Defendant subsequently reposted the photograph and attributed specific racist remarks to plaintiff.The court vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's defamation claim under Rule 12(b)(6). In regard to one of the statements at issue, the court held that the district court erroneously deemed plaintiff to be a limited purpose public figure (and accordingly dismissed for failure to plead actual malice); as to the other, the district court mischaracterized it as nonactionable opinion. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's conclusion that defendant does not qualify for immunity under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. View "La Liberte v. Reid" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, current and former inmates of the DOC incarcerated within Garner Correctional Institution, filed a putative class action alleging that they were exposed involuntarily to indoor radon gas, a recognized human carcinogen, far in excess of any published safe level while incarcerated at Garner.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment to the extent that it determined that defendants violated clearly established law as of the date of the Supreme Court's decision in Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 29 (1993). In Helling, the Supreme Court held that an inmate can state a claim under the Eighth Amendment by alleging that prison officials have, with deliberate indifference, exposed him to levels of environmental tobacco smoke that pose an unreasonable risk of serious damage to his future health. Therefore, as of the date of the Supreme Court's decision in Helling, the court held that reasonable officials would recognize that a failure to take any reasonable steps to abate the risk of excessive radon exposure, of which risk they were actually aware, would constitute deliberate indifference to a serious medical need that violated inmates' clearly established Eighth Amendment rights. The court affirmed in part to the extent that the judgment denied defendants' motions to dismiss plaintiffs' federal claims for injunctive and declaratory relief; reversed in part to the extent that the judgment denied defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' state-law claims for prospective relief against the official-capacity defendants; and remanded for further proceedings. View "Vega v. Semple" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed two actions arising from defendants' provision of mental health services to him, alleging violations of his First and Ninth Amendment rights and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The district court dismissed the suits.The Second Circuit dismissed plaintiff's appeals because they lack an arguable basis either in law or in fact and denied his motions to proceed in forma pauperis for the appointment of counsel and for a writ of certiorari. In this case, plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that defendants engaged in state action by violating his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Furthermore, there is no private cause of action, express or implied, under HIPAA. View "Meadows v. United Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's grant of defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law on qualified immunity grounds in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging that defendant, a police officer, used excessive force against plaintiff when he deployed two taser cycles against plaintiff. The court held that, at the time of the incident, the law was clearly established that a police officer cannot use significant force against an individual who is no longer resisting arrest and poses no safety threat. In this case, the evidence allowed the jury to reasonably conclude that plaintiff was no longer resisting arrest and was not a safety threat to the officers or others at the time of defendant's second use of the taser against him. View "Jones v. Treubig" on Justia Law