Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
by
Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (SFFA), a nonprofit organization committed to ending race discrimination in higher-education admissions, sued the University of Texas at Austin (UT) over its use of race in admitting students. The district court concluded SFFA has standing but dismissed its claims as barred by res judicata. It reasoned that SFFA’s claims were already litigated in a prior challenge to UT’s admissions policies. See Fisher v. Univ. of Tex. (Fisher II), 579 U.S. 365 (2016); Fisher v. Univ. of Tex. (Fisher I), 570 U.S. 297 (2013).   The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment. The court agreed that SFFA has standing, but disagreed that res judicata bars its claims. The parties here are not identical to or in privity with those in Fisher, and this case presents different claims.   The court first explained that SFFA has associational standing to challenge UT’s race-conscious admissions policy and the district court correctly denied the motions to dismiss based on standing. The court wrote that, however, the district court erred in applying the control exception to nonparty preclusion in two key respects. First, it mistakenly rejected SFFA’s argument about the different capacities in which Fisher and Blum acted in Fisher and act in this case. Second, even if Fisher’s and Blum’s different capacities did not foreclose applying claim preclusion, the district court erred in finding that Fisher and Blum control SFFA. Further, under the court’s transactional test, SFFA’s claims are not the same as those in Fisher because the claims are not related in time and space. View "Students for Fair Admissions v. Univ of TX" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 lawsuit against Hunt County and numerous county employees alleging that Defendants knew her son was suffering from a heart condition but failed to treat him while he was booked into the Hunt County jail.   The individual defendants moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), asserting qualified immunity. The district court denied that motion and entered its “standard QI scheduling order.” Back in district court, the individual defendants moved to stay all discovery and all proceedings. They argued that “[a]ll discovery in this matter should be stayed against all Defendants, including Hunt County, and all proceedings, in this case, should be stayed, pending resolution of the Individual Defendants’ assertions of qualified immunity.” Plaintiff filed an “advisory to the court concerning depositions” indicating that, on the Monell claim, she wished to depose all eight of the individual defendants asserting qualified immunity.   The Fifth Circuit denied Plaintiff’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and vacated the district court’s scheduling order. The court disagreed with Plaintiff’s argument that Monell discovery presents no undue burden to the Individual Defendants because they would be required to participate as witnesses in discovery even if they had not been named as defendants.”  First, there are significant differences between naming an individual defendant and then deposing him in two capacities. Next, it’s no answer to say the defendant can be deposed twice— once on Monell issues (before the district court adjudicates the immunity defense) and once on personal-capacity issues (afterwards).  Third, Plaintiff conceded at oral argument that bifurcation of discovery would radically complicate the case. View "Carswell v. Camp" on Justia Law

by
A county chapter of the NAACP and four individual Plaintiffs brought suit against the district attorney (“DA”) for the Mississippi counties in which they live, claiming he regularly discriminates against black potential jurors by striking them from juries because of their race. The Plaintiffs asserted violations of their own constitutional rights to serve on juries. The district court determined that it should apply one of the Supreme Court’s abstention doctrines and dismissed the case.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed holding that Plaintiffs have not alleged a certainly impending threat or a substantial risk to their rights that would satisfy the requirements of Article III. The court explained that to prevail on a claim for prospective equitable relief, a plaintiff must demonstrate continuing harm or a “real and immediate threat of repeated injury in the future. Further, the Fourteenth Amendment protects the right of a citizen not to be excluded from a petit jury because of his or her race. A juror who alleges being struck from a jury because of race has alleged a cognizable injury for purposes of Article III standing.Here, Plaintiffs allege that their injury is the imminent threat that the DA will deny them an opportunity for jury service by excluding them because of their race. However, save one, none of the Plaintiffs have ever been struck from a jury by the DA. Further, members of the county chapter cannot demonstrate an imminent threat that they will be struck unconstitutionally from a petit jury by the DA. Thus, Plaintiffs have not established standing. View "Attala County, MS Branch v. Evans" on Justia Law

by
Defendants dismissed Plaintiff from two graduate nursing studies programs. She sued, claiming that her dismissal violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Due Process Clause. The district court refused to dismiss some of her claims. The Defendants appealed part of that order, contending that they have sovereign immunity from Plaintiff’s ADA claims and that she failed to state Fourteenth Amendment claims.   The Fifth Circuit dismissed Defendants' appeal in part finding that the court lacks appellate jurisdiction over the Fourteenth Amendment claims. The court affirmed the order in part and reversed the order in part, concluding that Plaintiff stated some Title II claims but not all of the claims that the district court refused to dismiss. Defendants were not entitled to sovereign immunity at this stage of the litigation because Plaintiff’s allegations did not permit the court to assume that Defendants did not violate her due-process rights. The court explained that it has appellate jurisdiction over only the denial of sovereign immunity from Plaintiff’s ADA claims. The court wrote it must assume that Plaintiff’s allegations are true and draw all reasonable inferences in her favor. The state may or may not be correct that its rebuttal evidence vitiates any inference that Defendants discriminated against Plaintiff because of her disability. But the pleading stage was not the right time to raise those contentions. Although the court has done so in the past, Plaintiff’s allegations do not permit the court to assume that the Due Process Clause was not violated. View "Pickett v. Texas Tech Univ" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a Missouri inmate currently in custody at the Northeast Correctional Center (“NECC”), filed a pro se Section 1983 action against multiple defendants, claiming deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs and retaliation for filing grievances. The district court granted Plaintiff’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis on his individual capacity claims against Defendant, an employee of the Missouri Department of Corrections serving as food service manager at NECC during the time in question. After discovery, Defendant moved for summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff’s Complaint. As noted, Defendant argued that summary judgment was warranted because undisputed facts show that Defendant was not responsible for discontinuing Plaintiff’s Renal Diet.   The Eighth Circuit vacated a portion of the district court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant. The court explained that Defendant asserted exhaustion as an affirmative defense in his separate answer to Plaintiff’s complaint. In granting summary judgment, the district court did not consider exhaustion because it did not address Plaintiff’s 2015-2018 interference and retaliation claims. Thus, that issue remains open on remand. View "Kenneth Charron v. Larry Allen" on Justia Law

by
Kemp and seven codefendants were convicted of drug and gun crimes. The Eleventh Circuit consolidated their appeals and, in November 2013, affirmed their convictions and sentences. In April 2015, Kemp moved to vacate his sentence, 28 U.S.C. 2255. The district court dismissed Kemp’s motion as untimely because it was not filed within one year of “the date on which [his] judgment of conviction [became] final.” Kemp did not appeal. In 2018, Kemp sought to reopen his section 2255 proceedings, arguing that the one-year limitations period on his 2255 motion did not begin to run until his codefendants’ rehearing petitions were denied in May 2014. The Eleventh Circuit agreed that his section 2255 motion was timely but concluded that because Kemp alleged judicial mistake, his FRCP 60(b) motion fell under Rule 60(b)(1), with a one-year limitations period and was untimely.The Supreme Court affirmed. The term “mistake” in Rule 60(b)(1) includes a judge’s errors of law. Because Kemp’s motion alleged such a legal error, it was cognizable under Rule 60(b)(1) and untimely under Rule 60(c)’s one-year limitations period. The Court rejected Kemp’s arguments for limiting Rule 60(b)(1) to non-judicial, non-legal errors and applying Rule 60(b)(6), which allows a party to seek relief “within a reasonable time” for “any other reason that justifies relief,” but is available only when the other grounds for relief specified in Rules 60(b)(1)–(5) are inapplicable. View "Kemp v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of his claims as barred by 28 U.S.C. Section 1915(g), colloquially known as the “three strikes” provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”).   The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court explained that Rule 11 provides courts with a “means to penalize the pursuit of frivolous suits that are removed to federal court.” And “[i]f a prisoner fails to pay a penalty imposed under Rule 11, the court may take other steps, such as revoking the privilege of litigating [IFP] or barring new suits altogether.” Courts may consider these measures where appropriate even where Section 1915(g) is inapplicable. Because Plaintiff did not bring this action in any court of the United States, the magistrate judge erred by determining that his claims were barred by Section 1915(g). Further, the record is devoid of any findings regarding exhaustion. The issue of exhaustion was in discovery by the parties when this appeal occurred. As Plaintiff suggested, the court held that remand is required to answer this question. View "Mitchell v. Goings, et al" on Justia Law

by
Faith Bible Chapel International operated a school, Faith Christian Academy (“Faith Christian”). Plaintiff Gregory Tucker, a former high school teacher and administrator/chaplain, alleged Faith Christian fired him in violation of Title VII (and Colorado common law) for opposing alleged race discrimination at the school. As a religious employer, Faith Christian generally had to comply with anti-discrimination employment laws. But under the affirmative “ministerial exception” defense, those anti-discrimination laws do not apply to employment disputes between a religious employer and its ministers. Here, Faith Christian defended against Tucker’s race discrimination claims by asserting that he was a “minister” for purposes of the exception. After permitting limited discovery on only the “ministerial exception,” the district court ruled that, because there are genuinely disputed material facts, a jury would have to resolve whether Tucker was a “minister.” Summary judgment for Faith Christian, therefore, was not warranted. Faith Christian immediately appealed that decision, seeking to invoke the Tenth Circuit's jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine. The Tenth Circuit determined it did not have jurisdiction to hear the interlocutory appeal: the category of orders at issue here could be adequately reviewed at the conclusion of litigation. The appeal was thus dismissed. View "Tucker v. Faith Bible Chapel Int'l." on Justia Law

by
This case stemmed from traffic stops of Blaine and Samuel Shaw and Joshua Bosire that were prolonged for K-9 sweeps. Master Trooper Doug Schulte and Technical Trooper Brandon McMillan moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The district court denied the motions. The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part, and reversed in part, finding material issues of fact remained as to whether Troopers Schulte and McMillan had an arguable reasonable suspicion to extend the stops. Thus, the Court found the Shaws and Bosire could proceed on their 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims against Trooper Schulte and Trooper McMillan, respectively. However, the Court reversed the district court’s denial of summary judgment on: (1) the scope of the Shaws’ claim; and (2) Bosire’s claim against Trooper Schulte. View "Shaw, et al. v. Schulte, et al." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs-appellants Alan Dohner and William Gerber were, when their lawsuits were filed, general population inmates living in dormitory housing at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP). They claimed they had the right to possess a personal television in their cells, rather than being limited to shared televisions located in common areas. They raised various claims flowing from the enforcement of the regulations that prohibited them from doing so. The trial court rejected all the claims, denying their request for a writ of habeas corpus without issuing an order to show cause and sustaining respondents’ demurrer to their claims for a writ of mandate and declaratory relief. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's rulings, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "In re Dohner" on Justia Law