Vander Boegh v. EnergySolutions, Inc.

The Department of Energy hired Vander Boegh in 1992 as landfill manager at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. In 1998, DOE awarded the Plant’s contract to BJC, which subcontracted with WESKEM for waste management services. Vander Boegh’s employment continued; he engaged in protected activity as landfill manager, including reporting environmental violations. In 2005, after soliciting new bids, DOE awarded the Plant’s contract to PRS. EnergySolutions provided waste management services by subcontract. In 2006, Plant operations transitioned to PRS-EnergySolutions. Vander Boegh applied to be the new landfill manager, but EnergySolutions hired another candidate. Vander Boegh’s employment terminated. He filed an employment discrimination complaint, alleging retaliation for protected conduct in violation of: the Energy Reorganization Act, 42 U.S.C. 5851; the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3730(h)(1)); the Safe Drinking Water Act, 42 U.S.C. 300j-9(i); Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1367; Toxic Substances Control Act, 15 U.S.C. 2622; and Solid Waste Disposal Act, 42 U.S.C. 6971. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants. The Sixth Circuit reversed with respect to EnergySolutions. On remand, the district court again granted summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that Vander Boegh lacked statutory standing because he was an applicant, not an employee.View "Vander Boegh v. EnergySolutions, Inc." on Justia Law

United States v. Ball

Ball pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). The district court enhanced his sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act based on three Kentucky state convictions: 1st degree trafficking in a controlled substance; 1st degree fleeing or evading police in Boyle County; and 1st degree fleeing or evading police in Mercer County. His sentencing range under the Guidelines was 188-235 months; the court sentenced him to 211 months. Ball argued that his Mercer County conviction did not qualify as a crime of violence under the ACCA. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Violation of Kentucky’s vehicle flight statute qualifies as a violent felony under the ACCA, regardless of whether the violation entailed the additional element of causing or creating a substantial risk of serious physical injury or death. Even vehicle flight “simpliciter” presents a risk similar in degree and kind to both burglary and arson. Even were this not the case, Ball’s indictment makes clear that he pleaded guilty to a crime that not only carried a potential risk similar in magnitude to the ACCA’s enumerated crimes, he actually created a “substantial”—or ample, considerable, and true—risk of serious injury or death to others.View "United States v. Ball" on Justia Law

S.L. v. Pierce Twp. Bd. of Trustees

Pierce Township Officer Homer responded to a call from S.L.’s mother and “smelled smoke.” S.L.’s mother stated that her teenage son had set fires in the house and that she had found smoldering Popsicle sticks in his bedroom. Homer entered S.L.’s bedroom. Popsicle sticks were not visible, but S.L. allegedly admitted that he had the fire. Homer asked whether he was afraid that the house might catch fire. S.L. responded, “I really don’t care.” Homer arrested S.L. for aggravated arson, transported him to the Juvenile Detention Center, and prepared a complaint charging S.L. as delinquent. Bartley, a deputy clerk, signed the complaint, attesting that Homer had taken an oath in his presence, but never administered the oath. S.L. appeared 12 hours later before Judge Wyler, who scheduled the pre-trial hearing and ordered continued detention pending psychological evaluation. S.L. was released a week later; the charge was dismissed. S.L. sued. Concerning claims against Homer under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court held that a genuine dispute of material fact existed on probable cause for arrest. Concerning Bartley, the court held that there is no duty for a detention clerk to make an independent assessment of probable cause and that a genuine dispute of material fact existed as to whether Bartley had legal authority to administer oaths. The court denied summary judgment for the township because the judge did not make a probable-cause determination. There was insufficient evidence that police training was inadequate. The court denied summary judgment based on a qualified immunity defense. The Sixth Circuit affirmed.View "S.L. v. Pierce Twp. Bd. of Trustees" on Justia Law

Misewicz v. City of Memphis

In 2001, Memphis required all newly hired fire fighters to become certified as level four emergency medical technicians (EMT-IV). In 2007, the city began requiring all new fire fighters to become certified as paramedics (EMT-P). Plaintiffs were subject to the new policy. It can take up to 18 months to become trained as a paramedic. The department required applicants to agree that within three years of employment they would become licensed paramedics, but did not indicate that the training would be uncompensated or off-duty. When hired, plaintiffs were required to sign an Acceptance Letter that stated that employment was subject to becoming certified as an EMT. The department considers time spent in EMT-IV, Firefighter I, and Firefighter II training as hours worked and compensates employees for that time, but does not count time spent attending Paramedic Training as work and does not compensate for attending that training. The district court rejected a suit seeking overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 207. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the department hired the plaintiffs, not simply as fire fighters, but to perform as both fire fighters and paramedics.View "Misewicz v. City of Memphis" on Justia Law

Sister Michael Marie v. Am. Red Cross

Catholic nuns volunteered with the American Red Cross and the Ross County Emergency Management Agency for an extended time, but did not receive compensation or benefits, complete employment-related tax documentation, restrict their schedules, or submit to the control of either organization by other incidents of an agency relationship. They were not promoted by the Red Cross and were terminated as Agency volunteers. The Ohio Civil Rights Commission rejected their complaint for lack of jurisdiction; the EEOC does not provide a Right to Sue Letter following a jurisdictional dismissal. The nuns sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e and the Ohio Civil Rights Act for religious discrimination, retaliation, and harassment, and under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violations of their rights of free speech, free exercise of religion, and equal protection. Finding that the Sisters had not sufficiently alleged state action, the district court dismissed the section 1983 claims, then held that, because they were not employees of either organization, the Sisters could not maintain a claim against them under Title VII. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. A volunteer relationship does not fairly approximate employment and is not covered by Title VII, nor were constitutional rights violated.View "Sister Michael Marie v. Am. Red Cross" on Justia Law

Hyland v. HomeServices of America, Inc.

Class representatives sued Kentucky real estate firms, alleging violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, by participating in a horizontal conspiracy to fix commissions charged in Kentucky real estate transactions at an anti-competitive rate. The certified class consists of people who sold residential real estate in Kentucky from 2001 to 2005, and used the services of defendants. Several defendants settled. The district court entered summary judgment for remaining defendants, excluding the opinions of plaintiffs’ experts with respect to whether collusion among the defendants was the likely economic explanation of the pricing of commissions. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that although the plaintiffs produced a good deal of circumstantial evidence that would support a theory of collusion, the conduct at issue was also consistent with permissible competition.View "Hyland v. HomeServices of America, Inc." on Justia Law

Gillispie v. Warden, London Corr. Inst.

In 1988, a man abducted a woman at gunpoint and sexually assaulted her. Two women were abducted and raped 15 days later. In 1991 Gillispie was convicted of rape and kidnapping and sentenced to 22 to 56 years. The Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed; the Ohio Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. In 2008, Gillispie sought a new trial, arguing that the prosecution had failed to produce police reports that eliminated Gillispie as a suspect. The state court rejected that claim; the court of appeals affirmed, but remanded a claim that new evidence showed that another man committed the rapes. Before the state trial court acted, Gillispie filed a federal habeas petition, asserting only his Brady claim. The state court then rejected his new-evidence claim. In 2011, the federal court granted a conditional writ of habeas corpus, ordered a new trial, and ordered Gillispie released pending appeal. In 2012, the state court of appeals reversed on the new-evidence claim, and remanded for a new trial. Vacatur of Gillispie’s conviction eliminated federal jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit granted the state’s motion to dismiss its appeal. The district court subsequently denied the state’s motion to vacate the conditional-writ order. The Sixth Circuit affirmed.View "Gillispie v. Warden, London Corr. Inst." on Justia Law

Williams v. City of Cleveland

Williams was arrested on non-felony charges of driving with a license suspended for failure to pay a traffic ticket. After Williams paid her ticket and fines, she was instructed to undress and shower in the presence of a corrections officer and two other female detainees, where she was also subjected to a visual body cavity search, and was instructed to bend at the waist and spread her buttocks. While she was bent over, an officer sprayed her with delousing solution all over her naked body, including into her anus. There was no indication that Williams had lice. Williams was released the same day. While her putative class action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve whether pretrial detainees could be strip searched as a matter of course upon entry into a correctional facility absent individualized suspicion. The district court stayed Williams’s action. In 2012 the Court upheld a blanket strip-search policy. The district court denied a motion to file an amended complaint clarifying that plaintiffs “not only complain about the use of delousing on all detainees, but also about the manner,” particularly spraying delousing agent all over their naked bodies, “specifically aim[ing]” at their genitals,” instead of using less invasive methods, such as permitting detainees to apply the solution. According to the district court, the question was resolved by Florence. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the allegations plausibly allege a violation of the Fourth Amendment.View "Williams v. City of Cleveland" on Justia Law

Love v. Beshear

Same-sex couples living in Michigan. Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee successfully challenged a variety of state laws concerning marriage. The Sixth Circuit reversed the district court rulings after exploring Supreme Court precedent. None of the theories invoked by plaintiffs--rational basis review; animus; fundamental rights; suspect classifications; evolving meaning--makes the case for constitutionalizing the definition of marriage and for removing the issue from the place it has been since the founding: in the hands of state voters. The court reasoned that a change in the law may result from the Supreme Court constitutionalizing a new definition of marriage to meet new policy views or by “the traditional arbiters of change—the people.” The court noted that in 11 years, 19 states and the District of Columbia, accounting for nearly 45 percent of the population, have exercised their sovereign powers to expand a definition of marriage that until recently was universal. “When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers.”View "Love v. Beshear" on Justia Law

Lasley v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.

The district court awarded Naegel, counsel for a prevailing social security disability benefits applicant, significantly reduced attorneys’ fees under 42 U.S.C. 406(b). He claimed that the court should have approved his request for $26,049.73, the 25-percent contingency fee accepted by his client and permitted by statute. The Commissioner of Social Security, representing the interests of the claimant whose benefits pay for the fees, opposed that sum as a “windfall” in light of counsel’s 35.5 hours of work. The district court agreed and awarded $12,780. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that: “Within the 25 percent boundary,” prevailing counsel bears the burden of “show[ing] that the fee sought is reasonable for the services rendered.”View "Lasley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec." on Justia Law