Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Sherman was incarcerated at the Trumbull County Jail where Drennan was a corrections officer. Drennen regularly patrolled the pod where Sherman lived with Rafferty, another female inmate. Three or four times, Sherman complied with Drennen's demand that Sherman expose her breasts to him. Once or twice, Sherman masturbated in Drennen’s presence “because he asked for it.” Sherman does not allege that Drennen ever touched her. Drennen never explicitly threatened Sherman. Sherman was deeply disturbed by Drennen’s demands. As a result of Drennen’s abuse, Sherman’s post-traumatic stress disorder worsened and her night terrors and flashbacks increased in severity. Sherman never reported Drennen to the jail administration because she felt intimidated. Sherman and Rafferty sued Drennen and county officials, alleging Fourth Amendment and Eighth Amendment claims against Drennen and Monell claims against the officials. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment on every claim except Sherman’s Eighth Amendment claim against Drennen, finding that Drennen was not entitled to qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Sherman satisfied the subjective component of her Eighth Amendment claim; a jury could conclude that Drennen acted with deliberate indifference or acted maliciously and sadistically for the purpose of causing her harm. When Drennen allegedly sexually abused Sherman, it was clearly established that such abuse could violate the objective prong of the Eighth Amendment. View "Rafferty v. Trumbull Cty" on Justia Law

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Maye became a member of the Nation of Islam—one of several Islamic sects— in 1992. Maye has been a devout, active Muslim for 20 years, including the years he spent incarcerated in Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) facilities. Eid al-Fitr is one of two annual religious feasts central to Islam. MDOC officials twice prevented Maye from participating in Eid. In 2013, Chaplain Serafin told Maye he could only attend Eid if he changed his religion from Nation of Islam to Al-Islam; Maye testified that Chaplain Taylor denied his request to participate in Eid in 2014 without offering any justification. Maye filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court denied Serafin and Taylor qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The court noted that, since 2006, MDOC has been embroiled in litigation regarding its policy of refusing to allow Muslim inmates to participate in Eid and that in July 2013, MDOC amended its Policy Directive to recognize Eid as a protected religious holy day. Maye sufficiently alleges the deprivation of his constitutional rights and a reasonable official would have known that the constitutional rights at issue were clearly established when faced with a court order specifically instructing MDOC officials to allow Muslim inmates to participate in Eid. View "Maye v. Klee" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Thomas and Gregory arranged to buy cocaine from Burdette at a Lexington Waffle House. They got into Burdette’s car, with Thomas in the back seat. Thomas grabbed Burdette from behind, held a gun to his head, and demanded the cocaine. When Burdette refused, Thomas shot him in the leg. Burdette then said the cocaine was across the street with his partner. Thomas shot Burdette three more times. Thomas and Gregory fled. Burdette died. Thomas was convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed. Kentucky courts denied post-conviction relief. Thomas sought habeas corpus relief, claiming that his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the jury instructions. The district court found the petition untimely. The Sixth Circuit reversed. On remand, the district court denied relief. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the Kentucky definition of murder violated due process because it prescribes two mental states—intent to kill and extreme indifference to human life—as alternative means for the mens rea element. The fact that the jury needed to find was that Thomas either intended to kill his victim or possessed extreme indifference as to whether he killed him; the jury made that finding, View "Thomas v. Meko" on Justia Law

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Officers searched for a fugitive in a house in which Jacobs rented a basement apartment. The house belonged to the fugitive’s brother. They did not find the fugitive. Following the search, plaintiff returned home from work and entered his basement apartment through a backdoor without noticing the officers. He claims that his living area had been ransacked. He ran up the backstairs shouting. According to the officers, Jacobs pointed a gun and shot at them. The officers returned fire and arrested him. Jacob admits he had a holstered pistol but denies that he touched it at all. Contemporaneous with turning to flee and reaching for his holster, Jacobs fell down the steps and was shot in the stomach, shoulder, and leg. Forensic evidence later confirmed that Jacobs did not fire his gun; witness accounts conflicted on whether he pointed the gun at an officer. .After a jury acquitted Jacobs of state criminal charges, he filed “Bivens” action against the officers, alleging excessive force, false arrest, malicious prosecution, fabrication of evidence, and civil conspiracy. The district court denied defendants qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part, finding plaintiff’s “garden-variety Bivens” claims viable in light of the Supreme Court’s holdings in “Ziglar” and “Hernandez” as “run-of-the-mill challenges” to “standard law enforcement operations.” The court dismissed some of the specific challenges for lack of jurisdiction in an interlocutory appeal. View "Jacobs v. Alam" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Ewing was tried as the shooter in a gang-related shooting. Ewing claimed that he was attending a funeral when the shooting happened and that the shooter was Washington. Ewing put on alibi witnesses and a jailhouse informant who testified that Washington had bragged about the shooting. On the second day of deliberations, the jury asked the court to declare that it was deadlocked. The court refused. On the fourth day of deliberations the jury returned a verdict against Ewing on all counts, including first-degree murder. About two months later, Juror Byrnes filed an affidavit stating that two fellow jurors had brought up information that was not part of the trial evidence, coming from Facebook postings and “googling” information about gangs. Ewing sought a new trial, alternatively requesting an evidentiary hearing to further develop the facts surrounding the allegedly tainted jury deliberations. The state did not object to an evidentiary hearing. The court denied the motion outright, finding that the internet information was duplicative of what the jury had learned from the trial evidence. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Ewing sought habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The district court held that the state court’s determination was contrary to clearly established law and that “the internet information may have tainted the jury,” and ordered a new trial. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The appropriate remedy was a hearing to consider whether a new trial is warranted. View "Ewing v. Horton" on Justia Law

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After the FBI arrested Monea for money laundering, he told his attorney that the undercover agent coerced him into committing the crime. Much of the sting operation had been recorded; the threats Monea claimed were not on the recordings. He then claimed that the government tampered with evidence. After the jury convicted him Monea found a witness (the trustee of the Monea Family Trust) claiming that the undercover FBI agent lied on the stand. He sought habeas relief, claiming his trial counsel ineffectively pursued the evidence-tampering claim by not adequately following up on an assertion that the recordings had been tampered with, or that the government’s star witness perjured himself. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the petition. The district court “thoroughly considered” the affidavits presented by Monea and concluded that they could not overcome the government’s contrary evidence. It is not enough for Monea to argue that a different attorney would have done a better job. Monea provided no new evidence and no new arguments that would have altered the trial court’s denial of his outrageous-conduct defense. Monea bore the burden of proving perjury and “mere inconsistencies” in the agent’s testimony were not enough to sustain the claim. View "Monea v. United States" on Justia Law

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As a cost-saving measure, Flint's municipal water supply was switched from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) to the Flint River and was processed by an outdated and previously mothballed water treatment plant, with the approval of Michigan regulators and an engineering firm, and distributed without adding chemicals to counter the river water’s known corrosivity. Within days, residents complained of foul smelling and tasting water. Within weeks, some residents’ hair began to fall out and their skin developed rashes. Within a year, there were positive tests for E. coli, a spike in deaths from Legionnaires’ disease, and reports of dangerously high blood-lead levels in Flint children. The river water was 19 times more corrosive than the Lake Huron water pumped supplied by DWSD; without corrosion-control treatment, lead leached out of the lead-based service lines. The district court dismissed many claims and defendants in a suit by residents. The remaining defendants appealed with respect to the remaining 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim--that defendants violated their right to bodily integrity as guaranteed by the Substantive Due Process Clause. The Sixth Circuit concluded that plaintiffs pled a plausible Due Process violation regarding some defendants, rejecting their qualified immunity claims. The court reversed as to other defendants; plaintiffs alleged mere negligence, not a constitutional violation, against them. The court rejected a claim that the city was entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity based on Michigan's takeover of the city under the “Emergency Manager” law. View "Guertin v. Michigan" on Justia Law

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Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency's automated program, MiDAS, accessed claimant records from employers, state agencies, and the federal government. When MiDAS detected unreported income or “flagged” other information, it initiated an automated process to determine whether the individual had engaged in fraud. If an employee reported no income for any week during a quarter in which he earned income, MiDAS automatically found fraud. MiDAS did not inform the claimant about the basis for suspicion and did not allow fact-based adjudication but automatically sent claimants multiple-choice questionnaires. No human being took part in the fraud determination. MiDAS sent the questionnaires to claimants’ online accounts, many of which were dormant, and did not take additional steps (emails, mail, or phone) to notify claimants. When MiDAS determined that a claimant committed fraud, the individual’s right to benefits terminated immediately and severe monetary penalties were automatically assessed, even when claimants did not actually receive benefits. Most claimants did not know about the determination until the time for appeal had expired. The Agency did not answer calls and garnished claimants’ wages and intercepted their federal income tax returns without an opportunity to contest the fraud determinations. The Michigan Auditor General reviewed 22,000 MiDAS fraud determinations; 93% did not actually involve fraud. In an action under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court denied the Individual Defendants qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part. Plaintiffs adequately alleged that Defendants violated their right to procedural due process by terminating their eligibility for benefits and seizing their tax refunds without any meaningful pre-deprivation process; the right to a pre-deprivation hearing was clearly established at the time. Plaintiffs failed to state a plausible equal protection claim; they failed to allege Defendants intentionally singled them out for discriminatory treatment. Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights were not clearly established in this context. View "Cahoo v. SAS Analytics Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioners, Iraqi nationals, were ordered removed years ago because of criminal offenses they committed in the U.S. Iraq refused to repatriate them, so Petitioners remained under orders of supervision by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In 2017, Iraq began to cooperate and removal of Iraqi nationals resumed. In April 2017 ICE conducted a removal by charter flight to Iraq, scheduling a second charter for June and arresting more than 200 Iraqi nationals. Iraq declined to issue requisite travel documents and would accept only Iraqi nationals who had unexpired passports and were returning on commercial flights. Petitioners filed a putative class action habeas petition on behalf of all Iraqi nationals with final orders of removal, who have been, or will be, arrested and detained as a result of Iraq’s recent decision,” seeking a TRO or stay of removal, pending arguments on allegedly changed country conditions. Under 8 U.S.C. 1252(g), immigration courts hold exclusive jurisdiction over removal proceedings. The district court stayed the final removal orders and concluded that it had jurisdiction to hear Petitioners’ claims as an as-applied constitutional violation of the Suspension Clause. The Sixth Circuit vacated. The district court lacked the jurisdiction. Rejecting Petitioners’ argument the petition-for-review process is constitutionally inadequate as an alternative to habeas review, the court noted that Petitioners had years to file motions to reopen and the administrative scheme provides multiple avenues to stay removal while pursuing relief. The court was not merely interpreting a statute: it “created out of thin air a requirement for bond hearings that does not exist in the statute; and adopted new standards that the government must meet.” View "Hamama v. Adducci" on Justia Law

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Logan was a drug courier in a cross-country drug ring from 2004-2007. In total, Logan transported over 150 kilograms of cocaine from California to Michigan. Logan received conflicting advice while considering whether to accept a plea offer with a 10-year sentencing cap. His counsel of record told him it was a very good deal that avoided the high risks of proceeding to trial. Logan signed the plea agreement. His second attorney (retained by Logan’s family but not counsel of record) subsequently persuaded Logan to withdraw from the plea agreement. Ultimately, Logan accepted another plea agreement that did not include a sentencing cap and received a much longer sentence than contemplated by the first agreement. Logan claimed ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court and Sixth Circuit rejected his argument. Counsel of record advised Logan about the risks of going to trial; Logan testified that he signed the plea agreement because he was guilty and was worried about facing a sentence of 30 years or more. He was aware of the risks of trial. Whether to accept the plea offer was ultimately Logan’s decision and that the fear of a higher sentence after trial was a valid concern. Logan received all the information needed to make an informed decision. View "Logan v. United States" on Justia Law