Articles Posted in Civil Rights

by
Doe met Roe on Tinder. They eventually met in person. Doe invited Roe to his apartment, where the two engaged in sex. Three weeks later, Roe reported to the University of Cincinnati’s Title IX Office that Doe had sexually assaulted her that evening. No physical evidence supports either student’s version. Five months later, UC cited Doe for violating the Student Code of Conduct. UC resolves charges of non-academic misconduct through an Administrative Review Committee hearing process. UC’s Code of Conduct does not require witnesses to be present. If a witness is “unable to attend,” the Code permits him to submit a “notarized statement” to the Committee. After considerable delay, UC held Doe's hearing. Despite Roe’s failure to appear, UC found Doe “responsible” for sexual assault, based upon Roe's previous hearsay statements to investigators. UC suspended Doe for a year after an administrative appeal. Doe argued that the denial of his right to confront his accuser violated his due process rights. In granting a preliminary injunction against Doe’s suspension, the district court found a strong likelihood that Doe would prevail on his constitutional claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Due Process Clause guarantees fundamental fairness to state university students facing long-term exclusion from the educational process. The Committee necessarily made a credibility determination and its failure to provide any form of confrontation of the accuser made the proceeding fundamentally unfair. View "Doe v. University of Cincinnati" on Justia Law

by
While Richmond was incarcerated in the Wayne County Jail for about six weeks, she received treatment for a burn, resulting from Richmond setting her seatbelt on fire while trying to escape the police cruiser following her arrest. Richmond contends that she received constitutionally inadequate treatment for her burn wound, which necessitated skin grafting surgery shortly after her release, and that she was unconstitutionally deprived of her psychiatric medication for over two weeks while in custody. The district court below granted the defendants summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. A reasonable jury could find that one doctor was or should have been aware of Richmond’s serious need for psychiatric medication, as evidenced by a nurse’s notation, and that she failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that Richmond received her medication. There is evidence that psychiatric social workers knew or had reason to know that Richmond had serious psychiatric needs that required treatment; that there was a risk that she would begin experiencing symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder days before she could expect to receive any medication to treat those ailments; and that they disregarded that risk. There was also evidence that certain nurses and medical assistants disregarded Richmond’s medical needs. View "Richmond v. Huq" on Justia Law

by
In 2011, Conzelmann pleaded guilty to distributing cocaine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1); (b)(1)(C). The Sixth Circuit affirmed his sentence, as a career offender, to 188 months in prison. The Supreme Court denied his certiorari petition. Conzelmann filed his first 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion, asserting ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to challenge the career offender enhancement, and that government agents “compelled” him to sell drugs. The district court denied the motion. The Sixth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability. Conzelmann moved (FRCP 60(b)) for relief from judgment, arguing that his presentence report contained a factual error. The Sixth Circuit denied permission to file a second or successive 2255 motion. Conzelmann then moved for consideration under the Supreme Court’s 2016 “Mathis” decision, arguing that he should not have been classified as a career offender because his prior conviction for possessing chemicals to manufacture drugs no longer qualifies as a predicate conviction. The Sixth Circuit denied relief. A second or successive collateral attack is permissible only if it rests on newly discovered evidence or “a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable,” 28 U.S.C. 2255(h). Mathis did not announce a new rule of constitutional law made retroactive; the holding was dictated by precedent and merely interpreted the statutory word “burglary” in the Armed Career Criminal Act. View "In re: Conzelmann" on Justia Law

by
Beydoun and Bazzi, both U.S. citizens, alleged that as a result of being placed on the federal government’s “Selectee List,” which designates them for enhanced screening at the airport, they have missed flights and been humiliated. The Selectee List is a subset of the government’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). The Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) decides whether to accept the “nomination” of a person by the FBI or the National Counterterrorism Center to the TSDB or the Selectee List and decides whether to remove a name after it receives a redress request. Beydoun and Bazzi both claim to have attempted to use the procedure to challenge their inclusion on the List and to have received only generalized responses that neither confirmed nor denied their inclusion on the List. The district court dismissed their suits, which alleged violations of the Fifth Amendment and unlawful agency action. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs did not allege that any protected interest was violated; they may have been inconvenienced by the extra security hurdles they endured in order to board an airplane but those burdens do not amount to a constitutional violation. Plaintiffs have not been prevented from flying altogether or from traveling by other means. View "Bazzi v. Sessions" on Justia Law

by
In 1998, a jury convicted Coley of attempted murder, two counts each of kidnapping and aggravated robbery, and three counts of aggravated murder (with the felony-murder aggravating circumstance attached to each count). He was sentenced to death. After unsuccessfully pursuing state-court relief, he unsuccessfully sought federal habeas relief in 2003. In 2017, Coley filed a new federal habeas petition. The Sixth Circuit denied Coley permission to file a second or successive petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254, based on his argument that the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision, Hurst v. Florida, rendered Ohio’s death-penalty scheme unconstitutional. Even if Hurst announced “a new rule of constitutional law,” the Supreme Court has not “made [Hurst] retroactive to cases on collateral review.” While not all second-in-time petitions are “second or successive,” it “cannot be that every new legal rule, including those not made retroactive on collateral review, also constitutes a new factual predicate,” and Coley has not shown that the facts underlying his claim “would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence” that no reasonable juror would have found him guilty. View "In re: Coley" on Justia Law

by
Upon receiving an anonymous tip, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) investigated allegations of race-fixing, involving gamblers and harness-racing drivers. Plaintiffs, MGCB-licensed harness drivers, attended an administrative hearing but declined to answer questions, invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The MGCB immediately suspended their licenses, based on a requirement that license applicants “cooperate in every way . . . during the conduct of an investigation, including responding correctly, to the best of his or her knowledge, to all questions pertaining to racing.” MGCB later issued exclusion orders banning the drivers from all state race tracks and denied Plaintiffs’ applications for 2011, 2012, and 2013 licenses. Plaintiffs sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming violations of their procedural due process and Fifth Amendment rights. The Sixth Circuit held that the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity. The exclusion orders were issued about 30 months before a post-exclusion hearing; Plaintiffs identified a violation of a clearly established right. Under specific conditions, a public employee “may rightfully refuse to answer unless and until he is protected at least against the use of his compelled answers.” The Supreme Court has held that if a state wishes to punish an employee for invoking that right, “States must offer to the witness whatever immunity is required to supplant the privilege and may not insist that the employee ... waive such immunity.” Both rights were clearly established at the time of the violation. View "Moody v. Michigan Gaming Control Board" on Justia Law

by
The Jackson County Michigan Board of Commissioners begins its monthly meetings with a Christian prayer. Bormuth, a non-Christian resident, attended meetings because he was concerned about environmental issues. During the prayer, Bormuth was the only one in attendance who did not rise and bow his head. Bormuth felt isolated and worried that the Commissioners would hold his action against him. He raised the First Amendment issue during a public comment period. The Commissioners reacted with “disgust.” Bormuth filed suit asserting that this prayer practice violated the Establishment Clause. The Commissioners declined Bormuth’s application to serve on an environmental committee. The district court granted the County summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit initially reversed, but on rehearing, en banc, affirmed. “Since the founding of our Republic, Congress, state legislatures, and many municipal bodies have commenced legislative sessions with a prayer.” Jackson County’s invocation practice is consistent with the Supreme Court’s legislative prayer decisions and does not violate the Establishment Clause. View "Bormuth v. County of Jackson" on Justia Law

by
Roell suffered from schizoaffective disorder and paranoid delusions. Roell’s symptoms could be controlled by medication but he stopped taking his medication in June 2013 and began exhibiting signs of mental decompensation. On the night of August 12-13, Roell entered a state of excited delirium. His wife was out of town. Roell damaged their condominium, then went to the condominium of his neighbor, Agarwal, and threw a flower pot through her window. Agarwal called 911, stating that her neighbor was “acting crazy.” Agarwal testified that Roell appeared angry, his face red and his eyes bulging, as he muttered unintelligible things, while pacing in front of Agarwal’s broken window, peering into her condominium. Deputies arrived and saw Roell holding a garden hose with a metal nozzle in one hand and a garden basket in the other, wearing a t-shirt, but otherwise naked., Roell was screaming “no” and something about water. While attempting to subdue Roell, the deputies physically struggled with him and unsuccessfully tased him multiple times. Roell stopped breathing during the encounter and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. His death was documented by the coroner as natural, resulting from his excited delirium. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the deputies on Mrs. Roell’s claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983, and in favor of Hamilton County on her claims under section 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. View "Roell v. Hamilton County Board of Commissioners" on Justia Law

by
During the execution of a warrant to arrest Penney while he was selling 200 pounds of marijuana, Penney fired shots, injuring two federal agents. In 2005, Penney was convicted of 15 drug and firearm offenses and an attempt to kill a federal agent. The SIxth Circuit affirmed Penney’s sentence of 895 months’ imprisonment. In 2011, Penney’s counsel filed a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate his sentence, which was denied as meritless. The court denied Penney’s pro se motion to amend because he was represented by counsel and no order of substitution had been entered. While Penney’s appeal was pending, he moved to amend the judgment, arguing that denial of his motion to amend created a “manifest miscarriage of justice” because “valid claims of actual innocence and unauthorized detention [could] trump time and procedural bars.” The court denied the motion and denied a certificate of appealability. The Supreme Court denied Penney’s certiorari petition. In 2015, Penney’s counsel moved for relief from judgment under FRCP 60(b)(1) and (6), arguing that the court erred when it denied Penney’s motion to amend. The Sixth Circuit affirmed denial of the motion. The miscarriage of justice exception applies to untimely Rule 60(b) motions and motions to amend but Penney failed to make the required showing of actual innocence. View "Penney v. United States" on Justia Law

by
In 1999, 12-year-old C.M. left home. Her sister and her sister’s boyfriend searched the neighborhood. Returning home, they found C.M. disoriented. C.M. stated that she had been at the neighboring Mills house and Mills had smoked marijuana with her and fondled her. They confronted Mills in front of his sons and contacted the Lewisburg, Tennessee police. Mills was indicted. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) reported that semen was found in C.M.’s underwear. C.M. then stated that Mills had engaged in sexual intercourse with her. A DNA analysis by Jenkins indicated a 0.3% chance that the DNA belonged to a Caucasian other than Mills but contradicted C.M.’s claims about Valium and marijuana. Mills was convicted of rape of a child, aggravated sexual battery, and casual exchange of a controlled substance. In a habeas proceeding, the Federal Public Defender sent the evidence to a private DNA laboratory, SERI, which was unable to retest the same portions of the underwear. Using the “same analysis techniques” on an adjacent section, SERI concluded that it contained semen from two males, neither was Mills. After serving 11 years in prison, Mills was released. The state overturned Mills’s convictions. Mills suit under 42 U.S.C. 1981, 1983, and 1985, against the Assistant District Attorney General, Jenkins, and a police investigator, in their individual and official capacities; the TBI Director in his official capacity; Marshall County; and the city, was dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed dismissal of claims against Jenkins for malicious prosecution, fabrication of evidence, and a Brady claim. Jenkins may be able to provide evidence that SERI's analytic methods differed, that the evidence available was not exculpatory, or that her actions were negligent at worst. View "Mills v. Barnard" on Justia Law