Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Hendersons’ appeal involved a civil-rights suit against the City of Huntsville and the Chief of Police alleging that the Chief and the city violated their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion through the City’s permit ordinance and the requirement of a noise provision in their special event permit.

The Hendersons believe that abortion is the murder of an unborn child and abortion is contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs. They act upon those beliefs by standing on the public sidewalks near two Huntsville, Alabama, abortion clinics to express their views and offer counsel to clinic employees, visitors, and patients who pass by. Under the Huntsville municipal code, their activities constitute a minor event and do not require a permit. But their protests bring out counter protesters from abortion-rights advocates and the presence of the abortion rights advocates makes it more difficult for the Hendersons to make their speech heard for two reasons. First, the Huntsville municipal code requires simultaneous sidewalk events to be held at least 10 feet apart. The Hendersons allege that the abortion-rights advocates take advantage of that policy by obtaining permits for events in front of the clinic and forcing the Hendersons to the other side of the street. Second, the abortion rights advocates drown out the Hendersons by shouting and ringing cowbells.

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A man named Robert Lawrence was shot by a police officer in front of his wife and children after an incident that began when took a stray dog to the animal shelter in Dothan, Alabama. Lawrence and his family found a stray dog in a Walmart parking lot and decided to take the dog to the shelter. When he arrived there with the dog, he was asked to show some identification and to fill out some paperwork before leaving the dog. He felt that he should not have to do that and out of frustration he told the official he would leave and just let the dog out along the road leading to the shelter.

When people who are at the shelter threaten to abandon an animal, their policy is to have a police officer follow them to their vehicle to write down their tag number. That happened when Lawrence left the shelter. The police officer asked for his driver’s license when he arrive at his car, and he told her he did not have to show her one.   The officer called for a backup officer and detained Lawrence at his car where they argued while waiting for the backup.

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McGroarty sued the Florida Department of Law Enforcement claiming a violation of his substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. McGroarty’s federal lawsuit alleged that the FDLE violated his rights by continuing to publish his personal identifiable information on FDLE’s sex offender registry website even after he had completed a ten year probation for a sex crime and was no longer subject of Florida’s registration laws.

When McGroarty lived in Florida his Florida conviction as a sex offender required him to register there. He then moved out of Florida to California where he lived while he completed his Florida probation. Eventually he moved to North Carolina, and eventually Florida notified him after he completed his probation that he had to continue registering in Florida as a sex offender. Thereafter, Florida maintained information about McGroarty on its online database, including his photograph, pursuant to Florida’s sex offender registry law, Fla. Stat. section 943.0435. In his lawsuit, McGroarty claimed that Florida lost jurisdiction to enforce compliance with its sex offender registry statute after he moved to California in 2004 because he was no longer a resident of Florida. The district court dismissed his lawsuit as time barred under the statute of limitations.

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Stryker filed a federal lawsuit against three officers of the Homewood Alabama Police Department for excessive force in violation of the Constitution and for state law claims for assault and battery. The incident resulted from his arrest for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and failing to comply with a lawful order of a city officer. Stryker was a commercial truck driver. After he who arrived at Walmart Store at 2:00 a.m. with his delivery, he was approached by a Homewood Police Officer who told Stryker a woman called the police accusing Stryker of hitting her car on the highway.

Stryker’s version of what happened next was drastically different from the police officer’s version. Under Stryker’s version, he took out a camera to take photographs of the woman’s car, something his company required him to do in the event of an accident. The defendant officer told him not to take photos and to put away the camera. As went to return to his truck, without warning the officer tased him and kicked him when he fell to the ground. As he tried to get away the officer struck him multiple times in the face breaking his jaw. Stryker managed to get into the cab of his truck but the officer broke into the cab, and with other officers that had arrived, they removed him and continued to beat and kick him.

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Plaintiff James Tracy held a tenured position at the School of Communication as Florida Atlantic University (F.A.U.) when he ran a personal online blog called the “Memory Hole Blog” which began attracting news media attention for publicly questioning whether the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newton, Connecticut had in fact occurred. The University did not ask Tracy to stop blogging but did request that he post an adequate disclaimer on his blog and that he report his blog as an outside activity. Both were required under the faculty’s collective bargaining agreement. Tracy did post a disclaimer by he refused to report his blog arguing that the blog did not qualify as a reportable outside activity under the definition of a “conflict of interest/outside activity. After he ignored two years of repeated requests to submit outside activity reports, F.A.U. fired him for insubordination.

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Nikola Cruz shot and killed 17 people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. Fifteen students who were bystanders suffered traumatic harm and psychological injuries from the shooting. In their lawsuit against Broward County, Robert Runcie, Scot Peterson, the students allege that the Parkland tragedy was exacerbated by government blunders before and after the shooting because Broward County Sheriff’s Office failed to act on the many dozens of calls it received that warned of Cruz’s dangerous propensities. Sheriff Scott Israel and Superintendent Runcie knew that Cruz might be dangerous, and Runcie was warned that the school had inadequate security, but neither official attempted to improve it. After Cruz started shooting, Scot Peterson, the police officer in charge of school security, stood outside the school with three other officers and did not enter or attempt to stop the shooting.

They claimed that the failure of Broward County and the officials to protect the students violated their rights to substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court dismissed the claims, and the students took this appeal.

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Ricky Hinkle died in a Birmingham City jail after being shocked twice with a taser and his son Hunter filed federal civil rights lawsuit against Deputy Dukuzumuremyi under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for a violation of Hinkle’s constitutional right to be free from excessive force. Hunter also claimed that Sheriff Hale and Captain Eddings were liable as supervisors for the deliberate indifference for policy or custom implemented by the officers. The officers moved to dismiss on grounds of qualified immunity and the district court denied their motions, and they took this appeal to the Eleventh Circuit. Dukuzumuremyi’s qualified immunity claim was rejected but the court found no supervisory liability by the Sheriff and the Captain.

This is how the facts unfolded. Hinkle was arrested while “visibly intoxicated” and taken to jail where he began suffering from alcohol-withdrawal symptoms and exhibited delusional behavior. When officers found him in the corner of his cell wearing only underpants and shoes telling them he wanted to die, they decided to move him to a padded cell. As they walked him toward the cell and asked him to remove his shoes, he began running down the hallway and grabbed a shower curtain. As the officers attempted to pull Hinkle into the new cell Dukuzumuremyi fired his taser hitting Hinkle on the left side of his chest. As a result of the shock Hinkle fell to the floor and urinated on himself. Dukuzumuremyi ordered Hinkle to roll over to be handcuffed by Hinkle remained unresponsive. Dukuzumuremyi tased him again on the front left side of his neck eight second after the first shock. During that time Hinkle remained motionless on the ground. Shortly after the second shock Hinkle went into cardiac arrest and was later pronounce dead in the hospital.

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Dismissal of inmate’s Eighth Amendment claim was incorrect

Sears filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights lawsuit for excessive force and deliberate indifference as a result of a physical assault and having been pepper sprayed after he was handcuffed and compliant. This incident happened while he was an inmate in Polk Correctional institution in Polk City, Florida. The district court ruled in favor of the correctional officers based on the Eleventh Circuit’s precedence in O’Bryant v Finch. The court of appeals reversed because it found the district court misread that decision and misapplied it by crediting the defendants’ version of the events over the Sears’ sworn allegations.

Sears had a dispute with another guard and tried to see the captain to lodge a complaint. The guard with whom he had the dispute told two other guards, the defendant, who tried to place him in handcuffs. When he resisted, he was forced to the ground and handcuffed. While he was restrained one of the defendants began punching him on his body while the other choked him. through it all a third defendant kept spraying him in the face with the chemical agent. They continued beating him. Sears estimated the entire physical altercation lasted about 16 minutes.

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After Almus Taylor died from internal bleeding after being kept in a jail holding cell overnight, Almus’s father Bonny Taylor sued the jail guards under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and Alabama state law alleging that they were deliberately indifferent to Almus’s serious medical needs. After the district court dismissed Bonny’s claims based on qualified immunity, he appealed to the Eleventh Circuit court of appeals raising the question whether qualified immunity shields the guards from Bonny’s constitutional deliberate indifference claim.

These are the background facts. Taylor was found in a battered pickup truck by a Covington County Deputy who called Emergency Medical Services and Alabama Highway patrol. While the EMS offered to take him to the hospital, he refused because they could not accommodate his request that he bring his dog along. The Alabama state trooper then arrested Almus for driving under the influence and took him to jail.

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In an important decision the Eleventh Circuit held in Sebastian v. Ortiz that an arrested person can proceed with a civil rights excessive force claim for substantial injuries arising from a handcuffing following a valid arrest. This is an appeal by Javier Ortiz of the Miami Police Department from the district court’s denial of his motion to dismiss the civil rights excessive force case against the officer by Ruben Sebastian. While driving in the City of Miami Sebastian was pulled over for a speeding traffic violation. When the officer who stopped Sebastian asked for permission to search the interior of the car, Sebastian refused to give consent. Officer Ortiz was summoned and his request to search was also denied. Ortiz then became enraged and removed Sebastian from the car and with the aid of other officers restrained Sebastian and placed him in metal handcuffs which he claims were put on in a manner to purposely cause pain and injury cutting off the circulation in his hands and cutting into the skin of his wrists. When Sebastian was placed in a vehicle for transportation to the police station, Ortiz replaced the metal handcuffs with plastic flex cuffs that were allegedly tight and were intended to cause pain and further injury. Sebastian was taken to the station and detained for more than five house still handcuffed behind his back. The charges against him of resisting an officer without violence were later dropped by the State Attorney.

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