Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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A deputy from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office pulled over Sosa while driving.  After checking his name in the computer system and finding an outstanding warrant for a David Sosa, Sosa explained that he had been mistakenly arrested four years earlier for the same warrant.  He told the deputy about the differences between himself and the real Sosa who was wanted.  The deputy arrested him anyway, and he spent three days in jail before the sheriff’s office acknowledged he was not the wanted Sosa and released him.

Sosa filed a lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the Martin County Sheriff’s Department alleging a violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights by falsely arresting him and for detaining him longer than he should have been detained.  He made a claim pursuant to Monell that the Sheriff failed to institute policies and train deputies to prevent these types of things from happening.  The trial court dismissed the case for failure to state a claim.

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Mr. Spencer sued Sheriff Jonathan Benison pursuant to 42 U.S.C §1983 claiming a violation of his Fifth Amendment rights against deprivation of property and liberty rights.  He alleged that Benison ordered him to remove traffic cones and vehicles that were preventing Spencer’s neighbor from completing construction on an easement that Spencer alleged encroached on his property.  Spencer claimed that by ordering him to remove these obstructions, the Sheriff deprived him of property without due process and that Benison conspired with others to take and use his property without due process or compensation.

Spencer’s dispute began after an entity called Belle Mere Properties purchased a parcel of real estate from Spencer which contained an easement of 25 feet on either side of the existing power line for the purpose of egress and ingress.  Belle Mere then leased the property to a bingo hall.  Soon after Spencer and Belle Mere began disputing over the boundaries of the easement when Belle Mere decided to expand a previously constructed roadway running through the easement.  After Spencer made several calls to the police claiming that a bulldozer was trespassing, Benison responded to the scene and found that Spencer had placed cones and vehicles blocking construction which backed up traffic on U.S. Highway 11.

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Susan Khoury filed a lawsuit against the Miami Dade County School Board and Officer Williams, a school board police officer, for false arrest, excessive force, and First Amendment retaliation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983.  Williams had detained and committed her for an involuntary mental health examination under Florida’s Baker Act statute, Fla. Stat. §394.463 after Williams characterized her as being a danger to herself or others.  Khoury also made a Monell claim against the school board.  The district court granted summary judgment to as to all claims against the officer and the school board.  In this opinion, the court of appeals reversed the district court’s dismissal against the police officer but upheld the dismissal as to the school board.

Her claims arose from an incident that began when Khoury, who lived across the street from a middle school baseball field in Miami Dade County, was using her phone to record cars she believed were illegally parked around the baseball field.  Khoury had an argument with one of the drivers, who then called the police.  Officer Williams arrived, and after advising the driver that Khoury had a First Amendment right to film, Khoury and Williams had an argument which led to Williams arresting and detainer Khoury pursuant to the Baker Act.

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A deputy from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office pulled over Sosa’s car while driving.  After checking his name in the computer system and finding an outstanding warrant for a David Sosa, Sosa explained that he had been mistakenly arrested four years earlier on the same warrant and advised the deputy of the differences between him and the real Sosa who was wanted.  But the deputy arrested him anyway and he spent three days and nights in jail before the Department acknowledged he was not the wanted Sosa and released him.

Sosa filed a civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the Martin County Sheriff’s Department alleging  a violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights by falsely arresting him and over detaining him.  He made a claim pursuant to Monell that the Sheriff failed to institute policies and train deputies to prevent these types of things from happening.

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This case involved an encounter between a taxicab driver named Junior Prosper and a Miami Dade police officer that resulted in Prosper’s death.  Prosper’s widow sued the officer under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in federal court in Miami, Florida, claiming constitutional violation for the officer’s actions.  The federal trial judge ruled that the officer was entitled to the protection of qualified immunity, which gives liability protection to police officers.  This is an appeal from the federal trial judge’s decision to dismiss the case.

The events began when Prosper’s taxi drifted off the road and collided with a pole near the ramp to I-95, apparently because he lost consciousness while driving.  A witness called 911 and reported the driver had passed out.  A few minutes later Prosper got out of the taxi and was seen running up the on-ram toward I-95.  Another witness thought Prosper was drunk and had stolen the taxi.  The Miami Dade officer arrived on the scene in response to the call and learned from the witnesses what they had seen.  In his police cruiser, the officer approached Prosper on the I-95 ramp and ordered him to stop, but Prosper continued walking up the ramp.  What happened next was disputed except for the fact that the officer tased Prosper; Prosper bit down on the officer’s left index finger; and the officer shot Prosper 3 times in the chest.   According to the officer, after Prosper bit down his finger the officer then tased Prosper, but Prosper would not release his bite.  When the officer was unable to pry Prosper’s jaw open with his free hand, he drew his firearm and shot Prosper once in the chest.  Prosper continued biting while twisting his head from side to side, and the officer shot him a second time.  Prosper still did not release, and he fired a third shot killing Prosper.

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This appeal involved a 1983 civil rights lawsuit under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and various state law claims against the Columbus Georgia, the chief of police, and an officer Brown from the department.  This is how the appellate court stated the issue.  Whether, after a high-speed chase, a police officer reasonably used deadly force when he stepped out of his vehicle to make an arrest and the suspect’s nearby car suddenly went into reverse.

Here are how the facts unfolded.  A car driven by the deceased led the officers from Columbus Police Department on a high speed chase across state lines before crashing into bushes on the side of the road.  The lead police vehicle driven by Officer Brown stopped behind and to the right of the car.  Seconds after Brown stepped out to make an arrest, the car’s reverse lights turned on, and the car started backing up.  Brown fired 11 shots through the back windshield and side windows as the car passed near him.  Then he changed magazines and fired another 10 shots.  The driver was killed, and his two passengers were injured.

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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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