Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that two Monroe County Assistant District Attorneys (ADA), and others, violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to timely arraign him on four of six identity fraud and larceny charges. The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of absolute immunity to the ADAs, holding that they were performing a traditional prosecutorial function when they determined that they would initiate plaintiff's prosecution via grand jury indictment and thus delay his arraignment on separate individual charges. The court held that it lacked appellate jurisdiction to consider the district court's denial of Monroe County's motion to dismiss because these claims against the county were not inextricably intertwined with the issue of the ADA's immunity. View "Ogunkoya v. Drake" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. Defendant, a police officer, tased a student at the American School for the Deaf after giving the student warnings that he would be tased if he did not follow the officer's instructions. The court held that defendant was entitled to qualified immunity because it was objectively reasonable for him to believe that, given the undisputed facts, his conduct complied with clearly established law. In this case, the student was a threat to himself and others, and the officer had a reasonable basis to believe that his instructions and warnings were being conveyed to the student by faculty and the student was ignoring them. View "Muschette v. Gionfriddo" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendants retaliated against him in violation of his First Amendment rights after he filed a report that a fellow sergeant in the Sheriff's Department had misused a digital repository of criminal justice information, and infringed his right to intimate familial association with his sister. The court held that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because a reasonable officer would not have known that it was clearly established law that defendant's speech constituted a matter of public concern. The court also held that defendant failed to allege any facts that would allow a reasonable jury to infer that defendants intentionally interfered with defendant's relationship with his sister. View "Gorman v. Rensselaer County" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The court held that, given the strong evidence of petitioner's guilty, he failed to show that his defense was constitutionally prejudiced by trial counsel's conduct. In this case, there was no basis for concluding that petitioner established a substantial likelihood of a different result, even if his attorney had obtained the phone records at issue prior to trial. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Garner v. Lee" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motions for judgment on the pleadings in an action alleging malicious prosecution and denial of equal protection of the laws. The court held that New York State law could not alter the standard that applied to the "favorable termination" element of a federal constitutional claim of malicious prosecution, which required that plaintiff show that the proceedings ended in a manner that affirmatively indicated his innocence. In this case, plaintiff has not plausibly pleaded that the criminal proceedings against him were terminated in a manner that indicated he was innocent of the charges. The court also held that plaintiff failed to state a claim under the equal protection clause. View "Lanning v. City of Glens Falls" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's motions for supervised release or bail pending resolution of his motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The court held that a certificate of appealability was not required when appealing from orders in a habeas proceeding that are collateral to the merits of the habeas claim itself, including the denial of bail. In this case, the absence of a COA was not a bar to petitioner's appeal from the district court's order denying his motion for supervised release or bail pending resolution of his habeas petition. The court also held that petitioner's motion lacked merit because it did not present substantial questions and petitioner failed to demonstrate extraordinary circumstances. View "Illarramendi v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of defendant's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion and resentence to a lesser term of imprisonment than was initially imposed. The court held that defendant failed to meet his heavy burden of demonstrating a miscarriage of justice where frustration of a sentencing judge's subjective intent did not, by itself, render a sentence a miscarriage of justice to support a cognizable collateral challenge to that sentence. In this case, defendant pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly and intentionally distributing cocaine base, a schedule II controlled substance. In accordance with the plea agreement, defendant was sentenced to 112 months in prison. After defendant was sentenced, his conviction on a predicate offense was vacated and then became the basis of his section 2255 motion. View "United States v. Hoskins" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in an action alleging that defendants took adverse employment action against plaintiff in violation of the First Amendment in retaliation for her giving advice to a co-worker who was being arrested by campus police. The court declined to apply the law of the case doctrine where the district court initially entered an order denying defendants' motion for summary judgment before changing its mind, because plaintiff did not point to any prejudice she suffered by reason of the change of ruling and the court saw no impropriety in the district court's exercise of its discretion to revisit its earlier denial of summary judgment. On the merits, the court held that defendants were protected from both liability and the obligation to defend the case because of qualified immunity. In this case, there was no clearly established law to the effect that plaintiff's speech was on a matter of public concern. View "Colvin v. Keen" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that his right to due process had been violated when fabricated evidence was used against him in a state criminal proceeding and alleging a claim of malicious prosecution. The claims stemmed from the 2009 Working Families Party primary election in the City of Troy, New York, where several individuals associated with the Democratic and Working Families Parties forged signatures and provided false information on absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots in order to affect the outcome of that primary. Plaintiff approved the forged applications but claimed he did know that they had been falsified. Plaintiff was indicted by a grand jury but subsequently acquitted. The Second Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court and held that plaintiff's due process claim was time-barred because it was filed beyond the applicable limitations period. The court also held that the prosecutor was entitled to absolute immunity on plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim. View "McDonough v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Vermont's campaign finance law, Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, 2901 et seq., which imposes additional restrictions on candidates who choose to receive public campaign finance grants, did not violate the First Amendment. Former and prospective candidates for public office in Vermont and a political party filed suit challenging provisions that prohibit publicly financed candidates from accepting contributions or making expenditures beyond the amount of the grants and announcing their candidacies or raising or expending substantial funds before a certain date. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the candidates' claims for failure to state a claim and held that, because candidates may freely choose either to accept public campaign funds and the limitations thereon or to engage in unlimited private fundraising, those limitations did not violate First Amendment rights. The court also found that the candidates were not entitled to a fee award because they could not be considered prevailing parties. View "Corren v. Donovan" on Justia Law