Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint, alleging malicious prosecution based on defendants falsely charging him with violating a condition of his probation. The court held that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity, because it was objectively reasonable for them to believe that there was probable cause that plaintiff violated his condition of his probation. In this case, defendants' determination that plaintiff's interaction with a law enforcement officer was reportable, such that his failure to report violated a condition of his probation, was objectively reasonable, not having been clearly established as incorrect in state law by the identification of a stricter questioning requirement. The court refrained from deciding whether plaintiff failed to overcome a presumption of probable cause that arose from the facts underlying his subsequently vacated conviction. View "Dettelis v. Sharbaugh" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the university and others, alleging in part that defendants violated his procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment when they placed him on involuntary leave and later terminated his employment. The Second Circuit held that the district court erred in denying summary judgment to the then-President of the University, John Schwaller, on the ground of qualified immunity. The court held that failure to comply with a state procedural requirement—such as the New York Civil Service Law—does not necessarily defeat a claim for qualified immunity under federal law. Because the district court based its holding almost exclusively on Schwaller's failure to comply with the New York State Civil Service Law, it legally erred by not accessing whether his conduct violated the procedural guarantees of the federal Due Process Clause. The court held that plaintiff's placement on involuntary leave was not a deprivation of a property interest sufficient to trigger due process requirements. Therefore, Schwaller's conduct did not violate clearly established federal law and he was entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded with instructions to dismiss the due process claim against Schwaller. View "Tooly v. Schwaller" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his complaint, alleging claims for hostile work environment, disparate treatment, failure to accommodate, and retaliation. Plaintiff suffered from Tourette's Syndrome and Obsessive‐Compulsive Disorder since birth. The Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's disparate treatment, failure to accommodate, and retaliation claims. However, the court held that plaintiff's hostile work environment claim was cognizable and that there were disputes as to material facts in this case. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the court held that plaintiff has raised an issue of fact as to whether the frequency and severity of mockery he received rose to the level of an objectively hostile work environment. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Fox v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law

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A landlord may be liable under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA) for failing to take prompt action to address a racially hostile housing environment created by one tenant targeting another, where the landlord knew of the discriminatory conduct and had the power to correct it. The Second Circuit adhered to the FHA's broad language and remedial scope, holding that the FHA reaches conduct that, as here, would constitute discrimination in the enjoyment of residence in a dwelling or in the provision of services associated with that dwelling after acquisition. Furthermore, HUD's 2016 Final Rule, HUD's other implementing regulations, and the views expressed in its amicus brief only reinforce the court's textual interpretation that a landlord may be liable under the FHA for failing to intervene in tenant-on-tenant racial harassment of which it knew or reasonably should have known and had the power to address. In this case, plaintiff alleged that defendants had actual knowledge of the tenant's criminal racial harassment of plaintiff but, because it involved race, intentionally allowed it to continue even though defendants had the power to end it. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims under the FHA and analogous New York State law, as well as his claims under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and 1982. The panel remanded for further proceedings. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's remaining claims. View "Francis v. Kings Park Manor, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ceara, a state inmate who claims that he was assaulted by a prison corrections officer, filed a pro se complaint raising claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983, naming “John Doe” as the officer who allegedly assaulted him but also described and named that officer as “Officer Deagan.” After the statute of limitations had expired, Ceara amended his complaint to correctly name “C.O. Deagan” as “Officer Joseph Deacon.” The district court dismissed on the ground that an amended complaint identifying a defendant to replace a “John Doe” placeholder does not relate back to the original complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(C). The Second Circuit vacated and remanded. Ceara’s complaint was not a true John Doe complaint; his amendment to correct a misspelling related back under 15 Rule 15(c)(1)(C). View "Ceara v. Deacon" on Justia Law

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Chunn was sleeping in the Amtrak waiting area in Pennsylvania Station when he was roused by Amtrak Police Officer Coleman. An altercation ensued and Chunn was arrested for disorderly conduct, trespassing, and resisting arrest. During a search incident to this arrest, officers discovered $10,400 cash in Chunn’s pocket, confiscated the cash. After an investigation by Amtrak’s Criminal Investigation Division and an Amtrak officer assigned to the Amtrak‐DEA joint task force, the DEA decided to seize the money for possible forfeiture as proceeds of drug sales. Amtrak transferred the cash to the DEA and gave Chunn a receipt. Chunn sued Amtrak and Amtrak officers, alleging that Amtrak’s transfer of his property without first offering him an opportunity to contest the transfer violated his due process rights, 42 U.S.C. 1983, and amounted to conversion under New York law. The Second Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants and denied Chunn’s motion to amend his complaint to add as a defendant the Amtrak officer responsible for turning over Chunn’s property to the DEA. Due process is afforded by the required post‐deprivation procedures and Chunn was not unlawfully deprived of his property. View "Chunn v. Amtrak" on Justia Law

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Dhinsa is serving six life sentences for multiple convictions concerning his leadership role in a racketeering enterprise. Dhinsa’s habeas corpus petition challenged two convictions, on counts of murdering a potential witness (18 U.S.C. 1512(a)(1)(C). The Second Circuit vacated the denial of relief. Although habeas relief would not affect the length of his incarceration, Dhinsa had standing based the $100 special assessment that attached to each conviction--a concrete, redressable injury. Dhinsa did not, however, satisfy the jurisdictional prerequisites for a 28 U.S.C. 2241 habeas petition under section 2255(e)'s savings clause, which is available if “the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” Dhinsa asserted his innocence under the Supreme Court’s 2011 “Fowler” decision, which requires the government to show in a section 1512(a)(1)(C) prosecution that the murder victim was “reasonably likely” to have communicated with a federal official had he not been murdered. Dhinsa’s extensive racketeering enterprise represents a type of criminal activity that is commonly investigated and prosecuted by federal officials. A juror could reasonably find that each of Dhinsa’s victims was “reasonably likely” to have communicated with federal officials. Because this test is jurisdictional, however, the court erred in denying the petition on the merits and should have dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. View "Dhinsa v. Krueger" on Justia Law

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NRP made preliminary arrangements with the City of Buffalo to build affordable housing on city‐owned land and to finance the project in part with public funds. The project never came to fruition, allegedly because NRP refused to hire a political ally of the mayor. NRP sued the city, the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, the mayor, and other officials The district court resolved all of NRP’s claims in favor of defendants. The Second Circuit affirmed. NRP’s civil RICO claim against the city officials is barred by common‐law legislative immunity because the mayor’s refusal to take the final steps necessary to approve the project was discretionary legislative conduct, and NRP’s prima facie case would require a fact-finder to inquire into the motives behind that protected conduct. NRP’s “class of one” Equal Protection claim was properly dismissed because NRP failed to allege in sufficient detail the similarities between NRP’s proposed development and other projects that previously received the city’s approval. NRP’s claim for breach of contract was properly dismissed because the city’s “commitment letter” did not create a binding preliminary contract in conformity with the Buffalo City Charter’s requirements for municipal contracting. NRP fails to state a claim for promissory estoppel under New York law, which requires proof of “manifest injustice.” View "NRP Holdings LLC v. City of Buffalo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff pro se appealed the district court's dismissal, under 28 U.S.C. 1915A, his amended complaint for failure to comply with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 20. Plaintiff alleged 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims against various medical personnel at the Health Center and Correctional Institution for failure to adequately treat his health condition. The Second Circuit held that the amended complaint substantially complied with Rule 8 by adequately putting defendants on notice of the claims specifically asserted against each of them, and Rule 20 by including allegations arising from the alleged failure of the named defendants to adequately treat his condition before his first surgery. However, the court held that the complaint failed to state a claim of any wrongdoing against three defendants. Accordingly, the court held that dismissal was improper except with respect to the three defendants. View "Harnage v. Lightner" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's grant of a 28 U.S.C. 2255 petition to reduce defendant's sentence. The court held that the district court erred in concluding that defendant's prior convictions for the New York offenses of robbery in the third degree and attempted robbery in the third degree did not qualify as predicate "violent felonies" under the Armed Career Criminal Act. Accordingly, the court remanded for the district court to reinstate defendant's original sentence. View "United States v. Thrower" on Justia Law