Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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Plaintiff filed suit against Officer May and the city, alleging excessive force, giving rise to a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983, and various state law claims. A jury found in favor of plaintiff, awarding him compensatory and punitive damages. The district court granted the city's motion with respect to the punitive damages award but denied the motion with respect to the compensatory damages award. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the district court should have granted the city's motion with respect to all damages. The court agreed with the city that the district court misapplied CONN. GEN. STAT. 7‐465 because, in awarding punitive damages, the jury found that Officer May's actions in causing plaintiff's injuries were wilful or wanton, triggering an exception to section 7‐465's assumption of liability requirement for all damages attributable to Officer May's conduct. View "Edwards v. Hartford" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging four amendments to the Village of Pomona's zoning law as violations of federal and New York law. The district court dismissed Tartikov's complaint in part and later resolved certain claims in defendants' favor. The remaining claims concluded with a verdict in favor of Tartikov. Defendants appealed the final judgment and Tartikov appealed the earlier orders dismissing certain claims. The Second Circuit held that Tartikov lacked Article III standing to pursue its free exercise, free speech,and free association claims under the federal and New York constitutions, Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) substantial burden and exclusion and limits claims, Fair Housing Act (FHA) claims, and common law claims related to the Berenson doctrine claims. Therefore, the court vacated the judgment with respect to those claims, remanding for instructions for dismissal. In regard to the remaining claims that went to trial, the court reversed the district court's judgment to the extent the claims invoke two of the challenged laws and affirmed insofar as the claims invoked the remaining two. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the as-applied challenges and challenges to the RLUIPA equal terms and total exclusion provisions. View "Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov, Inc. v. Village of Pomona" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Defendants Eric and Bryan VanBramer violated his constitutional rights by, inter alia, subjecting him to a visual body cavity search incident to arrest. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants based on qualified immunity. The Second Circuit vacated in part, holding that visual body cavity searches must be justified by specific, articulable facts supporting reasonable suspicion that an arrestee is secreting contraband inside the body cavity to be searched. In this case, because this requirement was established by sufficiently persuasive authority, it was "clearly established" for purposes of a qualified immunity defense by New York state police officers at the time Eric searched plaintiff. The court also held that disputed facts precluded a finding of reasonable suspicion on a motion for summary judgment, and remanded for trial on the merits of plaintiff's claim and the issue of whether Eric was entitled to qualified immunity. The court affirmed in part, holding that plaintiff failed to present evidence indicating that Bryan was aware that Eric was conducting, or was going to conduct, the visual body cavity search. View "Sloley v. VanBramer" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an Eighth Amendment claim by a state prisoner that state corrections officers were deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of harm, which resulted in an assault to the prisoner by another prisoner. The court held that the district court incorrectly stated the summary judgment standard applicable to plaintiff's claim and that factual issues precluded entry of summary judgment for the officers. In this case, the district court failed to view the evidence of the threat "in the light most favorable" to plaintiff, and there were genuine issues of material fact regarding whether defendants failed to take reasonable steps to avoid harm to plaintiff and to protect him from harm. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Lewis v. Swicki" on Justia Law

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The Second Court clarified that, to establish a prima facie pay discrimination claim under Title VII, a plaintiff need not first establish an Equal Pay Act violation—that is, that she performed equal work but received unequal pay. Rather, all Title VII requires a plaintiff to prove is that her employer discriminated against her with respect to her compensation because of her sex. The court adopted the framework applicable to Sarbanes‐Oxley Act of 2002 whistleblower retaliation claims to Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act whistleblower retaliation claims. In this case, plaintiff filed suit alleging that defendants paid her less than they would have if she were a man, retaliated against her when she raised concerns about her disparate pay and possible Consumer Product Safety Act violations, and fired her because she was pregnant. The district court held that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case for each of her claims. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case for plaintiff's Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Title VII claims, but insufficient evidence to support her Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act whistleblower retaliation claim. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Lenzi v. Systemax, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit held that a landlord may be liable under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) for intentionally discriminating against a tenant who complains about a racially hostile housing environment that is created by and leads to the arrest and conviction of another tenant. In this case, the landlord allegedly refused to take any action to address what it knew to be a racially hostile housing environment created by one tenant targeting another, even though the landlord had acted against other tenants to redress prior, non‐race related issues. In holding that a landlord may be liable in those limited circumstances, the court adhered to the FHA's broad language and remedial scope. The court also held that post-acquisition claims that arise from intentional discrimination are cognizable under section 3604 of the FHA. Accordingly, 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 82. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Francis v. Kings Park Manor, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's denial of his Federal Rule Civil of Procedure 60(b) motion to reconsider termination of the Milburn consent decree, which provided injunctive relief to inmates at Green Haven Correctional Facility seeking access to adequate medical care. The Second Circuit reversed and held that plaintiff had standing to invoke Rule 60(b) to challenge the termination because he was sufficiently connected with the underlying litigation and his interests were strongly affected by the termination. The court also held that the termination of the consent decree violated Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a)(4) and the Due Process Clause because the class was inadequately represented at the times relevant to the termination proceedings. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Irvin v. Harris" on Justia Law

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After the Authority implemented a reduction in force (RIF), plaintiffs filed suit against the Authority and others under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and New York law, alleging that the termination of union-represented employees violated the employees' First Amendment right to associate. At issue was whether State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition v. Rowland, 718 F.3d 126, 134 (2d Cir. 2013), which held that union activity is protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of association and that heightened scrutiny applies to employment decisions that target an employee "based on union membership," extends to agency fee payors (AFPs), who are not union members, based solely on the fact that AFPs are represented by a union during collective bargaining. The Second Circuit held that the First Amendment protections apply to union members but do not extend to AFPs based on union representation alone. The court held that AFPs did not have a First Amendment right to freedom of association merely because they were represented by a union during collective bargaining. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for the district court to determine whether the layoffs of the thirteen AFPs were justified under rational basis review. View "Donohue v. Milan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of current and former retail sales employees of Sterling Jewelers, filed suit alleging that they were paid less than their male counterparts, on account of their gender, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act. After an arbitrator certified a class of Sterling Jewelers employees that included employees who did not affirmatively opt in to the arbitration proceeding, the district court held that the arbitrator exceeded her authority in purporting to bind those absent class members to class arbitration. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that the arbitrator was within her authority in purporting to bind the absent class members to class proceedings because, by signing the operative arbitration agreement, the absent class members, no less than the parties, bargained for the arbitrator's construction of their agreement with respect to class arbitrability. The court remanded to the district court to consider, in the first instance, the issue of whether the arbitrator exceeded her authority in certifying an opt-out class. View "Jock v. Sterling Jewelers Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against four state defendants, alleging that they violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by holding him in state custody for four months after the expiration of his federal sentence, where the state sentencing court had originally directed that plaintiff's state and federal sentences should run concurrently. The district court denied the state defendants' motion for summary judgment. The Second Circuit held that, under Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976), the state defendants violated the Due Process Clause by implementing plaintiff's sentence in the manner they did without providing adequate notice to the state sentencing court and the attorneys present at plaintiff's state sentencing. The court held, nonetheless, that the state defendants were entitled to qualified immunity from all of plaintiff's constitutional claims. In regard to the Fourteenth Amendment claim, the court held that there was no clearly established law considering whether prison officials implementing a state sentence violate the Constitution by failing to provide notice to the sentencing court and attorneys. Likewise, in regard to the Eighth Amendment claim, there was not clearly established right the state defendants violated in this case. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to grant the motion for summary judgment. View "Francis v. Fiacco" on Justia Law