Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Plaintiffs, Asian-owned companies and an Asian construction worker, filed suit against the City and others, alleging that defendants discriminatorily enforced municipal building codes against plaintiffs on the basis of race and personal animus. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' Equal Protection claims under the theories articulated in Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562 (2000), the Due Process clause, and the Monell doctrine. However, the court vacated as to the selective enforcement claims of race-based and malice-based discrimination articulated under LeClair v. Saunders, 627 F.2d 606 (2d 5 Cir. 1980), because plaintiffs plausibly alleged differential treatment by the same defendant for conduct at the same work site. Likewise, the court vacated the district court's judgment as to the 42 U.S.C. 1981 claim for race-based interference with plaintiffs' right to make and enforce contracts, because plaintiffs alleged a plausible Equal Protection claim under LeClair. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hu v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, formerly civil immigration detainees treated for serious mental illnesses, filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the county and others, alleging that the failure to engage in discharge planning or to provide them with discharge plans upon release violated their substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss. The court held that plaintiffs have adequately stated a Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claim, because they plausibly alleged that they had serious medical needs requiring discharge planning and that defendants' failure to provide discharge planning to plaintiffs constituted deliberate indifference. Accordingly, the court remanded for further fact finding and further proceedings. View "Charles v. Orange County" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit denied a petition for rehearing of its prior decision concluding that petitioner's prior convictions for robbery under Con. Gen. Stat. 53a‐133 qualified as predicates under the Force Clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 (ACCA), and reinstating his original ACCA sentence. The court held that petitioner misread Villanueva v. United States, 893 F.3d 123 (2d Cir. 2018). While petitioner was correct that in Villanueva the court remanded for resentencing, rather than direct the district court to reimpose the original sentence that had impermissibly relied on the ACCA's now‐defunct residual clause, the court neither ruled nor suggested that the latter course would have been impermissible, much less ruled that future courts in similar circumstances should follow the same course. Therefore, the decision to remand for resentencing was discretionary. The court also held that petitioner misconstrued Pepper v. United States, 562 U.S. 476 (2011), nor was petitioner correct that a sentencing court's reliance on the ACCA's residual clause, later determined to be unconstitutional, would be a structural error not susceptible to harmless error analysis. Petitioner's remaining arguments were unpersuasive. View "Shabazz v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an alien subject to a final order of removal, together with several immigration‐policy advocacy organizations, appealed the district court's interlocutory order denying their motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissing some of their claims. Plaintiff sought to enjoin his imminent deportation on the basis of evidence that Government officials targeted him for deportation because of his public speech that was critical of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. immigration policy. The Second Circuit vacated the district court's order and held that plaintiff stated a cognizable constitutional claim where the court's prior precedent did not foreclose the claim and where plaintiff's claim involved outrageous conduct. In this case, plaintiff's speech implicated the highest position in the hierarchy of First Amendment protection; the Government's alleged retaliation was egregious; plaintiff has a substantial interest in avoiding selective deportation; and the Government's interest in having unchallenged discretion to deport plaintiff was less substantial. The court also held that, although Congress intended to strip all courts of jurisdiction over plaintiff's claim, the Suspension Clause of the Constitution requires the availability of a habeas corpus proceeding in light of 8 U.S.C. 1252(g). Therefore the district court had jurisdiction over plaintiff's claim and the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Ragbir v. Homan" 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 violations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as well as state and city law. Plaintiff claimed that he experienced several adverse employment actions while he was employed at the DOI, because of his hearing disability. The district court held, among other things, that no reasonable jury could conclude that plaintiff had experienced any adverse employment action "solely by reason of" his disability. The court affirmed on different grounds and held that a plaintiff alleging an employment discrimination claim under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act must show that the plaintiff's disability was a but‐for cause of the employer's action, not the sole cause. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiff failed to provide sufficient support for his claim that he was retaliated against for making complaints, he was demoted in retaliation for appealing a negative performance review, and that the DOI subjected him to a slew of retaliatory actions. View "Natofsky v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint with prejudice as a sanction for misrepresenting his litigation history. The court held that district courts may conduct limited inquiries into whether a litigant's fear of imminent danger under 28 U.S.C. 1915(g) is plausible. In this case, the district court did not err by concluding that plaintiff's claim of imminent danger was "without foundation" where plaintiff's explanation for why he was in imminent danger was both circular and completely conclusory. Furthermore, plaintiff unquestionably received adequate notice, and had an opportunity to be heard, before the district court dismissed his action. View "Shepherd v. Commissioner Annucci" on Justia Law

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Defendants appealed the district court's order denying summary judgment based on qualified immunity in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging that defendants, police officers, violated the United States Constitution and Connecticut state law in investigating and arresting plaintiff for assaulting a guest at a college New Year's Eve party. The Second Circuit reversed and held that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law. The court held that police did not need probable cause to arrest plaintiff because he was not under arrest when he was interviewed by the policy on January 2, 2013; there was probable cause to arrest plaintiff based on a non-defective eyewitness identification without regard to plaintiff's allegedly coerced statements; plaintiff's statements were not necessary to establish probable cause and thus he could not claim that their use was in violation of the Fifth Amendment; and the police procedures used at plaintiff's interview were not so egregious or shocking as to violate Fourteenth Amendment due process or to support a state claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. View "Mara v. Rilling" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants in an action alleging claims of retaliation and hostile work environment discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. The court held that the district court erred in refusing to consider evidence of events that, though they preceded the actionable time period if viewed as discrete events, remain actionable as part of a hostile work environment and relevant as background for a claim of retaliation; that in assessing the claims of retaliation, the district court erroneously applied the standard applicable to claims of discrimination rather than claims of retaliation; and that the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, sufficed to present triable issues of material fact as to the claims of hostile work environment and retaliation. View "Davis-Garett v. Urban Outfitters, Inc." on Justia Law

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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