Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity for federal law enforcement authorities in an action for money damages pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), based on alleged Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations in procuring and executing a search warrant. The court held that plaintiff failed to plead a plausible Fourth Amendment claim of unreasonable search and seizure because a corrected affidavit supports both probable cause for and the scope of the challenged search; plaintiff failed to plead a plausible Fifth Amendment claim that fabricated evidence (in the search warrant affidavit) deprived him of property without due process because the warrant would have issued on a corrected affidavit and thus any deprivation of the seized property was not the result of the fabricated evidence; plaintiff could not plausibly plead that defendants' alleged failure to intercede in the challenged search caused him preventable constitutional harm; plaintiff failed to plead any clearly established right to have federal officials state in a search warrant affidavit whether each referenced person is or is not then a target of investigation, nor a right to have federal officials so state after the fact if the search becomes public knowledge; and plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts as to the supervisor defendants' personal involvement in the submission of any misstatements to the magistrate judge. Accordingly, the court remanded for entry of judgment for defendants. View "Ganek v. Leibowitz" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the police's motion for qualified immunity. Plaintiff, a teenaged train enthusiast, was stopped and handcuffed after the police department received a 911 report that someone holding an electronic device was bending down by the tracks at a rail crossing. The court held that it could not be said that every reasonable officer in their circumstances would know that the conduct complained of violated clearly established law. In this case, plaintiff's unlawful arrest claim failed because his handcuffing was an investigatory detention that never ripened into an arrest and was supported by reasonable suspicion; if Officers McVeigh and Farina had a duty to intervene, that duty was not clearly established and defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on the failure to intercede claim; and defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on a supervisory liability claim. View "Grice v. McVeigh" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former West Point cadet who alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a fellow cadet, filed suit against the United States and others, pleading four causes of action, including a claim against Lieutenant General Hagenbeck and Brigadier General Rapp brought pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), on the basis of their alleged violation of equal protection rights protected by the Fifth Amendment. The Second Circuit reversed the district court's determination as to the viability of the Bivens claim and joined the DC Circuit and the Fourth Circuit in holding that no Bivens remedy was available in this case. The court explained that the Supreme Court has made clear that it is for Congress to determine whether affording a money damages remedy is appropriate for a claim of the sort that plaintiff asserted. The court remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss the equal protection claim. View "Doe v. Hagenbeck" on Justia Law

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Oyster Bay's ordinance regulating the roadside solicitation of employment violates the First Amendment. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting injunctive relief to two entities that work to advance the interest of day laborers in the area. As a preliminary matter, the court held that plaintiffs had standing. On the merits, the court held that the ordinance restricted speech based on content and was subject to the First Amendment. Applying the Central Hudson test, the court held that the ordinance was a content-based restriction on commercial speech that was not narrowly drawn because it broadly impacted protected speech and only narrowly addressed the Town's stated interest. The ordinance did not require any connection between the prohibited speech—solicitation of employment—and the asserted interest—traffic and pedestrian safety. The court also held that arguments as to severability were waived where, as here, a party failed to raise the issue. View "Centro de la Comunidad Hispana de Locust Valley v. Oyster Bay" on Justia Law

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The notice of termination itself constitutes an adverse employment action, even when the employer later rescinds the termination. The Second Circuit held that plaintiff's notice of termination in this case was itself an adverse employment action, despite its later revocation; likewise, the court saw no reason to construe plaintiff's Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) claim differently from her Title VII claim with respect to whether the rescission of a notice of termination given to a pregnant employee establishes as a matter of law that the notice may not constitute an adverse employment action; the facts alleged were insufficient to establish constructive discharge nor a hostile work environment; plaintiff's retaliation claim was properly dismissed; and because plaintiff did state a plausible claim of discriminatory termination, and interference with her FMLA rights, the district court should reconsider on remand its decision to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state and city law claims. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded, and affirmed in all other respects. View "Shultz v. Shearith" on Justia Law

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Defendants, the City of New York and NYPD officers, filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the district court's denial of their motion for judgment on the pleadings. At issue was whether the NYPD officers were entitled to qualified immunity from plaintiff's false arrest and imprisonment claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and whether the court should exercise pendant jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims against defendants. The court held that, because the officers had arguable probable cause to arrest plaintiff for obstructing governmental administration, 19 N.Y. Penal Law 195.05, and refusing to comply with a lawful order to disperse, N.Y. Penal Law 240.20(6), they were entitled to qualified immunity. Accordingly, the court reversed as to the federal and state false arrest and imprisonment claims, and dismissed the remainder of the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. View "Kass v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's determination that plaintiff asserted claims only under federal law, its dismissal of claims against the individual defendants, and its dismissal of plaintiff's hostile work environment claim. At issue in this appeal was whether a pro se litigant forfeits her claims under New York state and local discrimination law where she has alleged facts supporting such claims, but fails to check a blank on a form complaint indicating that she wishes to bring them. The court held that such a bright-line rule runs counter to the court's policy of liberally construing pro se submissions, and that plaintiff's complaint in this case should have been read by the district court to assert claims under New York state and local discrimination law as well as under federal law. The court addressed the balance of plaintiff's claims on appeal in a summary order issued simultaneously with this opinion, and remanded for further proceedings. View "McLeod v. The Jewish Guild for the Blind" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's judgment in favor of defendants, agreeing with plaintiff that the district court wrongly instructed the jury that "but for" causation applied to Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) claims. The court held that FMLA retaliation claims of the sort plaintiff brought here were grounded in 29 U.S.C. 2615(a)(1) and a "motivating factor" causation standard applied to those claims. The court also held that the district court exceeded the bounds of its discretion in admitting and permitting the adverse inferences to be drawn in this case. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Woods v. START Treatment & Recovery Centers" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former principal of a Roman Catholic school, filed suit alleging that she was terminated on the basis of unlawful gender discrimination and retaliation. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants, holding that the ministerial exception barred plaintiffʹs employment‐discrimination claims because in her role as principal she was a minister within the meaning of the exception. The court explained that, although her formal title was not inherently religious, the record clearly established that she held herself out as a spiritual leader of the school, and that she performed many significant religious functions to advance its religious mission. View "Fratello v. Archdiocese of New York" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's judgment finding that defendant, a police officer, did not use excessive force in the fatal shooting of Kevin Callahan. The court held that the jury instruction regarding the legal justification for the use of deadly force by a police officer did not comply with the court's prior decision in Rasanen v. Doe, 723 F.3d 325 (2d Cir. 2013). The error was not harmless, and the court remanded for a new trial. View "Callahan v. City of Suffolk" on Justia Law