Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

by
In 2017, Maryland enacted “An Act concerning Public Health – Essential Off-Patent or Generic Drugs – Price Gouging – Prohibition.” The Act, Md. Code, Health–General 2-802(a), prohibits manufacturers or wholesale distributors from “engag[ing] in price gouging in the sale of an essential off-patent or generic drug,” defines “price gouging” as “an unconscionable increase in the price of a prescription drug,” and “unconscionable increase” as “excessive and not justified by the cost of producing the drug or the cost of appropriate expansion of access to the drug to promote public health” that results in consumers having no meaningful choice about whether to purchase the drug at an excessive price due to the drug’s importance to their health and insufficient competition. The “essential” medications are “made available for sale in [Maryland]” and either appear on the Model List of Essential Medicines most recently adopted by the World Health Organization or are “designated . . . as an essential medicine due to [their] efficacy in treating a life-threatening health condition or a chronic health condition that substantially impairs an individual’s ability to engage in activities of daily living.” The Fourth Circuit reversed the dismissal of a “dormant commerce clause” challenge to the Act, finding that it directly regulates the price of transactions that occur outside Maryland. View "Association for Accessible Medicine v. Frosh" on Justia Law

by
D.S. and S.P are high school students. D.S. (who is black and has learning disabilities) was charged with violating South Carolina’s Disturbing Schools Law, S.C. Code 16-17-420(A), “after becoming involved in a physical altercation which she did not initiate and in which she was the only person" injured. S.P. (who is white and suffers from disabilities) was charged with violating the Disorderly Conduct Law, S.C. Code 16-17-420(B), after she cursed at a student who had been teasing her and refused to leave as instructed. Other Plaintiffs include young black adults who were previously arrested and charged with violating the Disturbing Schools Law when they expressed concerns about police conduct and an afterschool program serving at-risk youth with two members (Latina and black girls) who were charged under the Disturbing Schools Law. The Fourth Circuit vacated the dismissal, for lack of standing, of a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging the laws as unconstitutionally vague. At least some of the plaintiffs do not rely on conjecture or speculation; they attend schools where they were previously arrested and charged under the statutes, and they do not know which of their actions at school will be interpreted to violate the statutes in the future. Plaintiffs also allege that the laws chill their exercise of free expression, forcing them to refrain from exercising their constitutional rights or risk arrest and prosecution. View "Kenny v. Wilson" on Justia Law

by
D.S. and S.P are high school students. D.S. (who is black and has learning disabilities) was charged with violating South Carolina’s Disturbing Schools Law, S.C. Code 16-17-420(A), “after becoming involved in a physical altercation which she did not initiate and in which she was the only person" injured. S.P. (who is white and suffers from disabilities) was charged with violating the Disorderly Conduct Law, S.C. Code 16-17-420(B), after she cursed at a student who had been teasing her and refused to leave as instructed. Other Plaintiffs include young black adults who were previously arrested and charged with violating the Disturbing Schools Law when they expressed concerns about police conduct and an afterschool program serving at-risk youth with two members (Latina and black girls) who were charged under the Disturbing Schools Law. The Fourth Circuit vacated the dismissal, for lack of standing, of a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging the laws as unconstitutionally vague. At least some of the plaintiffs do not rely on conjecture or speculation; they attend schools where they were previously arrested and charged under the statutes, and they do not know which of their actions at school will be interpreted to violate the statutes in the future. Plaintiffs also allege that the laws chill their exercise of free expression, forcing them to refrain from exercising their constitutional rights or risk arrest and prosecution. View "Kenny v. Wilson" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against the administrator of detective David E. Abbott's estate under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the search of his person violated his Fourth Amendment right of privacy or, alternatively, his right of substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff also brought a claim under 18 U.S.C. 2255(a), alleging that, as a result of the search, he was the victim of manufactured child pornography. The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment as to the section 1983 claim alleging a Fourth Amendment violation because a reasonable police officer would have known that attempting to obtain a photograph of a minor child's erect penis, by ordering the child to masturbate in the presence of others, would unlawfully invade the child's right of privacy under the Fourth Amendment. The court remanded plaintiff's section 1983 claim alleging Fourth Amendment violation to the district court for further proceedings; vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim for damages under 18 U.S.C. 2255 as an alleged victim of child pornography, and remanded that claim for consideration by the district court in the first instance; and affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's remaining claims. View "Sims v. Labowitz" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, an inmate at the Red Onion State Prison, appealed the dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim that certain officials at Red Onion denied him medical treatment for serious mental and physical health needs, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. The Fourth Circuit applied the continuing violation doctrine and held that plaintiff's claims were not time-barred; plaintiff sufficiently alleged deliberate indifference by certain defendants to his serious mental health needs; but he has not adequately alleged deliberate indifference to his physical health needs. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "DePaola v. Clarke" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, the personal representative of Jamycheal Mitchell, filed suit against defendant and 49 others, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law. Jamycheal died from severe malnutrition in Regional Jail while awaiting a bed in the Hospital. Defendant was the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services, the agency responsible for overseeing state mental health hospitals. The Fourth Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to review the district court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss the state law claims and remanded those claims to the district court. The court also held that Eleventh Amendment absolute immunity did not bar the suit where defendant was being sued in her personal capacity and plaintiff sought to recover only from defendant, not the Commonwealth of Virginia. Finally, the court held that defendant was entitled to qualified immunity from suit on the section 1983 claims where no clearly established law dictated that housing mentally ill inmates in prisons, rather than transferring them to state mental health facilities, automatically and alone amounted to an objectively excessive risk to inmate health and safety. View "Adams v. Ferguson" on Justia Law

by
Intervening defendants could not be required to pay a portion of prevailing plaintiffs' attorneys fees and costs, awarded under 42 U.S.C. 1988(b) and 52 U.S.C. 10310(e), when intervening defendants were not charged with any wrongdoing and could not be held liable for the relief that plaintiffs sought. In Independent Federation of Flight Attendants v. Zipes, 491 U.S. 754 (1989), the Supreme Court precluded the assessment of attorneys fees and costs against intervenors who were "blameless," meaning that they were not charged as wrongdoers and legal relief could not have been obtained from them. In this racial gerrymandering case, the Fourth Circuit held that Zipes was controlling and that the Commonwealth could not be held liable for attorneys fees and costs incurred by plaintiffs in litigating against the entry of Intervening Congressmen or against Intervening Congressmen's positions. Under the traditional American rule, plaintiffs must bear those intervention-related fees. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's order awarding attorneys fees and costs, remanding for reconsideration of plaintiffs' petitions for fees. View "Brat v. Personhuballah" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of a school resource officer in an action brought by an elementary school student under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and several state laws. The officer decided to handcuff the student for fighting with another student three days prior. The court held that, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer's actions were not objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances where the student was a ten year old girl who was sitting calmly and compliantly in a closed office surrounded by three adults and was answering questions about the incident at issue. Although the officer used excessive force, the student's right not to be handcuffed under the circumstances was not clearly established at the time of her seizure. Therefore, the officer was entitled to qualified immunity. The court also held that there was insufficient evidence in the record for a reasonable jury to conclude that the officer acted maliciously or with gross negligence when she handcuffed the student. View "E.W. v. Dolgos" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of a school resource officer in an action brought by an elementary school student under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and several state laws. The officer decided to handcuff the student for fighting with another student three days prior. The court held that, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer's actions were not objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances where the student was a ten year old girl who was sitting calmly and compliantly in a closed office surrounded by three adults and was answering questions about the incident at issue. Although the officer used excessive force, the student's right not to be handcuffed under the circumstances was not clearly established at the time of her seizure. Therefore, the officer was entitled to qualified immunity. The court also held that there was insufficient evidence in the record for a reasonable jury to conclude that the officer acted maliciously or with gross negligence when she handcuffed the student. View "E.W. v. Dolgos" on Justia Law

by
Movant filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3)(A), seeking authorization to file a second or successive application for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge his 2001 sentence of four life terms plus 45 years imposed by a Virginia state court for nonhomicide crimes he committed as a juvenile. The Fourth Circuit denied the motion because the claim movant sought to present to the district was raised in his first federal application for a writ of habeas corpus, and therefore movant failed to make a prima facie showing that his successive habeas application would allege a claim that was not presented in a prior application, as the statute required. View "In re: Jarius Phillips" on Justia Law