Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that Chapter 313 of Title 18, and 18 U.S.C. 4248 in particular, did not authorize the district court to dismiss the section 4248 proceeding against respondent on the ground that he was found to be mentally incompetent. The court also held that section 4248 does not violate the Due Process Clause and that the risk of an erroneous deprivation of respondent's liberty interest is substantially and adequately mitigated by the broad array of procedures required for a section 4248 commitment, particularly as they apply to incompetent persons. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded with instructions that the district court promptly conduct a section 4248 hearing to determine whether respondent is sexually dangerous and therefore must be committed to the custody of the Attorney General. View "United States v. White" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that defendant, a police officer, used excessive force in arresting plaintiff after an intense hand-to-hand struggle between the men. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's holding on remand that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law. The court held that the district court again based its qualified immunity holding on inferences drawn in favor of the officer, but it was obligated to construe the salient facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, as the party opposing summary judgment. On plaintiff's version of the disputed facts, construed in the light most favorable to him, the court held that a reasonable jury could find a violation of plaintiff's clearly established Fourth Amendment rights. Therefore, the district court erred in awarding summary judgment to the officer because there remained genuine disputes of fact regarding the officer's entitlement to qualified immunity. View "Harris v. Pittman" on Justia Law

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The Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 may be constitutionally applied to an unarmed assault of a victim engaged in commercial activity at his place of work. In this case, defendant admitted to physically and violently assaulting a coworker preparing packages for interstate sale and shipment because of the coworker's sexual orientation. After defendant was convicted by a jury for violating the Act, the district court granted defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal based on the grounds that the Act, as applied to defendant's conduct, exceeded Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause. The Fourth Circuit reversed and held that, as applied to defendant's conduct, the Act easily fell under Congress's broad authority to regulate commerce. In this case, the victim was assaulted while preparing packages for interstate sale and shipment at an Amazon fulfillment center. Therefore, defendant's assault of the victim interfered with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim was engaged at the time of the conduct. View "United States v. Hill" on Justia Law

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The Department sought interlocutory review of the district court's decision that the state waived Eleventh Amendment immunity with respect to claims under Maryland's Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA). The Fourth Circuit exercised its jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine and held that the state has not waived the protection of the Eleventh Amendment. In this case, the state did not waive its Eleventh Amendment immunity as to plaintiff's FEPA claims through a statutory consent to suit provision in Md. Code. Servs. 20-903. In the absence of the state's express consent to suit in federal court, the Department was entitled to the protection of the Eleventh Amendment with respect to the FEPA claims. View "Pense v. Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services" on Justia Law

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J.D., by his father and next friend, filed suit against the restaurant for violating the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Virginians with Disabilities Act. The restaurant refused to allow J.D., a child on a strict gluten-free diet, to eat his homemade gluten free meal inside the restaurant, making him eat his meal outside and apart from the rest of his classmates. The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment to the restaurant. The court held that, while the district court correctly determined that J.D. has raised a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether he is disabled within the meaning of the ADA, the district court erred in finding as a matter of law that J.D.'s proposed modification was not necessary to have an experience equal to that of his classmates. In this case, the district court incorrectly overlooked the testimony that J.D. repeatedly became sick after eating purportedly gluten-free meals prepared by commercial kitchens. Therefore, there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the restaurant's proposed accommodation (by making him a gluten-free meal) sufficiently accounts for his disability; whether J.D.'s requested modification was reasonable; and whether granting J.D.'s request would fundamentally alter the nature of the restaurant experience. View "J.D. v. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged that the government's decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy (and its changes to policies governing the use of information provided by DACA applicants) violates the Fifth Amendment, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and common law principles of estoppel. The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that plaintiffs' challenges were subject to judicial review and that the government's decision to rescind DACA did not require notice and comment under the APA. However, the court held that the decision violated the APA because—on the administrative record before the court—it was not adequately explained and thus was arbitrary and capricious. The court also held that the district court erred in ordering the government to comply with its policies promulgated in 2012 on the use of information provided by DACA applicants and enjoining it from altering those policies. The court declined, under the doctrine of constitutional avoidance, to decide whether plaintiffs' Fifth Amendment rights were violated. The court also declined to address plaintiffs' remaining arguments. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, dismissed in part, and remanded. View "Casa De Maryland v. DHS" on Justia Law

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After a prison official deployed a taser three times against plaintiff when plaintiff refused to hold still for an identification photograph, plaintiff filed an Eighth Amendment excessive force suit. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff, holding that a reasonable jury could find that the officer used multiple shocks not to induce plaintiff's cooperation, but to punish him for his intransigence through the wanton infliction of pain. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Brooks v. Jacumin" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision holding that conditions of confinement on Virginia's death row violated the Eighth Amendment and enjoining reinstatement of those conditions. Virginia death row inmates spent between 23 and 24 hours a day alone, in a small cell with no access to congregate religious, educational, or social programming. Inmates were denied access to any form of congregate recreation, either indoor or outdoor, and were not allowed to eat meals outside of their cells. The court held that the challenged conditions on Virginia's death row deprived inmates of the basic human need for meaningful social interaction and positive environmental stimulation. Furthermore, the undisputed evidence established that deprivation posed a substantial risk of serious psychological and emotional harm and state defendants were deliberately indifferent to that risk. View "Porter v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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WCBA appealed the district court's dismissal of its action against NACCAS, alleging due process violations in an accreditation proceeding and seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. The Fourth Circuit held that there was insufficient evidence that WCBA was deprived of an impartial decisionmaker as a result of a Commissioner's speculative pecuniary interest so as to justify a departure from the deferential standard due to an accreditation agency; NACCAS's rules did not impose a higher standard than the general common law duty to provide an impartial decisionmaker such that a violation of those rules leads to a due process violation in this case; and WCBA failed to preserve the issue of whether it was denied due process on the theory that the Commissioners who reviewed WCBA's accreditation improperly prejudged the decision by acting as both investigators and adjudicators. View "Wards Corner Beauty Academy v. National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, nine Latino men who live in areas of Northern Virginia that were home to many residents of Latino ethnicity, filed suit against ICE agents, seeking money damages to redress the ICE agents' alleged violations of their rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Plaintiffs alleged that ICE agents stopped and detained them without a reasonable, articulable suspicion of unlawful activity; invaded their homes without a warrant, consent, or probable cause; and seized them illegally. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the ICE agents' motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The court held that a remedy under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), was not available under the circumstances of this case. The court explained that there was no statute authorizing a claim for money damages, and it was a significant step under separation-of-powers principles for a court to impose damages liability on federal officials. Because plaintiffs sought to extend Bivens liability to a context the Supreme Court has yet to recognize and there are special factors counseling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress, plaintiffs' action for damages should be dismissed. View "Tun-Cos v. Perrotte" on Justia Law