Thursday, June 9, 2016

"Prisoners of Pleading"

The title of this post comes from this intriguing paper by Professors Richard Frankel and Alistair Newbern, the abstract of which states:

Last year, prisoners filed nearly 27,000 civil rights actions in federal court. More than ninety percent of those actions were filed pro se. Pro se prisoners frequently use — and in many federal districts are required to use — standardized complaint forms created by the federal judiciary. These standard forms first came into use in the 1970s at the recommendation of a committee of federal judges seeking to more effectively manage prison litigation and reduce its burdens on the federal courts. Although complaint forms have been around for nearly forty years and are now used in almost every federal district, no one, until now, has recognized the extent to which these forms actually diverge from or misrepresent the content of the law.

In this paper, we collect and analyze every form complaint used by the federal district courts. Our results indicate that, while form complaints can be helpful to pro se prisoners, many impose burdens that are inconsistent with governing law. First, many complaints require prisoners to plead facts that the law says they are not required to plead. Second, many complaints prohibit or discourage prisoners from pleading facts necessary to survive a motion to dismiss. Third, some complaints require plaintiffs to plead legal conclusions, using language that may confuse unsophisticated prisoners and cause them to make inadvertent but significant legal errors.

These flaws can impose serious consequences on prisoners, including unwarranted dismissal of their complaints. Prisoners are already uniquely marginalized in our legal system. They should not bear added pleading burdens not faced by other litigants. To address the concerns raised in our study, we provide a model form complaint that is compliant with the law and that attempts to reduce the hurdles prisoners face to filing a factually sufficient complaint.

June 9, 2016 in Civil Rights Litigation, Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"Inmate claims he was forced to remove tooth with pliers"

Yup.  Unknown

For whatever reason I couldn't embed the must-see video that accompanies the article, so make sure to check that out. Here's how the article begins:

A civil rights lawsuit claims an inmate at the Logan County Detention Center was given a pair of pliers to remove a bad, painful tooth after being repeatedly denied dental care.


In the lawsuit, inmate Mark Traxler, 47, claims a jail employee and a nurse "approached him with a pair of dirty, rusty pliers and a roll of gauze and told him to go back to his unit and have some of the 'fellas' help him with a tooth extraction."


The suit goes on to say Traxler was held down by several inmates, including one known as "Big Jake," but that the extraction caused more pain and more damage to Traxler's teeth.

February 19, 2015 in Civil Rights Litigation, Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Nurse quarantined because of Ebola fear will file federal civil rights suit

....Reuters reports. The lawsuit will allege that New Jersey's mandatory quarantine is overly broad and violates the constitutional right of due process. 

New Jersey's mandatory quarantine for certain travelers from Ebola-stricken West Africa will likely face its first legal test this week, after a lawyer for a quarantined nurse said she would file a federal lawsuit within days.


Norman Siegel, a civil rights lawyer, said Kaci Hickox's isolation upon her return from West Africa raised "serious constitutional and civil liberties issues," given that she shows no Ebola symptoms and has not tested positive for the disease.


"We're not going to dispute that the government has, under certain circumstances, the right to issue a quarantine," said Siegel, who was on his way to visit Hickox in a New Jersey hospital. "The policy is overly broad when applied to her.”


The lawsuit would be the first to challenge the 21-day mandatory quarantine imposed by New Jersey for anyone arriving with a high risk of having contracted Ebola from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, where the epidemic has killed nearly 5,000 people.


The case could also affect similar policies announced by other states including New York and Illinois.

Nurse Hickox has since been released.

October 27, 2014 in Civil Rights Litigation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 10, 2014

"I don't trust this administration. We will benefit by pulling up all the carpet to see what is under it."

...said Marvin L. Cheatham, Sr., former president of the NAACP's Baltimore branch. Cheatham and other civic leaders have called on the DOJ to conduct a full federal civil rights investigation into the use-of-force by Baltimore PD. The DOJ and the city already have agreed to a "collaborative" review of BPD practices, but such a review is not subject to court order. Only if the DOJ has serious concerns about BPD conduct will there be a full investigation. But, as Mark Punte and Luke Broadwater write in this fine report in yesterday's Baltimore Sun:

[Justice Department spokesman Kevin] Lewis said each review is independently done and there is no set criteria that would turn the review into a civil rights investigation. "It doesn't rule out a civil rights investigation in the future if patterns persist."




Senior staff attorney David Rocah of the ACLU of Maryland, a former Department of Justice lawyer, said police departments prefer collaborative reviews because they are "far less threatening" than full-scale investigations.


The broader probes, he said, focus on whether departments commit constitutional violations and often lead to lengthy and costly consent decrees overseen by federal monitors.

As Cheatham's comment demonstrates, some don't expect a "collaborative" review between the DOJ and BDP will produce the appropriate reckoning for the BPD's alleged abuses. Others reportedly have been calling for years for a full federal investigation into the deaths of Tyrone West and Anthony Anderson while in BPD custody, for which no one was held accountable. But there hasn't been one. Punte and Broadwater report:

Hill-Aston, the NAACP branch president, said the deaths illustrate why the community wants the Department of Justice to conduct a wider probe. "No person should end up dying in police custody if they don't have a weapon."


Tawanda Jones, an anti-police brutality activist and West's sister, doesn't support a probe that does not carry the weight of law.

As I've noted, a recent investigation by The Baltimore Sun documented incidents of excessive force by BPD officers. The report found that the violence has begotten widespread community distrust. Also, since 2011, the city has shelled out more than $5.7 million in settlements in these cases. Recently, a local 90-year-old even won $90K after she locked in the basement a BPD officer conducting a warrantless (and particularly hostile) search of her house.

Local distrust for the BDP makes it imperative that it accept and encourage the DOJ's participation in the review. The BDP has an opportunity to be completely forthright with the DOJ and to respond to any of its relevant inquires. Without a genuine effort by the BPD to account for past and present policies, distrust and discord will persist while taxpayers continue to foot the bill.

For its part, the DOJ assured that a "candid" effort will be given to the "collaborative" review.

October 10, 2014 in Civil Rights Litigation, Excessive Force | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 3, 2014

"Federal Court Allows Civil Rights Case Against Baltimore Cop Who Inspired a Character on The Wire"

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Protesters shot with pepper spray and rubber bullets say Ferguson police violated their civil rights

The police used "wanton and excessive force" against protesters who took to the streets following the the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, say several protesters added to the civil rights complaint against the city of Ferguson and several members of its police force. As Reuters' Cary Gillam reports:

The amended complaint, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, seeks approximately $60 million and claims police used "wanton and excessive force" as they dealt with protests after the Aug. 9 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown.




One of the new claimants, Ferguson resident Antawn Harris, said he was recording police as they beat another man when police turned to him and shot him in the face with a rubber bullet. Harris had to be treated at a hospital, the suit claims.


Plaintiff Nathan Burns claims he was sprayed with mace while handcuffed on the ground, and had his head slammed into the pavement.


Other plaintiffs also said they were shot him with rubber bullets, beaten and sprayed with pepper spray with no provocation.

October 2, 2014 in Civil Rights Litigation, Excessive Force | Permalink | Comments (0)

Anti-Islam group claims NYC's rejection of bus signs violates its civil rights

The American Freedom Defense Initiative sued NYC's MTA because it determined that the group's "Hamas Killing Jews" ad couldn't be placed on the city's buses. "When our clients run ads exposing this Jew hatred, all of a sudden the transit authorities are worried about the 'tone' of the conversation or conjure up some threat of violence," said the group's attorney.

October 2, 2014 in Civil Rights Litigation, First Amendment, Freedom of Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Federal civil rights claims against Philly police continue rise in 2013

The title of this post comes from this notable article by Dana DiFilippo and David Gambacorta in today's Philadelphia Daily News on the nearly sixty percent increase in 2013 in settlement payments to plaintiffs claiming misconduct by Philadelphia police. The extensive article begins:

ImagesOn a warm night in Overbrook, Askia Sabur spotted his cousin outside a Chinese takeout and pedaled his bicycle over to chat.


Within minutes, Sabur lay bleeding and barely conscious on the sidewalk, as a crowd of cops - several with long histories of brutality complaints - beat him, opening gashes on his head that would require six staples to close.


In West Philadelphia, Stephen Moore was watching TV alone in his bedroom when his home-security system announced his front door was open.


Moore went to investigate, only to be pumped full of lead by a cop who started firing after entering the house without saying a word.


And in Kensington, police who tried to arrest Kahlif Snowden over a suspected drug sale ended up violating policy by Tasing him in the neck three times until he fell unconscious. He was left in a persistent vegetative state.


Sabur, Moore and Snowden were among 128 plaintiffs who received nearly $14 million in settlements from the city last year from civil-rights lawsuits filed against police.


That marked a huge jump from the $8.3 million paid out for such suits in 2012, and an even bigger increase from the $4.2 million paid five years earlier. Those figures don't include the millions paid annually to settle lawsuits from police-involved car accidents or labor and employment claims.

Philadelphia is not alone. For example, The Las Vegas Sun also reported on the substantial increase in federal civil rights claims filed against the city's police department, a trend beginning in 2008.

May 29, 2014 in Civil Rights Litigation, Excessive Force | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dancers sue San Diego police following recent raid of area strip club

The San Diego Police Department faces a civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of more than two dozen dancers who allege they were held against their will during a recent raid of a local strip club. This local article explains:

Twenty-five dancers at a San Diego strip club have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the San Diego Police Department, claiming that police officers held them against their will and took revealing pictures of their tattoos.


StripperTen San Diego police officers raided the Cheetahs Gentlemen’s Club in Kearny Mesa on March 6 to check 30 dancers’ permits and the business’ compliance to city codes, according to a claim filed by attorney Dan Gilleon.


During the check, the claim says the unidentified officers detained dancers against their will for about one hour without a warrant and without probable cause.


They ordered the women to pose in various positions and expose their body so the police could photograph their tattoos, all the while making “arrogant and demanding comments” and telling the women to “smile,” the claim states.


According to Gilleon, the SDPD said its officers were abiding by municipal code as they inspected the business and demanded identification.


“Any peace officer shall have free access to any police-regulated business during normal operating hours,” municipal code states.


But the civil rights lawsuit said the officers went too far, violating the dancers’ civil rights by making them disclose private information like Social Security numbers and subjecting them to demeaning searches and seizures.


Cheetahs manager Rich Buonantony said this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.


He claimed the women were helpless because if they said “no” to any part of the operation, their work permit and business licenses could be taken away.


The claim filed against the SDPD is for more than $10,000, though an exact dollar amount has not been released.

March 25, 2014 in Civil Rights Litigation, Fourth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

“How Many Laws Can a Crooked Cop Break?”

The above question comes from this Courthouse News Service article, which detials the creepy sex-and-drugs allegations against a former California policeman currently serving 18 months for extortion. It explains:

The tale told by the 15-page lawsuit resembles a script for a Grade B noir detective flick from the 1930s.


Roe and Holland claim that Pierce threatened to arrest them both unless they got heroin and prescription drugs for him. They claim that Pierce told them he would make them "disappear" if they did not comply with his demands.


Pierce told them which drug houses to avoid, to elude arrest, and gave them information about investigations so they would not get caught working for him, they say in the lawsuit.


Roe also claims that Pierce, who worked with narcotics task force, threatened Roe with arrest unless she had sex with him.


The couple say they first encountered Pierce in March 2011 after Grover Beach police officers arrested Holland for heroin possession.


According to the lawsuit, Pierce asked for Roe's phone number after she returned to pick up her boyfriend's wallet from the San Luis Obispo Police Department, where Holland had been booked.


Pierce later called her to ask her to get prescription painkillers for him, the couple claim. After Holland learned of the relationship, the detective asked Holland to buy him heroin too, according to the complaint.


After Holland spent 20 days in jail on the possession charge, the couple claim, Pierce picked up Holland from jail. Pierce told Holland not to report for probation, assuring him he could take care of it, the couple say in the lawsuit.


"As a result, Holland had almost no contact with his assigned probation officer and did not participate in drug testing or treatment," the complaint states.


Pierce told Roe to trade placebo oxycodone pills with drug dealers for drugs, and had her feign illness to get opiate addiction prescriptions from emergency rooms, according to the complaint.


Roe went into treatment for drug addiction and cut ties with Pierce, but claims he resumed contact after she left rehab, and she relapsed.


Roe and Holland arranged a meeting with a drug dealer at Pierce's request, and the officer pulled over the dealer and robbed him at gunpoint, according to the lawsuit.


The couple claim they believed Pierce might harm them, plant drugs on them or send them to jail if they did not do his dirty work.


In Holland's case, the couple say, Pierce had him arrested on a charge of violating his probation.


"Pierce used the threat of arresting Roe and Holland to force her to submit," the complaint states. "In particular, Pierce forced Roe into an act of oral copulation and, on another occasion, forced sexual intercourse. There was an additional incident when he pushed and rubbed his body up against her."


After Roe was arrested on charges of burglary and grand theft from a commercial building, the couple say, they went to the FBI. Holland agreed to wear a wire and recorded a conversation with Pierce, in which he asked Holland to deal drugs for him.

March 6, 2014 in Civil Rights Litigation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 20, 2014

CRL&P Daily Reads: Jan. 20, 2014

UnknownCivil rights lawsuit accuses Ohio teacher of 'mistreatment and torture' of special ed students; students at Maryland high school sue for their suspension following an unconstitutional search that turned up two small knives and a lighter; woman claims prison officials impermissibly denied her visitation rights with her imprisoned husband because she had supported a hunger strike occuring within the facility. 

New Mexico judge holds lethal drug prescriptions to 'aid in dying'  legal under state's constitution. 

Same-sex marriage proponents prepare for potentially difficult road ahead in the South.

North Carolina's abortion ultrasound law unconstitutional, says federal judge.

VP Biden targets voter ID during MLK Day speech.


January 20, 2014 in Civil Rights Litigation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Drug search involving anal probe results in $1.6-million settlement

Yesterday, The Los Angeles Times had this eye-opening story on the settlement of a civil rights suit stemming from body cavity searches performed on a New Mexican man the police suspected of drug possession. The police were immodestly diligent in their pursuit of the alleged drugs, but their efforts yielded nothing. From the article, the plaintiff appears to have raised several intriguing CrimPro issues--e.g. whether the hospital at which the cavity search is performed must be within the jurisdiction in which the search warrant had been issued--but ones to which I cannot respond without beginning, "I presume..." So, here's a portion of The Times's article from which the title of this post comes: 

Police took [David] Eckert [Plaintiff] to a hospital. His federal civil rights lawsuit — which reached a partial conclusion this week — detailed what happened next.


First Eckert got an X-ray, which was inconclusive for drugs, according to his lawsuit. Then a doctor examined Eckert's anus with his finger, as did a second doctor. Neither found drugs.


Then the doctors gave a protesting Eckert an enema, he alleged, forcing him to have a bowel movement in front of medical staff. There were no drugs in his stool.


Doctors purportedly gave him two more enemas and got the same result.


They took another X-ray, which was negative this time. Then came the colonoscopy, which involves inserting a camera into the anus. It found nothing.


No drugs were found in Eckert's body.


Weeks later, he received a hospital bill for $4,539.


He sued the city of Deming, along with Hidalgo County and the hospital, Gila Regional Medical Center in Grant County.


In his complaint, Eckert said he was denied the opportunity to call his attorney; that the search warrant had expired by the time the doctors were examining him; that the procedures were carried out in a different county where the warrant wasn't valid; and that police mocked him during the procedures and intentionally pulled back his privacy curtain while he was exposed.


City and county officials denied some of the allegations in preliminary court filings. But last month, after a six-hour negotiating session, they settled. Eckert will get $1.6 million in damages.

January 17, 2014 in Civil Rights Litigation, Fourth Amendment, Search, Strip Searches | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ohio man sues officers for $100 million for false imprisonment

In Ohio, a man is suing local police for $100 million dollars after they arrested him on cocain charges and jailed him for 52 days. According to the federal civil rights lawsuit, police surveillance video clearly shows that the target of the investigation was not the same man the police later arrested; and, by not reviewing the allegedly exculpatory video sooner the police acted unreasonably, thus violating the man's constitutional rights.

The title of this post comes from this local article, which says:

A Cincinnati man has sued two local police officers for $100 million after he was wrongfully jailed for nearly two months on felony cocaine charges even though video footage would have shown they had the wrong man.


PrisonMaurice Snow, 29, filed the federal civil rights lawsuit against a detective and lieutenant at Norwood police on Monday, accusing them of turning his life upside-down and recklessly violating his constitutional rights by detaining him without probable cause.


Norwood police Lt. Tom Williams Jr., an agency spokesman, said he Tuesday would look into the allegations but could not immediately comment on the lawsuit.


Court records show that Snow, who doesn't have a serious criminal record, was arrested on Oct. 18 and booked on four cocaine charges stemming from an investigation by Norwood police over the summer.


The lawsuit says that Snow was accused of being the drug dealer in surveillance videos that police took of controlled drug buys involving a confidential informant.


Snow was jailed for 52 days on a $25,000 bond before his then-attorney, Erik Laursen, saw the footage and got a Norwood officer to accompany him to the jail to look at Snow.


"(The officer) looked at me and said, `No, that's not him,"' Laursen said. "I said, `Let's go downstairs then because he needs to get out."'

CRL&P related posts:

January 15, 2014 in Civil Rights Litigation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Long Island political scandal leads to civil rights lawsuit

Long Island Press has this fascinating story about a civil rights lawsuit that arose after the former Nassau County police commissioner ordered the arrest of a campaign worker whose testimony in an election lawsuit threatened the re-election of the county executive. The article begins:

An ex-campaign worker at the center of a political scandal that led to the Nassau County police commissioner’s recent ouster intends to file a lawsuit alleging that his civil rights were violated.


Randy White’s attorney is filing notices of claim, the first step in suing government agencies, against the county, police department, jail and several police and corrections officers—as well as adding to mounting calls for a federal investigation.


“I was kind of tortured mentally,” White, a 29-year-old Roosevelt resident, told reporters Monday at a news conference in the Hempstead office of his attorney, Fred Brewington. “I just want justice to be brought down.”


Ex-Nassau police commissioner Tom Dale ordered White’s arrest in October at the request of wealthy political donor Gary Melius after White’s testimony in an election lawsuit effectively threatened the re-election campaign of Dale’s boss, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano.


White’s claim alleges negligence, breach of duty, false arrest, false imprisonment, abuse of process, conspiracy and other claims in addition to the alleged civil rights violations.

January 7, 2014 in Civil Rights Litigation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 20, 2013

UConn faces another lawsuit alleging the mishandling of sexual assault claims

UConn womens hockey player claims among other things that she was dismissed from the team after she reported that she had been raped by a male hockey player; and, she now joins four other women in their lawsuit against the university for violations of their civil rights under Title IX. The most recent allegations raise questions about the basic decency of the officials involved, so it will be interesting to watch this story develop--and, how and when UConn finally responds. The article begins:

The woman alleges in the amended complaint filed Friday that she was raped by a male hockey player in August 2011. She said that after reporting the assault to school officials, she was advised to transfer and kicked off the women's hockey team by her coach, who told her she was not "stable enough" and would "bring the team down."


The woman's attorney, Gloria Allred, alleges officials did not investigate her removal from the team, didn't advise her she could stay in school, and didn't tell her she had the option to call police or pursue a complaint with the school that could lead to a hearing.


"They did not ask for the identity of her rapist," she wrote.


The school declined to comment on the new allegations. University attorney Richard Orr said there has been an internal review of the allegations by the four women that originally brought the suit on Nov. 1 and the school will respond "at the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum."

December 20, 2013 in 14th Amendment, Civil Rights Litigation | Permalink | Comments (2)

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 20, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 19, 2013

Five recommendations from NSA task force; The Week asks whether NSA's mass surveillance is effective; Politico looks at how task force's recommendations affect Obama's policy options; and, Dave Eggers says Dave Eggers and others should speak out against the NSA's policies.

ACLU alleges Native American and black students subject to racial and sexual harassment from students and teachers in California school district.

Bill in Ohio Senate would allow married same-sex couples to file joint tax returns.

Former officer alleges sex discrimination by police department when it terminated her because of a workplace relationship; police in New Jersey settle civil rights suit alleging harassment of a teenager; officer in Georgia faces lawsuit after putting a man in the hospital with a blow from his flashlight; and, Columbus alleged to have violated event organizer's civil rights when it shut down his festival after the shooting of an 11-year-old. 

No more donations to the Boy Scouts until gay leaders are allowed, says Lockheed Martin.


December 19, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Excessive Force, Fourth Amendment, Same-sex marriage, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 18, 2013

Larry Klayman, Larry Klayman, Larry Klayman.

Brazil shirks Snowden.

Plain Dealer columnist argues for armed employees in schools.

Federal judge will hear challenge to Ohio's ban on recognition of same-sex marriages on death certificates.

Student's civil rights suit alleges anti-LGBT harassment by teachers and administrators; police lieutenant claims he was fired in retaliation for testimony he gave against the department in several civil rights cases; Orlando PD face allegations of excessive force by a group of officers; and, civil rights suit over alleged unjustifiable death of Lansing teenager re-emerges.


December 18, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Excessive Force, Fourth Amendment, Gun Policy, Same-sex marriage, Schools, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 17, 2013

Federal judge says NSA's surveillance program violates the Fourth Amendment, but that will not be the end of it; several Senators feeling vindicated after the ruling; Politico explains the political impact of the NSA ruling on the White House's surveillance program review plans; NYTimes profiles the plaintiff; Obama will discuss NSA surveillance with Tech giants at today's meeting; and, Snowden tests the waters on 'permanent political asylum' in Brazil (full letter here).

Civil rights activists accuse Texas of neglecting election laws aimed at boosting voter turnout.

State's lawyers in challenge to Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban allegedly stalling and making intrusive requests of plaintiffs; and, same-sex couples in Illinois can get married before law's enactment with a doctor's certification that a life-threatening illness would makes doubtful their ability to wait.

Seattle PD facing civil rights suit after officer allegedly throws a bystander of protest to the ground.


December 17, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Election Law, Excessive Force, Fourth Amendment, Same-sex marriage, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 16, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 16, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 14, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 13, 2013

Advisory committee says NSA's mass surveillance should continue under new privacy constraints.

Investigation finds that guns website posts ads from sellers without licenses; Guardian's Michael Cohen claims America's gun carnage continues with no end in sight; and, gun club hopes to curb violence by teaching young people different ideas about guns.

Trial in North Carolina voter ID case is scheduled for July 2015.

Michigan restricts abortion insurance offered through new exchanges.

Civil rights suit alleges deputies pepper sprayed a couple and beat the husband after he held train doors open for his wife; civil rights suit filed after sheriff's deputy makes a man sit and kneel on hot asphalt for nearly half an hour, causing second-degree burns; and, civil rights groups say Dallas PD has a pattern of using excessive force.

Same-sex couples now will receive equal treatment when applying for federal student loans.


December 13, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Election Law, Excessive Force, Fourth Amendment, Gun Policy, Right to Vote, Same-sex marriage, Voter ID | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 12, 2013

How gun control is losing, badly; gun control groups focus on states; report says reducing gun violence requires early intervention for troubled youth; Ana Marie Cox claims Congress is scared of the gun lobby; but, gun control activists are staying positive.

Operator of revenge porn site says it's 'ruining my life', and his court date is scheduled.

Former contractor files a civil rights suit alleging the federal goverment harassed him because of an auto-complete error in Google search; and, Miami Gardens police chief resigns following allegations of racial profiling.

North Dakota Supreme Court weighs arguments in abortion case challenging ban on drugs to terminate pregnancies; and, legislators share personal stories about abortion.

No agreement on court date for North Carolina's voter ID case.

NSA chairman says mass surveillance is the best way to protect U.S.; Judge Napolitano warns about NSA mass surveillance; and, 'The Raven' Revisited.


December 12, 2013 in Abortion, Civil Rights Litigation, Election Law, Fourth Amendment, Gun Policy, Revenge Porn, Right to Vote, Voter ID, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 11, 2013

NSA takes advantage of 'cookies' used for advertising to track surveillance targets.

Federal judge rejects California AG's request for dismissal in case challenging law requiring 10-day waiting period for gun owners.

Cruel and unusual punishment suit after prisoner placed in solitary confinement for one month could cost taxpayers.

American man claims discrimination after the California Department of Corrections denied him a job because he had previously used a false SSN, while in Illinois this guy still has a job.

Amendment aimed at protecting sexual assault victims scrapped as Congress passes the National Defense Authorization Act.

Bill introduced in the Senate to eliminate state laws regulating the sexual activity of people with HIV.

Chinese Law Prof is expelled for criticizing China's one-party government.

Man convicted of a hate crime after attacking a Sikh cab driver to serve more than three years in prison. 

And, a six-year old is suspended after kissing a classmate on the cheek. I wonder if he would have received similar punishment if had hit her.


December 11, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Fourth Amendment, Freedom of Speech, Gun Policy, Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 10, 2013

Allegedly illegal strip searches in Milwaukee jail could cost the city millions; man acquitted of drug charges files a civil rights suit against FBI alleging malicious prosecution; police face civil rights suit after officer pleads guilty to child porn; jail staff knew diabetic woman in their care needed insulin perhaps days before she died; Miami Gardens police allegedly used excessive force and denied medical treatment to arrestee; and, man was killed by a police officer who had accidently been tased by another officer.

Atlantic says Obama misled MSNBC's Chris Matthews on NSA surveillance; Guardian reflects on how the debate over surveillance has changed since Snowden's leaks; Nobel-winning writers say NSA surveillance is compromising freedom; Bill Clinton worries about the NSA's collection of economic data; and, NSA makes tech companies worry about profits.

Federal judge holds journalists have no constitutional right to be embedded with military; and, ACLU says prison officials violated the First Amendment by denying reporters access to prisoners after a riot.

Gun manufacturers doing better than before Newtown.

Same-sex couples race to challenge Texas's same-sex marriage ban; and, this graph shows geographical online efforts to promote gay-rights.


December 10, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Excessive Force, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Freedom of Press, Freedom of Speech, Gun Policy, Prisons and Prisoners, Same-sex marriage, Strip Searches, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 9, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 9, 2013

Senate likely to extend ban on plastic guns, but nexus of gun-control debate has shifted to the states; and, four of five members of the city council in rural Rhode Island town face recalls after recommending changes to process for issuing concealed weapons permits.

Obama about ready to announce changes to NSA surveillance program; major tech companies submit open letter to Obama and Congress demanding new limits on NSA's freedom-harming surveillance; Snowden might testify before the EU Parliament's committee on civil liberties; local law enforcement is using software in NSA-style monitoring of cellphone data, and here's how it does it; and, Sen. Paul calls for a renewed commitment to the Fourth Amendment.

Rutger's basketball player alleges civil rights violations against former coach for allegedly repeated verbal and physical abuse; and, New Orleans settles civil rights lawsuit alleging man was falsely arrested and held for five months.

Editorial lambasts New Mexico prison for placing 71-year-old in solitary confinement for one month on suspicion of bringing meth into the facility.

Internet companies speak out against former Cincinatti Bengals cheerleader's defamation suit after federal judge allows it to proceed.

Lexington facing protests after booking for its New Years Eve party a DJ who previously ran a revenge porn site.


December 9, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Freedom of Speech, Gun Policy, Prisons and Prisoners, Revenge Porn, Universities and Colleges, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 8, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 7, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 6, 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Plaintiff sues judge for allegedly violating his civil rights

The title of this post comes from a fascinating case in West Virginia, in which a judge hearing a civil rights case is alleged to have violated the plaintiff's civil rights. Here's how it begins:

198256-3x2-340x227The plaintiff in a civil rights lawsuit is urging a federal judge to follow Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Tod Kaufman’s lead and deny a motion to dismiss recently filed by former Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury.

Robert Woodruff made the argument on Dec. 2 in his lawsuit against Thornsbury, who is alleged to have attempted to violate his civil rights in an effort to woo Woodruff’s wife. Thornsbury is awaiting sentencing following pleading guilty to depriving another man of his civil rights.

Thornsbury alleged he wasn’t properly served with complaints filed by Woodruff and his wife Kim. Kaufman recently ruled against Thornsbury on the matter in Kim’s lawsuit.

“Defendant Thornsbury had lived at the address where service was made and was known to live there up until two days before service was affected,” Kaufman ruled.

“Defendant’s wife still lived in the house and obviously sought to avoid service of process.

“Defendant or Defendant’s wife made the effort to obfuscate proper service by filing a complaint with the postmaster. Defendant obviously had and has ‘actual notice.’”

Woodruff was referred to as R.W. in an indictment filed against Thornsbury by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. On Oct. 2, Thornsbury pleaded guilty to charges in an information alleging a second scheme and resigned. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

December 5, 2013 in 14th Amendment, Civil Rights Litigation | Permalink | Comments (0)

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 5, 2013

Massachussetts legislative committee on election laws considers voter ID bill; Mississippi's Secretary of State claims that 90 percent of the state's citizens already have ID required by new voting law; and, voting rights group to advocate for laws that expand voting and access to the polls in all 50 states.

Civil rights lawsuit filed against a police officer who allegedly broke an elderly man's arm in a roadside incident while off-duty; taxpayers in a Rhode Island town will cover $7 million settlement agreed to after a confrontation in which the police shot a teen 9 times leaving him paralyzed; and, wrongful death claim against California police for the shooting of a suicidal man is allowed to proceed.

Support for stricter-gun laws is dropping.

Federal judge hears oral arguments on Utah's same-sex marriage ban.

Tennessee asks state Supreme Court to provide dates of execution for 10 inmates.

NSA tracks cell locations worldwide.


December 5, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Election Law, Excessive Force, Fourth Amendment, Gun Policy, Right to Vote, Same-sex marriage, Theories of Punishment, Voter ID, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Qualified Immunity and the First Amendment Right to Record Police

The title of this post comes from this article arguing that judges in First Amendment civil rights cases in which the plaintiff recorded public police activities should first determine the merits of the plaintif's claim. Only after the court has considered the merits should it proceed with defendants' claims to qualified immunity. Here's the abstract:

Recording-policeThis draft article explores Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S. Ct. 808 (2009), in the context of recent nationwide litigation over the First Amendment right to record police officers in public. Pearson v. Callahan gives judges considering a qualified immunity defense to a civil rights lawsuit the discretion to never reach the merits of the lawsuit, deciding only that the right is not “clearly established.” The Court’s opinion in Pearson uprooted Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001), which required courts to address the merits before deciding whether a defendant is entitled to qualified immunity.

The doctrinal shift from Saucier to Pearson coincides with an increase in civil rights litigation nationwide concerning the First Amendment right to record police officers in public. Two recent Circuit Court cases, Am. Civil Liberties Union of Illinois v. Alvarez, 679 F.3d 583 (7th Cir. 2012) cert. denied, 133 S. Ct. 651 (U.S. 2012), and Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78 (1st Cir. 2011), have affirmed such a right. While the First and Seventh Circuits have laudably addressed the merits of whether the right exists, all other circuits to address the issue have decided only on immunity grounds, i.e. whether the right is “clearly established.” The focus on immunity has a chilling effect on free speech, in particular the role of citizens to oversee law enforcement officials. The article calls for a return to Saucier's merits-first adjudicatory model in First Amendment civil rights cases to avoid chilling such protected speech.

CRL&P related posts:


November 30, 2013 in 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Civil Rights Litigation, First Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 29, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 29, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

CRL&P Thanksgiving Reads: Nov. 28, 2013

NSA has been monitoring the porn-watching habits of suspected radicals, which The Atlantic's Friedersdorf claims is bad for democracy; NSA soon will be split up; The Progressive discusses 'The NSA's New McCarthyism'; Ambinder has a cool NSA org chart; and, Nice, Canada. Real nice.

Cleveland Plain Dealer calls on Senate to oppose pending stand-your-ground bill; Iowa gun club will remain next to school; and, woman sentenced to 20-years in prison after firing a warning shot to deter her allegedly abusive husband released the night before Thanksgiving.

Congresswoman Fudge asks Holder to investigate Ohio's new voting laws; African-American youths pay higher 'time-tax' at the polls; and, Kentucky could be the next state to enact a voter ID law.

Federal judge decides NYPD must proceed with case of Occupy protester claiming an officer grabbed her breast.


November 28, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Election Law, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Gun Policy, Right to Vote, Voter ID | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Woman sues officer who repeatedly applied mace to her genitals

The title of this post comes from this Raw Story article reporting that a New Mexico corrections officer used cruel and unusual punishment when she allegedly sprayed mace on an arrestee's genitals. Here's the story:

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Marlene Tapia against Blanca Zapater, the corrections officer that Tapia alleges subjected her to cruel and unusual punishment while violating her right to due process.

According to the suit, on November 22, 2011, Zapater was arrested on a suspected parole violation. During a routine strip search, Zapater and another corrections officer “observed a plastic baggie protruding from Ms. Tapia’s vagina.”

Instead of asking her to remove the package, Zapater allegedly “sprayed a chemical agent directly on Ms. Tapia’s genitals twice,” despite the fact that “Ms. Tapia was not using or attempting to use any force against the corrections officers.”

The suit claims that this spraying “served no purpose other than to punish” and “would not cause the baggie to become dislodged.” The effects of the application of this chemical agent lasted for several weeks and included “burning, swollen genitals, painful urination, and pain and burning on Ms. Tapia’s face.”

The ACLU is seeking punitive damages, to be determined by a jury, for these alleged violations of Tapia’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

(h/t Jonathan Turley)

November 26, 2013 in 14th Amendment, Civil Rights Litigation, Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 25, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 25, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 24, 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 23, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 22, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 19, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cop facing criminal charges, embroiled in civil rights lawsuit resigns

Last month, Skokie police officer Michael Hart was charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct after shoving a woman into a jail cell with such force that her injuries required reconstructive surgery. On November 15, 2013, Hart resigned.

According to The Chicago Tribune:

A Skokie police officer charged with shoving a woman face-first into a cell bench has resigned rather than face possible firing, village officials said.

Skokie officials had told Michael Hart that they would seek to fire him, and his resignation took effect Friday, according to a news release from the village. 

The incident occurred after police arrested Cassandra Feuerstein for drunk driving. At the jail, Officer Hart reportedly "became irate that [Feuerstein] wouldn't look into the camera for a booking photo[.]" Surveillance video shows Officer Hart shoving Feuerstein into a jail cell causing her to hit her face on a concrete bench inside the cell. Feuerstein reportedly broke an eye socket and lost teeth, and as a result she now has a titanium plate in her face.

As CRL&P has noted, Feuerstein has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Officer Hart alleging that he used execessive force (which seems pretty clear).

CRL&P related posts:

November 18, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Excessive Force | Permalink | Comments (0)

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 18, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 17, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Four Decades of Federal Civil Rights Litigation

The title of this post comes from this paper detailing the relatively low success rates of constitutional tort and employment discrimination cases as compared to traditional tort and contract cases. Here's the abstract:

Civil rights cases constitute a substantial fraction of the federal civil docket but that fraction has substantially declined from historic peaks. Trial outcomes, as in other areas of law, constitute a small fraction of case terminations and have changed over time. The number of employment discrimination trials before judges has been in decline for about 30 years, a trend also evident in contract and tort cases. The number of employment trials before juries increased substantially after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 but has been in decline since 1997. In constitutional tort cases, the number of judge trials has been declining for about 30 years; the number of jury trials has been reasonably constant over that time period. Civil rights plaintiff win rates at trial have been steady in both judge trials and jury trials for at least a decade. The success of civil rights litigation, as measured by trial win rates and settlement rates, has been quite low compared to contract and tort cases. Median awards in civil rights trials have increased more than the rate of inflation but median trial awards in both constitutional tort cases and employment cases are below the awards in contract cases and tort cases.


November 15, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation | Permalink | Comments (0)

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 15, 2013

Ten homeless people file civil rights lawsuit to keep city from evicting them from a local landfill.

NYC's stop-and-frisk policy results in conviction in just 3 percent of cases.*

Disabled man sues city under ADA for right to keep his service dog--a pit bull.

California judge rejects challenge to local ordinance banning the use of 'sign waver' advertisements.

Pennsylvania judge rejects request to block challenge to the state law banning recognition of same-sex marriages; Hawaii judge upholds state's new same-sex marriage law; and, transgender woman's employment discrimination case is tossed.

Victims call for legislation criminalizing revenge porn.

Jimmy Carter says the U.S. should abolish the death penalty.

* Correction: A helpful reader observed that the second link above was incorrect. It previously stated that New York City's stop-and-frisk policy leads to sentences of 30 days or more in just 1.5 percent of the cases, but the rate is actually much lower than that. In fact, the AG's report states on page 3:

Less than one in seventeen SQF arrests, or 0.3% of stops, resulted in sentences of more than 30 days of imprisonment.


November 15, 2013 in 14th Amendment, Civil Rights Litigation, Equal Protection Clause, First Amendment, Freedom of Speech, Revenge Porn, Same-sex marriage | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Occupiers file civil rights claim against Philadelphia PD

Members of Occupy Philadelphia recently filed a lawsuit against the city's police commissioner and a number of officers alleging violations of their civil rights.

Nearly two years ago, police arrested 31 protesters after shutting down the camp they inhabited across from City Hall. After the protesters dispersed, police reportedly followed a group of them and arrested them in the early morning on the grounds that they would disrupt traffic.

Last year, a Municipal Court judge aquitted the protesters of all charges.

The members claims include false arrest and violations of their First Amendment rights.

The Philadelphia Daily News reports:

One of the more active of scores of protest encampments that arose in fall 2011 to protest income inequality and related issues, Occupy Philadelphia camped out in Dilworth Plaza adjacent to City Hall for 55 days. The city shut down the camp - which numbered several hundred Occupiers at the peak - to make room for renovation work.

After police raided the Dilworth site on Nov. 30, 2011, cops - including mounted officers - followed Occupy protesters for several hours and finally arrested the group just before 5 a.m. on 15th Street near Callowhill, claiming the demonstrators would snarl rush-hour traffic.

Since then, other Occupy members who were arrested over the 55 days - including 12 busted at a sit-in at a Wells Fargo branch lobby in Center City - have been found not guilty.

Krasner said the 26 plaintiffs are seeking economic damages for their allegedly false arrest, as well as changes in city policy to allow protesters to exercise their right of free assembly in the future. The group is also represented by Lloyd Long and Paul Hetznecker.


November 14, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, First Amendment, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 13, 2013

Saturday, November 9, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 9, 2013

Authorities in New Mexico face another lawsuit over allegedly illegal body-cavity searches, as do police in Milwaukee.

Medical marijuana distributor files a civil rights lawsuit alleging that authorities targeted him for his "outspoken advocacy" of local taxation of medical marijuana.

Same-sex marriage will be legal in Hawaii when the governor signs legalization bill into law later this week.

Guardian editor will face questioning by British lawmakers for publication of NSA leaks.

3-D printer makes gun, raises production concerns.

Singapore blocks popular adulturey website.


November 9, 2013 in 14th Amendment, Civil Rights Litigation, First Amendment, Freedom of Press, Gun Policy, Prisons and Prisoners, Same-sex marriage, Strip Searches | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 8, 2013

CRL&P Morning Reads: Nov. 8, 2013

Although not charged, the Cleveland PD continue to hold a man's gun pursuant to a city ordinance that permits police to seize an arrestee's guns until a court orders their return.

House Republicans say they're worried about ENDA's effect on small businesses, and gay-rights advocates turn to President Obama urging him to sign an workplace anti-discrimination order. Crotia prepares to vote on whether to allow gay-marriage.

Secure email system used by Snowden now will work to create a new system that is immune from government surveillance.

LAPD arrests 54 Walmart protesters as more than 500 workers and community leaders gathered to protest the store's low wages.

Mother files suit against local school district alleging it ignored reports that an assistant principle repeatedly snuck her daughter out of her home for sex.


November 8, 2013 in 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Civil Rights Litigation, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Freedom of Assembly, Gun Policy, Same-sex marriage, Schools, Search, Seizure | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Nov. 5, 2013

Happy Election Day!

Turnout might be low, but there are some exciting ballot measures to watch around the country.

PA voters might think they need photo ID in order to vote today, but a state judge has stayed the PA voter ID law until the court has a chance to resolve a recent challenge to its constitutionality by the ACLU. The ACLU also has challenged the constitutionality of the WI voter ID law. In TX, a former U.S House Speaker was denied a voter ID card.

DOJ announced yesterday that it will monitor some Nov. 5 elections in MI, NY, and OH to ensure compliance with Voting Rights Act.

Parents of the 13-year-old boy killed by a sheriff's deputy while carrying a plastic gun have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the county.

New study finds that the cost of hospital treatment for firearm-related injuries exceeds $2 billion.

Sharpton demands assurances from Macy's CEO that racial profiling will not be a problem during the holiday season.


November 5, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Department of Justice, Election Law, Gun Policy, Right to Vote, Voter ID | Permalink | Comments (0)