Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Strand, a truck driver, stopped to take a mandatory drug screening test and received permission to park his rig outside a nearby Planned Parenthood office. Officer Minchuk, working security at Planned Parenthood, in uniform, reported to work, noticed the truck, and wrote parking tickets. Strand found the tickets and tried to explain that he did not see any no‐parking signs and had received permission. Minchuk allegedly solicited a bribe. Strand used his cell phone to take pictures to contest the tickets. Minchuk ordered Strand to leave. Strand said he would leave when he finished. Minchuk admonished, “I told you to get the f*** outta here,” and slapped Strand’s cell phone to the ground. Minchuk demanded Strand’s identification; Strand refused. Minchuk grabbed Strand, resulting in Strand’s shirt tearing off his body. Minchuk attempted to push Strand, with Strand holding Minchuk’s arm. Both fell to the ground. Strand punched Minchuk in the face and placed his hands on Minchuk’s throat. Minchuk testified that this caused him to fear for his life. Strand then stood up, backed away, put his hands up, and said, “I surrender, I’m done.” Minchuk removed his gun and fired a shot, striking Strand in the abdomen. Strand was convicted of committing felony battery of a police officer. Strand sued, 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Minchuk’s motion for qualified immunity. A material question of fact exists as to whether Strand continued to pose a threat at the exact moment Minchuk fired the shot. View "Strand v. Minchuk" on Justia Law

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Snapchat user “Snappyschrader” identified himself as a 31-year-old male and agreed to assist a 14-year-old female in purchasing undergarments. He was actually communicating with Altoona Detective Baumgarten. After agreeing to meet at a supermarket, officers identified “Snappyschrader,” actually, Brixen, arrested him, and seized his phone. To illustrate to Brixen that he had been communicating with an undercover detective, Baumgarten sent a message to Brixen’s phone from the undercover Snapchat account. Brixen witnessed the notification appear on his phone screen. Brixen moved to suppress this evidence arguing it constituted an unreasonable search of his cell phone. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion, noting that Brixen conceded that evidence recovered under a subsequent search warrant remains admissible because even after excision of the tainted evidence from the supporting affidavit, it still establishes probable cause. Upon arrest, Brixen no longer had a right to keep his phone in his pocket; once the phone was seized the notification projected on the screen was plain to see. Disabling notifications that automatically appear on the phone would have preserved the message as private but Brixen simply had no reasonable expectation of privacy in a conspicuous notification once his phone was seized. View "United States v. Brixen" on Justia Law

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DEA task force members lawfully found drugs in a traffic stop and seized several garage openers and keys they found in the car. An agent took the garage openers and drove around downtown Chicago pushing their buttons to look for a suspected stash house. He found the right building when the door of a shared garage opened. The agent then used a seized key fob and mailbox key to enter the building’s locked lobby and pinpoint the target condominium. Another agent sought and obtained the arrestee’s consent to search the target condo. The search turned up extensive evidence of drug trafficking. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a motion to suppress the drug trafficking evidence. While the use of the garage door opener was a search and was "close to the edge," it did not violate the Fourth Amendment, which does not forbid this technique to identify the building or door associated with the opener, at least where the search discloses no further information. Use of the key fob and mailbox key in the lobby was not unlawful because the defendants had no right to exclude people from the lobby area. At all other stages of the investigation, the agents also complied with the Fourth Amendment. View "United States v. Correa" on Justia Law

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Chicago Officer Jolliff’s confidential informant, “Doe,” reported buying heroin from “Fred.” Jolliff’s warrant affidavit stated that Doe had bought heroin from Fred for a couple of months; Fred sold heroin from a particular home's basement; and Doe had bought heroin from Fred that day and saw Fred with over 100 baggies of heroin. Jolliff showed Doe a photo of the Edwards home, which Doe confirmed was the location. Jolliff drove Doe to the location, where Doe confirmed that identification. Jolliff used a database to obtain a photograph of Freddy Sutton, who Doe identified as “Fred.” Jolliff’s supervisor and an assistant state’s attorney approved the warrant application. Aware of Doe’s criminal history, the judge questioned Doe under oath and issued the warrant. Officers conducted the search four days later. Edwards and his daughter were outside and prevented from entering their home during the search, which took about two hours and uncovered no illegal drugs. Nor did the police find Sutton. The Edwardses had minor property damage. They filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a Monell claim against the city because the Edwardses did not plausibly allege the existence of any policy or practice permitting searches without probable cause and summary judgment in favor of the officers, concluding that the warrant was supported by probable cause. The officers were also entitled to qualified immunity based on their reasonable reliance on the warrant. View "Edwards v. Jolliff-Blake" on Justia Law

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Lake County, Indiana, Sheriff's Department (LCSD) Deputy Orlich, in uniform, and carrying a gun, responded to Zander’s husband’s call, reporting a domestic disturbance. Arriving at the scene, Orlich ordered Zander to leave the home and go to her other house on White Oak Avenue. Zander stated that she could not go there because the electric panel had been dismantled. Orlich's supervisor gave Orlich permission to take Zander to White Oak Avenue, where Orlich turned on the electricity. Orlich told Zander that she could not return to the other house for several hours. About 10-15 minutes after Orlich left, Zander found Orlich standing naked in the house. He attacked Zander sexually and said that he could make Zander’s life difficult if she reported him. Zander filed negligence claims against the Sheriff and intentional tort and civil rights claims against Orlich. The district court granted the Sheriff summary judgment on Zander’s respondeat superior claim and on Zander’s negligent hiring, training, and retention claim because Zander presented no evidence that Buncich knew of the necessity of exerting control to prevent Orlich's sexual misconduct. On Zander’s claims against Orlich, a jury awarded $100,000 in compensatory damages, $275,000 in punitive damages, and attorneys fees and costs totaling $97,267.80. The Seventh Circuit reversed as to Zander’s respondeat superior claim and affirmed as to the negligent hiring claim. Orlich exploited “unique institutional prerogatives of his police employment.” Whether Orlich’s employment gave rise to the abuse of that power is a question of fact for the jury. View "Zander v. Orlich" on Justia Law

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After being arrested for DUI, Martin was booked by Clay County Officers Herbert and Overton and was placed in a cell with bunk beds, rather than the padded cell or the “drunk tank,” which did not contain bunk beds. The other inmate in the cell had recently had surgery and required the bottom bunk. Martin stated that he could not get to the upper bunk. Officer Herbert says he told Martin to remove the mattress and put it on the floor. Martin climbed onto the upper bunk and fell while attempting to climb down, hitting his head on a table on the opposite wall, damaging his spinal cord and paralyzing him permanently. He died months later. Martin’s Estate sued Officers Herbert and Overton. The district court denied their motion for qualified immunity, The Seventh Circuit reversed. Drawing all factual inferences in its favor, the Estate failed to show that the officers’ conduct violated clearly established law. There were several intervening events: Martin decided to climb into the bunk rather than sitting or sleeping on the floor; Martin attempted to climb down before he was sufficiently sober; Martin fell and hit his head. None of these events was so obviously foreseeable that the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of reasonable conduct would have given notice that the officers' actions violated that standard. View "Lovett v. Herbert" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the superintendent, in his official capacity, alleging that schools would not hire plaintiff while he was a teacher under investigation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that section 1983 does not authorize awards of damages against states and a state official in his official capacity; plaintiff's complaint failed to allege the deprivation of any liberty or property interest; the Constitution does not require a hearing before public notice that a charge is under investigation; probable cause was required to support custody but not to support a public charge of crime; and administrative investigations precede hearings. View "Fritz v. Evers" on Justia Law

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Four Chicago police officers received an emergency call about a “male with a gun,” and arrived on scene at about 3:35 a.m. An unidentified man on the porch directed them to the first floor apartment, stating only, “He’s in there.” Upon entering, they encountered approximately 10 people milling around; one stated, “The man with the gun is in the back. He pointed it at my face.” When Officer Gentile looked up, a man saw him and fled into the first floor bedroom, slamming the door. After announcing their presence and knocking, the officers opened the bedroom door and saw Lindsey sitting on a mattress next to a woman. Gentile found a gun on the bedroom floor, about two feet in front of Lindsey. None of the officers saw the gun on Lindsey’s person. The state dismissed criminal charges against Lindsey for unlawful possession of a weapon. Lindsey filed suit, claiming false arrest, excessive force, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed a verdict rejecting all of his claims. The district court was within its discretion in denying the jurors’ request for a copy of a potentially impeaching interrogatory answer and in refusing to modify its jury instruction on “possession” to stress that “mere proximity” to a gun is insufficient. View "Lindsey v. Macias" on Justia Law

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A six month delay between a property inspection and notice of a municipal ordinance citation does not violate due process. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to state a procedural due process claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court held that the administrative and judicial proceedings available for plaintiff to challenge her citation for growing weeds greater than 10 inches tall in her garden satisfied due process, and the accuracy of the city's interpretation of its ordinance did not implicate the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, plaintiff failed to allege facts supporting a plausible violation of her due process rights. The court rejected plaintiff's alternative theory that the city misinterpreted the ordinance's plain text. View "Tucker v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Shellpoint in an action alleging that Shellpoint discriminated against plaintiffs based on race when it prohibited them from assuming the loan of a home that they had purchased. The court held that no reasonable jury could find that Shellpoint discriminated against plaintiffs based on their race where their only evidence was vague and speculative. Furthermore, the requirement that plaintiffs satisfy the outstanding loan payment was consistent with the loan agreement, which conditions assumption on Shellpoint's determination that its security would not be impaired. The court also held that plaintiffs did not point to evidence countering the Shellpoint representative's statement that they never produced a complete application. View "Sims v. New Penn Financial LLC" on Justia Law