Civil Rights

July 23rd, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

CIVIL RIGHTS-1983-GOOD FAITH DEFENSE Arthur Diamond v. Pennsylvania State Education Association, No. 19-2812 (3rd Cir. August 28, 2020) Rendell, C.J.  In reliance on a Pennsylvania statute and the Supreme Court’s decision in Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Educ., 431 U.S. 209 (1977), Appellee Unions, the Service Employees International Union Local 668 and the Pennsylvania State Education Association, collected “fair-share fees” from Appellants over Appellants’ objections. But the Supreme Court overruled Abood in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, holding that state legislation condoning public-sector fair-share fees was unconstitutional. 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018) (“Janus I”). Now, Appellants bring these § 1983 lawsuits seeking reimbursement of the sums they were required to pay. The District Courts, joining a consensus of federal courts across the country, dismissed Appellants’ claims for monetary relief, ruling that because the Unions collected the fair-share fees in good faith reliance on a governing state statute and Supreme Court precedent, they are entitled to, and have successfully made out, a good faith defense to monetary liability under § 1983. We will affirm. We are not the first court of appeals to rule on this question, and we join a…

CIVIL RIGHTS ACT-IMMUNITY-QUALIFIED IMMUNITY-SEARCH OF EMPLOYEE’S EMAILS

October 11th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

Walker v. Coffey, 3d 2018 LEXIS 26684 (September 20, 2018) Roth, J.  Appellant Carol Lee Walker commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. She alleges that Appellees—a prosecutor and a special agent employed by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General (OAG)—violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable search when they used an invalid subpoena to induce Walker’s employer, Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), to produce her work emails. The District Court granted Appellees’ motion to dismiss, concluding that they were entitled to qualified immunity because Walker did not have a clearly established right to privacy in the content of her work emails. For the reasons stated below, we will affirm the dismissal of Walker’s § 1983 claim. We will vacate the District Court’s denial of Walker’s subsequent motion for leave to file a second amended complaint asserting claims under the Stored Communications Act (SCA), and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. As such, we would be hard put to find that Walker enjoyed a clearly established right to privacy in the content of her work emails. But because this case involves Walker’s…

CIVIL RIGHTS-IMMUNITY-QUALIFIED IMMUNITY-CLEARLY ESTABLISHED-SEXUAL ASSAULT

October 4th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

Kane v Barger, 2018 U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Cir., LEXIS 23575, (August 22, 2018) Fuentes, J.  On June 27, 2013, Brandy Kane went to the hospital and reported that she may have been the victim of a sexual assault. That night, Officer Shawn Barger of the Coraopolis Police Department went to the hospital to interview Kane regarding the possible assault. At that time, Kane says Barger told her to bring the clothes she wore during the alleged incident to him at the police station. The next day, Kane—accompanied by a friend—brought her clothes to the police station. While there, contrary to department policy, Barger met alone with Kane in a back room of the station. Then, also in violation of department policy, Barger used his personal cell phone to photograph intimate areas of Kane’s body. During this encounter, Barger touched Kane twice. First, rather than relying on Kane to do so, Barger pulled Kane’s shorts down to photograph a bruise on her right buttock. At this point, Kane says she “felt something touch her butt crack which caused her to jump.” Second, again without asking Kane to do so,…

CIVIL RIGHTS-BIVENS ACTION-PRISONER LAW

October 31st, 2017 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

Ziglar v. Abbasi, 582 U.S. ___ (2017).  JUSTICE KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part IV–B. After the September 11 terrorist attacks in this country, and in response to the deaths, destruction, and dangers they caused, the United States Government ordered hundreds of illegal aliens to be taken into custody and held. Pending a determination whether a particular detainee had connections to terrorism, the custody, under harsh conditions to be described, continued. In many instances custody lasted for days and weeks, then stretching into months. Later, some of the aliens who had been detained filed suit, leading to the cases now before the Court. The complaint named as defendants three high executive officers in the Department of Justice and two of the wardens at the facility where the detainees had been held. Most of the claims, alleging various constitutional violations, sought damages under the implied cause of action theory adopted by this Court in Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U. S. 388 (1971). Another claim in the complaint was based upon the statutory cause of action authorized and created by Congress under Rev.…

CIVIL RIGHTS-JOB DISCRIMINATION-RACE

August 24th, 2017 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

Castleberry v. Sti Group, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12611 (3rd Cir. July 14, 2017) Ambro, C.J.  Castleberry and Brown brought suit asserting that their termination was racially motivated, citing to various examples of discrimination such as remarks made at the workplace and unfair work treatment.  The District Court dismissed their complaint.  Because Plaintiffs state plausible claims of employment discrimination, we reverse and remand. Castleberry and Brown were hired by STI Group in March 2010 as general laborers and supervised by managers from both STI Group and Chesapeake. Shortly after being assigned to a particular worksite, the only other African-American male on the crew was fired. Plaintiffs allege that, when they arrived at work on several occasions, someone had anonymously written “don't be black on the right of way” on the sign-in sheets. They also assert that although they have significant experience working on pipelines (and more so than their non-African-American coworkers), they were only permitted to clean around the pipelines rather than work on them. They claim that, when working on a fence-removal project, a supervisor told Castleberry and his coworkers that if they had “nigger-rigged” the fence, they would…

CIVIL RIGHTS-IMMUNITY-QUALIFIED IMMUNITY-CLEARLY ESTABLISHED RIGHT-SCHOOL SWIMMING ASPHYXIATION

November 23rd, 2015 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

This action stems from the death of a 15-year-old from a rare form of asphyxiation shortly after participation in a mandatory swimming class run by his physical education teacher.  The estate sued the school district, claiming a violation of civil rights.  The school district moved for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity, which the district court denied.  The conduct of the teacher and the school did not violate a clearly established constitutional right, and hence summary judgment should have been granted.  To equate intentional infliction of painful corporal punishment or the sexual molestation of a student, with a student-athlete's unfortunate accident during wrestling practice or a rare instance of delay drowning after swim class is a bridge too far.  The case law does not inform a reasonable gym teacher that the failure to assess a student who briefly goes underwater for the possibility of dry drowning violated the student's constitutional right to bodily integrity free from unwarranted intrusions by the state.  Spady v. Bethlehem Area School District, 800 F.3d 633 (3rd Cir. 2015).