Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Eighth Circuit
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Quite a few cases making the rounds in the Eighth Circuit are making headlines and deal with everything from Wizard of Oz merchandise, to kosher hot dogs. Here's a breakdown in the latest news out of the Eighth Circuit.

Iowa Campaign Finance Ban

In 2013, the Eighth Circuit upheld an Iowa law that "allow[s] for independent expenditures by corporations and unions but ... ban[s] ... direct contributions to candidates and committees by corporations," reports Reuters. An anti-abortion group challenged the ban, and petitioned for writ of certiorari, which the Supreme Court denied on Monday. This is highly interesting light of the Court's ruling last week in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission; it shows the Court has said all that it wants to for now on campaign finance.

Randall Jackson was incarcerated in Missouri, at the Western Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center ("WRDCC"). To be eligible for early release on parole, he had to complete the Offenders Under Treatment Program ("OUTP"), which dealt with substance abuse. Jackson is an atheist, the program is non-secular, and you can probably see where this is headed.


According to his complaint, Jackson alleged that the OUTP "had required meetings [and] invoked religious tenets by using the serenity prayer and religious meditations." When he objected and notified the staff, they advised him "to assume a role or attitude even if you don't like it" and to interpret God "as an acronym for 'good orderly direction.'"

Westboro Baptist Church Founder Dies, Funeral Protest Law Upheld

Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church -- the Kansas congregation known for picketing funerals with anti-gay signs -- died late Wednesday at the age of 84, CNN reports.

His death and reported excommunication from the church dovetails with a recent decision by U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan, Jr., bringing closure to a nearly eight-year long legal fight over the group's funeral protests.

Ex-Police Chief Affair Lawsuit Tossed; 8th Cir. Appeal Possible

A district court judge has dismissed a woman's lawsuit against the city of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and its former police chief Alex Moreno.

The suit involves dramatic allegations and tales of intrigue: police power, a sexual rendezvous, and harassment.

Albeit a lusty page-turner, U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf was unmoved by Tamara Villanueva's claims and dismissed the suit.

Beatrice Six Appeals Wrongful Conviction Case to 8th Cir.

The Eighth Circuit will consider reinstating Gage County as a defendant in a civil rights lawsuit over the wrongful conviction of six people, dubbed the "Beatrice Six," for the 1985 murder of a Nebraska woman.

U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf dismissed Gage County from the case. This week, he granted the plaintiffs' motion to have the Eight Circuit review his dismissal of the county as a defendant, The Omaha World Herald reports.

Holt v. Hobbs: SCOTUS to Review Ark. Prison Beard Growing Policy

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the challenge a Muslim man has brought against the grooming policies at an Arkansas prison -- a policy the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld as constitutional.

The case will turn on the Court's analysis of the Arkansas Department of Corrections' purported security needs and the level of deference the Court shows the ADC.

Engaged Nebraska Inmates Suing for Right to Marry: ACLU Lawsuit

The ACLU of Nebraska filed a lawsuit against Nebraska prison officials for preventing two engaged inmates from getting married.

The lawsuit, against the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, Director Michael Kenney, and two wardens, was filed on behalf of inmates Paul Gillpatrick and Niccole Wetherell, who have been engaged for more than two years.

The merits of their "right to marry" case will turn on whether the restrictions are related to a legitimate penological interest and the prison's willingness to use technology. Ah, love in the digital age.

45 Years Later: A Look Back at Tinker, Students, and Free Speech

On February 24, 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that neither students nor teachers "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."

The well-known case Tinker v. Des Moines permits school administrators to restrict students' free speech rights when that free speech is likely to cause substantial disruption.

The landmark case celebrated its 45th anniversary this week.

Fremont Votes to Ban Hiring, Renting to Undocumented Immigrants

The town of Fremont, Nebraska voted to uphold an ordinance prohibiting employers and landlords from hiring or renting to undocumented immigrants.

The measure, approved in 2010, survived a constitutional challenge before the Eighth Circuit.

Despite staving off a slew of legal challenges and passing yet again by popular vote, the ban may not be free from legal scrutiny just yet.

Flashing Headlights to Warn Drivers Is Free Speech: Dist. Court

Drivers have a First Amendment right to flash their headlights to warn others about an upcoming speed trap, U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey has ruled.

Autrey made waves in Missouri last week after he granted a preliminary injunction that bars the city of Ellisville from enforcing its ordinance against flashing headlights at a speed trap warning.

Given the novelty of the issue, it's possible that the Eighth Circuit will eventually hear an appeal of the case.