Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Eleventh Circuit
U.S. Eleventh Circuit - The FindLaw 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in Civil Rights Law Category

A routine vehicle stop in Miami became anything but routine after a police officer shot a suspect in the groin -- for no apparent reason. Det. Carl Rousseau pulled over a car and reportedly saw the passenger, Robert Valderrama, throw something out the car window that turned out to be a crack pipe.

Even though Valderrama appeared to be compliant during the stop, Rousseau shot him in the groin (refer to the Eleventh Circuit opinion for more of the grisly details). Rousseau talked about the incident for three minutes with his partner, Sgt. Yasima Smith, before Smith called an ambulance, but she said only that there was "a laceration."

Just when you thought it was safe to get a same-sex marriage in Alabama, the Alabama Supreme Court -- and not just Chief Justice Roy Moore -- issued a 148-page opinion yesterday ordering some of the state's probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The petition for a writ of mandamus was brought by the State of Alabama, along with another probate court judge, and asked for "a clear judicial pronouncement that Alabama law prohibits the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples."

Same-sex marriage remains a thorny issue in Alabama, where on January 23, U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade found Alabama's same-sex marriage prohibition unconstitutional. In response, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore went on a memoranda rampage, first opining that Granade had no authority to override Alabama state law.

In a second memo issued earlier this week, Moore flat-out ordered state probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Some judges complied with Granade's order, but many more complied with Moore's by refusing to issue any marriage licenses to anyone at all, under the guise of awaiting further guidance.

Generally, when you want to rely on amateur legal interpretations promising that you'll be "arrested" if you try and do such-and-such things, you're in the realm of some online forum or chain email from Aunt Hilda complaining about how the Obama administration is arresting people who put up Christmas decorations.

But what happens when it's actual lawyers who are making this crazy advice?

It's been in vogue for a while to drug test recipients of state and federal welfare, on the theory either that welfare recipients take a lot of drugs or that since "we" are paying "them," then we get to conduct intrusive searches into their lives.

The Eleventh Circuit Court last week affirmed that the state of Florida cannot conduct suspicionless drug testing on welfare recipients.

With 11th Cir.'s Denial, Gay Marriage to Start in Fla. on Jan. 5

Add another state to the list of those that allow same-sex marriages -- unless the U.S. Supreme Court steps in first, that is.

On Wednesday, the Eleventh Circuit denied Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's request to continue blocking same-sex marriages in the state of Florida, which means same-sex couples can start sending out save-the-dates for any time after January 5, 2015. However, there are a couple of (admittedly unlikely) ways in which the High Court could step in and prevent that from happening.

Back in August, a federal district judge in Florida held that the state's same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. That was, of course, a lifetime ago in light of what's happened since: The Supreme Court punted, the Sixth Circuit upheld, and same-sex marriage is the law in 33 states (for now).

Well, the State of Florida isn't taking this lying down. Attorney General Pamela Bondi is appealing the district court's order. Does Florida's brief to the Eleventh Circuit have anything new that hasn't been dismissed by four other circuit courts already?

Lisa West, an attorney, entered the Fulton County Courthouse in Georgia on December 9, 2010. She was wearing a suit jacket and no overcoat. A sheriff's duty told her to remove her suit jacket; she said she wouldn't because it would "improperly expose her undergarments." The deputy said that if she didn't remove the suit jacket, she could leave. If she didn't do either one, she'd be arrested.

West called her husband, also an attorney, while still at the checkpoint. Though there were no signs saying she couldn't have a cell phone, the deputy grabbed her hand, squeezed it, forcing the cell phone out. When a supervisor arrived, he said that she didn't have to remove her jacket. She could be wanded instead, and she could have been wanded from the very beginning.

West filed a lawsuit against the deputy, and last week, the Eleventh Circuit said at least part of it could proceed.

State and federal laws protect a person's ability to live in a housing unit with a service animal even if the landlord or homeowners association has a no pets policy. This is because a service animal isn't a "pet," it's a service animal.

A Florida homeowners association didn't seem to think so. It was skeptical of one tenant's claim that he needed a service animal that exceeded the HOA's weight limit. The Eleventh Circuit decided last week that its demands for more information were unreasonable.

Federal Judge Tosses Fla.'s Gay Marriage Ban: 5 Takeaways

Add yet another victory to the list for same-sex marriage advocates in Florida. After victories in four counties, a federal judge made a statewide ruling earlier today. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle in Tallahassee held that Florida's ban violates guarantees of equal protection and due process, but stayed his decision pending appeal. The decision covers both in-state and recognition of out-of-state marriages.

What's the real-world effect? Very little, for now. It's a near certainty that the Supreme Court will take on the issue of same-sex marriage during its next term, which begins this fall. Given that Judge Hinkle's opinion was stayed pending appeal, and any appeal to the Eleventh Circuit would likely not happen before SCOTUS weighs in, this is but a minor footnote, albeit a positive one.

Here are five takeaways from Judge Hinkle's ruling: