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

Surcharge for Swiping Credit Cards Violates Free Speech, 11th Rules

It's only been little more than a month since the Second Circuit decided the New York case of Expression Hair Design v. Schneiderman, ruling that the state's no-surcharge law is lawful. Serendipitously, the Eleventh Circuit ruled this week that no-surcharge laws violate the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.

The Eleventh Circuit ruled that the state's applicable statute, which bans retailers from charging a surcharge to customers who elect to use their credit cards is nonsense when taken in conjunction with the state's express allowance of offering a discount for cash.The court said it may have the look of regulating conduct, but in reality, it regulates speech.

Refusal to Quash Subpoenas Ruled 'Abuse of Discretion' by 11th Circ.

In a case that is somewhat reminiscent of Citizens United, which revolves around the amorphous notion what constitutes valid speech, the 11th Circuit just ruled that a lower court abused its discretion when it did not quash subpoena's against state officials and granted them the benefit of doubt of privilege.

The subpoenas were directed at lawmakers; they alleged that the Act violated the First Amendment rights of the Alabama Education Association (AEA) because of alleged bad faith.

Georgia executed death row inmate Kelly Gissendaner Wednesday morning, having defeated an 11th hour legal appeal that sought to spare her life. Gissendaner, who was sentenced to death for conspiring with her boyfriend to kill her husband, became Georgia's first female prisoner to be executed in 70 years.

Advocates, including Pope Francis, had argued for clemency. The Pontifex Maximus wrote a letter urging Georgia to commute her sentence and her children attended a parole board hearing to argue on her behalf, missing her execution in the process. Despite that advocacy, Gissendaner was executed soon after a last minute 1983 complaint was rejected by the Eleventh Circuit last night.

Last February, Ashley Diamond sued the Georgia Department of Corrections in federal court. A transgender woman, Diamond was housed in a men's prison, denied medical treatment, and repeatedly sexually assaulted, she alleged -- all while the state refused to take corrective action.

This Monday, she was unexpectedly granted parole. Her release comes months before her case was scheduled for review and less than three years into her 11 year sentence. Diamond's suit  shed light on the frequent neglect and abuse transgender inmates face and it quickly became a "thorn in the side of the Georgia Department of Corrections," according to The New York Times.

A Florida law that prevents doctors from asking patients about guns in their home will soon go into effect, the Associated Press reports. The Eleventh Circuit vacated an injunction against the law last week, allowing the so-called "Docs v. Glocks" law to go ahead.

The Florida legislation, officially titled the "Firearm Owners Privacy Act," prohibits doctors from talking with their patients about guns in their homes when irrelevant to medical care. Last year, the Eleventh ruled that the Act doesn't violate doctors' rights to communicate with their patients, it "simply acknowledges that the practice of good medicine does not require interrogation about irrelevant, private matters."

If you want to bring a loaded gun with you to a federal dam or reservoir, expect to be turned away. Except for hunting and target range purposes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which controls most federal water resource development projects, doesn't allow for loaded firearms on Corps lands. Explosives are banned too. Save those for the National Parks.

For Second Amendment advocates in the Eleventh Circuit, that restriction "completely destroys" their right to bear arms. The Eleventh Circuit, however, disagrees, taking a more nuanced look at the regulation's impact on Second Amendment rights.

Seven prison officers who had been accused of showing deliberate indifference to an inmate's suicide are protected by qualified immunity, the Eleventh Circuit ruled on Wednesday. After Darius James killed himself while awaiting trial, his mother sued the officers, alleging that they knew of James' suicide risk and did nothing.

James' mother had failed to show that individual officers had a subjective knowledge of the risk of suicide, the Eleventh Circuit found. While there was circumstantial evidence that prison officials generally may have been aware of James' suicide risk and may have mishandled his care, there was not enough evidence specific to the officers to counteract their qualified immunity.

A Clearwater police officer who pulled a woman from her car, resulting in significant injury, after she refused to allow him to search wasn't acting outside clearly established law, the Eleventh Circuit has ruled. The decision overturns a district court ruling that the officer used excessive force and was not entitled to qualified immunity.

The incident began when Officer Jeffery Adkisson, of Clearwater, Florida, pulled Sarita Merricks over after he suspected her car's windows were illegally tinted. He claimed to have smelled marijuana smoke, though Merricks denied that she or anyone else in the car had smoked. When Adkisson asked if he could search, Merricks repeatedly refused.

The First Amendment gives you a lot of rights, but among them you won't find "singing" -- at least not in a post office. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this week affirmed the dismissal of a claim brought by Eric Watkins, who was kicked out of a U.S. Post Office when he refused to stop singing an "antigay" song.

As the Hare Krishnas found out the hard way, not all government property is open for all speech activity, all the time.

En Banc Panel Says No Privacy Right in Historical Cell Site Data

After a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit ruled that there was a Fourth Amendment right to privacy in historical cell site data, the government requested and was granted an en banc rehearing.

Yesterday, the en banc court reversed the panel and found that there is no constitutional right to privacy in historical location information because cell phone location information is voluntarily conveyed to a third party -- the phone company.