Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Eleventh Circuit
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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.

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.

Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, state prisoners asserting a civil rights violation have to show that they've exhausted all their state administrative remedies before going into federal court.

The problem is that, not infrequently, these "remedies" are so difficult or impossible to pursue that they've functionally nonexistent. That's what happened to Moliere Dimanche Jr., a prisoner in Florida who says his claims of retaliation by prison guards fell on deaf ears.

The State of Indiana is getting flack for passing a "religious freedom restoration act" (RFRA) that critics say would allow businesses to legally discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Indiana joined a significant minority of states (20 with laws actually on the books) in enacting such a law, including all three states in the Eleventh Circuit. Are these states' laws significantly different?

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.