2nd Circuit Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Second Circuit
U.S. Second Circuit - The FindLaw 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in Civil Rights Law Category

The Second Circuit upheld the murder, racketeering, narcotics and firearms convictions of four members of the "Courtland Avenue Crew," a violent gang from the Bronx. One defendant's convictions relied partially on evidence gathered from social media, including a rap video and photos of tattoos taken from Facebook.

That defendant, Melvin Colon, was convicted in part for the execution of Delquan Alston, who he thought was an informant. On appeal, he argued that the Facebook evidence was procured through an unconstitutional law, the Stored Communications Act, and that its use in the trial violated his First Amendment rights. The Second Circuit wasn't convinced.

In November, 2007, a state trooper named Ben Campbell began to harass a woman named Joanne Smith. When Smith's adult son, Tom, said he would call 911 and speak to Campbell's supervisor, Campbell left without issuing any tickets.

This incident sparked a series of harassing activities that eventually rose to the level of a civil rights complaint. On April 1, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed and vacated in part a district court's order dismissing the case.

The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal contesting a New York City policy refusing to allow outside groups to hold religious services on school facilities. The denial of cert, issued Monday, leaves in place the Second Circuit's decision from last April, which held that the NYC Board of Ed.'s policy was a reasonable way to ensure that the City did not violate the separation of church and state.

This may be the last round in litigation which began over 14 years ago, when the City first denied the request by Bronx Household of Faith to use school facilities for church services. The case illustrates the fine line municipalities walk when attempting to balance free practice of religion with the separation of church and state.

The Eleventh Amendment: often misunderstood, infrequently used, yet sitting there in plain sight, just after the Bill of Rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has given scant guidance over the years, but we know at the least that states can't be sued for monetary damages unless they consent (or unless another amendment, like the Fourteenth, overrides the Eleventh Amendment).

The definition of what qualifies as an "arm of the state" came across the Second Circuit's desk last week, and the court decided that a community college doesn't qualify for Eleventh Amendment immunity.

A peculiar bit of appellate procedure attended the issuance of an amended opinion in Garcia v. Does, the "Occupy Wall Street" case in which Occupy protesters claimed they were escorted onto the Brooklyn Bridge by police, then arrested when they were halfway across.

Though the protesters won in federal district court, and again before a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit, that same panel reversed itself Monday. The panel remanded the case to Judge Jed Rakoff with instructions to dismiss the complaint, dissolving the en banc rehearing before it started.

So-called anti-vaxxers believe that vaccination is harmful, as vaccines contain harmful "chemicals." A resurgence in once long-gone diseases is arguably attributable to a new wave of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.

The problem is that many public school districts require children to be vaccinated before they can attend school. Because, you know, a parent's decision not to vaccinate actually has consequences for other children. But just ignore all that. An anti-vaccine case hit the Second Circuit Court of Appeals -- and, predictably, the anti-vaxxers lost.

Back in July, Microsoft lost a battle to protect data stored on Irish email servers, wholly owned and controlled by Microsoft, from the U.S. Justice Department. All we know about these email MacGuffins is that they have something to do with drugs.

Appealing to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Microsoft argues that, because the magnetic particles comprising the data are physically located in Ireland, those particles -- and the data they represent -- are protected by Irish and European privacy laws, meaning Microsoft can't be compelled to turn them over.

In October, the Nonhuman Rights Project, a legal advocacy group for chimpanzees, argued that a 26-year-old chimp named Tommy should be recognized as a "person" under New York law and granted a writ of habeas corpus.

Chimps, the group argued in a 65-page brief submitted to the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division last March, share genetic information as well as cognitive skills with humans. They understand language and use tools. Chimps trained in American Sign Language can even teach other chimps how to sign. For all these reasons and more, the Nonhuman Rights Project argued that Tommy should be released from his cage.

Stop and Frisk Litigation Finally, Thankfully, Hopefully at an End

This has been going on for far too long -- the litigation, that is. "Stop and frisk" was a terrible, constitutionally suspect practice where police officers would stop and pat down pedestrians in high-crime areas for no real reason. Disproportionately, those stopped were minorities.

Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall after multiple unfavorable court decisions, or perhaps because he understands the Fourth Amendment better than his predecessor, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to settle the case. But the police unions, unhappy with the settlement, sought to intervene.

On Friday, the Second Circuit, affirming the district court's earlier ruling, held that their attempt was too little, too late. And with no intervenors left to spoil the party, this could be the last we hear about stop and frisk.

Mohammed al-Qahtani was alleged to be the "20th hijacker" of the September 11, 2001 hijackings. He's been held at the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since 2002. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has attempted to use the Freedom of Information Act to get "certain videos and photographs" of al-Qahtani -- ostensibly images of him being tortured, which CCR claimed has been happening for the last 13 years.

Today, the Second Circuit affirmed a district court ruling denying CCR access to those documents on the ground that it could compromise national security.