6th Circuit Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Sixth Circuit
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A man stopped for speeding and arrested for possessing a kilo of heroin did not have his Fourth Amendment rights violated when police detained him so that a dog could sniff his car, the Sixth Circuit ruled on Tuesday. Sniffing out a car isn't a search under the Fourth, the court held, and does not implicate a citizen's reasonable expectation of privacy.

The case, United States v. Winters, challenged the further detention of Patrick Winters after he was pulled over and issued a speeding ticket and the use of the dog to sniff his car without a warrant.

A Mexican citizen who pled guilty to violating U.S. immigration law cannot have his sentence overturned because the district court failed to directly reference applicable sentencing guidelines, the Sixth Circuit ruled on Monday. Jose Solano-Rosales was sentenced to supervised release after he pled guilty to entering the U.S. without authorization after having been previously removed subsequent to a felony conviction.

During the sentencing, the district court never explicitly referenced the relevant federal sentencing guidelines, which generally recommended against supervised release. However, the district court's error did not impact Solano-Rosales' substantive rights, the Sixth Circuit ruled, since the reasons for supervised release and its deterrent effects were thoroughly discussed during sentencing.

One town over from where your author grew up lies the City of Painesville, Ohio, where in 2010, Painesville police officers electrocuted David Lee Nall with a TASER for 26 seconds. Nall suffered a heart attack and permanent brain damage as a result. He needs assistance with daily life tasks and has trouble remembering things.

All of this led to a civil rights lawsuit against the Painesville police. They asserted qualified immunity, but a federal district judge said "no way," as did the Sixth Circuit yesterday.

The Sixth Circuit today batted away a labor suit brought by the Michigan Corrections Organization, a union of prison correction officers, against the Michigan Department of Corrections.

The federal appeals court had no trouble affirming the district court's dismissal for absence of a cognizable federal claim. It took the time, however, to address, and dismiss, some of the plaintiffs' more novel theories of relief.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits, among other things, employment discrimination based on religion. That's great, but what about volunteers? Sister Michael Marie and Sister Mary Cabrini, two Catholic nuns, were Red Cross volunteers in Chillicothe, Ohio.

They were never employees, but they believe the positive reviews they received over the years should have entitled them to "promotions" that would have altered their roles and responsibilities. They never received those promotions -- because, they alleged, the Executive Director of the local chapter of the Red Cross was biased against them because they were "traditional" Catholics.

In 2009, Tynisa Williams was arrested, strip-searched, and deloused (allegedly in front of two other inmates) before being put into jail in Cleveland and released later that day. Her crime? Driving with a suspended license. There was no individualized suspicion that she was carrying anything dangerous, nor that she had lice.

"Doesn't this all sound familiar?" you're saying, scratching your chin. Yes, in fact: The Supreme Court dealt with a similar situation in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington. In that case, Burlington County had a policy of strip-searching every person processed into county jail, regardless of the severity of their crime. The Supreme Court upheld this practice. So why did the Sixth Circuit allow Tynisa Williams' complaint to proceed?

The Sixth Circuit is now the first federal circuit court of appeals to rule against same-sex marriage, likely setting the stage for what Justice Ginsburg predicted: The necessity for the Supreme Court to take up the issue instead of letting it fall into shadows, as it did last month when it declined to hear same-sex marriage cases from three other circuits.

By a 2-1 vote, a panel of the Sixth Circuit said that the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution does allow states to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

After about 10 years and two trips to the U.S. Supreme Court, Whirlpool's lawyers can sleep a little better. Last week, a federal jury in Ohio rejected claims brought by consumers who bought its "Duet" washing machines between 2001 and 2008.

This litigation has been going on for years and threatened to further restrict access to class action litigation.

It sounds like one of Jerry Seinfeld's rejected comedy routines: "And what's the deal with Ohio and voting restrictions?"

With Ohio's voter ID law headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Sixth Circuit decided another bit of Ohio's election law. But this one's a little bit different.

Proselytizers With Pig, Pummeled by Hecklers, to Get En Banc Hearing

This is a tough question: What do police officers do when a group called Bible Believers, carrying a severed pig's head and yelling about a "pedophile prophet," are confronted at the Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan, by Muslim children with rocks and bottles?

The "peaceful" proselytizers are kind of asking for it. But you don't want to crush their speech rights by giving in to the hecklers who are pelting them with rubble. Eventually, after things started to get out of hand, and the leader of the Bible Believers group was bleeding from a cut on his face, police stepped in and escorted the group out of the festival.

The original case split 2-1 in the Sixth Circuit, with the majority siding with the police officers and the dissent arguing that the cops didn't go far enough to protect speech rights. Now, the full Sixth Circuit will give the case the en banc treatment.