Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The First Circuit vacated the district court’s denial of Defendants’ motion for a new trial based partly on a claim that one juror lied in filling out the written questionnaire given to prospective jurors prior to trial, holding that the district court’s investigation concerning the answers given by the juror was inadequate. After a jury trial, Defendants were convicted of charges arising out of a large-scale marijuana-farming operation. Defendants moved for a new trial, arguing that one juror lied in filling out a written questionnaire given to prospective jurors prior to trial. The district court denied the motion for a new trial. The First Circuit vacated the denial based on the possible bias of the juror and remanded for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the alleged bias of the juror presented a “colorable or plausible” claim of the type of juror misconduct that could require a new trial, and therefore, the district court was required to do more than it did before ruling on the new trial motion. View "United States v. Russell" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to MVM, Inc. as to a former employee’s claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000, et seq., and related Puerto Rico laws, holding that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment as to these claims. Plaintiff, a former employee of MVM, Inc., brought a variety of federal and Puerto Rico law claims against MVM and other defendants. After dismissing several of Plaintiff’s claims, the district court granted summary judgment to MVM as to the remainder. The First Circuit affirmed the summary judgment ruling, holding that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to MVM on Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim, Plaintiff’s claim under Title VII that MVM had unlawfully subjected her to disparate treatment because of her gender, and Plaintiff’s claim under Title VII for retaliation. View "Bonilla-Ramirez v. MVM, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case alleging several violations of federal and state discrimination laws the First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to stay the proceedings in district court and compel arbitration, holding that the contract to arbitration in between the parties was unenforceable. Plaintiffs - several individuals and the National Federation of the Blind - filed a complaint alleging that Defendant - the Container Store, Inc. - failed to utilize tactile keypads on its point-of-sale devices in its stores that could independently be used by customers who are blind in violation of federal and state discrimination laws. Defendant moved to compel arbitration, citing an arbitration provision in the terms and conditions of a loyalty program of which the individual plaintiffs were members. The district court denied the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) based upon the lack of evidence that the in-store plaintiffs had any knowledge that arbitration terms applied to their enrollment in the loyalty program, Defendant failed to establish that an agreement to arbitrate was consummated between it and three of the four individual plaintiffs; and (2) the district court did not err in finding that the loyalty program agreement was illusory and therefore void. View "National Federation of the Blind v. Container Store, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court excluding certain evidence during trial in this case alleging violations of the Fourth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. 1983, holding that Plaintiff’s grounds for attacking one set of evidentiary rulings were not advanced below and that Plaintiff’s remaining challenge was moot. On appeal, Plaintiff challenged the district court’s rulings on her motions in limine, which resulted in the exclusion of evidence concerning the procurement and validity of a search warrant, and the district court’s refusal to admit her medical bills into evidence. The First Circuit held (1) Plaintiff’s first assignment of error was predicated on legal theories and arguments that were raised for the first time on appeal and thus could not be addressed on appeal; and (2) because the medical bills were relevant only to the issue of damages and the jury found no liability, all issues regarding damages were moot. View "Campbell v. Ackerman" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court for Regional School Unit 57 (RSU 57) on Charlene Richard’s claims that RSU 57 violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act, Maine Human Rights Act, and Maine Whistleblower Protection Act, holding that there was no clear error in the district court’s findings. Richard, a former kindergarten teacher at Waterboro Elementary School, claimed that RSU 57 retaliated against her for her advocacy on behalf of students with disabilities. The district court concluded that Richard had not met her burden of proving that her advocacy had actually prompted the adverse actions against her and entered judgment for RSU 57. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not improperly require Richard to present evidence of causation beyond that which supported her prima facie case; and (2) Richard’s remaining arguments were similarly unavailing. View "Richard v. Regional School Unit 57" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s claims brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, holding that there was no error in the district court’s decision to grant summary judgment to Defendants on all of Plaintiff’s claims. Plaintiff’s lawsuit stemmed from the covert installment of screenshot-capturing software on Plaintiff’s work computer, which led to his arrest and plea of nolo contendere to one count of possession of child pornography. Plaintiff brought his claims against the individuals who participated in the events leading up to and following his arrest. The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. View "Boudreau v. Lussier" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiff’s retaliation claims as pertains to a handful of the original defendants in this case, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the claims pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) because Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies in bringing her Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), 18 U.S.C. 1514A, claim to federal court. Plaintiff filed a complaint under SOX with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), claiming that she was retaliated against through termination in violation of SOX’s whistleblower protection provision. In the federal courts, the district court concluded that Plaintiff’s OSHA complaint was untimely and thus dismissed Plaintiff’s claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff’s OSHA complaint was filed outside the requisite timeframe, and Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies; and (2) therefore, Plaintiff’s complaint failed to plead sufficient facts to raise a plausible claim for relief under SOX. View "Newman v. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed in part the district court’s grant of summary judgment against Plaintiff, a faculty member, on her claim of retaliation under Title VII and the Maine Human Rights Act against Defendant, the university that employed her, holding that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that the university retaliated against her after she complained about sexual harassment by her department chair and supervisor. The alleged retaliatory acts included Plaintiff’s transfer to a new department after obtaining her consent to transfer by making misrepresentations about how the transfer would affect her professional responsibilities. The First Circuit remanded the case, holding that summary judgment was improper because there were genuine disputes of material fact as to whether Defendant misled Plaintiff into transferring departments and as to whether Plaintiff’s transfer was the true reason for her change in teaching assignments. View "Carlson v. University of New England" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the sentence imposed in connection with the district court’s revocation of Defendant’s supervised release, holding that Defendant’s sentence did not violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and that the sentence was substantively reasonable. After he was released from federal custody following a drug trafficking conviction, Defendant pleaded guilty to felony drug possession in state court. The district court revoked Defendant’s supervised release and imposed a sentence of twenty-four months’ imprisonment, concluding that Defendant’s conduct violated his conditions of supervised release. On appeal, Defendant challenged the substantive reasonableness of his sentence and argued that because his drug addiction is a disease, sentencing him to a term of imprisonment for manifesting a condition of his disease was cruel and unusual punishment. The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) it is not “clear or obvious” that the practice of incarcerating defendants for drug use and possession is unconstitutional; and (2) Defendant’s two-year sentence is not substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Sirois" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction and sentence for participating in a conspiracy to bribe an agent of an organization receiving federal funds and of receiving a bribe, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the trial court proceedings. Defendant, a former Puerto Rico Superior Court Judge, was found guilty of both counts by a jury. Defendant was sentenced to sixty months of imprisonment for one count and 120 months of imprisonment for the other count, to be served concurrently. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence supporting Defendant’s convictions; (2) Defendant did not demonstrate that any alleged error in the government’s opening statement and closing argument or in the admission of certain testimony affected his substantial rights or that they impaired the fairness, integrity, or the public reputation of the judicial proceedings; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in upholding a witness’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege; and (4) any claimed sentencing error would be harmless. View "United States v. Acevedo-Hernandez" on Justia Law