Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Constitutional Law
Kimberly Powell, et al. v. School Board of Volusia County, Florida
Appellant as next of kin and on behalf of a minor, J.T.A., and all similarly situated minors (“Appellants”), filed a class action lawsuit against the School Board of Volusia County, Florida for allegedly violating the minors’ rights to free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The Appellants appealed the district court’s order dismissing their amended complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the IDEA. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s order of dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the holding in Perez. The court explained that here, Appellants seek compensatory and punitive damages. The IDEA provides neither. Thus, applying Perez to this case, Appellants can proceed without attempting to exhaust administrative remedies that do not exist under the IDEA. Appellants unambiguously sought compensatory monetary damages under the ADA and not compensatory education under the IDEA. Consequently, in light of Perez, the Appellants should have been allowed to proceed with their claims regardless of the IDEA’s exhaustion requirements. View "Kimberly Powell, et al. v. School Board of Volusia County, Florida" on Justia Law
Fleming v. Bayou Steel
BD LaPlace, LLC, doing business as Bayou Steel (Bayou Steel), operated a steel mill in LaPlace, Louisiana. Without giving The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notice, Bayou Steel terminated Plaintiffs’ employment and closed the LaPlace mill where they worked. Seeking to recover under the WARN Act, Plaintiffs initially filed a putative class action complaint against Bayou Steel in Delaware bankruptcy court. Plaintiffs dismissed that action and filed the instant class action in federal district court. Rather than suing their employer Bayou Steel, Plaintiffs sued Bayou Steel BD Holdings II, LLC and Black Diamond Capital Management, LLC(a private equity firm that advised the fund that owned BD Holdings II). Plaintiffs demanded a jury trial, which the district court denied. Defendants sought summary judgment, which the district court granted. Plaintiffs appealed, challenging both the denial of their jury demand and the summary judgment for Defendants. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion that there is no right to a jury trial under the WARN Act. The court also affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to BD Holdings II. But the district court erred in granting summary judgment to BDCM because there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether BDCM exercised de facto control over Bayou Steel’s decision to close its LaPlace steel mill and order Plaintiffs’ layoffs. The court explained that if BDCM “specifically directed” the closing of the mill without proper notice, the company may be liable for Bayou Steel’s WARN Act violation even absent the other factors. View "Fleming v. Bayou Steel" on Justia Law
Shaw v. L.A. Unified School Dist.
Plaintiffs alleged that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Defendants Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD or the District) and its then Superintendent adopted distance-learning policies that discriminated against poor students and students of color in violation of the California Constitution. Plaintiffs rest their challenge on various side letter contract agreements between LAUSD and the teacher’s union, Defendant United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which Plaintiffs contend implemented the distance-learning framework established by the Legislature in a discriminatory fashion. However, the District has returned to in-person instruction, and both the side letter agreements and the statutory framework that authorized them have expired. Nevertheless, Plaintiffs continue to seek injunctive relief to remedy what they contend are ongoing harms caused by the allegedly unconstitutional policies. The trial court sustained, with leave to amend, LAUSD’s demurrer on mootness grounds and granted, with leave to amend, its motion to strike the prayer for relief, reasoning that the requested remedies would not be manageable on a class-wide basis. The Second Appellate District reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded with instructions. The court held that the trial court prematurely struck the prayer for relief at the pleading stage, notwithstanding the end of distance learning. Because Plaintiffs propose a seemingly viable remedy for the past and continuing harms they allege, their constitutional claims are not moot. The court wrote that the constitutionality of expired policies is measured by reference to the statewide standards that existed when the policies were in effect. Accordingly, the trial court erred by sustaining LAUSD’s demurrer to the eighth cause of action on mootness grounds. View "Shaw v. L.A. Unified School Dist." on Justia Law
Elisa W. v. City of New York
Plaintiffs-appellants, nineteen children in New York City’s foster care system, filed suit alleging “systemic deficiencies” in the administration of the City’s foster care system in violation of federal and state law. The named Plaintiffs moved to represent a class of all children who are now or will be in the foster care custody of the Commissioner of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services and two subclasses. As remedies, they sought injunctive and declaratory relief to redress alleged class-wide injuries caused by deficiencies in the City’s administration—and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services’ oversight—of foster care. The district court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the district court erred in its analysis of the commonality and typicality requirements under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a). The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s order denying class certification and remanded. The court held that the district court erred in its analysis of commonality and typicality under Rule 23. The court explained that the district court did not determine whether commonality and typicality exist with respect to each of Plaintiffs’ claims. Instead, it concluded that commonality was lacking as to all alleged harms because “Plaintiffs’ allegations do not flow from unitary, non-discretionary policies.” The court held that this approach was legal error requiring remand. Further, the court wrote that here, the district court largely relied upon its commonality analysis to support its finding that typicality was not satisfied. Thus, the deficiencies identified in its commonality inquiry can also be found in its handling of typicality. View "Elisa W. v. City of New York" on Justia Law
Hopkins, et al v. Hosemann
In this class action, Plaintiffs, representing persons who have been convicted of certain crimes and have completed the terms of their sentences, challenge their disenfranchisement by two provisions of Article XII of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890. The first provision, Section 241, mandates permanent, lifetime disenfranchisement of a person convicted of a crime of any one of “murder, rape, bribery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement or bigamy.” The second, Section 253, provides for a discretionary, standardless scheme for the Mississippi Legislature to restore the right to vote to disenfranchised persons on an individualized basis by a two-thirds vote of all members of each house of the Legislature. Plaintiffs sued Mississippi’s Secretary of State (the “Secretary”), contending that Section 241 violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s contrary ruling, render judgment for Plaintiffs on this claim, and remanded the case with instructions that the district court grant relief declaring Section 241 unconstitutional and enjoining the Secretary from enforcing Section 241 against the Plaintiffs and the members of the class they represent. Plaintiffs’ equal protection claim against the Secretary with respect to Section 241, however, is foreclosed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Richardson v. Ramirez, 418 U.S. 24 (1974). Finally, the court held that Plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the legislative process embodied in Section 253 through this action. View "Hopkins, et al v. Hosemann" on Justia Law
Estrella v. Janney Montgomery Scott LLC
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the amended judgment of the superior court in favor of Plaintiff, as executor of the Estate of Armando Damiani (Mandy) and the Estate of Lillian Estrella, in this action alleging that Defendants had conspired to commit an unlawful conversion of funds in Mandy's investment account, holding that the portion of the amended judgment awarding Plaintiff compensatory damages and prejudgment interest was error.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial justice erred by permitting a witness to testify despite knowing that she would invoke her privilege against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment, and the error prejudiced Defendant; and (2) there was no reason to disturb the trial justice's decision on Plaintiff's claim for declaratory judgment. View "Estrella v. Janney Montgomery Scott LLC" on Justia Law
LULAC Texas v. Hughes
After the Texas Legislature amended the Election Code in 2021, the United States and others sued, alleging the changes were racially discriminatory. When Plaintiffs sought discovery from individual, nonparty state legislators, those legislators withheld some documents, citing legislative privilege. The district court largely rejected the legislators’ privilege claims, and they filed this interlocutory appeal. The Fifth Circuit reversed. The court explained that for their part, the legislators rely on the privilege for each of the disputed documents. Plaintiffs, too, do not argue that the documents are non-legislative. Instead, they argue only that the privilege either “was waived” or “must yield.” The court wrote that the legislators did not waive the legislative privilege when they “communicated with parties outside the legislature, such as party leaders and lobbyists.” The district court’s contrary holding flouts the rule that the privilege covers “legislators’ actions in the proposal, formulation, and passage of legislation.” Finally, the court reasoned that Plaintiffs’ reliance on Jefferson Community Health Care Centers, Inc. v. Jefferson Parish Government is misplaced. That decision stated that “while the common-law legislative immunity for state legislators is absolute, the legislative privilege for state lawmakers is, at best, one which is qualified.” But that case provides no support for the idea that state legislators can be compelled to produce documents concerning the legislative process and a legislator’s subjective thoughts and motives. View "LULAC Texas v. Hughes" on Justia Law
Treva Thompson, et al. v. Secretary of State for the State of Alabama, et al.
Greater Birmingham Ministries (“GBM”), an Alabamian non-profit organization dedicated to aiding low-income individuals, and several Alabamian felons (collectively “Appellants”) appealed the district court’s summary judgment denying their Equal Protection Clause challenge to Amendment 579 of the Alabama state constitution, their Ex Post Facto Clause, challenge to Amendment 579’s disenfranchisement provisions, and their National Voting Registration Act of 1993 (“NVRA”), challenge to the format of Alabama’s mail voting registration form.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that (1) Amendment 579 successfully dissipated any taint from the racially discriminatory motives behind the 1901 Alabama constitution; (2) Amendment 579 does not impose punishment for purposes of the Ex Post Facto Clause; and (3) Alabama’s mail voting registration form complies with the NVRA. The court wrote that it rejects Appellants’ invitation to review the extent the Alabama legislature debated the “moral turpitude” language of Amendment 579. Further, the court explained that Section 20508(b)(2)(A) is a notice statute enacted for the convenience of voting registrants. Alabama’s mail-in voting form has provided sufficient notice by informing registrants that persons convicted of disqualifying felonies are not eligible to vote and providing an easily accessible link whereby voters convicted of felonies can determine their voter eligibility. Accordingly, Alabama has complied with the requirements of Section 20508(b)(2)(A). View "Treva Thompson, et al. v. Secretary of State for the State of Alabama, et al." on Justia Law
Michael Matzell v. Anthony J. Annucci et al.
Plaintiff, a former New York State prisoner, sued defendants-appellants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 for purportedly violating his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments when they denied his judicially ordered enrollment in New York's Shock Incarceration Program, thereby potentially extending his period of confinement. The district court denied the motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that Plaintiff plausibly alleged that Defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity because they violated clearly established law. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the Fourteenth Amendment claim, reversed the district court's denial of Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the Eighth Amendment claim, and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claim fails at the second prong of the qualified immunity analysis: it was not clearly established at the time of Defendants' conduct that denying a prisoner the opportunity to obtain early release from his sentence of confinement by denying judicially ordered entry into the Shock program would violate the Eighth Amendment. Moreover, the court held that given the liberty interest at stake and the clarity of the statutory law, Plaintiff plausibly alleged that Defendants' actions were egregious, shocking to the conscience, and unreasonable. View "Michael Matzell v. Anthony J. Annucci et al." on Justia Law
State of Minnesota v. American Petroleum Institute
Minnesota sued a litany of fossil fuel producers1 (together, the Energy Companies) in state court for common law fraud and violations of Minnesota’s consumer protection statutes. In doing so, it joined the growing list of states and municipalities trying to hold fossil fuel producers responsible for alleged misrepresentations about the effects fossil fuels have had on the environment. The Energy Companies removed to federal court. The district court granted Minnesota’s motion to remand, and the Energy Companies appealed. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that Congress has not acted to displace the state-law claims, and federal common law does not supply a substitute cause of action, the state-law claims are not completely preempted. The court reasoned that because the “necessarily raised” element is not satisfied, the Grable exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule does not apply to Minnesota’s claims. Further, the court wrote that the connection between the Energy Companies’ marketing activities and their OCS operations is even more attenuated. Thus, neither requirement is met, there is no federal jurisdiction under Section 1349. View "State of Minnesota v. American Petroleum Institute" on Justia Law