Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Plaintiffs won the 2017 diversity visa lottery but were denied visas pursuant to the State Department's Guidance Memo. The Guidance Memo instructed consular officers reviewing diversity visa applications about how President Trump's Executive Order temporarily prohibiting nationals of specific countries from entering the United States (EO2) affected visa eligibility. In this case, plaintiffs were denied visas because they were from Iran and Yemen—countries subject to the entry ban—and could not qualify for exemptions or waivers or satisfy the bona fide relationship requirement in Trump v. Int'l Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP I), 137 S. Ct. 2080, 2088 (2017). After EO-2 expired, it was replaced by President Trump's third iteration of the travel ban, the Proclamation. After the Supreme Court explained that challenges to the expired EO-2 were moot, and the government then filed a motion to dismiss this case as moot. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's determination that this case was moot, and held that plaintiffs' claims -- seeking a court order instructing the government to stop implementing the Guidance Memo, process their visa applications, and issue them diversity visas -- were not moot because whether the district court retains the authority to award plaintiffs relief is a merits question. The court held that neither plaintiffs' claim that such relief was legally available nor their claim that they were entitled to that relief was so implausible as to deprive the district court of jurisdiction. Furthermore, there was some chance that this relief would be effective at securing their immigration to the United States. View "Almaqrami v. Pompeo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that DHS engaged in discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court granted summary judgment for DHS and denied plaintiff's motion to stay proceedings to allow for discovery. The DC Circuit held that the district court erroneously concluded that the evidence sought by plaintiff could not create a dispute of material fact as to whether DHS's proffered reasons for taking adverse action were pretextual. The court also held that summary judgment was inappropriate with respect to plaintiff's claim that her reassignment to the Resource Management Branch was retaliatory. However, summary judgment was appropriate with respect to DHS's initial decision to extend her detail, because plaintiff did not create a genuine dispute of material fact. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cruz v. McAleenan" on Justia Law

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The District violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 if it cares for a mentally or physically disabled individual in a nursing home notwithstanding, with reasonable modifications to its policies and procedures, it could care for that individual in the community. Plaintiffs, a class of physically disabled individuals who have been receiving care in District nursing homes, sought an injunction requiring the District to alter its policies and procedures in order to help them transition to the community. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's judgment in favor of the District, holding that plaintiffs need not identify "concrete, systemic deficiency" in the District's transition services; there was no class certification issue; and the district court has not yet concluded, in clear terms and under the correct burden of proof, that the District's Olmstead Plan (a comprehensive, effectively working plan for placing qualified persons with physical disabilities in less restrictive settings) was adequate. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Brown v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Architect with respect to plaintiff's discrimination claims, holding that there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to infer that the 2014 and 2015 decision not to select plaintiff as Branch Chief was motivated by bias. The court affirmed the district court's grant of of summary judgment with respect to plaintiff's retaliation claims, holding that plaintiff failed to introduce anything beyond his weak evidence of temporal proximity to show that the Architect's decisions were motivated by a desire to retaliate against him. Furthermore, even if it were to adopt plaintiff's interpretation of the relevant dates and find that he has established a prima facie case for retaliation using evidence of temporal proximity, there would still be insufficient evidence to defeat summary judgment. View "Iyoha v. Architect of the Capitol" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the the Acting Architect of the Capitol (AOC), in her official capacity, alleging that the selecting officials at the AOC denied him a promotion on the basis of his race and national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The DC Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment to the AOC, holding that a jury reasonably could find the panelists did not select plaintiff for promotion because of his race or national origin. Because plaintiff argued his case as a single-motive claim and at oral argument forfeited any potential mixed-motive claim he could have made, he bears the burden of showing the alleged animus was a but-for cause of the decision not to promote him. Therefore, the court remanded for trial where plaintiff will bear the typical burden in this single-motive case to establish that he would have been selected for the promotion but for the alleged improper motive. View "Mayorga v. Merdon" on Justia Law

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Petitioner challenged the district court's denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, raising a due process challenge to the government's use of undisclosed classified information as a basis for his detention. The DC Circuit held that the district court's ruling that binding circuit precedent denied petitioner all rights to due process was in error. The court explained that Kiyemba v. Obama ruled only that the Due Process Clause does not invest detainees who have already been granted habeas corpus with a substantive due process right to be released into the United States. However, Kiyemba did not decide, or have any occasion to address, what constitutional procedural protections apply to the litigation of a detainee's habeas corpus petition in the first instance. Furthermore, no other decision of this circuit has adopted a categorical prohibition on affording detainees seeking habeas relief any constitutional procedural protections. The court held that the governing law is that petitioner and other alien detainees must be afforded a habeas process that ensures "meaningful review" of their detention pursuant to Boumediene v. Bush. Therefore, the court remanded the case for further proceedings to be conducted within the correct legal framework and to develop the needed factual record. View "Qassim v. Trump" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was denied tenure and terminated by the University, he filed suit against the Board of Trustees, claiming that the University discriminated against him based on race and violated both the terms and spirit of its contract with him. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the University on the Title VII, D.C. Human Rights Act (DCHRA), and contract claims. As to the statutory claims under Title VII and the DCHRA, the court held that plaintiff raised a plausible inference that race was a motivating factor in the University's decision to deny him tenure. As to the contract claims, the court held that the claims were not time-barred. On the merits, the court held that there was an unresolved factual dispute regarding whether an implied-in-fact contract between plaintiff and the University existed and, if it did, what the terms and intent of that contract were. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Mawakana v. Board of Trustees of the University of the District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success in connection with their claim that ORR's restriction on abortion access infringes their protected right to choose to terminate their pregnancies. In 2017, the government instituted a policy effectively barring any unaccompanied alien child in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) from obtaining a pre-viability abortion. The district court granted a preliminary injunction and the government appealed. Agreeing that the case was not moot, the DC Circuit affirmed and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in certifying a class consisting of pregnant unaccompanied minors in the government's custody. On the merits, the court held that, under binding Supreme Court precedent, a person has a constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy before fetal viability, and the government cannot unduly burden her decision. Consequently, these controlling principles dictate affirming the district court's preliminary injunction against the government's blanket denial of access to abortion for unaccompanied minors. The court vacated in part and remanded to the extent that the preliminary injunction barred disclosure to parents and others of unaccompanied minors' pregnancies and abortion decisions. The court held that this portion of the preliminary injunction warranted further explication to aid appellate review. View "J.D. v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, 47 former longtime employees of the District Child and Family Services Agency who were mostly African American, filed suit alleging claims that their terminations were unlawfully discriminatory on the basis of age and race. At issue on appeal, were the race-based claims. The DC Circuit generally affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's race-based claims, but reversed as to one issue. The court held that nothing in Title VII suggests that the practices an employer uses to effectuate the adverse employment action of layoffs, whether or not dubbed a reduction in force, are exempt from disparate-impact scrutiny. Accordingly, the court reversed the "particular practice" holding and the accompanying denial of class certification, remanding for further proceedings. The court affirmed the district court's decisions with respect to plaintiffs' challenge to the college degree requirement the Agency added to one job category, and the applicability of estoppel to certain individual plaintiffs' claims. View "Davis v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, former correctional officers that had separated from service in good standing, sought to invoke the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) so that they could be able to carry concealed firearms as "qualified retired law enforcement officers." Plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to require the District to recognize them as "qualified retired law enforcement officers" for purposes of the Act. In DuBerry I, the DC Circuit found that the Act's plain text, purpose, and context show that Congress intended to create a concrete, individual right to benefit individuals like plaintiffs and that is within the competence of the judiciary to enforce. Therefore, the court held that plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged that the federal right they seek to enjoy has been unlawfully deprived by the District of Columbia to be remediable under section 1983. On remand, the district court granted summary judgment for plaintiffs. The court affirmed the district court's judgment on remand and held that the law of the case doctrine controls the disposition of the District's principle argument that plaintiffs lacked the proper identification and thus have no enforceable right that is remediable under section 1983. Rather, the court held that the Act creates an individual right to carry that is remediable under section 1983. The court also held that the District's causation argument was meritless. View "DuBerry v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law