Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action brought by plaintiff, a former Deputy Counsel, alleging that her termination was the product of discrimination based on her age and sex, in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (DCHRA). Plaintiff also alleged that Amtrak later retaliated against her for filing her EEO complaint, and that two of its employees aided and abetted those violations. The court held that plaintiff failed to point to record evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer either age or sex discrimination, and the sanction she sought was unwarranted. In this case, it was the Inspector General's prerogative to choose a General Counsel and Deputy Counsel with whom he felt he and his team could communicate clearly and efficiently, and in whom they could repose their trust and confidence; plaintiff's "primary clients" at the OIG all testified they had reservations about whether she was the best person to serve OIG; and they unanimously expressed concern that she was more likely to resist their objectives than to aid them. View "Ranowsky v. National Railroad Passenger Corp." on Justia Law

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Two Panamanian men designated as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers by the OFAC, filed suit claiming that they had insufficient post-deprivation notice of the bases of their designation in violation of their due process rights. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the government, holding that plaintiffs failed to make out a viable claim under the relevant due process framework. The court explained that the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act’s asset-freezing provision unquestionably raised many due process concerns. However, in this case, without questioning the government's assertion that disclosing any more of the underlying evidence or the sources of that evidence would have calamitous consequences, plaintiffs asked the court to direct the agency to turn over the evidence itself, or to identify its sources, compromising the very sensitivity they leave unchallenged. Such an argument was forecosed by precedent. The court noted that other avenues remain for plaintiffs should they elect to use them to challenge their designation in the future. View "Fares v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Department of Defense in an action brought by plaintiff, a former instructor, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act against the National Defense University's College of International Security Affairs. The court held that the Department failed to provide a consistent and sufficient explanation for plaintiff's discharge, and plaintiff provided evidence that a supervisor directly involved in the decisionmaking process made repeated discriminatory remarks. In this case, a reasonable jury could credit plaintiff's version of events given, inter alia, the evidence that he used to support his prima facie case, the gaps and variations in the College's proffered explanation for the firing, his ultimate replacement by a younger employee, the hiring of several other younger faculty members within the same year as his budgetary termination, and the comments overtly hostile to older employees made by his front-line supervisor who was directly involved in discussions about his termination. View "Steele v. Mattis" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas corpus relief to Moath Hamza Ahmed Al-Alwi, a detainee at Guantanamo Bay. Al-Alwi was captured in December 2001 for his Taliban-related activities and has remained in United States custody ever since. The court rejected Al-Alwi's argument that the United States' authority to detain him has "unraveled" where, although hostilities have been ongoing for a considerable amount of time, they have not ended. The court held, in the alternative, that the government's authority to detain Al-Alwi pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) has not expired. Finally, the court did not reach the merits of Al-Alwi's remaining arguments because he has forfeited them. View "Al-Alwi v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Following Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of the University of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819, 831 (1995), WMATA may exclude religion as a subject matter from its advertising space. The Archdiocese filed suit challenging Guideline 12 of WMATA's Guidelines Governing Commercial Advertising, which prohibited advertisements that promote or oppose any religion, religious practice, or belief. The Archdiocese alleged that Guideline 12 violated the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and sought a mandatory preliminary injunction. The DC Circuit held that the Archdiocese failed to show that WMATA was impermissibly suppressing its viewpoint on an otherwise permitted subject, and its claim of discriminatory treatment was based on hypothesis. The court also held that the Archdiocese failed to meet the demanding standard for a mandatory preliminary injunction because it failed to demonstrate a likelihood of prevailing on the merits or that the equities weigh favorably for an injunction. View "Archdiocese of Washington v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a single-leg amputee, filed suit against his employer, ARE, alleging claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plaintiff was awarded damages for ARE's failure to accommodate his disability by refusing his request to teach on a lower floor. At issue in this appeal was whether ARE failed to reasonably accommodate plaintiff's disability by refusing his request for a classroom aide, and whether ARE's failures to accommodate his disability created a hostile work environment. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion that plaintiff had not proffered sufficient undisputed facts for his hostile-work environment claim to survive summary judgment. However, the court reversed the district court's judgment as to the remaining failure-to-accommodate claim, because plaintiff's allegations presented a triable issue of fact as to whether ARE violated the ADA when it refused his request for a classroom aide. View "Hill v. Associates for Renewal in Education, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former government contractor with security clearance, filed suit raising numerous constitutional and security claims after his security clearance was revoked. The district court dismissed 23 counts, partially dismissed Count 21 and granted summary judgment to the government on the remainder of that count, and ordered plaintiff to file a more definite statement about the other six counts (Counts 23-27 and 29). The district court later granted summary judgment for the government as to those six counts. As to the frivolous constitutional claims, they were barred by Department of Navy v. Egan, 484 U.S. 518 (1988). As to the Privacy Act claims, the court affirmed the dismissal of the claims because they failed on the merits. As to the Due Process Claims under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), they were properly dismissed because the officials were entitled to qualified immunity. As to challenges to the DOHA proceeding, the court assumed without deciding that plaintiff had a cognizable liberty interest but that his claim was not viable. As to claims of illegal search and claims under the Store Communications Act, the district court correctly dismissed these counts for failure to state a claim. Finally, as to claims of unlawful interrogation, the district court properly concluded that plaintiff failed to establish personal jurisdiction of the defendants. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Palmieri v. United States" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Defendant was convicted of roughly two dozen criminal charges arising out of an armed robbery in 2005. Defendant argued that his appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to appeal one of his convictions for assault with intent to kill while armed with a knife based on the grounds of insufficient evidence. The court held that defendant failed to overcome the strong presumption that his appellate counsel's conduct met the objective standard of reasonableness. In this case, a rational juror could reject defendant's self-defense claim when viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government and thus appellate counsel did not act deficiently by foregoing a losing argument. Furthermore, defendant was not prejudiced under Strickland v. Washington. Finally, the court held that it lacked jurisdiction to hear defendant's Fifth Amendment claim and declined to expand the certificate of appealability. View "Waters v. Lockett" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, seeking compensatory and punitive damages after a thirteen-year delay in receiving a jury award against the RNC. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's sua sponte dismissal of the complaint for want of federal jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The court held that, to the extent the complaint called for appeal of a District of Columbia court order issued in plaintiff's suit against the RNC, any such claim was barred by Rooker-Feldman. However, Rooker-Feldman did not bar those portions of the complaint against the Joint Committee that did not seek to appeal orders in his Superior Court suit against the RNC. In this case, neither plaintiff's claim that Superior Court administrative personnel violated his property rights by misleading him and mishandling his award, nor his claim that court administrators neglected their legal duty to make the courts accessible to persons with disabilities like his, necessarily called for the federal courts to review any state court judgment. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Croley v. Joint Committee on Judicial Administration" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's refusal to set aside a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff on one of her due process claims. Plaintiff filed suit against the District after she was terminated based on accusations that she had improperly influenced the bidding process for the District's healthcare contracts. Plaintiff alleged that the District violated her Fifth Amendment due-process rights by leaking these accusations to the press and denying her an opportunity to refute them. The court held that the District failed to preserve its speech argument and such failure precluded appellate review where the District failed to identify any exceptional circumstances. The court also held that precedent did not mandate a rigid minimum-duration rule governing how long a former government employee must be unemployed before she can claim that the government's actions had the broad effect of largely precluding her from pursuing her chosen career. Therefore, the court rejected the District's argument that two years of unemployment is never sufficient to establish that plaintiff has been deprived of her liberty interest. Accordingly, the court affirmed the denial of the District's motion for judgment as a matter of law. View "Campbell v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law