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Judicial Reform Eleventh Circuit

United States Court of Appeals: 11th Circuit

At Risk
Total Judgeships: 

12 (1 vacancy)

Political Makeup: 

8 Dem – 3 GOP

Location(s): 
Atlanta, Georgia; Jacksonville, Florida; Montgomery, Alabama
Jurisdictions: 
Alabama, Florida, and Georgia
Caseload: 

6,087

About The Court:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit was established on October 1, 1981. The Court's districts were originally part of the Fifth Circuit until the region was divided. In terms of cases filed and terminated by three-judge panels, the Court is the busiest federal appellate court in the country.

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decided

Drug Testing Welfare Applicants Unconstitutional

Wed, 12/03/2014

Lebron v. Secretary of Florida Department of Children and Families: A Florida law mandates applicants for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits must take a drug test, whether or not they are suspected of doing drugs. Lebron sued the State, alleging violations of 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. A preliminary injunction was issued against the drug testing by the courts, and a district court granted final summary judgment to Lebron, issuing the statute unconstitutional, permanently halting the program. The Circuit Court reviewed the district court's ruling that the statute is unconstitutional.

Decision

The Circuit Court affirms the ruling of the district court, thus agreeing the drug testing policy is unconstitutional. The judges decided that the State "failed to meet its burden of establishing a substantial special need to drug test all TANF applicants without any suspicion."

Read the full decision here
decided

Occupational Licensure SWAT Raid Violates Fourth Amendment Rights

Tue, 09/16/2014

Berry, et al. v. Leslie, et al.: Plaintiff and plaintiff-appellants are employees at a barber shop in Orange County. On August 19, 2011, two plain clothes representatives of law enforcement entered the shop to ensure the barbers were properly licensed. This meeting went smoothly and the officials found no violations. Two days later, two plain clothes officers entered the shop again, and shortly after, a SWAT-like raid occurred at the barber shop. This action was part of a month-long planned operation to crack down on occupational licensing violations. Barbers were handcuffed and detained while their licenses, and the shop, were inspected. The plaintiffs did not obstruct the officers’ actions. Again, after no violations were found, the officers and SWAT teams simply left the premises. Plaintiffs claim their Fourth Amendment rights protecting against unreasonable search were violated; the officers claimed qualified immunity. District court rejected the officers’ qualified immunity.

Decision

Circuit court affirms: plaintiffs’ rights were violated and the officers are denied qualified immunity. Circuit court invokes Swint v. City of Wadley and Bruce v. Beary.

Read the full decision here
decided

Excessive Force Used by Officer

Mon, 09/08/2014

Saunders v. Duke, et al.: Plaintiff filed a suit against law enforcement officers, alleging fourth amendment violations during his arrest. Plaintiff claims officers used excessive force against him when his head was slammed against the pavement while he was handcuffed. During the entirety of the arrest, Saunders complied and did not resist arrest in any way. Officers commanded him to lie on the hot pavement; because the pavement was hot, Saunders kept his head slightly lifted and told officers of the hot pavement. An officer then slammed his head down on the pavement and caused blood to pour out of his mouth and face from the impact. The district court dismissed Saunders’ claims of fourth amendment violations and granted qualified immunity to officers.

Decision

Circuit court reverses the dismissal of plaintiff’s claims, and remands for further proceedings.

Read the full decision here
decided

Court Avoids Ruling Medicare Requirement Unconstitutional

Thu, 08/14/2014

Baker County Medical Services v. US Attorney General, et al: When hospitals agree to accept Medicare patients, there is a regulation that requires them to also provide care for federal detainees. A hospital’s reimbursement for the care it provides is determined by the federal government. Baker filed suit against the federal government on the grounds that the Medicare reimbursement rate does not adequately cover the emergency medical services that the hospital is required to provide to detainees. Since there is this lack of funding that is left to be paid for by the hospital, Baker is claiming injury for a violation of its 5th amendment for an unconstitutional taking.

Decision

The 11th Circuit Court upheld the decision of the lower courts by ruling to dismiss the case, in its entirety. The Court deemed that the resolution for this problem would best be found through congressional action rather than judicial and thus, refused to offer a ruling or an opinion in the matter.

Read the full decision here
decided

Court Rules in Favor of Patient Privacy

Fri, 07/25/2014

Wollschlaeger, et al. v. Governor State of FL, et al.: Florida’s Firearm Owners Protect Act is a law that protects the privacy of patients from unnecessary inquiry by doctors. The plaintiffs object to the law on First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds and the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.

Decision

The Eleventh Circuit Court reversed the district court’s decision and concluded that the law simply codifies good medical care practices without infringing on free speech. The court aimed to protect the privacy of the physician-patient relationship in Florida by ruling in favor of the law.

Read the full decision here
decided

Abusing Anti-Discrimination Laws

Wed, 06/18/2014

Jarvela v. Crete Carrier Corp.: Jarvela, a commercial truck driver, was terminated based on his diagnosis of alcoholism. The Department of Transportation prohibits people diagnosed with acoholism from driving commercial trucks, and Jarvela's employer maintains a similar policy. Jarvela sued his employer for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act. The District Court ruled in favor of the employer.

Decision

The Eleventh Circuit Court upheld the decision.

Read the full decision here
decided

Respect Freedom of Contract

Thu, 06/12/2014

Wetherbee v. Southern Nuclear Operating Co.: Wetherbee was offered a position with Southern Nuclear contingent on a medical evaluation. The medical team determined that he could only be hired if he complied with his regimen for bipolar disorder. He also needed to be restricted from working with certain equipment for one year while the company verified his compliance. The use of this equipment was part of the requirements for the position offered to him, and Southern Nuclear rescinded the offer. The District Court ruled in favor of Southern Nuclear.

Decision

The Eleventh Circuit Court affirmed the decision.

Read the full decision here
decided

Unlawful Arrest Not a 4th Amendment Violation

Wed, 05/21/2014

Morris v. Bower: Jerry Morris filed suit claiming that police officers violated his 4th Amendment rights by entering his home without a warrant and then arresting him for punching an officer. The punch was in retaliation to being shoved inside his home after trying to close the door. Morris was charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. The District Court denied the officers qualified immunity.

Decision

The Eleventh Circuit upheld the denial of qualified immunity. However, the Court also concluded that the District Court erred in denying the officers’ motions to dismiss Morris’ claim for unlawful arrest. The Circuit Court determined that the officers had probable cause to believe that Morris had committed an assault. Therefore, the arrest did not violate the 4th Amendment.

Read the full decision here
decided

Do We Really Have Property Rights?

Thu, 05/08/2014

Kentner, et al. v. City of Sanibel: The Kentners challenged an ordinance prohibiting them from building a boat dock for the purpose of protecting seagrasses. The Kentners claimed to have riparian rights, which permit people to make reasonable use of water along their land, and that the ordinance does not advance any legitimate state interest and therefore violates their due process rights. The district court dismissed their claims, finding that riparian rights are premised on state law and therefore are not fundamental rights that can support a substantive due process claim.

Decision

Following the principle that substantive due process challenges not involving fundamental rights are reviewed under the rational basis standard, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that the plaintiffs could not show that the ordinance lacks a rational basis. Accordingly, the Court upheld the decision.

Read the full decision here
decided

"Reasonable" is Not Always Reasonable

Mon, 04/14/2014

Collins v. Marriott International, Inc., et al.: R. Travis Collins sued the property owners of the Abaco Club for negligence on behalf of David Knowlton, who fell to his death from a cliff adjacent to the club property. Collins claimed that reasonable care was not taken to protect the safety of Knowlton as an invitee on the defendants’ property. The District Court ruled in favor of the defendants.

Decision

The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the District Court failed to consider the defendants’ separate duty to use ordinary care to maintain the property in a reasonably safe manner. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings regarding both liability and damages.

Read the full decision here

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