In 1973, Congress enacted legislation which would later become the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The act gives students with certain disabilities the right to a "free appropriate public education." Each student under IDEA is given an individualized education plan (IEP), which sets forth educational goals for the student and lays out a roadmap for services that will be provided to ensure disabled students can meet those goals. Under the IDEA, each IEP must ensure that disabled children are receiving sufficient help to make progress toward their education. If the IEP fails to provide such support, the IDEA allows parents to sue for tuition at a private school that can meet the student's needs.
The Fourth Amendment restricts when a police officer may stop a person. Generally, an officer must have probable cause to believe that the person has committed a crime in order to stop them. When police officers conduct a traffic stop, there is no question that they are allowed detain the driver. But what happens if one of the passengers of the vehicle wants to leave in the middle of the stop?
The legal doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials who apply force reasonably or apply force in situations where the law is unclear. The purpose of qualified immunity is to prevent government officials from being discouraged carrying out their duties or protecting themselves from violent individuals. In practice, however, qualified immunity often causes judges to throw meritorious lawsuits out of court.
Last week, in a panel decision, EEOC v. Catastrophe Management Solutions, the Eleventh Circuit held that employers can discriminate against employees for wearing their hair in dreadlocks. The lawsuit was brought by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission on behalf of a prospective employee who refused to comply with a company's grooming policy prohibiting employees from having dreadlocks. The EEOC contended that the defendant's refusal to hire the plaintiff was a form of race discrimination, because the hairstyle was one closely associated with individuals of African descent.
Many people accept violence between prisoners as an every-day facet of life for incarcerated individuals. Some even argue that such violence should be tolerated as part of the punishment for committing a crime. While these issues often remain unaddressed by policy-makers and prison officials, the Eighth Amendment provides recourse for certain individuals who have been the victim of violence at the hands of another inmate. An Eighth Amendment claim for failing to protect an inmate from violence is difficult to bring. However, a recent decision, Lane v. Philbin shows that these causes of action remain viable in the Eleventh Circuit. The Lane case reversed a lower court which had granted a prisoner's motion to dismiss.
We have received several inquiries about the status of the lawsuit we brought with prominent local civil rights attorney Sam Jacobson, Scott v. Hogan, over the disenfranchisement of almost 440,000 registered non-republican voters in the local state attorney race. As of the this posting, the lawsuit remains pending in the Florida Supreme Court, which has not yet decided whether it will exercise its discretionary jurisdiction to hear the case. For those unfamiliar with the lawsuit, our firm, along with Bledsoe, Jacobson, Schmidt, Wright, & Sussman P.A., filed a lawsuit to enforce the Universal Primary Amendment in the local State Attorney race. This amendment is a provision of the Florida Constitution that requires primary elections to be open to all registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, where the winner of the primary will not face opposition in the general election.
In a recent groundbreaking opinion written by Judge Mark Walker, Winstead v. Lafayette Board of County Commissioners, the Northern District held that Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of an employee's sexual orientation or their perceived sexual orientation. The opinion arose out of a lawsuit filed by two female EMTs employed by Lafayette County. Their complaint alleged that members of the Lafayette County Commission had engaged in harassment and failed to protect them from harassment of a co-worker based on his perception of their sexual orientation. The county argued that the plaintiff's claims should be dismissed because Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The AAJ Civil Rights Section presents the Leonard Weinglass in Defense of Civil Liberties Award, annually, to honor an attorney or a civil rights advocate who has made a noteworthy contribution to the defense of our civil rights and civil liberties bringing, trying, or resolving a suit, or by otherwise protecting or advancing civil liberties, in a way that has had a significant impact.
In the latest battle over gun control in Florida, the Florida First District Court of Appeal recently rejected a challenge against the University of Florida's regulations on firearms. The case, Florida Carry, Inc. v. University of Florida, held that the University of Florida could enforce its campus-wide ban on firearms in college housing. While the plaintiff alleged both Second Amendment and state law claims, the case as a whole turned on whether on-campus housing should be considered a home or part of the school under state and federal law.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court held oral arguments on the issue of same-sex marriage. The arguments revealed a few surprises. We are pleased that Justice Roberts pointed out that the marriage ban might be sex discrimination. Chief Justice Roberts stated that, "I mean, if Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can't. And the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn't that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?"