|Big Cats of Serenity Springs, Inc. v. Vilsack||In an amended complaint, Plaintiffs asserted four claims against Defendants relating to a May 7, 2013 United States Department of Agriculture inspection of Big Cats of Serenity Springs, Inc. The claims included a Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against the Inspector Defendants “because they acted under color of state law when they induced the deputies to cut the chains and enter the premises;” a declaratory judgment “declaring that [Defendant] Thompson inappropriately overrode the medical advice of [Plaintiff] Big Cats' veterinarians and declaring that, in the future, the USDA cannot force [Plaintiff] Sculac to choose between following the medical advice of his veterinarians and the mandates of a USDA inspector;” and a declaratory judgment that the USDA must follow its own regulations and that it cannot conduct a warrantless search of the Big Cats facility outside of ‘normal business hours' solely because an inspector ‘want [s] to’ or because an inspector subjectively ‘believe[s][it] necessary to determine the welfare status of the animals....' ” In addition to declaratory relief, Plaintiffs also sought compensatory and punitive damages, costs, expenses, and prejudgment interest. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. US Magistrate Judge issued a recommendation that, to the extent the Motion argued that the declaratory judgment claims should be dismissed because Plaintiffs lack standing, the Motion be granted in part and denied in part and that the declaratory judgment claims asserted by Plaintiffs Nick Sculac, Julie Walker, and Jules Investment, Inc. be dismissed without prejudice. In all other aspects, the Magistrate recommended that the Motion be denied. A District Court judge approved and adopted these recommendations and denied defendant’s objections to the recommendations.|
|Bhogaita v. Altamonte Heights Condominium Assn.||Appellee Ajit Bhogaita, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), filed suit against Appellant Altamonte Heights Condominium Association, Inc. ("Association") for violating the disability provisions of the Federal and Florida Fair Housing Acts, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(b) (“FHA”) and the Florida Fair Housing Act, when it enforced its pet weight policy and demanded Bhogaita remove his emotional support dog from his condominium. The jury awarded Bhogaita $5,000 in damages, and the district court awarded Bhogaita more than $100,000 in attorneys' fees. This court affirmed that decision finding that there was evidence that the Association constructively denied appellee's requested accommodation. In fact, the court opined, "Neither Bhogaita's silence in the face of requests for information the Association already had nor his failure to provide information irrelevant to the Association's determination can support an inference that the Association's delay reflected an attempt at meaningful review."|
|Berardelli v. Allied Services Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine||This case presents an issue of first impression in the Court of Appeals: whether regulations on service animals, which technically apply only to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), require that individuals with disabilities be allowed to be accompanied by their service animals under the Rehabilitation Act (RA). The facts involve an elementary student with dyslexia and epilepsy who sought to be accompanied by her service dog to school. The dog was trained to respond to her epileptic seizures and was recommended by her pediatric neurologist. The student was attending a new school after having attended a different school with her service animal who recently died. After receiving a new service animal (after being placed on a waiting list), the principal of the new school refused access for the service animal, asserting for the first time that the dog was "too much of a distraction." As a consequence of the denial, the student missed school when her seizures were too severe. After more than a year of disrupted attendance, the student's mother sought to have the seizure alert dog accompany the child to fifth grade, and the principal said he would "look into" it. Frustrated with the equivocation, the mother attempted to bring the service animal with the child and the principal prevented entrance, now saying another child had an allergy to dogs. Eventually, the dog was allowed to accompany the child with a "therapeutic shirt designed to decrease allergens," but the shirt interfered with the service animal's performance of disability-related tasks. In the end, the mother withdrew the child from this particular school. The child's parent subsequently sued the school, arguing that the school had failed to accommodate the child under Section 504 of the RA. The school moved for summary judgment on all claims. Important to the claim of discrimination under the RA, the District Court instructed the jury that on a claim for failure to accommodate, the plaintiff needed to prove that that the requested accommodations were reasonable and necessary to avoid discrimination based on disability. The jury was confused at the instructions and the child's attorney urged the court to instruct the jury on ADA service animal regulations. The Court refused saying it had “g[iven] them the law that relates to this case” and would not “go look for some new law to tell them about or some different law or something that’s not been already submitted or given to them.” The jury subsequently returned a verdict for the school. On appeal here, appellants argue that, because the subjective standards for liability under the RA and ADA are the same, the service animal regulations of the ADA should apply to the RA. The Court of Appeals first examined the history and relationship of the ADA and its precursor, the RA. Based on the overarching goal of both laws - to ensure equal opportunity and inclusion - the requirements of reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications are inextricably intertwined. Regardless of the differing entities the statutes cover, they both impose the same liability standard based on this concept of "reasonableness." The Court also found this echoed in case law dealing with a failure to accommodate under both laws. As to the service animal regulations under the ADA, the Court held that, logically, the service animal regulations are relevant to the RA even though they technically interpret the ADA. This is supported by agency guidance in other contexts from HUD, the Dept. of Justice, and the Dept. of Labor. The Court found the school's counter arguments unpersuasive especially considering the legal principle that an anti-discrimination statute like the RA must be interpreted broadly to carry out its broad remedial purpose. In essence, the Court now holds that a covered actor must accommodate the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability under the RA just as it must do under the ADA. While the "reasonableness" of that accommodation will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, the request to be accompanied by a service animal is per se reasonable. Applying that holding to these facts, the Court found that the District Court did not correctly instruct the jury on the relevant law. The error was not harmless, and, despite the school's claim, there was not a high probability that the jury would have ruled in its favor if properly instructed. The judgment was vacated on the RA claim, reversed on the dismissal of the state discrimination claim, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.|
|Becker v. Elfreich||Appellant, Officer Zachary Elfreich, went to the home of Appellee Jamie Becker in order to execute an arrest warrant. When Becker did not surrender right away, Officer Elfreich allowed his police dog to find and attack Becker. Upon seeing Becker, Officer Elfreich pulled him down three steps of the home staircase, and placed his knee on Becker’s back while allowing the dog to continue to bite him. Becker sued the city of Evansville and Officer Elfreich under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the officer used excessive force in arresting him in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The district court denied Officer Elfreich's motion for summary judgment and the officer appealed. The Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, held that: first, under the totality of the circumstances, the force used by the officer post-surrender of Becker was not reasonable. Second, a police dog's use of the “bite and hold” technique is not per se deadly force. Third, Becker, was a nonresisting (or at most passively resisting) suspect when Officer Elfreich saw him near the bottom of the staircase and the officer should not have used significant force on him. Based on these factors, the officer was not entitled to qualified immunity and a reasonable jury could find such force was excessive. The lower court decision to deny Officer Elfreich's motion for summary judgment was affirmed.|
|Baughman v. City of Elkhart, TX||Plaintiff Tammy Baughman filed a complaint on May 31, 2017 seeking relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a violation of her Fourteenth amendment rights; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging that she was discriminated against; the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA), alleging a failure to make reasonable accommodations; and 42 U.S.C. § 3613. Plaintiff asserts that she is disabled due to a failed back surgery. She also has fibromyalgia, depression, and other health issues. Plaintiff has a seven pound ring tail lemur that she claims is an emotional support animal that improves her quality of life. Plaintiff's lemur bit a mail carrier on December 5, 2012 which left lacerations on the carrier's hand and wrist. Plaintiff then moved to Elkhart, Texas in December 2014 where her lemur bit another person on June 25, 2015. In both instances the lemur was quarantined for 30 days and then returned to Plaintiff. The City of Elkhart enacted an ordinance on October 5, 2015 that bans all non-human primates from the city. Plaintiff claims she requested an accommodation form the City to keep her lemur as an emotional support animal, but her request was denied. The defendants, which include the mayor and city council members, claim the plaintiff never requested an accommodation. Plaintiff further alleges that the defendants "showed deliberate indifference in refusing to give [her] a hearing and defend her lemur,' which violates the FHAA and ADA. On February 15, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment seeking a dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims. Defendants claim that Plaintiff's lemur was involved in two documented attacks in Houston County, Texas and a third in Elkhart. Defendants assert that Plaintiff runs a retail resale shop out of her home and that in the third attack on June 25, 2015, the lemur jumped on a customer in plaintiff's store. Defendants assert that the ordinance was enacted as a legitimate exercise of the City's legislative power and police power. The District court concluded that the defendants are entitled to absolute judicial immunity for their conduct because the act of voting in favor of an ordinance is an undeniable legislative action. As for Plaintiff's 1983 claim, the District Court concluded that she had not shown a genuine issue of material fact concerning whether her due process rights were violated nor does she have a basis for a procedural due process claim. The ordinance is rationally related to the City's legitimate interest in the safety and welfare of its citizens. The ordinance does not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As for Plaintiff's ADA claim, the District Court concluded that the Plaintiff had not shown that the reasonable accommodation that she requested - an exemption from the animal control ordinance - did not place an undue burden on the City of Elkhart. No facts were provided by the Plaintiff that would show that her interest in keeping her lemur outweighs the interest of the City in protecting its citizens. As for Plaintiff's ADA claim, in order to succeed on an ADA claim, there must be some evidence that set the animal apart from an ordinary pet. The Plaintiff failed to show any evidence that her lemur is specifically trained to perform tasks that help her in her daily life. The District Court held that the Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted and the Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed with prejudice.|
|Bassani v. Sutton||
|Barber v. Pennsylvania Dept. Agriculture||
|Balelo v. Baldridge||
|Baldwin v. Fish and Game Commission of Montana||
|Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter of Communities for a Great Oregon||
(edited from Syllabus of the Court)
As relevant here, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA or Act) makes it unlawful for any person to “take” endangered or threatened species, § 9(a)(1)(B), and defines “take” to mean to “harass, harm, pursue,” “ wound,” or “kill,” § 3(19). In 50 CFR § 17.3, petitioner Secretary of the Interior further defines “harm” to include “significant habitat modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures wildlife.” Respondents, persons and entities dependent on the forest products industries and others, challenged this regulation on its face, claiming that Congress did not intend the word “take” to include habitat modification.
The Secretary reasonably construed Congress' intent when he defined “harm” to include habitat modification.