Babinski v. Sosnowsky
Opinion Date: August 21, 2023
Judge: Carl E. Stewart
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Education Law
Louisiana State University (“LSU”) (collectively “the Professors”) appealed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity after Plaintiff alleged that they violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by conspiring to prevent his continued enrollment in Louisiana State University’s (“LSU”) theatre program.
The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s determination that they were not entitled to qualified immunity and dismissed Plaintiff’s claims. The court held that the Professors lacked adequate notice that their conduct was violative of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights, and because they did not have this notice, they are entitled to qualified immunity. The court explained that the clearly established standard requires more than that—there must be a “high degree of specificity” between the alleged misconduct and the caselaw purporting to clearly establish the violation. Without it, the requisite “fair warning” required under the clearly established inquiry is absent.
Malik v. DHS
Opinion Date: August 15, 2023
Judge: Don R. Willett
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law
Plaintiff is an immigration attorney whose work often requires international travel. Upon his return from one such trip, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) diverted him to secondary screening after his surname appeared in connection with an investigation involving an arms dealer. DHS seized Plaintiff’s phone, decrypted it, screened the files for privilege, searched the remaining files, and then returned the phone to Plaintiff. Plaintiff sued DHS for declaratory and injunctive relief. The district court dismissed most of Plaintiff’s claims, reasoning that he lacks standing to seek declaratory relief related solely to past events. Next, while the court held that Plaintiff does have standing to seek an injunction requiring DHS to delete the data that it had seized, the court also held that Malik’s constitutional theories have no merit.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that DHS found the cell phone on Plaintiff’s “person” because it was part of the “baggage” that he was carrying with him into the United States. The search easily falls within the “plenary authority” that Congress has granted to the Executive branch. Accordingly, the court held that Plaintiff’s statutory argument therefore fails. Next, the court reasoned that the apparent connection between Plaintiff and “an international arms dealer with known ties to the Dallas area” was plenty to create reasonable suspicion—even if Plaintiff is correct that the connection appears dubious in hindsight.
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