Articles Posted in Civil Rights

by
In 2003, William Hueble purchased 220 acres of farming and hunting property in Greenwood County. At the time of closing, the seller informed Hueble that Respondent Eric Vaughn, a corporal for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR), had a personal deer stand on the property and had hunted there in the past. The seller indicated it would be a "good idea" to allow Vaughn continued access. Hueble declined the suggestion. During 2004, Hueble received a call from the seller informing him that Vaughn had recently been on the property and left four wheeler tracks. The seller again suggested that it would be in Hueble's "best interest" to allow Vaughn to hunt on the property, and provided Vaughn's phone number to Hueble. Hueble once again declined the suggestion and did not contact Vaughn. Hueble then acquired additional land and invested substantial sums of money to improve and maintain his property for hunting dove. More than one month prior to the opening day of dove season, Hueble believed the field was non-baited and in compliance with all regulations and guidelines. On opening day, Hueble's friends and family joined him for the first hunt of the season. Shortly into the hunt, Vaughn and other DNR officers entered Hueble's property unannounced. Vaughn and the DNR officers gathered the hunters together and began threatening them with fines and confiscation of property for baiting the dove field. Vaughn dug into Hueble's property with a knife blade to produce seeds and claimed that one seed constituted baiting a field. During this interaction, Hueble learned Vaughn was the DNR officer the seller had mentioned. Ultimately, Hueble was the only hunter charged by DNR with baiting the field. Hueble ultimately pled no contest to the baiting charge, believing this would resolve Vaughn's animosity. Hueble was accused of baiting at the start of turkey season too. Based on these encounters with Vaughn, Hueble believed that Vaughn had a "vendetta" against him and that Vaughn's supervisor was fully aware of the alleged threats he was making against Hueble. Because of these concerns, Hueble initiated a complaint with Vaughn's supervisor at DNR. However, the supervisor responded with allegations of Hueble's illegal activity based upon Vaughn's version of the events. Hueble filed a complaint against DNR and Vaughn. He obtained a Rule 68, SCRCP, judgment of $5,100 in his favor at the close of litigation. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether Hueble was a prevailing party within the meaning of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1988 (2006), and was therefore entitled to attorneys' fees. The Court held that he was, and reversed the lower courts' holdings to the contrary, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Hueble v. SCDNR" on Justia Law

by
The federal district court certified a question of South Carolina law to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Behrooz Taghivand was the manager of a Rite Aid store in a high crime area of North Charleston. While on duty, Taghivand observed a patron acting strangely and milling around the store with no apparent purpose. The patron stopped briefly in the section directly in front of the cashier, selected a few items, and made a purchase. After the patron checked out, the cashier told Taghivand that when the patron entered the store, he was carrying a bag that appeared to be empty but now had items in it. Taghivand instructed the cashier to call the police. An officer arrived at the scene and gathered together the items the patron claimed he purchased from the store, and Taghivand confirmed these as belonging to the patron. The officer also searched the patron's bag, and found it contained only dirty clothes. Taghivand was terminated effective that day, and was informed the incident was the reason for his termination. As a result, Taghivand filed this action against Rite Aid Corporation, Eckerd Corporation d/b/a Rite Aid, and Steve Smith in federal court for wrongful termination; the defendants moved to dismiss. After finding that South Carolina law was not clear on the issue raised by the motion to dismiss, the federal district court certified this question: under the public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine in South Carolina, does an at-will employee have a cause of action in tort for wrongful termination where: (1) the employee, a store manager, reasonably suspects that criminal activity, specifically, shoplifting, has occurred on the employer's premises; (2) the employee, acting in good faith, reports the suspected criminal activity to law enforcement; and (3) the employee is terminated in retaliation for reporting the suspected criminal activity to law enforcement? After review, the South Carolina Supreme Court answered the certified question: no. View "Taghivand v. Rite Aid" on Justia Law

by
Following his conviction for one count of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature (ABHAN), one count of possession of a dangerous animal, and multiple counts of animal fighting, David Tant was remanded to the Department of Corrections. Upon receipt of his sentencing sheets, the Department recorded his sentence as fifteen years' imprisonment. However, the Department later determined the judge intended to sentence Tant to forty years' imprisonment and changed its records without notifying Tant. The issue this case presented to the Supreme Court was whether the Department of Corrections had the authority to alter its initial determination as to the length of an inmate's sentence. The Court held that when the Department decides its original recordation of a sentence was erroneous, it must afford the inmate formal notice of the amended sentence and advise him of his opportunity to be heard through the grievance procedure. Furthermore, "the Department is generally confined to the face of the sentencing sheets in determining the length of a sentence, but may refer to the sentencing transcript if there is an ambiguity in the sentencing sheets." Because the Court found that the sentencing sheets and the transcript in this case were ambiguous, it held Tant's sentences ran concurrently for a total of fifteen years' imprisonment. View "Tant v. South Carolina Dept. of Corrections" on Justia Law