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Edit Delete 10th Circuit

DEATH PENALTY, MURDER, INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE

Williams v. Trammell, Apr-10-2015

J. Phillips finds that the lower court properly denied relief to a murderer sentenced to the death penalty. Appellant and his accomplice shot three victims, one of whom died, in a bank robbery. Although it is not clear who shot the victim who died, the court does not have to prove appellant fired the killing shot because his involvement would have aided the shooter in committing murder, and all shots were fired with the intent to kill. Despite his allegations that his lead counsel was under the influence of drugs while representing him, his lawyers still performed all their essential duties, fighting for his innocence and then against the death penalty. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 11th Circuit

INSURANCE, MARITIME, CONTRACT

AIG Centennial Insurance v. O'Neill, Apr-10-2015

J. Tjoflat finds that the lower court properly found the Bank of America is not covered by the subject insurance policy. Defendant applied for a ship mortgage with the bank, but Pennsylvania law and the insurance policy indicate that a standard mortgage clause here applies only when the mortgagor and the named insured are the same entity, which was not the case here. However, defendant insured cannot both benefit from negotiating a lower price and avoid having that price appear on the insurance application so as to benefit from an increase in the value of the insurance policy. Adding the cost of intended repairs to purchase price would inflate any vessel's value. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 1st Circuit

DRUG OFFENDER, SMUGGLING, SENTENCING

U.S. v. Torres-Landrua, Apr-10-2015

J. Torruella finds that the lower court properly sentenced defendant following his guilty plea to money laundering and drug trafficking. He participated in multiple trips to and from Puerto Rico, each of which involved hundreds of kilograms of cocaine. Given his repeated role in smuggling and his large share of the proceeds, the court reasonably declined to give him a minor role adjustment. The court was permitted to cross-examine him at sentencing as to his role and any reprisals he faced after leaving the conspiracy. During plea proceedings, a judge must not become an advocate for either side or disadvantage any party, but not all cross-examination amounts to this, especially since the normal rules of evidence do not apply during sentencing. He was sentenced within the guidelines range regardless. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 3rd Circuit

PRISONERS RIGHTS

Siluk v. Merwin, Apr-10-2015

J. McKee finds that the lower court improperly denied prisoner's motion to consolidate his court fees. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, federal prisons must withdraw 20 percent of a prisoner's monthly income from their prison account to pay court fees. However, Congress did not intend that the 20 percent deduction be concurrent for two fees owed in different courts. This interpretation would result in a 40 percent deduction and greatly hamper indigent prisoners' access to the courts. The Act caps the monthly debit for filing fees at 20 percent even when an inmate owes more than one fee. Reversed.

Edit Delete 4th Circuit

EMPLOYMENT, CIVIL RIGHTS

Young v. United Parcel Service, Apr-10-2015

[Amended opinion.] J. Duncan finds that judgment was properly granted for plaintiff's employer, UPS, in this suit alleging discrimination based on race, sex and pregnancy. Regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act claim, the argument that UPS's occupational health manager Carolyn Martin wrongly solicited the doctor's opinion is unclear. Also, plaintiff makes an unavailing argument that UPS had a duty to seek more information from her healthcare providers and independently evaluate her ability to work. She fails to create an issue regarding whether Martin had a mistaken belief regarding plaintiff's capacity for work. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act claim was properly dismissed, as "where a policy treats pregnant workers and nonpregnant workers alike, the employer has complied" with the Act. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 5th Circuit

THREATS, SENTENCING

U.S. v. Pillault, Apr-10-2015

J. Higginson finds that the lower court properly applied a six-level enhancement to the inmate's sentence for making threats against his Mississippi high school via an online fantasy role-playing game. The inmate pleaded guilty to a two-count indictment including knowingly and willfully communicating a threat by means of the Internet after making various threats against his high school to other players that included his intent "to reenact the Columbine school shooting." Despite denying he had any actual intent to carry out his 2012 threat and arguing that the sentence was unreasonable, witness testimony and evidence of his attempts to make a bomb support the court's conclusion. Therefore, the inmate's 72-month prison sentence was not an abuse of discretion. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 6th Circuit

EMPLOYMENT, DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Ford Motor Company, Apr-10-2015

J. McKeague finds that the lower court properly found for defendant employer in an employment discrimination suit. Employee sought a job schedule where she could work from home four days a week due to her irritable bowel syndrome. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not permit all disabled persons a job schedule of their choosing. Employer deemed regular on-site attendance essential to employee's job description, especially given employee's prior telecommuting failures. The record supports employer's business judgment. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 6th Circuit

SELF REPRESENTATION, COMPETENCE, TERRORISM

U.S. v. Stafford, Apr-10-2015

J. Rogers finds that the lower court properly permitted defendant to represent himself at trial despite his documented history of mental illness. Defendant was convicted at trial of conspiring with others to bomb a bridge near Cleveland. While the lower court could have exercised its discretion to impose counsel, it was within its discretion to grant defendant's request and conducted a careful examination of his ability to represent himself. In addition, a terrorism enhancement was correctly applied to defendant's sentence since he targeted government infrastructure with the intent of committing a revolutionary act. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 7th Circuit

CONSUMER LAW, INTERNATIONAL LAW, JURISDICTION

Volodarskiy v. Delta Airlines, Apr-10-2015

J. Sykes finds that the lower court properly dismissed plaintiffs' putative class action for lack of jurisdiction. They are plane passengers who sued Delta after they were inconvenienced when their flights from European airports were delayed for over three hours or cancelled on short notice. The European Parliament created a consumer protection regulation including standardized compensation for such complaints, but this country has not adopted it, and Delta has not incorporated it into its own contract of carriage. A direct claim under this regulation could only be actionable as provided under the regulation itself, which deals with EU member states' internal administrative processes. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 7th Circuit

HABEAS, EVIDENCE, MURDER

Makiel v. Butler, Apr-10-2015

[Consolidated.] J. Hamilton finds that the lower court properly denied petitioner habeas on his murder and armed robbery convictions. Although the court could have gone either way when petitioner sought to impeach a prosecution witness with a pending forgery charge, nothing shows that petitioner necessarily would have been acquitted given the other strong evidence against him. No physical evidence directly linked him to the crime scene, and another witness against him received a generous plea deal in exchange for his testimony. This raised credibility issues best left to the lower court, and the suit has already been remanded and reconsidered once. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 8th Circuit

CONSPIRACY, DRUG OFFENDER, ESCAPE

U.S. v. McMahan, Apr-10-2015

J. Colloton finds that the lower court properly convicted defendant of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. The police received a credible tip that he was part of a methamphetamine distribution ring and only gave serious chase once he drove off at a high speed during a traffic stop. The court reasonably enhanced his sentence based on his recklessness during the flight. Namely, he ran into a private home to hide, which created just as great a risk of injury as any burglary would. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 8th Circuit

DRUG OFFENDER, SENTENCING

U.S. v. Armstrong, Apr-10-2015

J. Beam finds that the lower court properly convicted defendant of distributing cocaine base. He was searched pursuant to a warrant issued after a trustworthy confidential informant tipped the government off to his presence. The court reasonably treated him as a career offender since he had two past drug offenses separated by an intervening arrest. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 8th Circuit

WATER, ENVIRONMENT, JURISDICTION

Hawkes v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Apr-10-2015

J. Loken finds that the lower court improperly declined to review defendant's determination that plaintiff requires a permit to mine peat from wetland property owned by its affiliates. The Clean Water Act requires individuals to obtain a permit before discharging dredged or fill materials or any pollutants into navigable waters. Defendant's revision of these standards amounted to a final administrative action open to review. It would be unfair to allow defendant to achieve its goal of ending the peat mining project without first having a judge determine whether it has unfairly extended its jurisdiction. Reversed.

Edit Delete 8th Circuit

DRUG OFFENDER, PLEA, SENTENCING

U.S. v. Batemon, Apr-10-2015

J. Colloton finds that the lower court properly convicted defendant of distributing cocaine base upon his guilty plea. The court fully informed him of his right to plead innocent and the potential guidelines range for his crimes. No reasonable person in his shoes would have assumed that probation was the only sentence he could possibly receive. He also failed to prove that he would have gone to trial had he been aware of the possibility of a prison sentence. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 8th Circuit

PLEA, SENTENCING, DRUG OFFENDER

U.S. v. Jackson, Apr-10-2015

[Consolidated.] J. Wollman finds that the lower court properly accepted defendant's guilty plea to conspiring to possess cocaine and brandishing a firearm and properly sentenced him to 400 months in prison. The government recommended a lower sentence, but the court clearly explained to defendant that this recommendation was not binding. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 8th Circuit

HEALTHCARE, INSURANCE, PREEMPTION

St. Louis Effort for AIDS v. Huff, in his official capacity as the Director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Apr-10-2015

J. Riley finds that the lower court properly enjoined defendant's enforcement of Missouri's Health Insurance Marketplace Innovation Act, but should not have done so with respect to the entirety of the Act. The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act created a new position known as a navigator, which is a person who helps consumers purchase health insurance on the exchanges. The Missouri statute regulates navigators and allows defendant to restrict their licenses and levy fines for good cause. The federal law clearly preempts this, although the court should have allowed defendant to argue for severance, which Missouri generally allows in such cases. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 9th Circuit

CLASS ACTIONS, REMEDIES, CONSUMER LAW

Astiana v. Hain Celestial Group, Apr-10-2015

J. McKeown finds that the district court should not have dismissed a class action claiming that defendants' "natural" cosmetics contain artificial and synthetic ingredients. The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act does not preempt California's state law that creates consumer remedies for false or misleading cosmetics labels. Reversed.

Edit Delete 9th Circuit

IMMIGRATION, SENTENCING

U.S. v. Sahagun-Gallegos, Apr-10-2015

J. Christen finds that the district court should recalculate defendant's sentence for illegal reentry into the US. A sentencing court may not "rely on a defense attorney's statement of the factual basis for a guilty plea and use the process of elimination to determine which subsection of a divisible statute the plaintiff pleaded guilty to violating." Vacated.

Edit Delete 9th Circuit

CORPORATIONS

U.S. v. Aguilar, Apr-10-2015

J. Owens finds that the district court properly denied appellants' motion to set aside a default judgment for forfeiture. Evidence indicates that appellants should be held responsible for their participation in a Panamanian corporation's money laundering practices, and the district court is not required to articulate on the record particular "extreme circumstances" before it denies a motion. Appellants have also failed to show that they have "meritorious defense." Affirmed.

Edit Delete 9th Circuit

DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION

Nigro v. Sears Roebuck and Co., Apr-10-2015

[Amended.]

Edit Delete 9th Circuit

IMMIGRATION, SENTENCING

U.S. v. Urrutia-Contreras, Apr-10-2015

J. Gettleman finds that plaintiff's 15-month sentence for illegal reentry into the U.S. should be vacated. The district court failed to "provide an attorney for the government an opportunity to speak equivalent to that of the defendant's attorney," which violates Criminal Rule 32.1. Vacated.

Edit Delete Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

FAMILY LAW

Burgett v. Porter, Apr-10-2015

J. Thomas finds that lower court properly denied a father's motion in a child support case. The father argued a custody modification judgment was void, because the mother had not paid the appropriate filing fee. However, she paid what the clerk charged. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

BUSINESS PRACTICES, CONTRACT

The Riverbend Association v. Riverbend, Apr-10-2015

J. Thompson finds that the lower court improperly issued summary judgment in favor of a sewer company concerning its billing practices. The company should have been bound by a previous agreement and amendment. Reversed.

Edit Delete Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

FAMILY LAW

Blackburn v. Blackburn, Apr-10-2015

J. Thomas finds that the lower court properly divorced a couple that had entered into a covenant marriage in another state. The lower court had jurisdiction to grant the divorce and properly applied local law. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Alabama Supreme Court

CIVIL PROCEDURE

In Re: Hudson v. , Apr-10-2015

J. Shaw finds that the writ of certiorari must be denied.

Edit Delete Alaska Courts Of Appeal

DRUG OFFENDER, SEARCH

Kelley v. Alaska, Apr-10-2015

J. Allard finds that the superior court improperly denied defendant's motion to suppress evidence of a marijuana grow operation because the arresting officers drove down her private driveway and parked in front of her home at midnight, after which they sniffed around for marijuana. The search warrant was tainted by the illegal search, and the evidence should have been suppressed. Reversed.

Edit Delete Alaska Supreme Court

PROPERTY, MUNICIPAL LAW

Castle Properties v. Wasilla Lake Church of the Nazarene, Apr-10-2015

J. Bolger finds that the lower court properly concluded that plaintiff company had sufficient notice of the city of Wasilla's offer of a parcel of land to a church in exchange for the property, and the church's rejection of the company's competing offer did not violate the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The company could have secured more time to slow down the city's consideration of the land exchange, and had a reasonable amount of time to exercise its right of first refusal. Affirmed.

Edit Delete California Courts Of Appeal

SECURITIES, INDEMNIFICATION, INSURANCE

Crown Capital Securities v. Endurance American Specialty Insurance Co., Apr-10-2015

J. Mosk finds that a trial court correctly determined defendant had no duty to defend plaintiff against customer actions over Ponzi scheme investments made by plaintiff. While plaintiff admitted to one of the customer claims when it applied for professional liability insurance with defendant, it withheld facts of other potential customer claims arising from investments made in the same entity that caused the first complaints. Because the policy application included an exclusion for nondisclosure of facts that might lead to a claim, defendant had no duty to defend plaintiff when such claims arose. Affirmed.

Edit Delete California Courts Of Appeal

FAMILY LAW

Oscar G. v. Andrew L., Apr-10-2015

J. Miller finds that a trial court correctly held it was in child's best interests to terminate the biological father's parental rights in order to advance adoption proceedings. In order for the biological father to interrupt adoption proceedings, he had to prove he qualified as presumed father by showing from the beginning of the pregnancy that he was committed to the child and ready to assume a parental role at any time the mother allowed, taking full custody of the child if necessary. But rather than show he was ready to be a father, the biological father did not support the mother emotionally and exhibited abusive behavior toward her that resulted in a domestic violence restraining order. Affirmed.

Edit Delete DC Circuit

MEDICARE, ADMINISTRATIVE LAW

Adirondack Medical Center v. Burwell, Apr-10-2015

Per curiam, the circuit finds that respondent properly revised the rules concerning Medicare reimbursements for inpatient hospital services. They are rural hospitals that qualify as sole community hospitals or Medicare-dependent small hospitals. When such hospitals discharge patients insured by Medicare, they receive reimbursements based on either the federal rate or a hospital-specific rate derived from the actual costs of treatment. To calculate reimbursement for particular patients, the government multiples the hospital's base rate by a group weight, and revisions to the latter are generally within its discretion. The adjustments in question were budget-neutral and intended only to eliminate variations in aggregate payments by applying a uniform budget neutrality adjustment. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Federal Circuit

PATENT, ADMINISTRATIVE LAW

Automated Merchandising Systems v. Lee, Apr-10-2015

J. Taranto finds that the lower court properly denied plaintiff's petition for an order requiring the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to terminate the reexamination of four patents that were the subject of litigation. The litigation ended in a settlement, in which the parties stipulated to the validity of the patents. However, this stipulation is not binding on the patent office. Further, its decision not to terminate the reexamination is not a final appeallable order and therefore, federal courts lack jurisdiction over the matter at this stage. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Federal Circuit

PATENT, ATTORNEY FEES

Oplus Technologies v. Vizio, Apr-10-2015

J. Moore finds that the lower court improperly denied defendant attorneys fees as the prevailing party in a patent suit. The court found that plaintiff misused the discovery process and its behavior was unprofessional and vexatious, but still denied defendant fees because there was no evidence that plaintiff's behavior stemmed from an intent to harass. But given the egregious pattern of misconduct on plaintiff's part in this litigation, defendant expended more than necessary to defend itself and a fee award is warranted. Reversed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

INSURANCE, PROPERTY

Florida Insurance Guaranty Association v. Murphy, Apr-10-2015

J. Sleet finds that the lower court improperly granted in homeowners' partial summary judgment in an insurance dispute over claims related to sinkhole damage and authorized execution on the judgment even though other related claims remain before the court. The lower court found the association liable for subsurface repair costs, but specifically noted that the cost of cosmetic repairs remained in dispute. Since this is not a separate claim, the court should not have rendered an executable judgment before ruling on this issue. Reversed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

INSURANCE, PROPERTY

Accident Cleaners v. Universal Insurance Co., Apr-10-2015

J. Wallis finds that the trial court improperly dismissed a breach of contract case against the insurance company for failing to fully pay a claim. The cleaning company did not have to carry insurable interest in the home, because the homeowner assigned his insurable interest rights to the cleaning company. Reversed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

DRUG OFFENDER, SENTENCING

Foster v. State, Apr-10-2015

J. Cohen finds that the trial court improperly sentenced defendant for his conviction of purchasing more than 20 grams of marijuana while armed. Defendant cannot be sentenced as a habitual felony offender for simply purchasing a controlled substance, even if he was armed. Reversed in part.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

BATTERY, MURDER, SELF DEFENSE

Woodsmall v. State, Apr-10-2015

J. Berger finds that the trial court properly convicted defendant of first-degree murder. However, the jury was not given any instructions dealing with defendant's possible self-defense claim as to the charge of aggravated battery with a weapon. Defendant should receive a new trial on that count. Affirmed in part.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

ATTORNEY FEES, DAMAGES

Maestrales v. Flaherty, Apr-10-2015

J. Edwards finds that the trial court properly ruled in favor of appellee, forcing appellant to return a dog. There is no error in the findings and appellant's appeal is "frivolous." In addition, appellant will be required to pay attorney fees. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW, CHOICE OF LAW

Diaz v. Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement, Apr-10-2015

Per curiam, the court of appeals finds that the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission properly denied appellant's request for corrections officer certification. Although appellant's past cocaine possession charge was a misdemeanor under New York law, the same crime is a felony under Florida law, which takes precedent in this case. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

WRONGFUL DEATH, EVIDENCE

Evans v. McCabe 415, Apr-10-2015

J. Lambert finds that the trial court improperly dismissed a wrongful death case against the bar, which allegedly served decedent alcohol on the night that he crashed into a tree and died. There was enough evidence, including testimony and possible surveillance footage, to go forward with a trial. Reversed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

CHILD ABUSE, MIRANDA, EVIDENCE

Guevara-Vilca v. State, Apr-10-2015

J. Northcutt finds that the lower court improperly convicted defendant of possession of child pornography after police committed a Miranda violation. The police did not read defendant his rights before they asked him if the offending computer was the one he normally used, and he acknowledged that it was. At trial defendant was convicted on all 454 counts, and sentenced to 454 life terms. While the discovery violation was inadvertent rather than willful, the defense suffered prejudice because it is likely the defendant's trial preparation would have been different had the violation not occurred. Reversed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

SEX OFFENDER, SPEEDY TRIAL

State v. Pereira, Apr-10-2015

J. Lawson finds that the trial court improperly dropped two lewd and lascivious battery charges against defendant. The rejection of a plea deal by the judge reset the speedy trial timeline, as did the state's filing of an additional child abuse charge. Reversed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

BURGLARY, RESTITUTION

Morales v. State, Apr-10-2015

J. Cohen finds that the trial court properly convicted defendant of burglary, grand theft and criminal mischief. However, there are no documents proving how much restitution defendant owes for his crimes. Affirmed in part.

Edit Delete Georgia Court Of Appeals

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Leverette v. State, Apr-10-2015

Per curiam, the court of appeals finds that defendant's appeal in an aggravated assault and armed robbery case must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Defendant sought to vacate his sentence, but he failed to raise a void sentence claim.

Edit Delete Georgia Court Of Appeals

CIVIL PROCEDURE, WORKERS COMPENSATION

Reid v. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Apr-10-2015

J. Branch finds that the lower court properly denied an employee's workers' compensation claim, as it was barred by the statute of limitations. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Georgia Court Of Appeals

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Smith v. State, Apr-10-2015

Per curiam, the court of appeals finds that appellant's application for interlocutory review must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The certificate of immediate review was invalid.

Edit Delete Georgia Court Of Appeals

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Hollman v. State, Apr-10-2015

Per curiam, the court of appeals finds that defendant's appeal in an aggravated assault case must be dismissed as untimely.

Edit Delete Georgia Court Of Appeals

CIVIL PROCEDURE

Harpo v. Bolt, Apr-10-2015

Per curiam, the court of appeals finds that appellant's application for discretionary appeal must be dismissed as untimely.

Edit Delete Georgia Court Of Appeals

CIVIL PROCEDURE

Arrington v. Hirsch, Apr-10-2015

Per curiam, the court of appeals finds that appellant's appeal must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The appeal was untimely, and because appellant is a prison inmate, he should have used the discretionary review procedure. Additionally, the order was not final as the matter is still pending.

Edit Delete Indiana Court Of Appeals

NEGLIGENCE

Fulkinbury v. Broshears, Apr-10-2015

J. Kirsch finds that the trial court improperly granted defendant summary judgment in a car collision complaint. Plaintiff's newly presented evidence created a question of fact regarding the car collision. Therefore, their motion to correct error should have been heard. Reversed.

Edit Delete Indiana Court Of Appeals

CHILD ABUSE, WITNESS, SENTENCING

Carter v. Indiana, Apr-10-2015

J. Kirsch finds that the trial court properly convicted defendant on child molestation charges. Testimony from an expert was properly allowed by the court because it provided insight into the matter of child abuse. Also, the evidence at trial backed up the forensic evidence and added credibility to the victim's testimony. Finally, the court improperly rendered a sentence out of range, and thus defendant's sentence should be reduced. Affirmed in part.

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