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1st Circuit

Rodriguez-Miranda v. Benin, Jul-15-2016


1st Circuit


U.S. v. Gall, Jul-15-2016

J. Barron finds that the lower court properly convicted defendant of child pornography possession and sentenced him to over 11 years in prison, but should not have included certain conditions in his supervised release. The evidence was more than adequate to convict, and the court reasonably enhanced the sentence based on the inclusion in the images of prepubescent children. However, given that he obtained these materials surreptitiously and not in conjunction with anything but typical paraphilia, the court should not have imposed a vague supervised release condition requiring him to avoid entering any location where pornography is available. Affirmed in part.

1st Circuit


M.S. v. Regional School Unit 72, Jul-15-2016

J. Lipez finds that the lower court improperly dismissed a mother's Individuals with Disabilities Education Act claims over her failure to file some of them within the statute's two-year statute of limitations. The Maine Administrative Procedures Act requires an extensive rulemaking process prior to the imposition of abbreviated statutes of limitation, and in many cases it may take years for a parent to realize that her child is not receiving a free and accessible public education that complies with the Act. However, the two years of schooling that do fall within the two-year limitations period fail on substantive grounds, so the suit must be remanded in part. Reversed.

1st Circuit


U.S. v. McNicol, Jul-15-2016

J. Selya finds that the lower court properly found that an estate had to pay its tax liabilities before the heirs could be compensated and that it was insolvent because the liabilities exceeded its value. The estate's personal representative may be held personally liable as well since she distributed essentially all of the estate's assets to herself even though she was aware of unpaid tax liabilities and of her own fiduciary duties. She also failed to raise most of her arguments below, such as the claim that at the time of certain stock transfers she had not yet been appointed or made responsible, and cannot raise them now. Affirmed.

1st Circuit


U.S. v. Calderon, Jul-15-2016

J. Lipez finds that the lower court properly convicted defendant of making a perjured statement to a federal grand jury. The grand jury had been investigating a money laundering scheme during defendant's time as a sales representative for a cellular phone wholesale company targeted in a sting operation in which undercover agents gave him large amounts of cash for nothing in return. The government wrongly failed to disclose certain witness impeachment evidence to him, but given the weight of the case against him, this is very unlikely to have affected the verdict. The co-conspirator who was likely involved in separate crimes was still a competent witness as well. Affirmed.

2nd Circuit


Mazzei v. Money Store, Jul-15-2016

J. Jacobs finds that the district court properly granted a mortgage lender's post-verdict motion to decertify the borrower class. The class claimed late fees were wrongly charged on mortgages that were accelerated after default and prevailed in a jury trial. However, because not all of the borrowers shared the characteristics necessary for the class, the verdict could not be supported and so decertification was reasonable. Affirmed.

2nd Circuit


Fuentes v. Griffin, Jul-15-2016

J. Kearse finds that the district court improperly denied the due process claim brought when a psychiatric evaluation was withheld in a he-said/she-said rape accusation. Because the psychiatric record was relevant to the accuser's mental state and could have impeached her version of events, its suppression was not harmless. Reversed.

3rd Circuit


Richardson v. Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Jul-15-2016

J. Smith finds that the lower court improperly denied a former inmate class certification in his suit seeking to prohibit prison officials at the U.S. Penitentiary Lewisburg from punishing inmates who object to a new cellmate. Defendant claims he refused to be placed in the same cell as a notoriously violent prisoner, so prison officials put him in hard restraints for a month, forced him to sleep on the floor and denied him bathroom breaks or showers. Although defendant has since been transferred out of the prison, he may still serve as a class representative, because the class certification issue was clearly presented to and considered by the lower court. Reversed.

5th Circuit


Sealed v. Sealed, Jul-15-2016

J. Higginson grants the Ethiopian man's petition for review of a decision finding that he was not persecuted on account of a protected ground. The man fled the country after being detained for two months and violently tortured for suspected ties to a terrorist organization. The immigration appeals board failed to consider several factors essential to determining whether the only reason for his detention and maltreatment was a legitimate investigation into terrorism.

5th Circuit


Combs v. Huntington, Texas, Jul-15-2016

J. Stewart finds that the lower court improperly reduced plaintiff's attorney fee award after succeeding on her hostile work environment claim. There is no requirement of a strict proportionality between attorney fees and damages. Vacated.

5th Circuit


State of Texas v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Jul-15-2016

J. Elrod grants the motion for a stay of the agency's plan for controlling regional haze. Plaintiffs have demonstrated a strong likelihood of success in showing that the agency exceeded its authority by disapproving the Texas and Oklahoma plans.

5th Circuit


Gomez v. U.S. Parole Commission, Jul-15-2016

J. Barksdale finds that the parole commission properly calculated defendant's release date following his transfer from Mexico to the U.S. His 204-month sentence for second-degree murder fell within the guidelines range and accounts for the abuse he suffered while imprisoned in Mexico.

7th Circuit


Dawkins v. U.S., Jul-15-2016

Per curiam, the circuit finds that the lower court properly declined to allow defendant to file a successive habeas request on his bank robbery conviction and Armed Career Criminal Act sentence. The Illinois burglary statute is no broader than generic burglary, so the Act's residual clause was not unconstitutionally applied to defendant's case. Affirmed.

7th Circuit


Bank of Commerce v. Hoffman, Jul-15-2016

[Consolidated.] J. Manion finds that the lower court properly found for a bank in its request to have the court construe a settlement agreement to compel the borrower to repay a real estate loan even though it releases him from the obligation to repay a small business loan. It strains credibility to assume that when the borrower executed the settlement agreement he subjectively believed he was obtaining relief from all of his outstanding loans, even those not explicitly mentioned in the release. His agreement with the FDIC clearly refers to the debts secured by mortgages as well, and the contract's general release should be interpreted to benefit the FDIC given the borrower's default. Affirmed.

7th Circuit


Schaefer v. Walker Bros. Enterprises, Jul-15-2016

J. Easterbrook finds that the lower court properly dismissed a Fair Labor Standards Act class action filed by 500 Original Pancake House servers who claim that the restaurants for which they worked failed to pay them minimum wage for time they spent performing non-tipped work. Federal law permits tips to be counted toward minimum wage and does not necessarily require restaurants to pay workers a separate wage for related tasks unless these tasks are so pervasive that the workers' positions amount to a "dual job." The tasks here, in contrast, took 10 to 45 minutes daily and were not the servers' primary duties given that federal law permits up to 20 percent of a tipped employee's work to be non-tipped and provides a flexible framework for this calculation. Affirmed.

8th Circuit


Herrera v. U.S., Jul-15-2016

J. Murphy finds that the lower court properly sentenced defendant to 10 years in prison following his guilty plea to distributing methamphetamine near a school. The mandatory minimum applies to him even though the substance he sold was a mixture and not a pure quantity of methamphetamine, and his ineffective assistance claim fails since the court's drug calculation was reasonable. Affirmed.

8th Circuit


U.S. v. End of Horn, Jul-15-2016

[Consolidated.] J. Colloton finds that the lower court properly convicted defendant of sexual abuse of a minor. Although there was no physical evidence of the alleged abuse, and although the minor continued to reside with him even afterward, her testimony was enough to prove that she was afraid to report the abuse earlier and did not know what else to do. The upward departure was justified by his concurrent conviction for brutally beating his girlfriend to death. Affirmed.

8th Circuit


Stewart v. Nucor, Jul-15-2016

J. Beam finds that the lower court properly dismissed a welder's negligence action against the steel mill where he worked and where he was seriously injured. He already received workers' compensation, and the contract he signed clearly stated that he was assumed to have full knowledge of all safety procedures covered in training. The employment contract was standard and not unconscionable in either substance or formation, and the welder cannot avoid this by claiming that he felt rushed by the trainer or simply worked to pass the quizzes without fully understanding their substance. Affirmed.

9th Circuit


U.S. v. Pimentel-Lopez, Jul-15-2016

J. Kozinski finds that defendant was improperly sentenced when a judge determined he had more than 50 grams of drugs in his possession. The jury made a special affirmative finding that defendant had less than 50 grams. Vacated.

9th Circuit


Natural Resources Defense Council v. Pritzker, Jul-15-2016

J. Gould finds that the National Marine Fisheries Service was not acting under the scope of the Marine Mammal Protection Act when it approved incidental harm to marine mammals due to the Navy's peacetime use of sonar. The service's 2012 Final Rule does not adequately explain how the Navy's mitigation measures will meet the "least practicable adverse impact" standard set by the act, and the service had a duty to consider the practicality of other mitigation measures. Reversed.

9th Circuit


Jamul Action Committee v. Chadhuri, Jul-15-2016

[Amended.] J. Christen finds that the National Indian Gaming Commission was not required by the National Environmental Policy Act to conduct an environmental review before approving the Jamul Indian Village's gaming ordinance. Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the commission only had 90 days to approve the ordinance after it was submitted to the chairman, which was not enough time to prepare an environmental review. In such a statutory conflict, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act comes first. Affirmed.

9th Circuit


Mann v. Ryan, Jul-15-2016

J. Clifton finds that the district court properly denied defendant's habeas corpus petition challenging his conviction for first-degree murder and his sentence of death. Defendant claims the state court applied an incorrect standard to his claims of ineffective counsel during the penalty phase. Though the court's invocation of the standard may have been ambiguous, it was not clearly incorrect, and a fair-minded jury would conclude the correct standard was applied. Furthermore, the court reasonably considered defendant's new mitigating evidence. Affirmed.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals


Quinn v. Morgan, Jul-15-2016

J. Moore finds that the lower court properly established an easement by prescription to provide access to a landowner's landlocked property. Affirmed.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals


M.P.G. v. Jefferson County Department of Human Resources, Jul-15-2016

J. Pittman finds that the lower court improperly closed a dependency action without holding a dispositional trial. The mother should have been given an opportunity to present evidence supporting her argument that the child be returned to her. Reversed.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

Aramini v. Aramini, Jul-15-2016


Alabama Court of Civil Appeals


Kent v. Herchenhan, Jul-15-2016

J. Moore finds that the lower court improperly modified a child custody agreement. The father was entitled to a hearing on his postjudgment motion. Also, the mother's child-support arrearage was improperly calculated. Reversed.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals


Tucker v. Nixon, Jul-15-2016

J. Thompson finds that the lower court properly denied a mother's motion to set aside a default judgment in a custody case. The mother's motion did not include the appropriate arguments and evidence. Also, a second part of her appeal must be dismissed as premature. Affirmed in part.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals


Petrina v. Petrina, Jul-15-2016

J. Thomas finds that the lower court improperly determined a former husband's earning potential in a divorce case. In awarding the husband a portion of the marital estate, the court included information about U.S. citizenship that was not offered into evidence. Reversed.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals


Dubose v. Dubose, Jul-15-2016

Per curiam, the court of appeals finds that the lower court improperly denied a husband's postjudgment motion in a divorce case. The husband was entitled to a hearing on his child support obligation. Reversed in part.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals


Mobile v. Matthews, Jul-15-2016

J. Thompson finds that the city's appeal in an employment case must be dismissed as moot. The employee failed to properly appeal the initial termination of her employment, making her subsequent reinstatement void.

Alabama Supreme Court


Howard v. Providence Hospital, Jul-15-2016

Per curiam, the Alabama Supreme Court grants defendants a writ of mandamus finding a wrongful death lawsuit had not been filed by the personal representative of the estate and was therefore a nullity.

California Courts Of Appeal


Duran v. Obesity Research Institute, Jul-15-2016

J. Nares finds that the lower court improperly settled a class action product liability claim. The settlement process was fatally flawed since the class notice did not correctly apprise members of the terms of the proposed settlement. Reversed.

California Courts Of Appeal


California v. Disa, Jul-15-2016

[Consolidated.] J. Miller finds that the trial court improperly convicted defendant of premeditated and deliberate murder after he killed his girlfriend by putting her in a choke hold. Allowing defendant's past domestic violence incident into evidence caused him a prejudice since the jury could not have erased the details of him waiting in a closet with a knife until he could attack his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend, leaving him and the bedroom covered in blood. Reversed.

California Courts Of Appeal


California v. Snyder, Jul-15-2016

J. Nicholson finds the trial court properly admitted almost 100 images of child pornography during defendant's trial for child molestation and possession of child pornography. The images showed defendant's intent to gratify his desire for minors and support the witness testimony. Affirmed in part.

Court Of Federal Claims


Reiling v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Jul-15-2016

Special Master Moran finds that a woman is not entitled to attorney fees on an interim basis regarding her complaint that a tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis vaccine harmed her. The woman has not yet demonstrated a reasonable basis for her claim that the vaccine aggravated a supposed latex allergy or a previous traumatic brain injury.

Court Of Federal Claims


Katzin v. U.S., Jul-15-2016

J. Lettow finds that owners of land on Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, are owed $610,962 because United States Fish & Wildlife Service unjustly claimed ownership of a former gun mount site on a peninsula on their land. The landowners traced their ownership through a chain of title stretching back to the late 1800s, and the government's claiming a tract of land on the parcel interfered with the owners' ability to sell it.

Court Of Federal Claims


Anchor Tank Lines v. U.S., Jul-15-2016

J. Lettow finds that the court of federal claims has jurisdiction over an oil transportation company's complaint that the government failed to indemnify it for a predecessor company's failure to make retirement fund contributions. The company claims it purchased the assets of the predecessor company at a time when the government owned it as part of an investigation into criminal activity, so plaintiff company had a non-frivolous claim of contract with the government.

Court of International Trade


GRK Canada v. U.S., Jul-15-2016

J. Kelly finds that the an importer's steel screw fasteners were improperly classified under the sub-heading "other wood screws" rather than as "self-tapping screws." The intended us of the importer's screws supported their classification request, and testimony indicated that the screws can be used on materials besides wood such as fiberboard, plastics, and sheet metal. Reversed.

DC Circuit


BP Energy v. FERC, Jul-15-2016

J. Rogers finds that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission improperly upheld the shortening of the contract term of a non-open access customer's terminal services contract without offering a corresponding "turn back" option to other open access customers such as BP Energy. The decision was made by the owner of the Cove Point liquefied natural gas facility in connection with its conversion from an import maritime terminal to a mixed-use, import and export terminal. The abbreviated administrative process here clearly failed to live up to the Natural Gas Act's purported open access standards. Reversed.

DC Circuit


Friends of Animals v. Jewell, Jul-15-2016

J. Rogers finds that the lower court properly dismissed an environmental organization's Endangered Species Act challenge to the Department of the Interior's decision not to list the spider tortoise and the flat-tailed tortoise as either threatened or endangered. The suit amounts to an attempt to enforce a statutory deadline provision that by its plain terms does not require any information to be disclosed, thereby depriving the organization of informational standing or the right to challenge the process. This is not to say that any plaintiff suing under the Act lacks informational standing since cases dealing with listing petitions and the publication of relevant data may still accomplish these goals. Affirmed.

DC Circuit


International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America v. Faye, Jul-15-2016

J. Tatel finds that the lower court improperly dismissed a union's breach of fiduciary duty and Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act claim against a non-member employee that it says wrongly encouraged union members to join a rival union. Permitting this suit will help accomplish the Act's purpose of preventing union corruption and other fiduciary violations since although it gives members, but not the union itself, the explicit right to sue, unions implicitly share this right in cases like this one in which members have already sued separately. The court also has supplemental jurisdiction over the union's state law claims. Reversed.

DC Circuit


Patchak v. Jewell, Jul-15-2016

J. Wilkins finds that the lower court properly dismissed a challenge to the Department of the Interior's taking title under the Indian Reorganization Act to a tract of land once put into trust for the use of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians in Michigan under the Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act. The Act stripped federal courts of jurisdiction to hear individual claims like these, but this does not encroach upon federal courts' Article III powers since it primarily reflected a decision to uphold the Department's trust powers over the property in question. The law is not an unconstitutional bill of attainder either since it contains other protections for landholders. Affirmed.

DC Circuit


EarthReports v. FERC, Jul-15-2016

J. Rogers finds that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission properly conditionally authorized the conversion of a liquefied natural gas facility from an import maritime terminal to a mixed-use, import and export terminal over environmentalist petitioners' claims that it failed to consider environmental impacts on things like water quality, right whale migration near Maryland and the climate. The commission has worked extensively with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which already prepared studies in connection with prior authorizations from less than a decade ago. Regardless of their age, the government reasonably encourages the reuse of environmental studies addressing the same subject. Affirmed.

Delaware Court of Chancery


Utilisave v. Khenin, Jul-15-2016

Vice Chancellor Slights denies without prejudice a motion for court costs because costs should be broken down by category, and appropriate authority regarding taxability should be cited.

Delaware Court of Chancery


Hipcricket v. mGage, Jul-15-2016

Chancellor Bouchard concludes that a former employee of Hipcricket was not bound by an employment contract after the employer breached the agreement by refusing to pay commissions. The company shortly after filed for bankruptcy protection, and the employee's claims became relegated to general unsecured status. While the employee worked for a direct competitor, he provided trade secrets taken from Hipcricket. The company should be granted a permanent injunction barring the employee from further misappropriating trade secrets.

Federal Circuit


Grover v. Office of Personnel Management, Jul-15-2016

J. Taranto finds that the merit systems protection board improperly calculated the employee's retirement annuity after he retired as a customs officer. The annuity must reflect the highest average annual pay based on three consecutive years of service, and must include overtime pay up to $17,500. The board should have sought further information, such as the employee's pay stubs, to resolve the uncertainty over how much he received in overtime during these years. Reversed.

Federal Circuit


Laguna Construction v. Carter, Jul-15-2016

J. Hughes finds that the lower court properly found for the government in a dispute over a government contract to perform construction work in Iraq. The contractor sought reimbursement of past costs, but the government was not liable for these costs due to the contractor's prior acceptance of subcontractor kickbacks in violation of the contract terms. The government did not waive its right to claim the prior breach defense although it decided not to terminate the contract when it became aware of the kickback scheme. Affirmed.

Federal Circuit


Skyhawke Technologies v. Deca International Corp., Jul-15-2016

J. Hughes finds that the accused patent infringer's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction shall be granted. The patent board ruled that the patent holder's claims were not obvious, but it did not adopt the patent holder's preferred claim construction The patent holder will have the opportunity to argue its preferred claim construction to the lower court, and may appeal that final ruling, but it may not seek to preempt a potentially unfavorable ruling based on the patent board's claim construction.

Florida Courts Of Appeal


Sanabria v. Pennymac Mortgage Investment Trust Holdings I, Jul-15-2016

J. Lucas finds that the lower court improperly entered a final judgment of foreclosure in favor of the trust. The homeowners sufficiently challenged the authenticity of the wife's signature on the mortgage note, claiming that the trust's note was not the one she signed and presenting a copy of the note with a different page count. The court should have allowed the homeowners to present an expert witness forensic document examiner to support their case. Reversed.

Florida Courts Of Appeal


Dyck-O'Neal v. Rojas, Jul-15-2016

J. Lambert finds that the trial court improperly dismissed the bank's request for a deficiency judgment. Although the property owner lives out of state, the property in question is in Florida so the court has jurisdiction. Reversed.

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