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Federal New Releases

New Releases
from Federal Courts

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Criminal law -- Felon in possession of firearm -- Jury instructions -- Constructive possession -- District court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's request to modify jury instruction for constructive possession by including term “knowingly” -- Sentencing -- Armed Career Criminal Act -- Prior violent felony -- U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States holding residual clause of ACCA unconstitutional forecloses government's argument that defendant's prior Florida felony convictions for battery on law enforcement officer and resisting officer with violence are violent felonies under this clause -- However, remainder of ACCA's definitions of violent felony were left undisturbed -- Court has previously held that prior conviction for resisting officer with violence categorically qualifies as violent felony under elements clause of ACCA -- As government concedes, Florida conviction for battery on law enforcement officer under sections 784.03 and 784.07(2)(b), Florida Statutes, does not categorically constitute violent felony under elements clause of ACCA pursuant to Supreme Court precedent -- Whether defendant's prior drug convictions were ACCA-qualifying “serious drug offenses” not addressed on appeal where issue was not addressed by district court and government relied primarily on other convictions and residual clause as support for its contention that ACCA applied, rather than raising drug offenses for first time on appeal -- On remand, parties to be allowed to raise and brief issue of whether any of these prior convictions support ACCA enhancement under other provisions of ACCA
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Illegal reentry after deportation -- Habeas corpus petition challenging federal conviction on ground that defendant was deported pursuant to an order entered in violation of his due process rights and offering, in support of challenge, a new order from an immigration judge rescinding his deportation warrant -- Defendant raised claim via improper procedural vehicle when, instead of filing section 2255 motion to vacate sentence, he chose to file section 2241 habeas petition -- District court did not err in declining to recharacterize section 2241 petition as a section 2255 motion where defendant repeatedly insisted that he wished to file a petition under section 2241 -- Savings clause -- District court did not err in dismissing section 2241 petition where defendant failed to show that a section 2255 motion would be inadequate or ineffective to test legality of his detention
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Theft of public money -- Defendant was properly convicted of seven felony counts of theft of public money totaling $2,300 -- Defendant's contention on appeal that convictions were actually misdemeanors, not felonies, because each separate conviction involved a sum that did not exceed $1,000, was based on misinterpretation of 18 U.S.C. section 641, which unambiguously designates all section 641 convictions felonies first and reduces them to misdemeanors second only if the sum of the amounts charged in all of the section 641 convictions in a defendant's case equals $1,000 or less -- Sentencing -- Federal guidelines -- Offense level -- Increase -- Sophisticated means -- District court did not err or clearly err when it imposed sophisticated-means enhancement in determining offense level where defendant used inside information and position at Department of Veteran's Affairs to perpetrate fraud; each time defendant stole VA funds, she performed at least three affirmative acts of concealment; defendant repeated same steps numerous times during life of scheme; and scheme went undetected for two years because of the design of the scheme and defendant's proficiency in running it -- Application of sophisticated-means enhancement may be appropriate regardless of whether a defendant participated in any of the specific acts of concealment described in guidelines Application Note
VIEW OPINION

Insurance -- Automobile -- Bad faith -- Third-party claim against insurer -- Plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence for reasonable jury to find that insurer acted in bad faith in handling plaintiff's claim, which was only one of multiple claims against insured arising out of automobile accident -- Although plaintiff contended that insurer's failure to immediately tender the per-person liability limits to him was evidence of bad faith, because there were multiple claimants, insurer's decision to pursue global settlement was consistent with its duty of good faith under Florida law -- Insurer was diligent in its efforts to settle claims against its insured, and there exists no causal connection between the actions of the insurer and the entry of an excess judgment against its insured
VIEW OPINION

Taxation -- State -- Indian Tribes -- Florida utility and rental taxes -- On-reservation activity of non-Indians -- Exemptions -- Federal preemption -- District court correctly interpreted 25 U.S.C. section 465, which exempts Indian reservation lands from state and local taxation, to preclude Florida from collecting rental tax on rent payments made by non-Indian lessees of protected Indian reservation land -- Supreme Court has interpreted section 465 as prcluding state taxation of “bundle of privileges that make up property or ownership of property,” and the ability to lease property is a fundamental privilege of property ownership -- By taxing privilege of engaging in business of renting, leasing, letting, or granting license for the use of any real property, Florida's rental tax is taxing a privilege of ownership -- Even if statutory exemption did not apply, federal law preempts rental tax under balancing inquiry outlined in White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker -- Bracker requires particularized inquiry into federal, tribal, and state interests implicated by state's tax on non-Indians for on-reservation activity -- Extensive discussion of those interests -- Comity -- District court did not err in declining to dismiss rental tax claim on comity grounds -- Gross-Receipts Utility Tax -- District court erred in finding that legal incidence of Florida's gross-receipts utility tax fell on Tribe, rather than on non-Indian utility company -- Tribe failed to demonstrate that utility tax was preempted under Bracker -- Utility tax does not violate tenants of federal Indian Law as it involves activities on Tribal land
VIEW OPINION

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