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Federal New Releases

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from Federal Courts

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Bankruptcy -- Claims -- Federal income taxes -- Deficiency -- Interest -- Bankruptcy court erred in deferring to the Tax Court its calculation of the interest on debtor's underpayments for taxable year in question, where Tax Court never reached the issue of debtor's interest owed on that tax deficiency -- Res judicata -- Bankruptcy Court and District Court erred in giving res judicata effect to Tax Court's determination of debtor's tax deficiency to preclude the Bankruptcy Court from deciding whether debtor owed interest on subject tax deficiency -- Claim preclusion does not apply to any Tax Court ruling on the calculation of underpayment interest under 26 U.S.C. § 6601, and Bankruptcy Court did not have to defer to tax deficiency calculated by Tax Court for purposes of computing the interest -- Claim preclusion does not apply because the Tax Court did not have jurisdiction to determine that debtor's reduced tax deficiency, including the net operating loss carryback, should be used to calculate the underpayment interest debtor owed, and because debtor's single unified cause of action in the Tax Court proceeding was his total income tax liability for taxable year in question and did not encompass Section 6601 underpayment interest -- Collateral estoppel does not require that use of the Tax Court-determined deficient amount for calculation of interest on the underpayments because Tax Court did not decide the issue of whether that amount had to be used for the subsequent interest calculation -- For collateral estoppel to apply, the issues litigated and decided in previous cause must be identical, and issue presented to Bankruptcy Court was neither identical to issue decided by Tax Court nor critical and necessary to Tax Court's judgment -- Equitable estoppel -- Government's claim of interest is not barred by equitable estoppel where government did not engage in conduct that induced reliance when the IRS agent gave debtor an estimate of interest owed on the deficiency; debtor has not shown that government acted negligently; debtor has not provided any record evidence of reliance on the beginning balance-interest accrual information provided by IRS in deciding to enter into proposed partial agreement; there is no affirmative misconduct by government; and partial agreement, by its own terms, makes clear that IRS and debtor did not come to an agreement about the interest calculation for tax deficiency at issue -- Judicial estoppel -- Judicial estoppel does not apply because government did not take positions in Tax Court proceedings on how to calculate the interest on debtor's deficiency that were contradictory or inconsistent with its subsequent positions before that Bankruptcy Court on how to calculate the relevant interest on his underpayment -- Issue of whether IRS ever assessed interest on the deficiency, or may do so now, is a factual issue best addressed by Bankruptcy Court in first instance
VIEW OPINION

Civil rights -- Speech -- Retaliation -- Torts -- Defamation -- Plaintiff, a former police officer who voiced complaints about racial profiling and other constitutional violations to his police chief and again in his termination appeal, filed complaint against county law enforcement officer that issued a BOLO warning that plaintiff was a “loose cannon” who presented a danger to any law enforcement officer and directing officers to act accordingly -- District court properly denied defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's claim under Section 1983 for violation of his First Amendment rights and claim under Georgia law for defamation -- Qualified immunity -- Defendant was not entitled to qualified immunity where defendant's issuance of BOLO violated plaintiff's First Amendment rights and plaintiff's constitutional right to be free from retaliation that imperiled his life was clearly established at time that defendant issued the BOLO -- Plaintiff sufficiently alleged that defendant officer violated plaintiff's First Amendment rights when officer issued the BOLO where officer's conduct adversely affected plaintiff's protected speech because BOLO issued against plaintiff would likely deter a person of ordinary firmness from exercise of First Amendment rights, and where operative complaint sufficiently establishes the causal connection between plaintiff's complaints about racial profiling and other unconstitutional behavior and defendant's issuance of BOLO -- Allegations, viewed in light most favorable to plaintiff, allow for reasonable inference that defendant knew about termination-appeal hearing and that he issued the BOLO at least in part in retaliation for plaintiff's complaints -- Plaintiff's constitutional right to be free from retaliation in the form of the particular BOLO defendant issued in this case was clearly established -- The reasoning of binding precedent and broader clearly established principle that it establishes should have put officer on notice that he could not potentially endanger plaintiff's life in retaliation for plaintiff's exercise of his First Amendment rights, and, even if it did not, the conduct alleged in this case is so egregious that defendant did not need case law to know what he allegedly did was unlawful -- Official immunity -- Defendant, as county law enforcement officer, was not entitled to official immunity on plaintiff's state-law defamation claim under Georgia law where plaintiff's allegations are sufficient in context of this case to establish the reasonable inference that defendant acted with actual malice in issuing the BOLO
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Sentencing -- Armed Career Criminal Act -- Prior convictions -- Violent felony -- Defendant's prior Georgia burglary convictions qualify as violent felonies under ACCA's enumerated crimes clause where Georgia burglary statute's alternative phrasing of the locational element lists multiple alternative elements, thereby creating multiple offenses in a divisible statutory structure; state court indictments make clear that defendant's Georgia burglary convictions involve an unlawful entry, into a dwelling house or building, with intent to commit a crime therein; and these elements substantially conform to generic definition of burglary -- No error in sentencing defendant as armed career criminal
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Sentencing -- Federal guidelines -- Offense level -- Increase -- District court did not clearly err in applying 18-level enhancement where government presented reliable and specific evidence establishing by a preponderance of evidence that the intended loss exceeded $2.5 million -- District court did not clearly err in imposing 6-level enhancement for offense involving more than 250 victims, where government provided specific and reliable evidence to support finding that offense involved more than 250 victims -- District court did not clearly err in calculating amount of restitution where government established by preponderance of evidence that defendant was accountable for 805 fraudulently-filed tax returns, and the actual loss, or amount paid out by IRS, on those 805 tax returns was $1,820,759 -- Vulnerable victim -- District court did not err in applying two-level vulnerable-victim enhancement where court found that defendant knew or should have known that at least one of victims of offense was vulnerable, and defendant does not appear to challenge that finding on appeal -- Government is not required to establish that defendant targeted his victims based on their vulnerability -- Defendant failed to show error, plainly or otherwise, because he admitted at guilty plea colloquy that he had used information in medical records in his possession to file fraudulent tax returns -- Defendant waived any arguments challenging district court's imposition of two-level enhancement for production of unauthorized access device where he expressly withdrew his objection to enhancement at sentencing hearing -- Defendant waived any challenge to armed-career-criminal enhancement based on his express and voluntary withdrawal of his objection to the enhancement -- Even if did not waive his challenge to this enhancement, his argument that his conviction under Florida law for possession of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver does not qualify as a serious drug offense for purposes of armed-career-criminal enhancement would fail under plain-error review, because his argument is foreclosed by Eleventh Circuit precedent
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Speedy trial -- District court erred by failing to dismiss indictment pursuant to Speedy Trial Act -- District court failed to comply with Speedy Trial Act when it granted a one-year continuance based solely on parties' agreement and did not make the proper ends-of-justice findings to permit tolling of 70-day time period in which defendant should have gone to trial -- A court's finding that a continuance is justified solely because the parties agreed to the continuance is not a proper ends-of-justice finding -- Court's explicit declination to make ends-of-justice findings on the record and its stated reason for continuance are dispositive -- Defendant's trial, which did not begin until over a year after his indictment, violated Speedy Trial Act's 70-day time period -- Remedy -- Because defendant's trial did not begin within required period of time, dismissal of indictment is required -- Remand for district court to dismiss the charges and determine, after consideration of statutory factors enumerated in Act, whether dismissal should be with or without prejudice
VIEW OPINION

Bankruptcy -- Adversary proceedings -- Default -- Vacation -- Motion to vacate default final judgment based on excusable neglect as result of counsel's failure to act on debtor's behalf must be denied, considering all relevant circumstances, including length of the delay in bringing the current motion and its potential impact on judicial proceedings, fact that delay was within reasonable control of debtor as defaulting party, and danger of prejudice to plaintiff as Chapter 7 trustee, who had begun pursuing collection in reliance on properly entered default judgment -- Whether a motion proceeds under rule 60(b)(1), which provides relief from a final judgment for mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect, or Rule 60(b)(6), which provides relief from a final judgment for any other reason that justifies relief, clients are held accountable for acts and omissions of their attorneys -- Counsel's neglectful actions were not excusable within meaning of Rule 60(b) where debtor does not allege, and allegations do not support a finding, that counsel's actions, or inaction, fell outside scope of his employment; the actions described do not amount to abandonment of attorney-client relationship; and counsel was communicating with debtor about the case, even though counsel may have been difficult to contact at times -- Even if attorney-client relationship terminated such that debtor should not be held responsible for his counsel's inaction, debtor's own actions do not constitute excusable neglect, where debtor, though obviously aware of problems with his counsel's representation, did not take any action to remedy the situation until some four months after entry of default judgment -- Even if debtor's inaction regarding counsel was reasonable, debtor's inexplicable delay of more than seven months in filing current motion to vacate after learning of default judgment precludes relief under Rule 60(b)(1)
VIEW OPINION

Bankruptcy -- Attorney's fees -- Amount -- Reasonableness -- Applying the Johnson factors for determining the reasonableness of fee awards, the number of hours claimed by Chapter 7 trustee as prevailing party is excessive, principally due to improper inclusion of administrative, secretarial, and clerical work performed; improper inclusion of duplicative work performed; and absence of novel issues of law involved coupled with trustee's particular familiarity and experience with litigating matters in this adversary proceeding -- Reduction of hours billed by trustee's attorneys by a 25% across-the-board reduction is warranted -- Lodestar figure is the reduced number of hours multiplied by the blended hourly rate -- Trustee is entitled to recover reasonable fees for litigating amount of fee award after court entered its final order resolving trustee's claims under Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act -- Hours billed for this work are excessive where there was substantial attendant duplication of attorney time, and will be reduced by 25%
VIEW OPINION

Civil rights -- Prisoners -- Pretrial detainees -- Deliberate indifference to serious medical needs -- Failure to adequately treat broken arm and related severe pain -- Sovereign immunity -- Viewed in light most favorable to plaintiff, evidence showed that after he fell and injured his left arm, he suffered from a serious medical need -- Private orthopedic doctor who was not under contract with jail and who ordered and reviewed x-rays of plaintiff's arm, examined plaintiff, and correctly diagnosed and reported plaintiff's injury was entitled to summary judgment, as record contained no evidence that this defendant had further contact with plaintiff or any responsibility for plaintiff's care after relaying diagnosis to jail officials; that plaintiff informed this defendant of his ongoing pain and lack of adequate treatment; or that defendant knew that other defendants would use his statements to deny or delay treatment when need for treatment was or became evident -- Trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of physician who was under contract to treat jail inmates from time to time, nurse who was employed by county jail and who conducted initial review of plaintiff's medical requests, sheriff, deputies, and chief deputy where reasonable jury could find these defendants were deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical needs and either failed to render treatment or delayed treatment for non-medical reasons, in violation of clearly established constitutional rights, and that this deliberate indifference caused plaintiff's constitutional injury -- No error in granting summary judgment in favor of deputy who had subjective knowledge of plaintiff's injury where there was insufficient evidence to satisfy causation prong of deliberate indifference claim -- Sovereign immunity -- Under Alabama law, sheriffs and deputies are state officials who are absolutely immune from suit under Eleventh Amendment for claims brought against them in their official capacities, but not for claims brought against them in their individual capacities -- Nurse employed by county jail does not qualify as an extension of the sheriff for purposes of sovereign immunity
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Attempting to cause financial institution not to file required currency transaction report, in violation of 31 U.S.C. section 5324(a)(1) which is aimed at efforts to prevent a financial institution not to file a CTR that it has a legal duty to file -- Constructive amendment of indictment -- Applying plain error review, neither parties' joint use of term “structuring” during trial nor jury instructions given by district court constructively amended indictment to allege violation of section 5324(a)(3), which is aimed at structuring transactions to evade CTR reporting requirements
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Double jeopardy -- Issue-preclusion component of Double Jeopardy Clause does not bar retrial after jury has returned irreconcilably inconsistent verdicts of conviction and acquittal and convictions are later vacated for legal error unrelated to the inconsistency
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Habeas corpus -- Murder -- Death penalty -- Counsel -- Ineffectiveness -- One-line decision of state supreme court denying defendant's certificate of probable cause is the relevant state-court decision for purpose of federal court review because it is the final decision “on the merits”
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Jury trial -- Verdict forms -- Errors -- Where verdict forms mistakenly listed one of counts as “robbery” instead of “using a firearm during and in relation to [a robbery]” and the error was later transposed onto defendants' written judgments, where it was not discovered until more than five months after trial, district court, after notice to the parties, properly amended the judgments under Rule 36 of Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure -- It was proper to use Rule 36 to amend the judgments to omit “robbery” and replace it with the correct charge where the erroneous judgment arose out of an erroneous verdict form that was not objected to, did not in any way confuse the jury, or, even if it did, could not have possibly prejudiced the defendants -- Verdict form error was harmless on facts of case, and amending the judgments that were based on those verdict forms is the sort of clerical correction contemplated by Rule 36 -- Standard of review -- Where defendants are challenging the propriety of the district court amending their written judgments pursuant to Rule 36, the district court's application of rule 36 is reviewed de novo
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Sentencing -- Armed Career Criminal Act -- Prior violent felony -- Conviction for burglary under Florida law cannot serve as predicate violent felony under ACCA
VIEW OPINION

Jurisdiction -- Class actions -- Federal courts that are given original subject-matter jurisdiction over state-law claims by the Class Action Fairness Act retain that jurisdiction even when the class claims are dismissed before the class is certified -- Where plaintiff filed suit directly in federal court under CAFA alleging both state and federal claims and the post-filing action that dismissed the class claims asserted in the complaint was not an amendment to the complaint, the CAFA continues to confer original federal jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims in the suit -- Because CAFA vested district court with original jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims, there was no need for the court to analyze supplemental jurisdiction -- Supplemental jurisdiction has a role in CAFA cases only in those cases that also have “state-law claims that were never subject to CAFA jurisdiction”
VIEW OPINION

Taxation -- Federal income taxes -- Deductions -- Losses -- Taxpayer who was president, director, and sole shareholder of corporation in the business of real estate acquisition, development, and sales petitions for review of Tax Court's decision upholding Commissioner of Internal Revenue's determination that he owes income tax deficiencies and related penalties -- Tax Court properly determined that taxpayer had not met his burden of demonstrating that Commissioner incorrectly disallowed his claimed loss deduction under Section 165(a) of Internal Revenue Code and its accompanying regulation, which allow deductions for uncompensated losses stemming from “closed and completed transactions,” which may occur if taxpayer abandons the asset or the asset becomes worthless -- Abandonment -- Tax Court did not clearly err in determining that taxpayer did not abandon any of its properties -- Taxpayer's overt acts did not evidence an intention to abandon the properties where taxpayer continued to develop and sell the properties, funneled personal money into company's business account in order to facilitate construction on properties, and never offered to reconvey the properties back to mortgagees in lieu of foreclosure -- Subjective intention to act purely for his own protection is insufficient to meet taxpayer's burden of demonstrating abandonment -- Worthlessness -- Record evidence amply supports Tax Court's finding that taxpayer's properties retained enough value to avoid being worthless at end of taxable year in which loss occurred -- In the case of a recourse debt, the loss deduction must be taken in the year that the amount of the loss becomes readily ascertainable, and the amount of the loss is not readily ascertainable until the foreclosure sale occurs because the property's value is directly linked to extent of the owner's liability on a deficiency judgment
VIEW OPINION

Civil rights -- Search and seizure -- Mental-health seizure -- Police officers -- Qualified immunity -- Officer, who reported to plaintiff's home in response to 911 call requesting police assistance and based on statements of EMTs and his own observations made the decision to seize plaintiff in her bedroom and transport her to hospital for psychological evaluation, is entitled to qualified immunity for his initial decision to seize and then transport plaintiff to hospital -- Officer's action in seizing plaintiff for a psychological evaluation was justified at its inception where officer had arguable probable cause to believe that plaintiff posed a danger to herself -- District court erred in concluding that right to be free from unreasonable mental-health seizure was not clearly established at time of alleged conduct, but error was harmless -- Factually applicable case law provided fair warning to officer that he would need to have probable cause to believe that plaintiff was a danger to herself or to others to justify seizure on mental-health grounds -- Officer is entitled to qualified immunity on Section 1983 false imprisonment claim where plaintiff has not shown that officer acted with deliberate indifference by knowingly or recklessly violating her right to be free from continued detention after she was entitled to release -- Officer is not entitled to qualified immunity from claim challenging manner of seizure where questions of fact exist with respect to whether the seizure was conducted in an extraordinary manner, unusually harmful to plaintiff's privacy interests -- It was clearly established at time of alleged conduct that plaintiff had a right to be free from a seizure in which she was compelled, by threat of deadly force, to disrobe in front of male police officer, with whom she remained alone in a locked room for twenty minutes -- Applying the obvious clarity test to determine whether a reasonable officer would know his conduct is unconstitutional, an objectively reasonable officer would have known to restrain from engaging in degrading and humiliating methods when preparing to transport a person of opposite gender for psychological evaluation -- An objectively reasonable officer would have known that, under circumstances, it was unreasonable to use threat of deadly force to compel a female civilian to disrobe in that manner -- Supposed facts of case take the manner of seizure well beyond the hazy border that sometimes separates lawful from unlawful conduct, given officer's alleged disregard for plaintiff's privacy, his use of forcible language coupled with threat of deadly force, prolonged duration of seizure, and inappropriateness inherent in circumstances
VIEW OPINION

Insurance -- Settlement agreement -- Enforceability against insurer -- Fraud and collusion -- Settlement agreement whereby insured homeowners association consented to entry of judgment against it on homeowner's claim for attorney's fees in amount of homeowner's choosing so long as homeowner agreed never to execute against association -- District court properly applied framework set forth in Coblentz v. American Surety Co. to determine whether settlement agreement could be enforced against insurer -- Relevant inquiry for determining whether to enforce Coblentz agreement against an insurer that wrongfully denied coverage and refused to defend is whether agreement was produced through fraud or collusion, not whether insurer had notice of settlement and opportunity to object to it -- District court's determination that settlement agreement was negotiated in bad faith rested on substantial evidence
VIEW OPINION

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