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Federal New Releases

New Releases
from Federal Courts

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Criminal law -- Habeas corpus -- Second or successive petition -- Petitioner is not entitled to leave to file second or successive federal habeas petition based on 28 U.S.C. Section 2244(b) and Supreme Court's decision in Hall v. Florida, that a state cannot execute a person whose IQ test score falls within the test's margin of error unless the person has been able to present additional evidence of intellectual disability, including testimony regarding adaptive deficits, because Supreme Court has not made the new rule announced in Hall retroactive to cases on collateral review -- Even if Supreme Court had made the new rule retroactive to cases on collateral review, petitioner has not shown a reasonable likelihood that he would benefit from the rule in Hall -- Motion for stay of execution must be denied when petitioner has not established any likelihood of success on merits
VIEW OPINION

Civil rights -- Due process -- Death penalty -- Clemency -- Petitioner failed to show substantial likelihood of success on claim that he enjoys a due process or other constitutional right with respect to his petition for clemency
VIEW OPINION

Civil rights -- Cruel and unusual punishment -- Death penalty -- Lethal injection -- District court did not abuse discretion in denying petitioner's 42 U.S.C. §1983 action seeking a temporary restraining order or stay of execution, where petitioner failed to establish a substantial likelihood of success on merits of his Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim or other constitutional claims based on the dearth of information disclosed to him regarding provenance of legal injection drugs and qualification of execution team -- Argument that compounded pentobarbital may be defective or the personnel administering the execution may be untrained is insufficient to establish a substantial likelihood of success on merits of petitioner's Eighth Amendment claim -- Speculation that a drug that has not been approved will lead to severe pain or suffering cannot substitute for evidence that the use of the drug is sure or very likely to cause serious illness and needless suffering -- Petitioner has not established a substantial likelihood of success on merits of his claim that the dearth of information regarding nature of pentobarbital that will be used in his execution and the expertise of those who will carry it out violates his First Amendment right of access to governmental proceedings or his due process right to notice and opportunity to be heard in a meaningful manner -- No abuse of discretion in denying injunctive relief on these constitutional claims -- Neither Fifth, Fourteenth, nor First Amendments afford a broad right to know where, how, and by whom the legal injection drugs will be manufactured, or qualifications of person or persons who will manufacture the drugs and who will place the catheters -- Limitation of actions -- While the district court did not address whether Section 1983 claims are time-barred, statute of limitations began to run when petitioner last became subject to a substantially changed execution protocol and has expired
VIEW OPINION

Bankruptcy -- Reopening of case -- Confirmation -- Chapter 11 plan -- Enforcement -- Chapter 11 debtor, who obtained discharge in bankruptcy of its liability to state for potential clean-up costs associated with contamination of a landfill prior to filing bankruptcy cases, moved to reopen case and to enforce plan confirmation order to stop lawsuit seeking contribution under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act filed by potential responsible parties who settled with state for environmental cleanup costs associated with this site -- Even though debtor's discharge of its liability to state for clean-up costs associated with contaminated landfill eliminated any “common liability” between itself and other potentially responsible parties for clean-up costs at site, and prevented other PRPs from asserting CERCLA contribution claims against debtor, bankruptcy court lacked jurisdiction to enjoin PRPs' contribution lawsuit because PRPs did not violate confirmation order in pursuing lawsuit since PRPs did not have a claim that was discharged -- Under definition of a claim in Section 101(f) of Bankruptcy Code and applicable case law interpreting that definition in context of environmental claims, state environmental agency held a prepetition claim against debtor for potential cleanup costs and that claim was discharged when debtor confirmed its Chapter 11 plan -- Environmental agency's incurrence of costs prior to debtor's bankruptcy filing is not a condition for finding that agency holds a prepetition claim for potential cleanup costs -- PRPs that may have contributed to contamination at landfill did not hold prepetition claims against debtor that were discharged, where debtor had no relationship with these PRPs prepetition, and there was no evidence in record that PRPs knew anything about their potential contribution claims against debtor until long after bankruptcy case had closed -- PRPs did not have legal basis to pursue CERCLA contribution claims for debtor's alleged role in connection with this contamination, because debtor and PRPs did not have common liability to state in regards to the contaminated site, a prerequisite for CERCLA contribution claim, given that state held a prepetition claim that was discharged
VIEW OPINION

Bankruptcy -- Exempt property -- Personal property -- Chapter 13 debtor is entitled to the additional personal property exemptions of Section 222.25(4), Florida Statutes, which allows an exemption of debtor's interest in personal property, not to exceed $4,000, if debtor does not claim or receive the benefits of a homestead exemption, because, even if home in which debtor is living is his family's homestead, debtor does not have an ownership interest in the homestead -- Debtor does not own his homestead, and therefore the benefits of homestead that he enjoys are not benefits that deprive him of his additional personal property exemption
VIEW OPINION

Bankruptcy -- Claims -- Mortgages -- Modification -- Loss Mitigation Mediation -- Chapter 13 debtor, when seeking to modify home mortgage through the Loss Mitigation Mediation Program, did not comply with the Court's LMM Procedures because initial monthly payments to lender under chapter 13 plan are less than 31% of debtor's gross monthly income and do not provide adequate protection during mediation process as contemplated by LMM Procedures
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Habeas corpus -- Murder -- Death penalty -- Self-incrimination -- District court erred in granting habeas relief setting aside death sentence based on admission of state psychologist's testimony relating defendant's reference to murder victim as “asshole” and “hillbilly” during psychological examination -- When trial court allowed psychologist to testify as lay witness to rebut defendant's evidence of remorse, it went beyond scope of defendant's waiver, which was limited to allowing state to rebut any defense expert testimony of defendant's mental illness, and violated defendant's Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination -- However, erroneously admitted testimony did not have substantial or injurious effect on jury's deliberations over defendant's sentence -- Counsel -- Ineffectiveness -- District court properly rejected claim that counsel provided ineffective assistance by deciding to forego expert testimony, as counsel's decision did not fall below objective standard of reasonable attorney conduct -- Discovery -- Government's failure to comply -- District court properly denied Brady claim based on government's withholding of co-perpetrator's psychiatric report and post-arrest letters written by co-perpetrator from jail -- Record contained ample support for conclusion that this information did not create reasonable probability of a different result -- Procedural default -- Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions recognizing certain circumstances in which a federal court may excuse a habeas petitioner's failure to properly raise claims in state court, does not enable defendant, in this case, to raise new claims of ineffective assistance of counsel that he failed to litigate in state court -- Discussion of Martinez v. Ryan, which created equitable exception to rule that federal habeas petitioners cannot rely on errors made by state collateral counsel to establish cause for procedural default applicable where (1) “state requires a prisoner to raise an ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim in a collateral proceeding,” as opposed to on direct appeal; (2) “appointed counsel in the initial-review collateral proceeding, where the claim should have been raised, was ineffective under the standards of Strickland”;and (3) “the underlying ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim is a substantial one” -- Discussion of Supreme Court decision in Trevino v. Thaler
VIEW OPINION

Speech -- Florida Firearm Owners Privacy Act -- District court erred in entering injunction prohibiting enforcement of inquiry, record-keeping, discrimination, and harassment and related disciplinary provisions of Florida's Firearm Owners Privacy Act, which seeks to protect patients' privacy by restricting irrelevant inquiry and record-keeping by physicians regarding firearms -- Act is legitimate regulation of professional conduct and simply codifies that good medical care does not require inquiry or record-keeping regarding firearms when unnecessary to a patient's care -- Standing -- Plaintiffs' self-censorship is cognizable injury-in-fact for standing purposes in this case
VIEW OPINION

Attorney's fees -- Social security -- Disability insurance -- Fee award following favorable claim for Social Security disability benefits, which was calculated using past-due benefit amount that had been reduced to reflect amount of early retirement benefits claimant received, was reasonable pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 406(b)(1) -- As required under Section 406(b)(1) and Supreme Court precedent, magistrate judge considered contingent-fee agreement between claimant and his attorney, which calls for a fee in amount of 25 percent of past-due benefits owed, and after determining that earlier retirement benefits were not past-due benefits “owed,” went on to conduct independent review of resulting fee for reasonableness -- Construing ambiguous fee agreement against drafting party, magistrate judge correctly interpreted the contract as providing for a fee of 25 percent past-due benefits that had not already been paid to claimant -- Avoiding claimant's statutory argument was entirely appropriate, as language of fee agreement controls outcome of case
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Habeas corpus -- Murder -- Death penalty -- Counsel -- Ineffectiveness -- State court's rejection of claim that counsel was ineffective during guilt phase of trial for failing to cross-examine state witness, a co-participant in robbery who identified defendant as shooter at trial, with transcript of statements made by witness to police a week after incident was not unreasonable -- Penalty-phase ineffective assistance -- Investigation or presentation of mitigating evidence -- State court unreasonably applied Strickland v. Washington in holding that counsel's failure to introduce any of the available mitigating evidence of defendant's mental impairment and history of abuse had no reasonable probability of reducing defendant's sentence -- Because omitted mitigating evidence, when compared to what little was actually introduced at trial, undermines confidence in outcome of defendant's sentencing, defendant suffered prejudice at penalty phase of capital trial
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Habeas corpus -- Sentencing -- Second or successive petition -- Savings clause -- Pro se federal prisoner's challenge to validity of his sentence on collateral review, in reliance on Alleyne v. United States, did not qualify for review under Section 2255(e)'s savings clause because petitioner failed to satisfy the third requirement to proceed under Section 2255(e), which is that the new rule announced in Alleyne applies retroactively on collateral review -- Alleyne does not apply retroactively -- Even if Alleyne applied retroactively, petitioner could not satisfy the fourth requirement, which is that retroactive application of Alleyne would mean that his current sentence exceeds the statutory maximum authorized by Congress for his crime, because his current sentence would not exceed the statutory maximum authorized by Congress -- Even assuming petitioner satisfied all five requirements to proceed under Section 2255(e), his argument that district court violated his Sixth Amendment rights by failing to submit to jury the question of whether he had a prior conviction that qualified him for the ten-year mandatory minimum is without merit
VIEW OPINION

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