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Federal New Releases

New Releases
from Federal Courts

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Criminal law -- Habeas corpus -- Murder -- Death penalty -- Florida death row inmate is not entitled to habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on claim that prosecution failed to disclose exculpatory evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland -- State supreme court's denial of inmate's Brady claim is entitled to AEDPA deference, and state court's denial was not based on unreasonable determination of facts and was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law -- Favorable evidence -- As to requirement that inmate show that undisclosed evidence was favorable to his defense, inmate has not shown that state court's determination that two undisclosed reports were not favorable to his defense was contrary to, or involved unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law -- State supreme court's determination that information contained in two undisclosed reports was neither exculpatory nor impeaching was not unreasonable -- Prejudice -- Alternatively, state court reasonably concluded that information contained in reports, individually or collectively, was not material within meaning of Brady -- As to reasonable probability of different result, state court's decision did not unreasonably fail to consider totality of circumstances -- Because state court's decision on Brady claim did not contain an error so clear that fair-minded people could not disagree about it, state court's decision denying relief on Brady claim must be given deference -- De novo review -- District court erred in conducting de novo review and not according deference to state supreme court's decision denying inmate's Brady claim where state court correctly identified the applicable standard for analyzing a Brady claim and applied that standard to determine that inmate's Brady claim failed
VIEW OPINION

Maritime law -- Contracts -- Voyage charter agreement -- Arbitration -- Security in aid of pending international arbitration -- Vessel owner and management company brought maritime action for order requiring posting of security by suppliers of agricultural commodities in aid of pending international arbitration -- Plaintiffs could not invoke Supplemental Rule B to obtain order requiring posting of security by defendants in aid of pending international arbitration where plaintiffs' purpose in invoking Supplemental Rule B was not to gain jurisdiction over absent defendant, since all of the defendants could be found in the district -- Supplemental Rule B cannot be used purely for the purpose of obtaining security: the two purposes of Supplemental Rule B of assuring respondent's appearance and assuring satisfaction in case the suit is successful may not be separated, “however, for security cannot be obtained except as an adjunct to obtaining jurisdiction” -- Georgia statute implementing International Commercial Arbitration Code provision governing interim measures of protection by court did not grant authority to court to create new substantive remedies; rather, it confirmed that court's grant of interim relief, utilizing existing state remedies, was not inconsistent with submitting merits determination to an arbitrator -- District court did not possess equitable powers under maritime law to grant security in aid of arbitration -- A district court's order of attachment solely for purpose of obtaining security would be contrary to Supplemental Rules
VIEW OPINION

Bankruptcy -- Adversary proceedings -- Contracts -- Chapter 11 debtor filed adversary proceeding alleging defendant had fraudulently induced debtor into entering into consulting agreement and seeking recovery for unjust enrichment -- Jurisdiction -- Bankruptcy court had jurisdiction to determine state law claims for fraud in the inducement and unjust enrichment because they were necessarily resolved in the claims allowance process, as contemplated by Stern v. Marshall, and additionally defendant gave implied consent to entry of final judgment of bankruptcy court by failing to timely raise the issue -- Fraudulent inducement -- Defendant's failure to disclose grand larceny conviction for taking investors' money on false pretense of investing in a concert constituted fraudulent inducement, even though the undisclosed fact was public information -- Defendant had a duty to disclose material information to Debtor prior to entry of a contract because there was a relationship of trust or confidence -- Withholding fact of the conviction was a pertinent omission that was essential to defendant's campaign to get debtor to trust him and execute the consulting agreement -- Unjust enrichment -- Debtor established a claim for unjust enrichment where defendant received a payment from debtor to which he was not entitled, payment was outside scope of any contract, and it would be inequitable for defendant to retain that payment -- Debtor had no adequate legal remedy, such as claim for breach of contract, that would preclude the claim for unjust enrichment because underlying contract was either invalid and unenforceable or, even if valid, did not provide for the payment to defendant -- Debtor is entitled to money judgment for defendant's unjust enrichment
VIEW OPINION

Bankruptcy -- Liens -- Equitable -- Homestead -- Court-appointed receiver for entities involved in Ponzi scheme is entitled to remedies of equitable lien and constructive trust on Florida homestead of Chapter 7 debtor and his wife because substantially all of funds used to purchase the home originated from fraudulent transfers -- Summary judgment is due to be granted for receiver on his claims for imposition of equitable lien and constructive trust where there are no material facts in dispute to be tried, no issues of witness credibility, and records demonstrate that entirety of funds debtor used to purchase the home came from fraudulent transfers from Ponzi scheme -- It is appropriate to impose an equitable lien on defendants' homestead to prevent their unjust enrichment from the funds traced to the Ponzi scheme, even though debtor passively received the fraudulent transfers and it is not alleged that debtor or his wife engaged in any fraud or egregious conduct -- Imposition of a constructive trust is an appropriate remedy for unjust enrichment and defendants have been unjustly enriched by receipt of fraudulent transfers that they invested in their home -- Discussion of extent of equitable lien and constructive trust
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Sentencing -- Armed Career Criminal Act -- Prior convictions -- Violent felony -- District court erred in concluding that defendant's Alabama conviction for first degree sexual abuse was a violent felony under the ACCA's elements clause -- Applying modified categorical approach, defendant's prior conviction was for sexual abuse by forcible compulsion for purposes of determining whether his prior conviction was for a violent felony -- Because Alabama's first degree sexual abuse statute under which defendant was previously convicted listed two separate crimes: sexual abuse by forcible compulsion and sexual abuse of a person incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless or mentally incapacitated, modified categorical approach applied to determine which of those crimes defendant was convicted of committing -- Alabama's statute defining sexual abuse by forcible compulsion does not categorically include as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of violent physical force, as that term is defined by federal law, given Alabama Supreme Court's interpretation of forcible compulsion -- Use of violent physical force was not necessary to commit sexual abuse by forcible compulsion where Alabama Supreme Court decisions establish that the least of the acts criminalized by sexual abuse by forcible compulsion statute included an implicit threat not of violence but of some sort of disciplinary action, or taking advantage of a child who assumed that the conduct was acceptable, or because the child did not have the capacity to refuse -- Categorical approach applied to determine whether sexual abuse by forcible compulsion qualified as a violent felony under ACCA, because statute is not itself divisible
VIEW OPINION

Administrative law -- Social security -- Disability insurance benefits -- Supplemental security income -- Medical evidence -- Substantial evidence supports decision of ALJ to give little weight to treating physician's medical opinion about claimant's physical capacities -- ALJ's stated reasons for discounting physician's opinion, that it was inconsistent with his own medical records and the record as a whole, amounts to good cause and was supported by substantial evidence -- Substantial evidence supported ALJ's residual functional capacity determination that claimant could perform a full range of sedentary, unskilled work -- ALJ was not required to consult a vocational expert to make fifth-step finding that claimant was not disabled because a significant number of sedentary, unskilled jobs existed in national economy that claimant could perform despite her impairments -- ALJ permissibly relied on vocational grid to determine claimant's ability to adjust to other work in national economy, given that claimant was able to perform a full range of sedentary work and did not have any non-exertional impairments that significantly limited her basic work skills -- ALJ's failure to comply with Social Security Ruling 16-3p, enacted after the ALJ's decision, in evaluating the intensity and persistence of claimant's symptoms, does not provide a basis for remand -- SSR 16-3p applies only prospectively where rule explicitly provides an effective date and contains no language suggesting, much less requiring, retroactive application -- Appeals Council was not required to consider new medical records that were not chronologically relevant -- District court's order affirming the denial of claimant's applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income affirmed
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Habeas corpus -- Plea agreement -- Appeal waiver -- A district court, in resolving a Section 2255 motion, may not sua sponte invoke a collateral-action waiver in a defendant's plea agreement -- Rules applying to civil cases, not the Day line of reasoning, governs whether a district court has authority to sua sponte invoke a collateral-action waiver to dismiss a Section 2255 motion -- Applying the civil rules, the government's response to a Section 2255 motion must expressly invoke a collateral-action waiver; otherwise, the government may be deemed to have forfeited its collateral-action-waiver defense by failing to include it in its response -- While a district court may not invoke a collateral-action waiver in a plea agreement, in a case where such a waiver exists, the court may ask the government to state whether it intends to rely on the waiver -- If the government decides to rely on the waiver, the district court must provide the movant with an opportunity to respond and be heard on the issue
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Sentencing -- Federal guidelines -- Offense level -- District court did not clearly err in applying a base offense level of 20 because defendant committed the offense of being a felon in possession of a firearm after previously being convicted of a controlled substance offense -- District court did not clearly err by relying on certificate of disposition to find that defendant had been convicted of sale of a controlled substance (heroin) on school grounds -- Criminal history -- District court did not clearly err by finding the defendant had been convicted of three prior New York convictions for sale of controlled substance on school grounds, misdemeanor possession of controlled substance, and misdemeanor possession of marijuana -- Even if court erred with respect to two contested misdemeanor convictions, any such error was harmless, where defendant would still have four qualifying convictions, each yielding one criminal history point, even excluding the two points assessed for New York misdemeanors
VIEW OPINION

Securities -- National securities associations -- Broker-dealers and associates -- Membership and conduct rules -- Former registered representative of broker firm brought state-court action against Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a national securities association, after he was disciplined by the FINRA for committing securities fraud, alleging various Florida tort law claims, including defamation and abuse of process, in connection with a second investigation that FINRA conducted involving his alleged attempt to intimidate witnesses in the earlier disciplinary proceeding -- Jurisdiction -- Removal of state court case to federal district court was proper in this case, because suits against self-regulatory organizations like FINRA for violating their internal rules “arise under” the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and therefore fall under the Act's grant of exclusive jurisdiction to the federal district courts -- Although complaint invokes state tort law as the basis for relief, complaint is on its face a challenge to FINRA's application of its internal rules in exercising its regulatory authority under the Exchange Act -- District court properly dismissed plaintiff's claim against FINRA, finding that Congress did not intend to create a private right of action for plaintiffs seeking to sue SROs for violations of their own internal rules -- No private right of action exists for SRO members and associated persons to sue SROs for violating their own internal rules -- Absence of express statutory language creating an additional right of action with additional remedies demonstrates that Congress intended the internal appeals and administrative-review processes created by the Securities Exchange Act to be the sole venues through which FINRA-affiliated parties can challenge SROs' regulatory and enforcement conduct for compliance with their rules
VIEW OPINION

Appeals -- Timeliness -- The Court of Appeals erred in treating as jurisdictional Rule 4(a)(5)(C)'s limitation on extension of time to file a notice of appeal -- A time limit in a court-made rule is not jurisdictional, but instead is a mandatory claim-processing rule that can be waived or forfeited -- Because Rule 4(a)(5)(C), not statute, limits the length of the extension granted, the time prescription is not jurisdictional
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Habeas corpus -- Sentencing -- Death penalty -- Competency to be executed -- Death row inmate is not entitled to federal habeas relief on claim that he has become incompetent to be executed due to several recent strokes -- State court's determinations of law and fact finding that defendant is competent to be executed were not so lacking in justification as to give rise to error beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement -- State court did not unreasonably apply Supreme Court decisions in Ford v. Wainwright and Panetti v. Quarterman when it determined that defendant is competent to be executed because, notwithstanding his memory loss, he recognizes that he will be put to death as punishment for the murder he was found to have committed -- State court's decision was not founded on an unreasonable assessment of evidence before it
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Sentencing -- Death penalty -- Hurst error
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Habeas corpus -- Sentencing -- Three strikes law -- Where state court permitted the state to amend a criminal complaint to which defendant had pleaded guilty by adding a second strike and then permitted defendant to withdraw his guilty plea, acknowledging that the amendment would lead to a higher sentence, state court decision to sentence defendant to stipulated term of 25 years to life when defendant pleaded guilty to amended complaint did not involve an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law -- Circuit Court of Appeals erred when held that “federal law” as interpreted by Supreme Court “clearly” establishes that specific performance of first plea agreement which would have led to a lower 14-year, 4-month sentence is constitutionally required -- Even if state's efforts to amend the complaint violated the Constitution, no prior Supreme Court decision clearly requires specific performance of the original plea agreement as a remedy for that violation -- State court was not required to impose the lower sentence that defendant would have received had the complaint not been amended
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Sentencing -- Armed Career Criminal Act -- Prior convictions -- Violent felony -- Different occasions -- District court did not err in determining that defendant's two convictions for distribution of cocaine and one conviction for participating in a conspiracy with intent to distribute cocaine qualified as predicate convictions that were “committed on occasions different from one another” for purposes of sentence enhancement under ACCA -- The substantive drug distribution offenses and the drug conspiracy offense occurred on different occasions for ACCA purposes where the three predicate crimes were temporally distinct and arose from separate and distinct criminal episodes -- Defendant's two distribution offenses occurred at clear and obvious points in time separated by nine days and were discrete episodes in the series of events constituting his participation in drug conspiracy -- Defendant's predicate crimes, which were“successive rather than simultaneous,” constitute “separate criminal episodes” under ACCA -- Remaining arguments are foreclosed by Eleventh Circuit and Supreme Court precedent
VIEW OPINION

Summary disposition
VIEW OPINION