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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 ADEPA 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

Insurance -- Personal injury protection -- Coverage -- Medical expenses -- Medical provider, as assignee of insured, brought putative class action against automobile insurer, seeking declaratory relief for the proposed class and damages for breach of contract, on grounds that insurer failed to reimburse it for the full amount billed for insured's treatment -- Declaratory judgment -- Declaratory relief was not available, in putative class action, seeking declaration that class members were entitled to an adjustment of their claims for PIP benefits where class members had an adequate legal remedy since they could seek damages for breach of contract -- Declaratory relief is not available where issue is whether an unambiguous contract has been breached -- Breach of contract -- Statutory fee schedule -- Notice -- Automobile policy provided sufficient notice of insurer's intent to use Medicare fee schedule and Medicare multiple payment procedure reduction in calculating reimbursements for medical services, as required under Florida's PIP statute, where policy clearly states that insurer will be using schedule of maximum charges and Center for Medicare Services payment methodologies, including Medicare multiple payment procedure reduction -- Application of MPPR -- Issue of whether Medicare multiple payment procedure reduction was a payment methodology which could be used to determine appropriate amount of reimbursements for medical services, or a utilization limit prohibited under PIP statute, could not be resolved on motion to dismiss provider's breach of contract claim
VIEW OPINION

Torts -- Colleges and universities -- Negligence -- African-American female who was working as student employee at state university's library on night of a mass shooting at library sued university alleging that, despite suffering physical and mental injuries, she did not receive “meaningful treatment” from university even though such treatment was provided to similarly situated white male employees -- Negligent supervision and training -- Claim that university negligently trained and supervised its safety officer tasked with protecting the library fails to allege facts sufficient to survive motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim where plaintiff asserts legal conclusions without providing ultimate facts to support her claims, failed to identify a training program or policy and explain specifically how the defendant was negligent in implementing it, and failed to allege facts demonstrating that defendant had notice that its employee was unfit, but unreasonably failed to investigate the employee and take corrective action -- Failure-to-protect -- Claim that university failed to protect plaintiff from a foreseeable criminal act of third party fails where plaintiff failed to explicitly plead that university had a special relationship with her, which is required to give rise to a duty to protect plaintiff -- Sovereign immunity -- Plaintiff failed to provide sufficient factual allegations to support her position that sovereign immunity does not bar her tort claims where plaintiff only makes conclusory, sweeping allegation that university's actions were “clearly operational in nature” -- Workers' compensation -- Exclusive remedy -- Plaintiff failed to provide basic facts to support her legal conclusions that Florida's workers' compensation law does not bar recovery on negligent supervision and training and failure-to-protect claims where she failed to clearly identify which injuries she seeks compensation for and which injuries she has received treatment for -- Motion to strike complaint as shotgun pleading that fails to adhere to basic pleading standards would be denied where plaintiff can address pleading deficiencies in an amended complaint
VIEW OPINION

Bankruptcy -- Dischargeable debts -- Student loans -- Arbitration -- Chapter 7 debtor filed complaint asserting, purportedly on behalf of putative statewide class of similarly situated persons, that her bar study loans serviced by defendant are not “qualified education loans” and therefore were discharged in her bankruptcy case -- Bankruptcy court would enforce arbitration and class action waiver provisions contained in two promissory notes signed by debtor in favor of defendant and compel arbitration of claims presented in debtor's complaint -- Arbitration and class action waiver provisions were not discharged in debtor's Chapter 7 bankruptcy case -- Even if debtor's personal monetary obligations under notes were discharged, contractual arbitration and class action waiver provisions are severable from those personal obligations and, therefore, remain valid and enforceable -- Even if debtor's student loan debts were in fact subject to discharge, a discharge entered under Section 727 of Bankruptcy Code relieves a debtor only of his or her personal obligations on debts that existed on petition date -- Entry of Chapter 7 discharge does not vitiate the effectiveness of an otherwise binding agreement to arbitrate matters related to a claim that may or may not be subject to discharge -- Bankruptcy court had no discretion to decline to enforce binding agreement to arbitrate, even though claims in debtor's complaint were core proceedings, where enforcement of arbitration and class action waiver provisions does not inherently conflict with underlying purposes of Bankruptcy Code provisions relied upon in debtor's complaint -- Claims seeking determination as to whether certain student loan debts were discharged under Section 523(a)(8) and whether defendant's actions in attempting to collect on those debts after discharge violated discharge injunction under Section 524(a)(2) are core matters
VIEW OPINION

Civil rights -- Employment discrimination -- Exhaustion of administrative remedies -- District court properly dismissed complaint alleging race and disability discrimination in violation of Civil Rights Act and Americans with Disabilities Act because plaintiff failed to file her complaint within 90 days of receiving the first notice of right to sue and failed to establish that she was entitled to equitable tolling of limitations period because of her mental health condition -- Complaint is untimely because second notice of right to sue, issued after original limitations period expired, failed to revive the limitations period -- Because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is permitted to issue a new notice of a right to sue only after it issues a notice of intent to reconsider before the expiration of the original limitations period and the Commission issued plaintiff a notice of intent to reconsider years after her limitations period expired, Commission lacked authority to issue the second notice of right to sue, and the notice failed to revive her right to sue -- Plaintiff failed to establish she is entitled to equitable tolling of limitations period based on her psychiatric condition where she failed to establish a causal connection between her catatonic schizophrenia and her delay in filing a complaint -- Record belies any assertion that her medical condition prevented her from filing suit within limitations period
VIEW OPINION

Civil rights -- Public employees -- Speech -- Political association -- Former city police officer filed suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 alleging city and mayor violated plaintiff's First Amendment rights by unlawfully retaliating against him and terminating his employment after he began “actively and prominently supporting” mayor's purported political enemy -- Adverse employment action -- Voluntariness of resignation -- District court erred in entering summary judgment for defendants based on conclusion that plaintiff had not suffered adverse employment action because he had voluntarily left his position when he agreed to resign instead of being fired -- Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to establish that he suffered an adverse employment action when his employment was abruptly terminated, because a reasonable jury could conclude that plaintiff's resignation was not the product of his free will -- Totality of circumstances confirm that plaintiff's resignation was tendered under duress and coercion, so that it was not voluntary, where plaintiff had no “real alternatives” to termination, plaintiff was not told why he was being terminated, and plaintiff had a mere five minutes to agree to submit his resignation or accept his termination, which was insufficient to confer with his counsel or to overcome the coercive atmosphere and other circumstances that precipitated plaintiff's signing of the letter of resignation
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Sentencing -- Federal guidelines -- Criminal history -- Prior sentences -- A state sentence imposed after a defendant's initial federal sentence but before the district court vacated that initial sentence and resentenced defendant is a prior sentence for purposes of calculating a defendant's criminal history category under U.S.S.G. Section 4A1.1(a) -- Under Eleventh Circuit law, when a court vacates a sentence, that sentence “becomes void in its entirety,” so the term prior sentence includes a state sentence imposed before resentencing -- When a defendant's initial sentence is vacated, a sentencing court shall add criminal history points for any unrelated sentences imposed after the initial sentencing but before resentencing -- The order of crimes does not affect whether a sentence is a prior sentence; it is the sequence of sentences that matters -- Prior convictions -- Binding precedent forecloses alternative ground for appeal that district court erred in calculating defendant's sentences because his prior Florida conviction for armed robbery is not a “crime of violence”
VIEW OPINION

Wrongful death -- Airplane crash -- Personal representatives of estates of decedents who perished in plane crash in Nigeria appeal from judgments dismissing their claims based upon doctrine of forum non conveniens and denying their motion for Rule 60(b) relief -- Appeals -- Timeliness -- Appeal was timely because district court's order dismissing claims of all foreign decedents while retaining all claims belonging to domestic decedents was not a final judgment; therefore rule 54(b) certification was necessary to file an appeal, and plaintiffs had thirty days from court's Rule 54(b) certification to file their appeal -- District court's order was not a final judgment where plaintiffs originally filed two separate complaints and the two independently filed suits were sufficiently consolidated to be one action, so that plaintiffs whose claims were not dismissed would also preclude court's order from constituting final judgment with regards to those plaintiffs whose claims were dismissed -- Forum non conveniens -- District court did not abuse discretion in dismissing plaintiffs' claims based on forum non conveniens -- Nigerian courts are both available and adequate, and private and public factors weighed in favor of dismissal -- District court did not abuse discretion in denying motion for reconsideration pursuant to Rule 60(b) where plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a justification for relief so compelling that district court was required to grant their motion -- Neither procedural posture of case nor defendant's initial failure to concede liability in Nigerian court merited reconsideration
VIEW OPINION

Torts -- Fraud -- Ponzi scheme -- Federal Tort Claims Act -- Federal law enforcement employees and their spouses deceived into investing in Ponzi scheme sued United States under Federal Tort Claims Act, asserting claims of negligent conduct and aiding and abetting the scheme -- Sovereign immunity -- Waiver -- Exceptions -- Misrepresentation -- Claim that perpetrator of fraudulent investment scheme, who contracted with federal agencies to provide retirement advice to federal employees, was negligent per se for selling unregistered securities is barred either by misrepresentation exception to FTCA or is not actionable under FTCA -- Assuming perpetrator is a government employee, claim of negligence per se for selling unregistered securities arises out of his misrepresentations about his bond fund, and not because the fund was unregistered -- Even if perpetrator was not considered a government employee, plaintiffs cannot recover against him under FTCA, which allows recovery for only injuries caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of government employee -- Remaining claims are similarly barred by FTCA's intentional tort exception, because they arise out of perpetrator's misrepresentation about his bond fund -- Misrepresentations of perpetrator and agency employees are sufficient to trigger misrepresentation exception where their misrepresentations were what made the government's conduct negligent and plaintiffs' reliance on misrepresentations was the primary cause of their injuries
VIEW OPINION

Aliens -- Removal -- Willful misrepresentation of material fact -- Error to find alien removable for having willfully made a material misrepresentation on his application to adjust his status to that of a lawful permanent resident -- Because alien, who had been held in a rebel-controlled trailer in the Nicaraguan jungle during wartime, had not been confined in a prison, he did not make a material misrepresentation on his application when he answered “no” to question which asked whether he had ever been “arrested, convicted, or confined to a prison” -- As a matter law, a rebel-controlled trailer in a jungle is not a “prison”
VIEW OPINION

Arbitration -- Award -- Confirmation -- Vacation -- Venue -- Questions of arbitral venue, even those arising in internal arbitration, are presumptively for arbitrator to decide -- Because disputes over the interpretation of forum selection clauses in arbitration agreements raise presumptively arbitrable procedural questions and arbitrator in the present case arguably interpreted the arbitral-venue provision at issue, that interpretation is entitled to deference
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Identity theft -- Conspiracy to commit wire fraud -- Sentencing -- Federal guidelines -- Offense level -- Increase -- Amount of loss -- Access device -- Loss amount representing $500 for each of compromised identities on debit and credit cards found in defendant's apartment was properly attributed to defendant -- Debit and credit cards qualify as “access devices” under 18 U.S.C. §1029(e)(1) and Special Rules in the Sentencing Guidelines, providing for $500 per access device multiplier -- No error in including in loss amount $500 for each of social security numbers shown on defendant's computer -- A social security number qualifies as an “access device” -- Where remaining compromised identities are described only as “personal identifying information” in factual proffer and PSI, the lack of description or definition for PII means there is insufficient evidence to trigger the $500 access device multiplier and to make a reasonable estimation of the loss -- To trigger the multiplier and exceed the $3.5 million threshold for 18-level increase, there must be at least some evidence on which to base a reasonable estimate of how many remaining PII fell within definition of “access device” -- Evidence sufficiently showed defendant was responsible for PII contained in trash bag and suitcase found in apartment, where government proved, by preponderance of evidence, that these containers belonged to defendant or her coconspirators and was used as part of fraudulent tax return scheme -- Because there was no description or definition of types of PII in those containers, remand to district court for fact finding is required -- Mitigating role adjustment -- District court did not clearly err by denying minor role reduction where record evidence showed defendant's extensive involvement in the offense and there was no evidence showing who else was involved or the roles of other coconspirators -- Acceptance of responsibility -- District court did not err by denying acceptance of responsibility reduction because of defendant's marijuana conviction while on pretrial release -- Evidence of continued, but unrelated, criminal conduct after an arrest supports denial of an acceptance of responsibility reduction -- Criminal history -- Calculation of a criminal history category of III based on two marijuana possessions and three convictions for driving with a suspended license cannot stand where only two of offenses for driving with suspended license should be treated as separate sentences qualifying for two criminal history category points and record is unclear as to whether there was a plea or an adjudication of guilt for one of the marijuana possessions and whether a criminal history category point should be assigned -- Defendant's first traffic citation for driving with suspended license does not constitute an intervening arrest -- Therefore, the first and second offenses should be treated as a single sentence because they were not separated by an intervening arrest and the sentences for each offense were imposed on same day
VIEW OPINION

Criminal law -- Sentencing -- Federal guidelines -- Prior convictions -- Controlled substance offense -- Florida conviction of principal to attempted manufacturing of a controlled substance qualifies as a “controlled substance offense” as defined by Sentencing Guidelines -- Sentencing factor manipulation -- Defendant cannot prove error, let alone plain error, in failure of district court to determine sua sponte that government engaged in extraordinary misconduct sufficient to reduce defendant's sentence on theory of sentencing factor manipulation -- Even if a sentence can be reduced based on sentencing factor manipulation, defendant cannot prove that government's conduct of arranging multiple transactions in a sting operation, instead of arresting him after the first sale, is sufficiently reprehensible to constitute sentencing factor manipulation -- To bring sting operations within ambit of sentencing factor manipulation, government must engage in extraordinary misconduct
VIEW OPINION

Aliens -- Removal -- Conviction of aggravated felony -- Illicit trafficking -- Using modified categorical approach for divisible statutes, Board of Immigration Appeals did not properly determine that alien's conviction for selling or delivering a controlled substance for monetary consideration in violation of Section 893.13(1)(a), Florida Statutes, constitutes an illicit trafficking aggravated felony -- Documents relied on by Board to determine which of the statute's alternative elements formed basis of alien's prior conviction do not disclose whether alien was convicted for violating element of sale or for violating element of delivery; and Board had to presume that conviction was for delivery, which does not include an element of consideration, and accordingly does not qualify as aggravated felony -- Board did not appropriately determine that alien was removable as an aggravated felon
VIEW OPINION

Civil rights -- Speech -- Recording of oral communications -- Threat of prosecution -- Plaintiff, who recorded conversation with police chief during meeting to discuss complaints of misconduct against a police officer, did not violate Section 934.03, Florida Statutes, which prohibits any person from intentionally intercepting any wire, oral, or electronic communication; and, consequently, the government's threatened prosecution under the statute if plaintiff made future recordings has no basis in the law -- Section 934.02, which defines “oral communications” as any oral communication “uttered by a person exhibiting an expectation that such communication is not subject to interception,” did not apply to plaintiff's recording, where police chief did not exhibit the expectation of privacy required by statute, circumstances did not justify an expectation of privacy, and communications were uttered at a public meeting -- Because the recording falls outside of definition of “oral communication” in Section 934.02, plaintiff did not violate the statute and statute imposes no restriction on plaintiff's use of the recording he made at that meeting -- Appellate court is not called on to reach constitutional issue of whether the recording is protected by First Amendment because case can be resolved under state law
VIEW OPINION