Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Eleventh Circuit certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Georgia under O.C.G.A. 15-2-9: Does O.C.G.A. 45-5-3.2 conflict with Georgia Constitution Article VI, Section VIII, Paragraph I(a) (or any other provision) of the Georgia Constitution? View "Gonzalez v. Governor of the State of Georgia" on Justia Law

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Defendants were convicted of charges related to their operation of a drug-trafficking organization in Bradenton, Florida.The Eleventh Circuit held that RICO conspiracy does not qualify as a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. 924(c). Therefore, the court vacated defendants' section 924(c) convictions and sentences. The court also held that Defendant Corey's 120-year sentence was procedurally unreasonable where the district court inadequately explained the sentence by failing to clarify the applicable guideline range. Furthermore, the district court relied on a clearly erroneous fact -- that Corey participated in a murder -- in sentencing defendant. Accordingly, the court vacated his sentence and remanded for resentencing. The court affirmed as to the remaining suppression issues, peremptory challenge, evidentiary claims of error, claims of cumulative error, claims of insufficient evidence, and inconsistent verdicts claims. View "United States v. Green" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against a deputy sheriff and others, alleging that the deputy violated plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment rights in two ways: (1) by using unconstitutionally excessive force when he placed plaintiff in an unventilated, un-air-conditioned transport van and kept him there for an unreasonable amount of time; and (2) by exhibiting deliberate indifference when he recklessly disregarded plaintiff's serious medical needs. Plaintiff also alleged state law claims. The district court granted the deputy's motion for summary judgment.The Eleventh Circuit held that, although the deputy violated plaintiff's constitutional rights by applying excessive force, it was not clearly established at the time of his transport. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to this claim. The court also held that the deputy exhibited deliberate indifference to plaintiff's serious medical need when he ignored plaintiff's resulting distress, which included unconsciousness, shaking, profuse sweating, and labored breathing. Furthermore, the deputy was on notice that he was confronted with a serious medical need and did nothing to aid plaintiff. Therefore, the deputy was not entitled to qualified immunity on the deliberate indifference claim. Finally, the court held that the district court erred in rejecting plaintiff's adjunct state-law claims on official immunity grounds. View "Patel v. Smith" on Justia Law

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If a defendant is convicted of a money laundering scheme that caused no financial harm to an innocently involved bank, an order of forfeiture is still mandatory.The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the government's forfeiture motion. The court held that the definition of property in 18 U.S.C. 982(a)(1) is distinct from that in the other subsections of section 982(a), as well as 21 U.S.C. 853(a). The court's ruling allows forfeiture in the amount of property that defendant transferred as a part of his laundering scheme. The court explained that this outcome is what Congress intended when it used the broad term "any property, real or personal, involved in such offense" and instituted a scheme of substitute forfeiture. Therefore, the district court was under an obligation to order forfeiture against defendant. View "United States v. Hatum" on Justia Law

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SmileDirect filed suit against the Georgia Board of Dentistry, including the Board’s members in their individual capacities, alleging inter alia, antitrust, Equal Protection, and Due Process violations related to the amendment of Ga. Bd. of Dentistry R. 150-9-.02. On appeal, the Board members challenged the denial of their motion to dismiss the complaint with respect to the alleged antitrust violations.After determining that it does have appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that, based on the facts alleged in SmileDirect's complaint, the Board members are not entitled to state-action immunity under Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341 (1943), at this point in the litigation, and the district court properly denied their motion to dismiss. In this case, the Board members have failed to satisfy the Midcal test by failing to meet the "active supervision" prong of the test and both prongs are necessary to satisfy the test. Furthermore, the court rejected the Board members' argument that ipso facto state-action immunity is available merely because of the Governor's power and duty, and without regard to his actual exercise thereof. The court explained that the Board members have established no more than the mere potential for active supervision on the part of the Governor, and thus they have fallen far short of establishing that the amended rule was "in reality" the action of the Governor. View "SmileDirectClub, LLC v. Battle" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a recent high school graduate and a transgender young man, filed suit against the school board through his next friend and mother, alleging violations of his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment granting plaintiff relief on both claims and held that the school district's policy barring plaintiff from the boys' restroom does not square with the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and Title IX's prohibition of sex discrimination. Applying heightened scrutiny, the court held that the record does not demonstrate that the school board has met its "demanding" constitutional burden by showing a substantial relationship between excluding transgender students from communal restrooms and student privacy. In this case, the policy is administered arbitrarily; the school board's privacy concerns about plaintiff's use of the boys' bathroom are merely hypothesized, with no support in the factual record; and the bathroom policy subjects plaintiff to unfavorable treatment simply because he defies gender stereotypes as a transgender person. Therefore, because the record reveals no substantial relationship between privacy in the school district restrooms and excluding plaintiff from the boys' restroom, the bathroom policy violates the Equal Protection Clause.Applying the Supreme Court's recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, 590 U.S. ___, 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020), the court held that excluding plaintiff from the boys' bathroom amounts to sex discrimination in violation of Title IX. The court explained that Title IX protects students from discrimination based on their transgender status; the school district treated plaintiff differently because of his transgender status and this different treatment caused him harm; and nothing in Title IX's regulations or any administrative guidance on Title IX excuses the discriminatory policy. Furthermore, plaintiff's discrimination claim does not contradict Title IX's implementing regulation. View "Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for the district court to adjust his sentence pursuant to USSG 5G1.3(b)(1). The court held that court precedent establishes that an adjustment under section 5G1.3(b)(1) is mandatory when its requirements are satisfied, and the court's precedent is consistent with United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 245 (2005).In this case, the court held that the district court erred by refusing to adjust defendant's federal sentence for time served on a related state sentence. The court explained that the maximum adjusted sentence the district court could have imposed consistent with section 5G1.3(b)(1) was 96 months of imprisonment—12 months less than the 108-month sentence defendant received. Consequently, the district court's error was not harmless. On remand, the court instructed the district court to determine whether the requirements of section 5G1.3(b)(1) are satisfied and, if so, adjust defendant's sentence accordingly. View "United States v. Henry" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Nationwide appealed both the district court's order denying Nationwide's motion in limine and the final judgment entered in favor of plaintiff, as assignee of Gary Gardner & Gary Gardner Builders, Inc. At issue is the preclusive effect of a judgment entered by a federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction on a nonparty to an earlier federal action.The Eleventh Circuit held that when determining the preclusive effect of an earlier judgment rendered by a federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction, federal common law adopts the rules of issue preclusion applied by the State in which the rendering court sits. In this case, the court held that the district court was required to apply Alabama's rules of issue preclusion. Instead, the district court applied a federal rule of issue preclusion and that federal rule is not substantively similar to Alabama's rule on nonparty issue preclusion. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's order denying Nationwide's motion in limine, vacated the final judgment in favor of plaintiff, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sellers v. Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus based on lack of jurisdiction as an unauthorized second or successive petition. In this case, the state trial court granted in part petitioner's motion to correct sentence, pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.800(a), and issued an amended sentence nunc pro tunc, which removed a 10-year mandatory minimum term on one of his counts of conviction.The court held that the district court properly determined that petitioner's latest section 2254 petition was an unauthorized second or successive petition over which it lacked jurisdiction. The court explained that, because the amended sentence was entered nunc pro tunc under Florida law, it related back to the date of the original judgment and it was not a "new judgment" for purposes of section 2244(b). View "Osbourne v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254 to petitioner, who pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual battery on a child between the ages of 12 and 18 years old by someone in familial or custodial authority, one count of possession of child pornography with intent to promote, four counts of possession of child pornography, and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.The court held that the district court did not violate Clisby v. Jones, 960 F.2d 925 (11th Cir. 1992) (en banc), by failing to address all claims fully, and petitioner never presented an independent coercion claim; the district court did not err in denying, without an evidentiary hearing, petitioner's claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him of a prosecutorial vindictiveness defense; and the district court did not err in denying, without an evidentiary hearing, petitioner's claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him of a double jeopardy defense to the charges of possession of child pornography and possession of child pornography with intent to promote. The court explained that the vindictive prosecution claim and double jeopardy defense would not have succeeded and petitioner suffered no prejudice from counsel's failure to raise the claims. View "Barritt v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law