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

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Hamid Sow, a citizen of Guinea, sought review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) denial of his motion to remand based upon ineffective assistance of counsel, and motion to reopen based upon new evidence. In December 2016, Sow entered the United States and immediately applied for asylum because he was a homosexual, and the stigma of being a homosexual in a devout Muslim community in his homeland meant danger for himself and his family. Sow only spoke French, and relied on other detainees to relate information to his attorney. Without a translator, Sow's counsel did not fully understand Sow’s concerns: Sow tried to communicate to his counsel that the content of affidavits counsel “did not match up with what happened.” When asked about discrepancies in facts from the affidavits presented, Sow responded he could not explain them because he did not have an opportunity to read them. In his oral decision, the IJ said that he “unfortunately” had to deny Sow’s application based solely on an adverse credibility finding. In coming to this conclusion, the IJ specifically highlighted the inconsistencies in statements made in affidavits. He noted that, if it were true that Sow were a homosexual, then he “clearly should get” asylum. Sow, represented by new counsel, appealed to the BIA. He argued that the IJ erred in failing to assess Sow’s well-founded fear of future persecution. The BIA denied Sow’s motion to remand. It held that the IJ did not clearly err in making an adverse credibility determination and the record did not establish that Sow was entitled to relief “independent of his discredited claim of past harm.” It also denied Sow’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim, reasoning that counsel “reasonably relied on, and submitted the evidence provided by, the respondent and his friends.” The Eleventh Circuit concluded the BIA abused its discretion in denying Sow’s motion to remand based on ineffective assistance of counsel. It therefore granted Sow’s petition for review, vacated the BIA’s decisions, and remanded to the BIA with instructions to remand to the IJ for reconsideration of Sow’s asylum application. View "Sow v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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Of two people injured in a car wreck in April 2012, one was a Medicare beneficiary who received her benefits from an MAO-Florida Healthcare Plus, which later assigned its claims to appellant MSPA Claims 1, LLC. The other party involved in the accident was insured by appellee Kingsway Amigo Insurance. The Medicare beneficiary obtained medical treatment for her accident-related injuries between April 29, 2012 and July 26, 2012, and Florida Healthcare made $21,965 in payments on her behalf. On March 28, 2013, the beneficiary settled a personal-injury claim with Kingsway and received a $6,667 settlement payment. The issue this case presented for the Eleventh Circuit’s review centered on the timeliness requirement with which the government had to comply as a prerequisite to filing suit to seek reimbursements that it made on behalf of the Medicare beneficiary, and whether filing suit beyond a statutory three-year period beginning on the date on which medical services were rendered was fatal to the government’s claim. The district court held that MSPA’s claim was stale because it didn’t comply with what the court (somewhat confusingly) called “the three-year limitation requirement.” The Eleventh Circuit disagreed and reversed. “The Medicare Secondary Payer Act’s private cause of action, and our cases interpreting it lead us to conclude that the Act’s claims-filing provision, doesn’t erect a separate bar that private plaintiffs must overcome in order to sue. A closer look at the claims-filing provision’s text and the Act’s structure confirms that conclusion. Accordingly, the district court erred in granting Kingsway’s motion for judgment on the pleadings.” View "MSPA Claims 1, LLC v. Kingsway Amigo Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the city, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violations of her Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and a state-law claim under Georgia law for false imprisonment. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from her misdemeanor proceedings in municipal court for failure to maintain automobile liability insurance as required by Georgia law. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's section 1983 claims, holding that the municipal court was exercising its judicial power under Georgia law to adjudicate a state-law offense, not a violation of a city or county ordinance, and thus was not acting on behalf of the city. However, the court held that the district court failed to address plaintiff's state-law claim for false imprisonment and therefore remanded for further proceedings on that claim. The court stated that, because there are some Georgia cases suggesting that the invalidity of a warrant may permit a false imprisonment claim, it was best for the district court to consider that claim in the first instance. View "Teagan v. City of McDonough" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a student loan borrower, filed suit against PHEAA under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act after it tried to collect a debt she never incurred. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that PHEAA, which guarantees federal student loans for the Secretary of Education, is not a "debt collector" under the Act. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed and agreed with the district court that PHEAA fell within an exception for persons who collect debts "incidental to a bona fide fiduciary obligation." The court stated that the text of the Act makes clear that a person may attempt to collect a debt "incidential to a bona fide fiduciary obligation" whether the debt sought to be collected is "owed or due" another or only "asserted to be owed or due another." Therefore, plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that PHEAA qualified as a debt collector. View "Darrisaw v. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief. Petitioner argued that he would not have pleaded guilty to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft but for his counsel's erroneous advice concerning the deportation consequences of his plea. The district court assumed, without deciding, that petitioner's attorney's performance was deficient. The court declined to assume that counsel's performance was deficient and held, instead, that counsel's performance was not deficient and petitioner failed to satisfy his claim for ineffective assistance of counsel. In this case, counsel could not have predicted the district court's fraud loss findings. Furthermore, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing under 28 U.S.C. 2255. View "Martin v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit agreed with the Fifth and Sixth Circuits, holding that Congress validly abrogated state sovereign immunity in the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The court explained that the VRA, as amended, clearly expresses an intent to allow private parties to sue the states. The court stated that the language in sections 2 and 3 of the VRA, read together, imposes direct liability on states for discrimination in voting and explicitly provides remedies to private parties to address violations under the statute. Furthermore, both section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment and section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment, using identical language, authorize Congress to enforce their respective provisions by appropriate legislation. The court agreed with the Fifth and Sixth Circuits that if section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment permits Congress to abrogate state sovereign immunity, so too must section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's denial of Alabama's motion to dismiss on sovereign immunity grounds and held that Alabama is not immune from suit under the VRA. View "Alabama State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Alabama" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was sentenced to death for first degree murder, kidnapping, robbery, sexual battery, and burglary of a conveyance with assault. Petitioner subsequently filed a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition, which the district court denied. The Eleventh Circuit granted a certificate of appealability on two claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's ineffective assistance claims, holding that petitioner has not shown that his counsel's failure to investigate and call a witness prejudiced his defense at either the guilt or sentence stage. View "Johnston v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied petitioner authorization to file another federal habeas petition so that he could raise an actual innocence claim, a Brady claim, and an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. The court held that its authority to grant the application was restricted by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), because petitioner failed to make a prima facie showing that the claims in his application met the requirements under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b). In this case, petitioner could not raise an actual innocence claim in his successive petition because he has already raised the claim, he has not identified a "but for" constitutional violation, and he has not met the demanding actual innocence standard in Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390, 417 (1993). Furthermore, petitioner's Brady claim failed because he could not show that he could not have discovered the information at issue with due diligence or, assuming the State failed to disclose the information, petitioner failed to show a "but for" constitutional violation. Finally, petitioner failed to show that the factual predicate for his ineffective assistance of counsel claim could not have been discovered previously. View "In Re: James Dailey" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions and sentences under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA). Defendants were convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and possession with intent to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. The court rejected defendants' constitutional challenges to the MDLEA where the court has previously held that the MDLEA is a valid exercise of Congress's power under the Felonies Clause as applied to drug trafficking crimes without a "nexus" to the United States; the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause does not prohibit the trial and conviction of aliens captured on the high seas while drug trafficking because the MDLEA provides clear notice that all nations prohibit and condemn drug trafficking aboard stateless vessels on the high seas; and because the MDLEA's jurisdictional requirement goes to the subject matter jurisdiction of the courts and is not an essential element of the MDLEA substantive offense, it does not have to be submitted to the jury for proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Furthermore, the court held that the district court properly exercised jurisdiction over defendants and their offenses under the MDLEA. The court rejected Defendant Guagua-Alarcon's challenges to his presentment for a probable cause hearing; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant Palacios-Solis's motion in limine; sufficient evidence supported defendants' convictions; and because Palacios-Solis failed to show a Brady violation, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying his motion for a mistrial. Finally, the court also rejected defendants' claims of sentencing errors. View "United States v. Cabezas-Montano" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the county, alleging that the reasons for his termination were racial discrimination and unlawful retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the county. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court must reevaluate plaintiff's comparators evidence under the new standard that the court announced in Lewis v. City of Union City, 918 F.3d 1213 (11th Cir. 2019) (en banc), which was decided after the district court ruled this case. Therefore, the court vacated in part and remanded for reconsideration. The court affirmed the district court's judgment that, in the absence of valid comparators, plaintiff failed to establish a retaliation claim regarding (1) the actions of Lieutenant Ricelli in 2013, (2) the discipline he suffered from Captain White in 2015, and (3) Director Patterson's decision to terminate him in 2015. The court also affirmed the district court's ruling that barred plaintiff from deposing the Miami-Dade County mayor regarding plaintiff's section 1983 claim. View "Johnson v. Miami Dade County" on Justia Law