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

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The question of whether all speech over the microphone was government speech is a heavily fact-intensive one that looks at the history of the government's use of the medium for communicative purposes, the implication of government endorsement of messages carried over that medium, and the degree of government control over those messages. After FHSAA denied access to a loudspeaker for a proposed religious speech before a high school football game, Cambridge Christian filed suit alleging claims arising under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the United States and Florida Constitutions. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Eleventh Circuit held that Cambridge Christian's claims for relief under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses have been adequately and plausibly pled. In this case, the history factor weighed against finding government speech and the control factor was indeterminate. Therefore, based on the limited record, the court found that it was plausible that the multitude of messages delivered over the loudspeaker should be viewed as private, not government, speech. While the court agreed with the district court that the loudspeaker was a nonpublic forum, the court held that Cambridge Christian has plausibly alleged that it was arbitrarily and haphazardly denied access to the forum in violation of the First Amendment. The court also could not say that in denying communal prayer over the loudspeaker, the FHSAA did not infringe on Cambridge Christian's free exercise of religion. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's decision in part. The court affirmed the district court's decision holding that Cambridge Christian failed to plead a substantial burden under the Florida Religious Free Restoration Act (FRFRA) because it has not alleged that the FHSAA forbade it from engaging in conduct that its religion mandates. The court also affirmed the district court's decision insofar as it rejected Cambridge Christian's request for declaratory relief under the Establishment Clauses. View "Cambridge Christian School, Inc. v. Florida High School Athletic Assoc., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate his conviction under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A) and the corresponding sentence. The court held that petitioner pleaded guilty to using or possessing a firearm in relation to and in furtherance of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, and conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery does not satisfy section 924(c)'s definitions of "crime of violence." The court explained that neither an agreement to commit a crime nor a defendant's knowledge of the conspiratorial goal necessitates the existence of a threat or attempt to use force. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "Brown v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against the Bank, asserting claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. Determining that plaintiff had Article III standing, the Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff has stated three plausible claims for relief under the FCRA, where he alleged that the Bank willfully violated the FCRA by failing to investigate his dispute and unlawfully obtained his credit report. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. However, plaintiff did not plausibly state a claim under the FDCPA, because the least sophisticated consumer would not believe that Chase Home Finance was a third-party debt collector distinct from the Bank. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the FDCPA claim. View "Pinson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Consumer Law
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Plaintiff, the former CEO of Alabama One Credit Union, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the Governor of Alabama and his legal advisor, alleging that defendants conspired with others to improperly exert regulatory pressure on the credit union in order to induce Alabama One to settle lawsuits brought by a friend and former law partner of the legal advisor. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that the Governor or his legal advisor was responsible for causing his injuries. Even if the court could assume away the basic causation problem, the court held that plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that defendants violated his clearly established constitutional rights. Accordingly, defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and the district court did not err in dismissing the complaint. View "Carruth v. Bentley" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied petitioner's application for leave to file a second or successive motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his federal sentence. The court held that Rehaif v. United States did not announce a new rule of constitutional law but rather clarified the requirements of 18 U.S.C. 922(g) and 924(a)(2), and the Supreme Court did not make Rehaif retroactive to cases on collateral review. The court also held that petitioner failed to identify any newly discovered evidence to support his Double Jeopardy claim, and the cases he cited did not support the claim. View "In re: Joseph Demond Wright" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Corps, holding that the district court properly determined that it was reasonable for the Corps to conclude that environmental effects of phosphogypsum production and storage fell outside the scope of its National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review. The court held that the Corps otherwise complied with NEPA by issuing an area-wide environmental-impact statement, which served as the mine-specific impact statement for each of the four proposed mine sites, and following that up with a supplemental environmental assessment of the South Pasture Mine Extension, before issuing the Section 404 permit related to that mine in a record of decision. Finally, the court held that the Corps did not violate section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act, which requires each agency to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service before taking an "action" to ensure that such action was not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or its habitat. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against police officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging claims of excessive force and other various state law claims. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from a four-car police chase that resulted in an officer, Defendant Kirk, shooting plaintiff. The Eleventh Circuit held that collateral estoppel barred plaintiff from asserting, contrary to his guilty plea, that he never pointed his gun at Kirk, but did not bar him from contesting Kirk's statements regarding the number of times that plaintiff allegedly pointed his gun. The court affirmed the district court's denial of summary judgment to Kirk, finding that there was a genuine factual dispute as to whether Kirk unconstitutionally subjected plaintiff to excessive force in violation of clearly established law, but there was no dispute that the other officers did not. However, the court reversed the district court's denial of summary judgment as to the remaining officers. The court held that plaintiff did not present any evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that these officers were involved in the unlawful shooting, or were in a position to intervene yet failed to do so. Therefore, these officers were entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's excessive force and failure to intervene claims. The court also held that these officers were entitled to immunity on the state law claims related to the shooting, but Kirk was not. View "Hunter v. City of Leeds" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's orders dismissing petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and denying his motion for reconsideration. The court held that, even if petitioner intended for his third federal habeas petition to be filed under section 2241 and not section 2254 -- an argument he never made in the district court -- he still needed this court's authorization before filing the petition, and the district court still needed to dismiss the petition because he failed to obtain that authorization. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the dismissal. View "Holland v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit vacated its prior opinion and issued the following revised opinion. The court affirmed defendants' sentences under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) and USSG 4B1.2(a), holding that defendants' Alabama second-degree and third-degree robbery convictions were predicate offenses under the ACCA where Alabama's statutory scheme utilized the same use-of-force element for all three degrees of robbery. Furthermore, the court's decision in In re Welch, 884 F.3d at 1324, held that force sufficient to overcome the victim's resistance was enough to make an offense a violent felony under the ACCA. The court also held that the district court properly relied on the Sixth Circuit's decision in Chaney v. United States, 917 F.3d 895, 900 (6th Cir. 2019), in holding that the Michigan carjacking conviction was a violent felony under the ACCA, in the absence of any Michigan cases holding that "putting in fear" could be accomplished without force or threatened use of force. Finally, the court held that Defendant Hall's sentence was not substantively unreasonable where the district court did not abuse its discretion in considering the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors. View "United States v. Hunt" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint and denied his emergency motion for a stay of execution as moot. The court rejected plaintiff's challenge to Georgia's requirement that a prisoner show he acted with due diligence in filing his motion, and Georgia’s requirement that the favorable DNA testing results create a reasonable probability that he would have been acquitted had those results been available at trial. The court also held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's as-applied due process claim because, to the extent he made the challenge in his complaint, he expressly disavowed it in his reply to the State's motion to dismiss; even if the argument were not waived, it was foreclosed by circuit precedent; and the claim amounted to an assertion that the state court misapplied state law, which, without more, did not violate the federal Constitution. Finally, the court held that, because plaintiff failed to identify a cause of action that meets the actual injury requirement for a claimed denial of access to the courts, the district court properly dismissed his access to the courts claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Cromartie v. Shealy" on Justia Law