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

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Plaintiff, a minor, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, against the sheriff and deputy who had entered her home and arrested her after her former best friend committed suicide. Defendants charged plaintiff with the crime of aggravated stalking, a felony, which includes harassing a child under sixteen years of age. The warrantless arrest took place at plaintiff's home; the charges were eventually dismissed; but plaintiff's name and photograph had already been released to the media and she was publicly blamed for the death. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the dismissal of her claim that there was no probable cause for the arrest, and the judgment entered on the jury's verdict that the deputy had consent to enter her home to make the arrest. The court affirmed and held that, based on the deputy's investigation, a reasonable person in his position would have concluded that plaintiff willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly harassed her former friend and classmate. The court also held that the district court abused its discretion when it concluded that the jury's verdict was not against the great weight of the evidence and did not result in a miscarriage of justice. In this case, the jury was free to conclude that, by opening the door and stepping back, plaintiff's father was giving the deputies his consent to enter the home. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiff's motion for a new trial based on her belated curtilage argument, which was not presented to the jury. Finally, the court held that plaintiff was not entitled to a new trial based on the district court's response to the jury's question about the screened-in porch. View "Gill v. Judd" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the denial of her petition to "vacate and/or alternatively to deny recognition and enforcement" of the foreign arbitral award in favor of her employer, Carnival, on her claims under the Jones Act and U.S. maritime law for injuries related to her carpal tunnel. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the petition, holding that plaintiff failed to establish that the foreign arbitral award offended the United States' most basic notions of morality and justice. Weighing the policies at issue and considering the specific unique factual circumstances of this case, the court held that plaintiff's Article V(2)(b) of the New York Convention defense failed. Therefore, the court held that the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's request that it refuse to enforce the arbitral award and dismissing her claims. View "Cvoro v. Carnival Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to death. The court held that the Georgia state habeas court's fact-finding was not entitled to deference in the pre-Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 regime. In this case, the state habeas court adopted verbatim the state's proposed order; offered no guidance to the Assistant Attorney General drafting the proposed order; did not review the order, other than signing it, dating it, and changing the concluding sentence, notwithstanding the glaring errors it contained; and did so ex parte without so much as affording petitioner a chance to challenge any of it or propose an alternative order. The court also held that the district court correctly determined that petitioner's trial lawyers' conduct fell beneath an objective standard of reasonableness when they failed to adequately investigate whether petitioner suffered from organic brain damage at the time of the killing. In light of the substantial evidence petitioner demonstrated showing that he suffered from organic brain damage, the court held that the district court did not err in finding that petitioner had been prejudiced by his lawyers' deficient performance. View "Jefferson v. GDCP Warden" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's judgment in defendant's favor in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging that defendant violated the Fourth Amendment by arresting plaintiff inside the home of plaintiff's parents. Defendant, a sheriff's deputy, went to the home to question plaintiff about an earlier incident. When plaintiff declined to talk to defendant alone, an argument ensued, and plaintiff went back inside the home, where defendant then entered and arrested plaintiff. The court held that defendant violated the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable seizures when he arrested plaintiff inside of his home. The court also held that plaintiff's right to be free from a warrantless, in-home arrest was clearly established and that no exception to the warrant requirement even plausibly applies in this case. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Bailey v. Swindell" on Justia Law

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Rosemond v. United States, 572 U.S. 65, 67 (2014), announced a new substantive rule that applies retroactively to cases on collateral review. Nonetheless, the Eleventh Circuit held that petitioner was not entitled to relief under Rosemond, because the evidence at trial was sufficient for a reasonable jury to infer that he had advance knowledge his co-conspirators would use or carry firearms during the underlying crime of violence. The court also held that aiding and abetting a carjacking qualifies as a crime of violence under the elements clause of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(A). Therefore, the court held that United States v. Davis, 588 U.S. ___, 139 S. Ct. 2319, 2336 (2019), does not affect petitioner's section 924(c) conviction. Furthermore, the court held that counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to the jury charge, which lacked an instruction on advanced knowledge. Finally, the court declined petitioner's request for remand, holding that the district court's order regarding a certificate of appealability (COA) effectively denied a COA regarding petitioner's jury-instruction claim. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate his sentence. View "Steiner v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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On remand from the Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit remanded the case to the district court with instructions to issue a writ of habeas corpus vacating petitioner's sentence and entitling him to a new sentencing hearing. Applying Brecht v. Abrahamson, the court reviewed the trial judge's error under Ake v. Oklahoma, holding that the constitutional error in this case was structural. The court held that the Ake error infected the entire sentencing hearing from beginning to end, because petitioner was prevented from offering any meaningful evidence of mitigation based on his mental health, or from impeaching the State's evidence of his mental health. The court held that this Ake error defies analysis by harmless-error review and thus prejudice to petitioner was presumed. View "McWilliams v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, a law firm and its partners, alleging claims for unpaid overtime and retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), breach of contract, and slander. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants. The court vacated the district court's determination that the overtime and breach of contract claims were barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel, holding that the district court did not have the benefit of Slater v. U.S. Steel Corp., 871 F.3d 1174 (11th Cir. 2017) (en banc) (Slater II), at the time of its ruling. On remand, the district court must apply Slater II's "all the facts and circumstances" test to determine plaintiff's intent when she made omissions in her bankruptcy and district court filings. Furthermore, the court held that it was error for the district court to ground judicial estoppel in the inconsistencies between plaintiff's initial and amended complaints. In regard to the retaliation claim, the court held that the district court correctly granted summary judgment to defendants, rejecting plaintiff's claim that defendants conspired with others in taking retaliatory actions against plaintiff's attorney. View "Smith v. Haynes & Haynes P.C." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not have jurisdiction over defendant's brand new 28 U.S.C. 2255 challenge because the court never gave defendant permission to raise it. In this case, defendant was required to ask this court for permission to raise a claim in a successive section 2255 motion, which he did not. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's merits decision and remanded with instructions to dismiss the new section 2255 challenge. The court also held that defendant failed to meet his burden of showing that his new sentence was substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Pearson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The mere proximity between a firearm and drug possessed for personal use could not support a USSG 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) enhancement without a finding that the gun facilitated or had the potential to facilitate the defendant's drug possession. Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence after he conditionally pleaded guilty to knowingly possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's application of a four-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) for possessing a firearm in connection with another felony. In this case, the district court applied the enhancement based solely on the proximity between the firearm and a hydromorphone pill. The court held that the district court erred by applying the enhancement without finding that the firearm facilitated, or had the potential of facilitating defendant's possession of the pill. However, the court affirmed the denial of defendant's motion to suppress and held that, in light of the totality of the circumstances, defendant's known criminal history, non-compliance, argumentativeness, and nervous, agitated behavior following lawful orders to exit the truck would cause a reasonably prudent officer in the circumstances to believe that his safety or that of his fellow officers was in danger. The court also affirmed the denial of defendant's application of an enhanced base offense level under USSG 2K2.1(a)(3), because his prior Florida conviction for drug conspiracy was a predicate controlled substance offense under the Guidelines. View "United States v. Bishop" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Tokyo Valentino filed suit against the County, challenging certain business licensing and adult entertainment ordinances, and seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. At issue in this appeal was the district court's second dismissal of Tokyo Valentino's claims. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Tokyo Valentino's claim for compensatory damages relating to the appeal of the ordinances, because Tokyo Valentino's second amended complaint does not contain factual allegations that establish it suffered a cognizable injury in fact for which compensatory damages might be warranted. However, the court reversed the dismissal of Tokyo Valentino's request for a declaratory judgment regarding whether its sale of sexual devices constitutes a lawful prior nonconforming use authorized under the repealed ordinances and whether the new ordinances' failure to include provisions grandfathering in prior lawful uses violates federal and state law. Finally, the court held that the district court abused its discretion by abstaining under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S. Ct. 746 (1971), from hearing Tokyo Valentino's claims stemming from the County's new ordinances. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Tokyo Gwinnett, LLC v. Gwinnett County" on Justia Law