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

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A grand jury charged Defendant with one count of possessing with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine. The district court found that the offense involved 287 grams of crack cocaine. Based on this drug-quantity finding and after applying a sentencing enhancement for three prior felony drug convictions, the district court imposed a statutorily mandated sentence of life imprisonment. In 2019, Defendant moved to reduce his sentence under the First Step Act. Defendant argued he was eligible for a sentence reduction because a judge, not a jury, made the drug-quantity finding that increased his statutory range. In October 2022, the Supreme Court granted Defendant’s petition. This appeal on remand from the Supreme Court required the Eleventh Circuit to reconsider, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Concepcion v. United States, 142 S. Ct. 2389 (2022), whether the district court erred in denying Defendant’s motion for a reduced sentence under the First Step Act of 2018.   The Eleventh Circuit reinstated its prior decision and affirmed the denial of relief. The court concluded that Concepcion did not abrogate the reasoning of the court’s decision in United States v. Jones, 962 F.3d 1290 (11th Cir. 2020), which forecloses Defendant’s claim for relief. The court also disagreed with the parties that Defendant is entitled to relief because his original sentence was pending on direct appeal when the Supreme Court decided Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000). View "USA v. Warren Lavell Jackson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC (“Sabal Trail”), is a natural-gas company that has a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) under the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”). Sabal Trail sued Defendants to condemn easements on two tracts of their land so it could build a natural-gas pipeline through two adjacent properties. After Sabal Trail filed the condemnation actions, the district court granted it immediate possession of the land. Sabal Trail and Defendants could not agree on compensation for the taking. Besides the severance damages, the district court also ruled that Defendants would be entitled to attorney’s fees and costs, though it hadn’t yet awarded them. On remand to the district court, the parties briefed the issue of attorney’s fees and costs. Sabal Trail opposed awarding them, arguing again that the U.S. Constitution’s “just compensation” standard should apply and that that standard did not include attorney’s fees and costs. The district court rejected Sabal Trail’s position, instead concluding that “state substantive law governs the measure of compensation in eminent domain cases brought by private parties against private property owners under the [NGA].   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court held that state law provides the measure of compensation in proceedings that arise under Section 717f(h) of the NGA. The parties agree that under Florida law, Defendants are entitled to an award of attorney’s fees and costs as part of their compensation. Sabal Trail offered no other reason that the district court’s award here should not be upheld. View "Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC v. 18.27 Acres of Land in Levy Co, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff had three possible strikes: one dismissal for failure to state a claim, another dismissal for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and a summary judgment for failure to exhaust. The first dismissal is a strike because the dismissing court expressly said it was dismissing the action for failure to state a claim. At issue was whether: (1) “Is a dismissal for failure to exhaust administrative remedies a ‘strike’ for purposes of the Prison Litigation Reform Act?”; and (2) “If a dismissal for failure to exhaust administrative remedies can be a ‘strike’ for purposes of the [Act]’s ‘three strikes’ provision, does Wells have three strikes?”   The Eleventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint based on the three-strikes rule and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that it agreed with the district court that the second dismissal—for failure to exhaust—counted as a strike because the dismissing court gave some signal in its order that the action was dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim. But the court agreed with Plaintiff that the summary judgment for failure to exhaust was not a strike because it was not a dismissal for failure to state a claim. Thus, without three strikes, the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint under the three-strikes rule. View "Jeremy John Wells v. Warden, et al" on Justia Law

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The government served Appellant with three subpoenas directed at three business entities for which he is the document custodian. The subpoenas commanded the companies to appear and testify before the Grand Jury, produce documents, and certify that the records satisfied the business records exception to the hearsay rule. Appellant moved to quash the subpoenas and asserted a Fifth Amendment act-of-production privilege, arguing the requested documents could incriminate him as the sole manager, registered agent, owner, and operator of the companies. The district court denied Appellant’s motion and, since Appellant refused to comply with the subpoenas, found Appellant in civil contempt. The district court stayed issuance of sanctions pending appeal.   The Eleventh Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because the district court has not yet imposed noncontingent sanctions. The court explained that the court’s precedents requiring a sanction to be imposed contemporaneously with a finding of contempt in order to be directly appealable are not inconsistent with the directives in United States v. Ryan. View "In re: Grand Jury Subpoena" on Justia Law

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On remand from the Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit heard a case arising from a Georgia prisoner’s objection based on his medical conditions to his prescribed method of execution. The district court dismissed the action as untimely and for failure to state a claim.   The Eleventh Circuit held that the action is timely because the prisoner raised an as-applied challenge, so the limitations period commenced only when the claim became or should have become apparent to a person with a reasonably prudent regard for his rights. The court further held that the prisoner stated a plausible Eighth Amendment claim when he alleged that the medication gabapentin had reduced his brain’s receptiveness to sedatives. But the court held that the prisoner failed to state a claim when he alleged that the lethal drugs cannot be injected into his veins according to standard protocols because he failed to plausibly allege that one alternative injection procedure could not constitutionally be performed. Accordingly, the Eleventh Circuit reversed in part and affirmed in part. View "Michael Wade Nance v. Commissioner, Georgia Department of Corrections, et al." on Justia Law

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The Federal Trade Commission (the “Commission”) alleges that Defendant and his six companies engaged in unfair or deceptive business practices in violation of Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. Relying on its authority under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, the Commission obtained a preliminary injunction that included an asset freeze and the imposition of a receiver. Defendant argued that the preliminary injunction must be dissolved because a recent Supreme Court decision undermines the Commission’s Section 13(b) authority.
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the order denying Defendant’s emergency motion to dissolve the preliminary injunction. The court explained that Defendant urged the court to read AMG Capital as a signal to interpret the FTC Act with a view to “reigning in the FTC’s power.” But, the court wrote, that AMG Capital teaches the court to read the FTC Act to “mean what it says.” 141 S. Ct. at 1349. In AMG Capital, that meant limiting Section 13(b)’s provision for a “permanent injunction” to injunctive relief. Here, that means recognizing the broad scope of relief available under Section 19. When the Commission enforces a rule, Section 19 grants the district court jurisdiction to offer relief “necessary to redress injury to consumers.” To preserve funds for consumers, the Commission sought to freeze Defendant’s assets and impose a receivership over his companies. Section 19 allows such relief. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Steven J. Dorfman" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs SkyHop Global, LLC, SkyHop Technologies, Inc. (collectively, “SkyHop”) and Defendant company owner and his company Indyzen, Inc. (collectively, “Indyzen”) have developed and deployed digital software aimed at transporting crew members to and from airports across the country. SkyHop has about eighty contracts with fifteen airlines, including major carriers like Delta, American, and United. SkyHop and Indyzen dispute who owns the digital software. And beyond that, they disagree on where their dispute should be decided. Indyzen has filed an arbitration action in California (where it is based), alleging various forms of breach of contract and other promises. Meanwhile, SkyHop has filed a federal lawsuit in Florida (where it is based), alleging that Indyzen violated the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) and the Florida Computer Abuse and Data Recovery Act (“CADRA”). In response, Indyzen sought to dismiss this action for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court entered an order dismissing SkyHop’s complaint.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s order. The court reasoned that the allegations in SkyHop’s complaint suggest that SkyHop is the rightful owner of the digital software. And because Indyzen has refused to relinquish possession of the digital software without additional payment, SkyHop’s complaint states a cause of action under the CFAA. The complaint therefore satisfies the Florida long-arm statute. And it also meets the requirements of the Due Process Clause because the emails that Indyzen sent into Florida triggered SkyHop’s claims. View "SkyHop Technologies, Inc., et al. v. Praveen Narra, et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his 36-month prison sentence imposed upon revocation of his supervised release. He argues that his sentence is substantively unreasonable because (1) his conduct did not constitute a new criminal offense; (2) he accepted responsibility for his actions; and (3) he was less than a year away from completing his supervised release.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that here, Defendant’s above-the-guideline range sentence of 36 months was substantively reasonable. The district court acted within its discretion in giving greater weight to the nature and frequency of Defendant’s violations of the conditions of his supervisory release—including his continual methamphetamine use, failure to attend substance abuse treatment programs, and failure to report to his probation officer—than to his admission of the violations, lack of new criminal charges, and near completion of the term of the release. View "USA v. Eric King" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Thirteen states sued the Treasury Secretary and related officials to challenge a tax offset provision in the American Rescue Plan Act, a coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress in 2021. That offset provision prohibits states from using Rescue Plan funds “to either directly or indirectly offset a reduction in [their] net tax revenue” that results from a change in law that “reduces any tax.” The States argued that this “tax mandate” exceeds Congress’s authority under the Constitution. The district court agreed and permanently enjoined enforcement of the offset provision. The Secretary appealed.   At issue was whether the States’ challenge presents a justiciable controversy and if so, whether the offset provision is unconstitutional. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that the district court answered both questions correctly. The court explained that all four elements weigh in favor of granting a permanent injunction. The district court did not misapply the law nor base its determination on clearly erroneous facts. It did not abuse its discretion. We also agree with the district court that the permanent injunction fully redresses the States’ harm in this case—declaratory relief is unnecessary. The court reiterated, however, that the permanent injunction applies only to Section 802(c)(2)(A), which is severable from the remaining provisions of the Act. View "State of West Virginia, et al v. U.S. Department of the Treasury, et al" on Justia Law

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After a five-day trial, a jury convicted Defendant of healthcare fraud, conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, paying kickbacks in connection with a federal healthcare program, and conspiracy to pay and receive healthcare kickbacks. The district court sentenced him to 120 months in prison. On appeal, Defendant challenged his healthcare fraud convictions—but not his kickback convictions—on a number of grounds. The charges arose out of Defendant’s involvement in the submission of claims to Medicare for genetic cancer-screening (CGx) tests for beneficiaries who did not have cancer or familial history of cancer and that were not ordered by the beneficiaries’ primary care physicians.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that given the statutory and regulatory landscape, it agreed with the district court that the indictment was sufficient to charge Defendant with healthcare fraud. The indictment charged that CGx tests in question were not for beneficiaries who were being treated for cancer or who had a familial history of cancer and were not ordered by the beneficiaries’ treating physicians. Moreover, the government did not need to present evidence excluding every reasonable hypothesis of innocence or that was wholly inconsistent with every conclusion except that of guilt, provided that a reasonable trier of fact could find that the evidence established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. View "USA v. Ivan Andre Scott" on Justia Law