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

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Follies, an adult entertainment nightclub, filed suit against the City of Chamblee, challenging Ordinance 754, which amended section 6-152(a) of its Alcohol Code to require establishments selling liquor for consumption on the premises to stop alcohol sales by 2:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday and by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, holding that although Follies had a vested right in its 2018 liquor license, that vested right did not extend to the hours in which alcohol could be sold. The court explained that the 2018 liquor license issued to Follies did not specifically guarantee that alcohol could be sold during certain set hours. Consequently, Follies had no more than a unilateral expectation that it would be able to sell alcohol during specific hours. View "WBY, Inc. v. City of Chamblee" on Justia Law

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Giron, a Colombian national federal prisoner acting pro se, sought compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of his motion. The application notes for U.S.S.G. 1B1.13 identify four general categories of “extraordinary and compelling reasons” justifying a sentence reduction: medical, age, family, and a “catch-all ‘other reasons’ category.” Section 1B1.13 constrains district courts’ authority to identify when extraordinary and compelling reasons exist and any sentence reduction must be “consistent with applicable policy statements.” Under the governing policy statement, medical conditions rise to the level of extraordinary and compelling only if the medical condition is a terminal illness or “substantially diminishes the ability of the defendant to provide self-care within” prison. The court found that Giron’s high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease were manageable in prison, despite the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court was not required to analyze 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing factors; the finding of no “extraordinary and compelling reasons” was sufficiently supported. View "United States v. Giron" on Justia Law

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Americans and co-conspirators based in China schemed to obtain EB-1C work visas fraudulently for Chinese nationals. Their clients each deposited about $300,000 into a client-owned American bank account. The government did not prosecute the Chinese clients but sought forfeiture of the funds. The Chinese nationals filed claims for the funds.The State Department denied visa requests to allow certain Chinese nationals to attend the forfeiture trial. The U.S. Attorney unsuccessfully worked with their attorney and DHS to obtain parole letters granting them entry without a visa. The Chinese argued that their inability to attend violated the Due Process Clause by preventing them from presenting an “innocent owner” defense, 18 U.S.C. 983(d)(1). The district court denied the motion, noting other means to present their testimony, such as by video conference, and that counsel could present their defenses. All the Chinese were represented by counsel at trial; four attended and testified. The court instructed the jury that the government bore the burden of proving that the “funds made the . . . visa fraud scheme easy or less difficult or ensured that the scheme would be more or less free from obstruction or hindrance.”The jury found that the government had satisfied its burden of proof as to all the funds, that five Chinese nationals—four of whom had testified—had proved that they were innocent owners, and rejected the remaining innocent-owner defenses. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, finding no due process violation. View "United States v. Approximately $281,110.00 Seized from an East-West Bank Account, ending in the number 2471" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiff in an action brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). After considering the FLSA, the Supreme Court's decision in Overnight Motor Transportation Co. v. Missel, 316 U.S. 572 (1942), as well as the Department of Labor's regulatory guidance, the court held that Plastipak paying plaintiff bonuses—a shift premium for night work and holiday pay—on top of his fixed salary does not preclude the use of the fluctuating workweek method. The court explained that so long as an employee receives a fixed salary covering every hour worked in a week, the payment of a bonus on top of the employee's fixed salary does not bar an employer's use of the fluctuating workweek method to calculate overtime pay. Therefore, the district court erred in concluding otherwise. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hernandez v. Plastipak Packaging, Inc." on Justia Law

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Akal, a government contractor, repatriates persons ordered removed from the U.S., transporting detainees on airplanes. Akal staffs it flights with air security officers (ASOs). Once the detainees have been transported to their respective destinations, the ASOs are required to return to the U.S. aboard the same aircraft. Because return flights carry no detainees, the ASOs have few affirmative duties during them. On arrival, the ASOs unload and clean the plane and perform other minor administrative duties to prepare for the following day. Akal acknowledges that under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 207it has to pay its ASOs for overtime spent on the Returns. For Returns lasting longer than 90 minutes, Akal automatically deducts one hour from each shift as a “meal period” and instructs ASOs to disengage from work duties during meal periods.ASOs sued Akal under the FLSA for unpaid wages. The district court granted the ASOs summary judgment, holding that Akal’s automatic “meal period” deductions violated the Act but that Akal had acted in good faith and had not willfully violated the FLSA. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. Akal was not entitled to make the challenged meal-period deductions from otherwise compensable work. The district court correctly found that Akal acted in good faith and not willfully. View "Gelber v. Akal Security, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that the statutory phrase "same disease or condition" contained in the Orphan Drug Act is not ambiguous. This case arose from Catalyst's lawsuit against the FDA alleging multiple violations of the Administrative Procedure Act related to its approval of Ruzurgi, which Catalyst claims violated the company's exclusivity of its own drug, Firdapse, to treat Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome. Jacobus intervened shortly afterwards. The court concluded that the district court erred by finding this statutory phrase ambiguous and then deferring to the FDA's interpretation of it. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants and Jacobus and remanded with instructions to grant summary judgment in favor of Catalyst. View "Catalyst Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Becerra" on Justia Law

Posted in: Drugs & Biotech
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Defendants Perry and Ragin were indicted with seven other co-defendants on numerous charges related to their involvement in a substantial multi-year, multi-state drug distribution organization operating primarily in southern Georgia. In consolidated appeals, Perry challenges his convictions and Ragin challenges his sentence.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that the DEA task force officer was properly qualified as an expert in interpreting code words for drugs, and that Perry failed to establish that he was substantially prejudiced by any offending comments the task force officer offered. Furthermore, Perry's other arguments similarly do not warrant reversing his convictions. The court also concluded that Ragin's challenges to his sentence are without merit. In this case, because the district court found that the drugs and firearms were part of a single course of conduct and were not an isolated, unrelated event, it did not err when it concluded that they were relevant for the purposes of determining Ragin's proper Guidelines range. Furthermore, the district court did not plainly err in sua sponte granting a two-level minor role reduction. View "United States v. Perry" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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A member of Sons of Confederate Veterans applied to participate in the Old Soldiers Day Parade, a pro-American veterans parade funded and organized by the Alpharetta, Georgia, and was informed that the organization could participate if it agreed not to fly the Confederate battle flag.In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the City violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the district court held that the Parade constituted government speech and entered summary judgment against the Sons. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. Governments “are not obliged under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to permit the presence of a rebellious army’s battle flag in the pro-veterans parades that they fund and organize.” In 2015, in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Supreme Court clarified that, “[w]hen [the] government speaks, it is not barred by the Free Speech Clause from determining the content of what it says.” View "Leake v. Drinkard" on Justia Law

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Tinker, a federal prisoner serving a 180-month sentence for possessing a firearm while a convicted felon, argued that his medical conditions—obesity, hypertension, a congenitally narrowed spinal canal, and mental illness—increased his risk of developing a severe illness should he contract Covid-19 and that such increased risk qualified him for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A). Assuming that Tinker could present “extraordinary and compelling reasons” for early release, as required by section 3582, the district court, after considering the sentencing factors enumerated in 18 U.S.C. 3553(a), and the requirements of U.S.S.G. 1B1.13, denied Tinker’s motion.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The district court did not procedurally err when it assumed, without explicitly finding, that Tinker could present “extraordinary and compelling reasons” before denying his motion based on section 3553(a)'s sentencing factors and section 1B1.13’s policy statement. The district court did not abuse its discretion when it weighed the section 3553(a) factors; the court emphasized Tinker’s extensive criminal history and the need to protect the public, which was within its discretion to do. The court acknowledged the parties’ filings, which discussed at length the factors that Tinker contends were ignored. View "United States v. Tinker" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit granted the petition for rehearing, vacated its previous opinion and judgment, substituted this opinion in its place, and certified to the Florida Supreme Court two related questions about the nature of the Florida assault statutes: 1. Does the first element of assault as defined in Fla. Stat. 784.011(1) -- "an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another" -- require specific intent? 2. If not, what is the mens rea required to prove that element of the statute? View "Somers v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law