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

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Plaintiffs, two African-American minimum-wage employees who work in Birmingham at a rate lower than the $10.10 prescribed by the City's minimum wage ordinance, filed suit alleging that Act No. 2016-18, which nullified the City's minimum-wage ordinance, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead of suing their employers, who were refusing to pay the $10.10 minimum wage, plaintiffs chose to file suit against the Alabama Attorney General. The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiffs did not have Article III standing to sue the Attorney General, because they could not demonstrate that their alleged injuries were fairly traceable to his conduct, or that those injuries would be redressed by the declaratory and injunctive relief plaintiffs have requested. Because the employees lacked standing to sue, the court need not consider the merits of their equal protection claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and remanded to the panel. View "Lewis v. Governor of Alabama" on Justia Law

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After a scammer posing as an executive of Principle Solutions persuaded an employee to wire money to a foreign bank account, Principle Solutions sought coverage under the "fraudulent instruction" provision of its insurance policy with Ironshore. Ironshore denied Principle Solution's claim, asserting that the scammer's communications with the employee did not meet the conditions for a fraudulent instruction. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment. The court held that the policy unambiguously covered Principle Solutions' claim, because the loss involved a fraudulent instruction directing a financial institution to transfer funds and the loss resulted directly from the fraudulent instruction. View "Principle Solutions Group, LLC v. Ironshore Indemnity, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Eleventh Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's final order reversing the IJ's grant of petitioner's application for asylum and denial of withholding of removal. The court agreed with the BIA that petitioner failed to establish membership in a particular social group. In light of Matter of A-B-, 27 I. & N. Dec. 316 (A.G. 2018), petitioner's proposed social group of "women in Mexico who are unable to leave their domestic relationships" was not a cognizable particular social group under the Immigration and Nationality Act. View "Amezcua-Preciado v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court reversibly erred in concluding that defendant's conduct and choice of language would have instilled in a reasonable person a fear of death, justifying application of the Guidelines' threat-of-death enhancement under USSG 2B3.1 to his robbery conviction. In this case, the court held that defendant's conduct and language did not rise to the level of a threat of death where he did not carry a weapon and his conduct mitigated a reasonable victim's fear of harm. In the first robbery, defendant bargained pleasantly with one teller. In the second robbery, he allowed the teller to leave their post and report the robbery while it was ongoing. In both robberies, defendant handed the teller a bank not with instructions, using words like "please" and "thank you." Accordingly, the court vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Perez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit reversed and vacated the district court's order remanding the case to state court after the case was removed to federal district court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). Because plaintiff sought equitable relief to reinstate a lapsed or surrendered life insurance policy, the court held that the face value of the policy could be used to satisfy the amount-in-controversy requirement, and that the aggregate face value of the life insurance policies here was over $75 million. Therefore, the court held that Wilco has met its burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds the $5 million CAFA threshold. View "Anderson v. Wilco Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the town on plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 First Amendment retaliation claim and to Wantman on the Florida malicious prosecution claim. In a prior lawsuit, the town and its contractor, Wantman, filed suit against the plaintiff in this case under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for a fraud and extortion scheme. After the prior lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, plaintiff then filed this action. The court held that, as with section 1983 First Amendment retaliation claims arising in the criminal prosecution and arrest context, the presence of probable cause will generally defeat a section 1983 First Amendment retaliation claim based on a civil lawsuit as a matter of law. Furthermore, the court held that the town had probable cause to file the civil RICO lawsuit. In this case, plaintiff and others sustained a pattern of abusive requests and lawsuits against the town and the town's elected officials had a legitimate, objective reason to take legal action in response to the conduct. Finally, the court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment to Wantman on plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim because Wantman, like the town, had probable cause to file the RICO suit against her. View "DeMartini v. Town of Gulf Stream" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. The court held that the government was only required to prove that defendant conspired to distribute a generic controlled substance and that there was sufficient evidence to prove that multiple people conspired with defendant to distribute a generic controlled substance. View "United States v. Achey" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff filed a class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, alleging that DIRECTV and the company it contracted with to provide telemarketing services, Telecel, failed to maintain the do-not-call list and continued to call individuals who asked not to be contacted. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's certification order, holding that the unnamed members of the putative class who did not ask DIRECTV to stop calling them were not injured by the failure to comply with the regulation. Therefore, their injuries were not fairly traceable to DIRECTV's alleged wrongful conduct, and thus they lacked Article III standing to sue DIRECTV. The court also held that, although the case was justiciable because the named plaintiff had standing, the district court abused its discretion in certifying the class as it is currently defined. In this case, determining whether each class member asked Telecel to stop calling requires an individualized inquiry, and the district court did not consider this problem at all when it determined that issues common to the class predominated over issues individual to each class member. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Cordoba v. DIRECTV, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Georgia prisoner, appealed the district court's sua sponte dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. 1983 civil rights complaint, alleging that the jail's policy banning hardcover books violated his rights under the First Amendment, due process, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Plaintiff also alleged the violation of his due process rights when his property was destroyed under a hardcover book ban, and that the jail violated his right of access to the courts because the mailroom returned his legal mail to sender. The district court denied plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) and dismissed the complaint under the three strikes bar of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's finding of seven strikes against plaintiff at the time of filing of this action. To the extent plaintiff's challenges to the PLRA were based on access to the courts or equal protection concerns, the court held that these claims were foreclosed by Rivera v. Allin. The court rejected plaintiff's assertion that the three-strikes provision violates the First Amendment's "breathing space" principle. The court explained that, because there was no First Amendment right to access the courts for free, it follows that there was also no First Amendment right to speak in the courts for free and the "breathing space" principle was inapplicable. Furthermore, the principle was not implicated by a rule that determines whether an individual has to pay a filing fee in order to bring a lawsuit, and these were not the types of fundamental interests that would warrant waiver of the filing fee irrespective of plaintiff's status as a three-strikes litigant. View "Daker v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claims against defendants based on lack of standing. The court held that plaintiffs plausibly alleged that they suffered an economic loss when they purchased supplements that were worthless because the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) prohibited sale of the supplements. The court explained that Congress, through the FDCA and the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), banned adulterated supplements to protect consumers from ingesting products that Congress judged to be insufficiently safe. In this case, the complaint's allegations establish that plaintiffs purchased adulterated dietary supplements that they would not have purchased had they known that sale of the supplements was banned. The court also held that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged sufficient facts to show that their injuries were fairly traceable to defendants. Accordingly, plaintiffs had Article III standing to pursue their claims. View "Debernardis v. IQ Formulations, LLC" on Justia Law