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

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Relators filed a qui tam action against MIC under the False Claims Act (FCA), seeking to recover the money the VA had paid when borrowers defaulted on MIC-originated loans. Relators then amended the complaint, adding a state law fraudulent transfer claim against MIC executive William L. Edwards. The district court granted Edwards's motion to dismiss based on lack of standing and granted MIC's motion for summary judgment on the FCA claim.The Eleventh Circuit held that summary judgment was improper on relators' FCA claim because genuine issues of material fact remain as to whether MIC's alleged false certifications were material. Furthermore, relators' claim is not barred by previous public disclosure. The court also held that relators lack standing on the fraudulent transfer claim because their pre-judgment interest in preventing a fraudulent transfer is a mere byproduct of their FCA claim and cannot give rise to an Article III injury in fact. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Bibby v. Mortgage Investors Corp." on Justia Law

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In 1998, Williams was convicted of robbing a bank while carrying a firearm. The Armed Career Criminals Act (ACCA) sentencing enhancement, 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(1), applies to defendants who committed three previous “violent” felonies. Williams had convictions for first-degree robbery, armed robbery, and federal kidnapping, 18 U.S.C. 1201(a)(1). The federal kidnapping PSR recounted that Williams “accosted” a man in Kentucky, threatened him with a revolver, and demanded a ride to Tennessee. In Knoxville, the victim leaped from the car and signaled a police officer. The federal statute provides that a person commits a federal kidnapping when he “unlawfully seizes, confines, inveigles, decoys, kidnaps, abducts, or carries away" a victim. The court never addressed why his previous felonies counted as violent but sentenced Williams to 327 months’ imprisonment, with a consecutive 60 months for carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.Williams obtained leave to file his third 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion and disputed the classification of his kidnapping conviction as a “violent felony” under ACCA's “residual clause,” which the Supreme Court found unconstitutional in 2015. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief, finding it unclear whether the sentencing judge applied ACCA’s residual clause or the elements clause. Williams did not establish that the sentencing court committed a retroactive constitutional error. It is not enough that the court might have committed a statutory error by applying the elements clause in a case that did not warrant it; that error would not be retroactive on collateral review. Requiring Williams to provide “clear precedent showing that the court could only have used one clause” is not arbitrary. View "Williams v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a 28 U.S.C. 2241 petition for writ of habeas corpus based on a claim of actual innocence. The court held that the district court properly dismissed the section 2241 petition for lack of jurisdiction because a claim of actual innocence does not fit within the narrow confines of the saving clause where petitioner could have presented it in his first 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate, and that motion would have been an adequate and effective mechanism to test his claim. The court explained that this is so even though binding precedent prohibits granting postconviction relief in a non-capital case based on a claim of actual innocence. View "Amodeo v. FCC Coleman - Low Warden" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit vacated its prior opinion and substituted this revised opinion in its place.Petitioner appealed the denial of his second or successive 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion challenging his conviction for conspiring to use a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime or a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(o). After the district court denied a certificate of appealability (COA), the Eleventh Circuit construed petitioner's timely notice of appeal as an application for one.The court denied the COA, holding that petitioner failed to show that it was more likely than not his section 924(o) conviction was predicated only on a crime that is not a crime of violence or a drug trafficking claim. Therefore, reasonable jurists would not find that the district court's assessment of the constitutional claims was debatable or wrong. The court dismissed the appeal. View "Fernandez Garcia v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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A tip came in that a Kik app user was distributing child pornography. The tip included the user's IP address and Gmail account, which was tied to Kushmaul, who had been convicted of “Promoting the Sexual Performance of a Child” in Florida in 2016. Officers went to Kushmaul’s address, which was listed in the Florida Sex Offender Registry. Kushmaul handed over his cell phone. The officers discovered a Snapchat3 account that was not listed on Kushmaul’s sex offender registry. Kushmaul went to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, where he was advised of his Miranda rights. He subsequently admitted to viewing child pornography. Kushmaul signed a “consent to search form,” and an officer downloaded Kushmaul’s cell phone, revealing 20 images of “child sexual abuse material.” He pled guilty under 18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(2), (b)(1) and 2252A(a)(5)(b), (b)(2), for distribution and possession of child pornography. Although the statutory minimum sentence under section 2252A(a)(2) is only five years, that minimum increases to 15 years if the offender “has a prior conviction . . . under the laws of any State relating to aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor or ward.”Kushmaul was sentenced to the 180-month mandatory minimum. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Kushmaul’s claims that his Florida offense does not qualify for sentencing enhancement because the Florida offense is broader than its federal counterpart. View "United States v. Kushmaul" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit dismissed a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's order of removal because petitioner had been convicted of an aggravated felony. In this case, the IJ and BIA found that petitioner's Florida convictions for money laundering and workers' compensation fraud were aggravated felonies because each conviction involved fraud or deceit in which the amount of loss to the victim exceeded $10,000 under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(M)(i). The court held that substantial evidence in the record, including petitioner's admission of guilt and a concomitant plea agreement, fully supports the agency's finding of the loss amount. View "Garcia-Simisterra v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit sua sponte vacated and withdrew its previous opinion, and issued this opinion in its place.Petitioner appealed the district court's denial of his 28 U.S.C. 2255 petition for writ of habeas corpus. The Eleventh Circuit granted a certificate of appealability to determined whether the district court violated Clisby v. Jones, 960 F.2d 925 (11th Cir. 1992) (en banc), by failing to address petitioner's claim that he no longer qualified as an armed career criminal in light of Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. 591 (2015), because his prior 1988 Alabama conviction for attempted first-degree robbery has no state law elements.The court affirmed the district court's judgment and held that a close review of the district court's opinion reveals that it correctly identified and sufficiently addressed petitioner's claim. In this case, the district court classified petitioner's claim as a collateral attack against his state sentence and dismissed it. The court noted that it may be best practice for a district court to follow a "show your work" approach by directly restating a movant's claim and then laying out all analytical steps in addressing that claim. However, the district court's approach here correctly identified and sufficiently analyzed petitioner's claim and did not run afoul of Clisby View "Senter v. United States" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff's boat was stolen, Geico denied coverage based on plaintiff's misrepresentation that he was in possession of the boat. On appeal, plaintiff argued that the district court erred in applying the doctrine of uberrimae fidei.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Geico and denial of plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment. The court held that plaintiff's misrepresentation voided his policy ab initio. Based on the record, the court concluded that plaintiff's initial policy, by its terms, expired on May 5, 2018, because he did not pay the required premium for the new policy period. Therefore, plaintiff's boat was uninsured between May 5, 2018, and when he first called Geico on May 25, 2018. Although plaintiff is correct that the doctrine of uberrimae fidei applies only when an insurer issues a policy, not when a policy is already in full force, his policy was not in full force on May 25th because it had expired. The court also concluded that plaintiff's statements were material to Geico's issuance of coverage on May 25, even if by renewal and backdating. Therefore, the district court properly applied the doctrine of uberrimae fidei and correctly held that plaintiff's renewal policy was void ab initio. View "Quintero v. Geico Marine Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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SCAD filed suit against Sportswear for trademark infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin, and counterfeiting under the Lanham Act, and for unfair competition and trademark infringement under Georgia common law. The dispute involves Sportswear's use of SCAD's word marks "SCAD" and "SAVANNAH COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN" as well as the college's design mark that includes its mascot, Art the Bee.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment on remand, holding that the district court properly entered summary judgment on two Lanham Act claims and the corresponding permanent injunction enjoining Sportswear from selling products bearing the SCAD marks at issue. The court concluded that its trademark precedents of Boston Prof’l Hockey Ass’n, Inc. v. Dallas Cap & Emblem Mfg., Inc., 510 F.2d 1004 (5th Cir. 1975), Univ. of Ga. Ath. Ass'n v. Laite, 756 F.2d 1535 (11th Cir. 1985), and Savannah College of Art & Design, Inc. v. Sportswear, Inc., 872 F.3d 1256, 1264, 1265 (11th Cir. 2017), require affirmance of the district court's judgment. In this case, the district court correctly found a likelihood of confusion as to Sportswear's use of SCAD's word marks and Bee Design Mark. View "Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc. v. Sportswear, Inc." on Justia Law

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Gateway is a small business debtor in an active Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding seeking a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Gateway applied for a PPP loan and falsely stated that it was not in bankruptcy in order to be eligible for the program. When Gateway filed a motion for approval in the bankruptcy court, the SBA objected that Gateway was ineligible for a PPP loan because it was in bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court granted Gateway's motion anyway, concluding that the SBA's rule rendering bankruptcy debtors ineligible for PPP loans was an unreasonable interpretation of the statute, was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, and as a result was unlawful and unenforceable against Gateway.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the bankruptcy court's approval order, concluding that the SBA's rule is neither an unreasonable interpretation of the relevant statute nor arbitrary and capricious. The court concluded that the SBA did not exceed its authority in adopting the non-bankruptcy rule for PPP eligibility; the rule does not violate the CARES Act, is based on a reasonable interpretation of the Act, and the SBA did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in adopting the rule; and the bankruptcy court committed an error of law in concluding otherwise in its approval order and its preliminary injunction order. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. The court dismissed the appeal from the memorandum opinion for lack of jurisdiction. View "USF Federal Credit Union v. Gateway Radiology Consultants, P.A." on Justia Law