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

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The Eleventh Circuit held that the term "sexual activity" in USSG 2422(b) does not require interpersonal physical contact. In this case, defendant's conduct with respect to the nine-year old victim—including sending her a photo of his penis and asking her for naked pictures—constituted "sexual activity" because it was done for the purpose of sexual gratification. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's ruling in this respect.However, the court vacated the application of the five-level enhancement under USSG 2G2.2(b)(5) and set aside defendant's sentence because the district court did not determine, as required by section 2422(b), whether the "sexual activity" was conduct "for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense." On remand, the court instructed the district court to rule on that issue after hearing from the parties, and after doing so shall resentence defendant. View "United States v. Dominguez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant, who was initially sentenced for crack-related crimes to a term of "life imprisonment without release," moved to modify his sentence under the First Step Act and 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(B). The district court granted the motion to reduce his prison term, but also concluded that the First Step Act required it to impose an eight-year term of supervised release.The Eleventh Circuit held that the First Step Act is self-contained and self-executing, and that a motion brought under that Act need not be paired with a request for relief under section 3582(c)(1)(B). The court also concluded that a district court has the authority under the First Step Act to impose a new term of supervised release on a First Step Act movant, provided that it reduces the movant's overall sentence. In this case, the court rejected defendant's contention that the district court exceeded its statutory authority under the First Step Act when it included the release term in his modified sentence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "United States v. Edwards" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit lacked jurisdiction to consider a petition challenging the Board's decision on appeal that preconclusion voluntary departure was not warranted in petitioner's case. Petitioner contends that he would have applied for preconclusion voluntary departure had the IJ told him about it. The court concluded that the Board's decision was within its independent discretion; that is, no matter what the IJ would have decided about preconclusion voluntary departure had it been raised, the Board had the authority to enforce its own judgment on the question. Furthermore, once the Board exercised that judgment and ordered removal, it cut off any jurisdiction the court might have had to consider the petition. View "Blanc v. United States Attorney General" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against the Douglas County Sheriff, in his official capacity, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the Sheriff operates the jail with a policy that allows "cross-gender supervision of inmates without reasonable safeguards in place." Plaintiff alleged that a sheriff's deputy fondled her, kissed her, and watched her shower, all without her consent, when she was an inmate in the county jail. Plaintiff reasoned that the sheriff's deputy, who is male, could do these things because of the cross-gender supervision policy.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the Sheriff's motion to dismiss, concluding that the district court correctly held that the Sheriff was entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity under Purcell ex rel. Estate of Morgan v. Toombs County, 400 F.3d 1313 (11th Cir. 2005). The court declined to overrule Purcell and Manders v. Lee, 338 F.3d 1304 (11th Cir. 2003) (en banc), based on the court's prior precedent rule. Furthermore, the court has categorically rejected any exception to that rule based on a perceived defect in the prior panel's reasoning or analysis as it relates to the law in existence at that time. View "Andrews v. Biggers" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a corrupt former police officer who was sentenced to prison for running drugs and guns, filed a motion seeking a reduction in his sentence under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A). The district court denied the motion based on the Sentencing Commission's policy statement found at USSG 1B1.13.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed and concluded that section 1B1.13 is an applicable policy statement for all section 3582(c)(1)(A) motions, and Application Note 1(D) does not grant discretion to courts to develop "other reasons" that might justify a reduction in a defendant's sentence. In this case, because defendant's motion does not fall within any of the reasons that section 1B1.13 identifies as "extraordinary and compelling," the district court correctly denied his motion for a reduction of his sentence. View "United States v. Bryant" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The court concluded that the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals' (CCA) denial of petitioner's guilt-phase ineffective assistance claim was not an unreasonable determination of the facts or contrary to clearly established law; federal law does not clearly establish that Alabama's hearsay rules create a due process violation; and the CCA's determination that the prosecution did not shift the burden of proof to petitioner was neither unreasonable nor contrary to clearly established law.In this case, the Rule 32 court's determinations that petitioner's trial counsel's performance was not deficient, and that petitioner could not show prejudice, were not unreasonable. Furthermore, Alabama's application of its hearsay rules to exclude testimony at petitioner's state habeas evidentiary hearing did not violate his due process rights under clearly established federal law. Finally, the prosecutor's comments appeared to concern the failure of the defense to counter the evidence presented by the government, not petitioner's failure to show evidence of his innocence. View "Broadnax v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The en banc court vacated defendant's convictions, concluding that the district court abused its discretion in dismissing a juror and the removal violated defendant's right under the Sixth Amendment to a unanimous jury verdict. The district court removed a juror who expressed, after the start of deliberations, that the Holy Spirit told him that defendant was not guilty on all charges, and concluded that the juror's statements about receiving divine guidance were categorically disqualifying.The en banc court concluded that the record establishes a substantial possibility that the juror was rendering proper jury service. The en banc court explained that a rigorous standard protects the rights of the accused to a unanimous jury verdict. Furthermore, there was a substantial possibility that the juror was fulfilling his duty to render a verdict based on the evidence and the law. In this case, the juror expressed a clear understanding of proper jury service; confirmed that understanding when he recounted to the judge the traditional role of a juror; and never gave any indication that he was refusing to consider the evidence or follow the law. Nor did the juror express any lack of faith in the justice system or admit he could not be fair. The record establishes that the juror repeatedly referred to the evidence in explaining his deliberative process, and his assurances were supported by other jurors. Accordingly, the en banc court remanded for a new trial. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The district court held on summary judgment that, under Eleventh Circuit precedent, federal maritime law requires strict compliance with captain and crew warranties in a marine insurance policy. The district court concluded that, because Ocean Reef breached those warranties, there was no coverage for the loss of its yacht under a policy issued by Travelers.The Eleventh Circuit applied Wilburn Boat Co. v. Firearm’s Fund Ins. Co., 348 U.S. 310, 316 (1955), and concluded that there does not exist entrenched federal maritime rules governing captain or crew warranties in this case. Therefore, Florida law applies to determine the effect of Ocean Reef's breaches. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Travelers Property Casualty Company of America v. Ocean Reef Charters LLC" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the Eleventh Circuit considered a question of first impression: whether the district court has authority to remand a case based on a procedural defect in removal when (1) a motion to remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is filed within 30 days of the notice of removal, but (2) a procedural defect is not raised until after the 30-day statutory time limit.The court concluded that 28 U.S.C. 1447(c) allows a district court to remand based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction or upon a timely motion to remand on the basis of a procedural defect. In this case, the district court's remand order is based on neither of those grounds. Rather, plaintiff untimely raised a procedural defect in removal, thus forfeiting that objection. Consequently, the district court had no authority to remand the case on that basis. The court vacated the order remanding the case to state court. View "Shipley v. Helping Hands Therapy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal based on lack of standing of his claims against the City under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that the district court erred in relying on the test articulated in Price v. City of Ocala, 375 F. Supp. 3d 1264 (M.D. Fla. 2019), to determine if plaintiff suffered an injury in fact. The court explained that Price is a district court opinion, and thus it does not constitute binding precedent. Even if the court were bound by it, Price is unhelpful here because it is fundamentally different from this case. The court also concluded that the district court erred in finding that plaintiff did not have standing. Rather, plaintiff has standing to bring his claim under Title II, as he adequately alleged a stigmatic injury. In this case, plaintiff, as an individual with a disability, was personally and directly subjected to discriminatory treatment when the City published videos on its website that he accessed but could not understand. Therefore, he suffered a concrete and particularized injury. View "Sierra v. City of Hallandale Beach" on Justia Law