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

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's 210 month sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that defendant's prior conviction for attempted first-degree assault under Alabama Code 13A-6-20(a) qualifies as a violent felon under the Armed Career Criminal Act's (ACCA) elements clause. Furthermore, regardless of whether defendant pleaded guilty to attempted first degree assault under section 13A-6-20(a)(1) or (a)(2), either offense qualifies as an ACCA violent felony under the elements clause. Because defendant did not challenge the district court's determination that he has two other prior convictions for serious drug offenses, the court held that the district court did not err in concluding that defendant had the requisite three predicate convictions to sustain an ACCA-enhanced sentence. View "United States v. Harris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant appealed the denial of his motions to suppress evidence found in two separate, warrantless searches of his motel room. A gun was discovered in the first search, and drugs and associated paraphernalia were discovered in the second search. The Eleventh Circuit held that defendant did not abandon his motel room when he ran and thus he had Fourth Amendment standing to challenge the officers' initial entry and the ensuing protective sweep, which they conducted within 10 minutes of his flight. However, defendant's constitutional challenge to the officers' entry and sweep failed on the merits, because the officers reasonably believed that defendant was in the room and thus they had authority to enter the room to execute the arrest warrants, to conduct a limited protective sweep, and to seize the gun found in plain view. In regard to the second search, which officers carried out with the consent of hotel management after 11:00 a.m., the court held that defendant lost any reasonable expectation of privacy in his room at checkout time. Therefore, he did not have Fourth Amendment standing to contest the search. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "United States v. Ross" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiffs filed suit against Rushmore, seeking class certifications on claims arising under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Florida Consumer Protection Practices Act (FDCCPA). Plaintiffs alleged that Rushmore made false, deceptive, and misleading representations when it sent mortgage statements and attempted to collect on their mortgage debt after they received a Chapter 7 discharge. The district court denied class certification. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion because at the first step of the predominance analysis it erroneously classified the question of whether the Bankruptcy Code precluded or preempted the FDCPA and FCCPA claims as raising an individual, rather than common, issue. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for the district court to reconsider plaintiffs' class certification motion in light of the court's conclusion that this question was common to all class members. View "Sellers v. Rushmore Loan Management Services, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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On remand from the en banc court, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Authority. At issue in this appeal was whether, under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, some evidence supported the decision of the Authority to terminate plaintiff's housing voucher issued under Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937. Although the court agreed with plaintiff that the Due Process Clause mandates some evidentiary support for voucher-termination decisions, this requirement does not mandate a robust substantive evaluation of the sufficiency of the evidence supporting an administrative determination. Rather, the court explained that the relevant question was whether there was any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached and that this decision need only have some basis in fact. In this case, the decision to terminate plaintiff's voucher satisfied the "some evidence" standard, where the evidence supported the conclusion reached by the Authority that plaintiff had engaged in drug-related criminal activity that disqualified her from the program. View "Yarbrough v. Decatur Housing Authority" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that during the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries the DNC and its chairwoman improperly tipped the scales in favor of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was challenging Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Eleventh Circuit held that some named plaintiffs representing the DNC donor class have adequately alleged Article III standing, but that no named plaintiffs representing the Sanders donor class have done so. The court dismissed the fraud and negligent misrepresentation claims on the merits, holding that plaintiffs representing the DNC donor class failed to allege with particularity the manner in which they relied on defendants' statements. Therefore, the general allegation of reliance was not fatal to the Article III standing of the DNC donor class, but it fell short of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b)'s heightened pleading standard. The court also held that the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act claim of the DNC donor class failed the plausibility standard set out in cases like Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556–57 (2007); plaintiffs in the DNC donor class have failed to state a claim for unjust enrichment under Florida law; plaintiffs in the Democratic voter class failed to allege an injury-in-fact sufficient to confer Article III standing when they alleged a breach of fiduciary duty by the DNC and its chairwoman; and the district court did not err in dismissing the complaint without sua sponte granting plaintiffs leave to file a second amended complaint. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment of dismissal, remanding for amendment of its order. View "Wilding v. DNC Services Corp." on Justia Law

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On remand from the Supreme Court in light of Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019), the Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and held that he could not establish that errors affected his substantial rights. Defendant argued that Rehaif made plain that errors occurred when his indictment failed to allege, his jury was not instructed to find, and the government was not required to prove that he knew he was a felon when he possessed the firearm. The court held, however, that the record established that defendant knew of his status as a felon and thus he could not prove that the errors affected his substantial rights or the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of his trial. View "United States v. Reed" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences for Hobbs Act robbery, knowingly carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and knowingly possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon. The court rejected defendant's contention that the district court erred by limiting his cross-examination of an FBI Task Force Officer, denying his motion to suppress pre- and post-Miranda statements, dismissing count three of the original indictment without prejudice, and denying his motions for judgment of acquittal in both trials. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's convictions and his cumulative error claim lacked merit. Finally, the court held that the district court did not procedurally err in calculating defendant's advisory guidelines range during both of his sentencing proceedings. View "United States v. Ochoa" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff, a minor, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, against the sheriff and deputy who had entered her home and arrested her after her former best friend committed suicide. Defendants charged plaintiff with the crime of aggravated stalking, a felony, which includes harassing a child under sixteen years of age. The warrantless arrest took place at plaintiff's home; the charges were eventually dismissed; but plaintiff's name and photograph had already been released to the media and she was publicly blamed for the death. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the dismissal of her claim that there was no probable cause for the arrest, and the judgment entered on the jury's verdict that the deputy had consent to enter her home to make the arrest. The court affirmed and held that, based on the deputy's investigation, a reasonable person in his position would have concluded that plaintiff willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly harassed her former friend and classmate. The court also held that the district court abused its discretion when it concluded that the jury's verdict was not against the great weight of the evidence and did not result in a miscarriage of justice. In this case, the jury was free to conclude that, by opening the door and stepping back, plaintiff's father was giving the deputies his consent to enter the home. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiff's motion for a new trial based on her belated curtilage argument, which was not presented to the jury. Finally, the court held that plaintiff was not entitled to a new trial based on the district court's response to the jury's question about the screened-in porch. View "Gill v. Judd" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the denial of her petition to "vacate and/or alternatively to deny recognition and enforcement" of the foreign arbitral award in favor of her employer, Carnival, on her claims under the Jones Act and U.S. maritime law for injuries related to her carpal tunnel. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the petition, holding that plaintiff failed to establish that the foreign arbitral award offended the United States' most basic notions of morality and justice. Weighing the policies at issue and considering the specific unique factual circumstances of this case, the court held that plaintiff's Article V(2)(b) of the New York Convention defense failed. Therefore, the court held that the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's request that it refuse to enforce the arbitral award and dismissing her claims. View "Cvoro v. Carnival Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to death. The court held that the Georgia state habeas court's fact-finding was not entitled to deference in the pre-Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 regime. In this case, the state habeas court adopted verbatim the state's proposed order; offered no guidance to the Assistant Attorney General drafting the proposed order; did not review the order, other than signing it, dating it, and changing the concluding sentence, notwithstanding the glaring errors it contained; and did so ex parte without so much as affording petitioner a chance to challenge any of it or propose an alternative order. The court also held that the district court correctly determined that petitioner's trial lawyers' conduct fell beneath an objective standard of reasonableness when they failed to adequately investigate whether petitioner suffered from organic brain damage at the time of the killing. In light of the substantial evidence petitioner demonstrated showing that he suffered from organic brain damage, the court held that the district court did not err in finding that petitioner had been prejudiced by his lawyers' deficient performance. View "Jefferson v. GDCP Warden" on Justia Law