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

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of federal habeas relief to petitioner, who was sentenced to death for two murders. The court held that Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), did not apply retroactively to petitioner and any challenge to his death sentence on this basis was beyond the court's reach on federal habeas review. The court also held that the Florida Supreme Court's rejection of petitioner's ineffective assistance claim was not an unreasonable application of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). In this case, counsel's decision not to call an equivocal expert, in part to preserve an advantage at closing, was reasonable trial strategy. Furthermore, petitioner failed to meet his burden of showing prejudice under Strickland because there was no reasonable probability the expert's testimony would have made a difference in the outcome of the trial, given the weight of the evidence against him. View "Knight v. Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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This case arose from the FDA's seizure from Hi-Tech a substantial quantity of products containing 1,3-dimethylamylamine or DMAA, which is used in fitness products aimed at bodybuilders and other athletes. The district court granted the FDA's motion for summary judgment, holding that the seizure of DMAA was both substantively and procedurally proper. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed and held that DMAA is not an "herb or other botanical" and is not a "constituent" of an herb or other botanical under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. Furthermore, the court held that DMAA is not generally recognized by qualified experts, as adequately shown through scientific procedures, to be safe under the conditions of its intended use. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to reopen discovery, and Hi-Tech was afforded the full range of procedural due process available in federal court. View "United States v. Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was sentenced to death for murder. The court held that the state court did not unreasonably determine that petitioner failed to establish objectively incompetent performance by his counsel during the penalty phase of his trial. Furthermore, even if petitioner had demonstrated that his counsel performed as no reasonable lawyer could have, the court did not find that the state court's decision -- that a different result was not substantially likely -- was an unreasonable application of Strickland v. Washington. The court also held that the state court did not unreasonably determine the facts or unreasonably apply Atkins v. Virginia with respect to the intellectual component of intellectual disability; the record supported the state court's conclusion that petitioner did not have substantial deficits in adaptive behavior; the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals' determination that petitioner did not have intellectual disability was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of Atkins; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying an evidentiary hearing on the Atkins claim. View "Jenkins v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to a correctional facility officer and warden in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by plaintiff, alleging that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his substantial risk of safety. The court held that the evidence plaintiff presented regarding a general risk of inmate-on-inmate violence did not rise to the level necessary to show deliberate indifference to a substantial risk. In this case, plaintiff failed to produce evidence that he was in an environment so beset by violence that confinement, by its nature, threatened him with the substantial risk of serious harm. Likewise, plaintiff's claim that defendants were deliberately indifferent to the more specific threat he warned them about in April 2016 -- that he had heard from a friend that someone intended to harm him -- failed because he did not have enough evidence to establish a genuine issue of fact that the warden was put on notice that plaintiff faced a substantial risk of serious harm. Finally, plaintiff failed to establish that defendants were deliberately indifferent in failing to investigate his report that someone was out to harm him or in otherwise failing to abide by prison policy. View "Marbury v. Warden" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a class of borrowers, filed suit in Georgia against their lenders, alleging that their loan agreements violated state usury laws. After removal to federal court, the district court concluded that the forum selection clause and class action waiver were unenforceable based on Georgia public policy. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that Georgia's Payday Lending Act and Industrial Loan Act articulate a clear public policy against enforcing forum selection clauses in payday loan agreements and in favor of preserving class actions as a remedy for those aggrieved by predatory lenders. View "Davis v. Oasis Legal Finance Operating Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Consumer Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence for crimes related to his involvement in an $11 million scheme that involved cashing tax refund checks that he had fraudulently obtained in the names of inmates, minors, dead people, and other insentient or otherwise unsuspecting "clients." The Eleventh Circuit held that it need not decide whether the testimony of a government witness constituted inadmissible hearsay, because any error in admitting the testimony was harmless. In this case, there was more than enough evidence to support defendant's conviction. The court rejected defendant's remaining claims of evidentiary errors, and held that the district court did not err in imposing sentencing enhancements pertaining to the amount of money that the government lost and the number and vulnerability of the victims. However, the court held that the district court did commit reversible error when it failed to permit defendant to allocute personally. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and remanded for defendant to have the opportunity to address the district court directly. View "United States v. Baptiste" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After Legal Outsource defaulted on a loan from Regions Bank, which triggered the default of a loan and mortgage that Regions issued to Periwinkle, the obligors refused to cure the defaults. Regions filed suit to enforce its rights under the loans and mortgage and the obligors filed several counterclaims alleging that Regions violated the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by discriminating against Lisa and Charles based on their marital status when it demanded that they and Legal Outsource guarantee the Periwinkle loan. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Regions, holding that Lisa's counterclaims under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act failed because a guarantor does not qualify as an "applicant" under the Act. The court also explained that a limited remand was necessary to correct erroneous language from the amended judgment. View "Regions Bank v. Legal Outsource PA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking

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Receiving a single unsolicited text message, sent in violation of a federal statute, is not a concrete injury in fact that establishes standing to sue in federal court. Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) after he received unsolicited text messages from defendant's law firm. The court found that the history and the judgment of Congress did not support a finding of concrete injury in plaintiff's allegations. In this case, plaintiff's allegations of a brief, inconsequential annoyance were categorically distinct from those kinds of real but intangible harms. The court noted that its assessment was qualitative, not quantitative. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss without prejudice the amended complaint. View "Salcedo v. Hanna" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court's denial of debtor's second motion for sanctions against Nationstar. Debtor alleged that Nationstar's conduct of sending a monthly statement to Roth to collect discharged mortgage debt was in violation of the bankruptcy code. The court held that the Informational Statement sent by Nationstar was not an improper attempt at debt collection in violation of 11 U.S.C. 524(a)(2), because there were several bases to conclude that the objective effect of the statement was not to pressure debtor to repay a discharged debt. Therefore, sanctions were not appropriate under 11 U.S.C. 105. The court noted that, even if there was a section 524 violation, sanctions under section 105 were unavailable under the Supreme Court's recent decision in Taggart v. Lorenzen, 139 S. Ct. 1795, 1801 (2019), because there was more than a fair ground of doubt as to whether the discharge order barred Nationstar's conduct. Finally, the court held that the bankruptcy court did not err by failing to hold an evidentiary hearing. View "Roth v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions for child pornography related charges, holding that evidence discovered under a Network Investigative Technique (NIT) warrant need not be suppressed. The court held that the magistrate judge's actions exceeded Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(b) and her statutorily prescribed authority under the Federal Magistrates Act, and thus the warrant was void ab initio. However, the court held that, because the exclusionary rule is concerned solely with deterring culpable police misconduct—and not at all with regulating magistrate judges' actions—void and voidable warrants should be treated no differently. Therefore, the court held that an officer's reasonable reliance on the former, like the latter, can provide the basis for applying the good faith exception. The court also held that, even if the good faith exception can apply when an officer relies on a void warrant, the good faith exception was applicable in this case where the officers' warrant application adequately disclosed the nature of the technology at issue and the scope of the intended search, and the officers reasonably relied on the magistrate judge's determination that the search was permissible. View "United States v. Taylor" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law