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The Eleventh Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court granting Defendant relief on a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate his sentence, holding that changes to the law since the government’s appeal warranted a remand to the district court where Defendant will have the opportunity to make his case for relief under the new standard. In its original ruling, the district court concluded that, following changes in constitutional law regarding the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), Defendant no longer qualified as an armed career criminal and was not eligible for an enhanced sentence. After the government appealed, the Eleventh Circuit decided Beeman v. United States, 871 F.3d 1215 (11th Cir. 2017), holding that section 2255 movants were required to meet a higher burden that the one the district court applied in Defendant’s case. Applying Beeman to Defendant’s case, the Eleventh Circuit ruled that Defendant did not meet the new standard. The Eleventh Circuit held that because Defendant did not and could not know that he would be required to meet the heightened Beeman standard on appeal, a remand was appropriate. View "United States v. Pickett" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction of extortion in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a),(b)(2), holding that sufficient evidence supported Defendant’s conviction and that the district court did not violate Defendant’s right to present a complete defense when it limited his closing argument. Defendant was convicted of extortion by two alternative means - by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear; and under color of official right. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the government presented sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s conviction for extortion; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it prevented Defendant from arguing in closing that the government should have charged him with theft instead of extortion. View "United States v. Harris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for three federal child sex offenses. The court held that defendant's text messages asking a person he thought was a minor to send him sexually explicit pictures of herself can support a conviction for making a "notice" to receive child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2251(d)(1)(A). The court also held that the evidence was sufficient for a jury to find that defendant believed one of the victims was thirteen years old, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in permitting a detective's challenged testimony. View "United States v. Caniff" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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This case involved Florida's practice of counting vote-by-mail ballots only after verifying that the voter's signature provided with the ballot matches the voter's signature in the state's records. At issue in this appeal was NRSC's motion for emergency stay. The court denied NRSC's motion and held that NRSC failed to satisfy the requirements for the issuance of a stay. The court applied the factors in Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 434 (2009), and held that NRSC has not made a strong showing that it was likely to succeed on appeal. In this case, NRSC has not made a strong showing that the burden imposed on the right to vote is constitutional as judged by the Anderson-Burdick balancing test and NRSC has not made a strong showing that it was likely to succeed on the merits of its laches argument. The court also held that the remaining Nken factors similarly disfavored a stay. View "Democratic Executive Committee of Florida v. Lee" on Justia Law

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A litigant in this circuit does not have a substantive due process claim under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when the alleged conduct is the unlawful application of a land-use ordinance. The Eleventh Circuit held in McKinney v. Pate, 20 F.3d 1550 (11th Cir. 1994) (en banc), that executive action never gives rise to a substantive due process claim unless it infringes on a fundamental right. The court held that a land use decision is executive, rather than legislative, action, and did not implicate a fundamental right under the Constitution in this case. The ordinance at issue was Ordinance No. 11-15, which seeks to preserve, protect, and provide for the dedication and/or acquisition of right-of-way and transportation corridors that are necessary to provide future transportation facilities and facility improvements to meet the needs of projected growth. The court held that the application of the Ordinance to Hillcrest did not give rise to a substantive due process claim. Therefore, Hillcrest lacked a viable cause of action and the judgment as a matter of law was appropriate. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment. View "Hillcrest Property, LLP v. Pasco County" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendants Vazquez, Valencia, and Portocarrero's convictions and sentences for trafficking cocaine in international waters, in violation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. The court held that defendants' challenges to the district court's exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction under the Act was foreclosed by binding precedent. Therefore, the district court properly exercised jurisdiction in this case. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Valencia's motion for mistrial; neither Portocarrero nor Vazquez have demonstrated that there was an actual conflict of interest under these circumstances; because Valencia and Portocarrero were not eligible for safety-valve relief in the first place, the court need not consider whether these defendants otherwise met the substantive requirements of safety-valve relief or defendants' constitutional claim based on the Fifth Amendment; the district court did not clearly err in denying Vazquez a minor role reduction under USSG 3B1.2(b); and any error in the guidelines calculation was harmless as both Valencia and Portocarrero received the statutory mandatory minimum sentence and the district court could not have sentenced them to less. View "United States v. Vazquez Valois" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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This case arose from plaintiff's petition of the Middle District of Georgia for an order unsealing the grand jury transcripts regarding the 1946 Moore's Ford Lynching in Walton County, Georgia. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of plaintiff's request to unseal the documents, holding that the facts in this case constituted exceptional circumstances that allowed the district court to employ its inherent authority to disclose grand jury records outside the confines of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(e). In this case, the district court did not err in holding that the interest in disclosure outweighed the interest in continued secrecy, especially in light of the historic importance of an event of exceptional historical significance. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its substantial discretion in ordering the release of the grand jury transcripts. View "Pitch v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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After plaintiffs were arrested on various charges of public corruption, they filed suit against the arresting officers and other defendants, alleging violation of plaintiffs' constitutional rights by intentionally omitting exonerating information from the probable cause affidavits that secured their arrest warrants. The district court denied appellants qualified immunity. The Second Circuit held that, even if the omitted information had been included in the affidavits, there would still have been probable cause to believe each of the plaintiffs had engaged in a scheme to defraud in violation of Florida state law. Therefore, the court held that there was no constitutional error in plaintiffs' arrests pursuant to warrants based on those affidavits, and appellants were entitled to qualified immunity. View "Paez v. Mulvey" on Justia Law

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Petitioner filed a civil rights complaint and emergency motion for stay of execution, claiming that excluding his Imam from the execution chamber at the time of his execution in favor of a Christian chaplain violated his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA); requiring the presence of a Christian chaplain in the execution chamber at the time of his execution also violated his rights under RLUIPA; Alabama's practice of requiring a Christian chaplain in the execution chamber, while forbidding clerics of other faiths, violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment; and refusing to honor his late election for nitrogen hypoxia as the method of his execution, where his lateness resulted from his religious beliefs, also violated RLUIPA. The Eleventh Circuit held that Alabama's prison officials favored one religious denomination to the detriment of all others; they have made only general claims about their compelling interest; and they have offered nothing remotely establishing that their policy was narrowly tailored to further that interest. The court held that petitioner was substantially likely to succeed on the merits of his Establishment Clause claim given the little evidence in the record to support the government's interest and the fit between those interests and the state's policy. In this case, given the paucity of evidence, the court concluded that it was not altogether surprising that the state has not clearly argued that petitioner knew or should have known sooner that his religious beliefs would not be accommodated. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for an emergency stay of execution. View "Ray v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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Creditors filed suit alleging that a husband and wife worked together to commit multiple acts of mail and wire fraud over several years for the purpose of hiding the husband's assets—acts which, in the creditors' telling, violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The district court found in favor of the wife, finding that no reasonable juror could conclude that they formed an organization with some sort of framework, formal or informal, for the purpose of engaging in racketeering activity. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that there was a genuine factual dispute as to whether the couple formed an association-in-fact enterprise separate and apart from their marital relationship. In this case, the district court erred by applying a heightened standard for association-in-fact enterprises consisting of married couples, rather than applying the sames rules to married couples as to everyone else. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings and vacated the district court's order awarding the wife costs. View "Al-Rayes v. Willingham" on Justia Law