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An attorney's disregard of a court instruction to obtain the official consent of a foreign government to conduct video depositions on its soil does not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel per se. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to vacate his sentence. In this case, counsel's decision to disregard the court instruction to obtain formal approval constituted a choice dictated by reasonable trial strategy. Furthermore, defendant failed to establish that he was prejudiced by the inability of the witnesses to testify. View "Khan v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendants Smith and Delancy's convictions for conspiracy to commit alien smuggling, alien smuggling, and attempted illegal reentry. The court held that the district court did not err by admitting the videotaped deposition testimony of a smuggled alien in defendant's boat, where the government's multiple efforts to locate her were unavailing and constituted a good faith effort that was reasonable under the factual circumstances of this case. The court also held that the district court did not err in denying Smith's motion for a mistrial based on the prosecutor's comments about Smith's prior conviction during closing arguments, because they were made in direct response to Smith's argument. Even assuming arguendo that the statements were improper, the claim still failed because the statements did not affect Smith's substantial rights. Finally, the district court committed no cumulative error. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254 to petitioner, who was convicted of three murders and sentenced to death. The court held that the superior court reasonably determined that trial counsel were not ineffective for failing to investigate mitigating evidence and to present it during the penalty phase; the superior court's determination that the Georgia burden of proof for intellectual disability did not violate the due process clause was not an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law; and petitioner failed to establish his intellectual disability by clear and convincing evidence. View "Raulerson v. Warden" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence and held that defendant waived his right to appeal his sentence in the plea agreement. In this case, while defendant did not get the sentence he wanted and that the government recommended, he understood and agreed up front that regardless of any recommendations, the sentence and the Sentencing Guidelines, if any, applicable to his case would be determined solely by the court, with assistance of probation. View "United States v. Lewis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order upholding the bankruptcy court's decision to deny an exemption to pension money and certain tax-exempt funds or accounts, including IRAs under Fla. Stat. 222.21. The court held that debtor forfeited his exemption when he engaged in self-dealing transactions prohibited by the IRA's governing instruments. In this case, debtor conceded that he incurred over one hundred thousand dollars in tax penalties for abusing his IRA, but nonetheless sought to shield the IRA from distribution to his creditors. View "Yerian v. Webber" on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law

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The materiality standard—asking whether a school has failed to implement substantial or significant provisions of the child's individualized education plan (IEP)—is the appropriate test in a failure-to-implement case. L.J. and his mother filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), challenging the implementation of his IEP. The Eleventh Circuit held that the content outlined in a properly designed IEP is a proxy for the IDEA's educational guarantee, and thus a material deviation from that plan violates the statute. In this case, the court held that there was no material deviation from L.J.'s IEP and affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the school. View "L.J. v. School Board of Broward County" on Justia Law

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The Developers filed suit against Red Mortgage in Georgia state court, asserting various state law causes of action, including breach of contract, fraud, and violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The complaint essentially alleged that defendants intentionally and deceptively persuaded the Developers to accept high interest rates, not because they were the best market rates available, but instead to secretly pad their compensation and associated profits. Defendants removed to federal court and the Developers moved to remand to state court. The district court held that the forum selection clause in the loan documents bound both Red Mortgage and the Developers to litigate the Developers' claims in Georgia state court. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed the appeal of the remand order and held that the district court colorably characterized the basis for its remand order as a lack of unanimous consent to removal, and therefore 28 U.S.C. 1447(d) precludes the court from reviewing that order. View "Overlook Gardens Properties, LLC v. Orix USA, LP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Petitioner, convicted of murder and sentenced to death, sought habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254, alleging that his lawyer provided ineffective assistance of counsel. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of relief based on petitioner's mitigation claim. The court held that the district court erred by deciding Strickland prejudice de novo without finding that the state court's decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts and with no basis to say that the state court unreasonably applied Strickland v. Washington. Furthermore, the district court failed to presume that the state courts' findings of fact were correct, which the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act requires. Finally, the court affirmed the denial of relief based on counsel's failure to object when petitioner testified before the jury during the penalty phase in shackles. View "Whatley v. Warden, Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the government in an action brought by plaintiff, seeking to recover taxes she previously paid to the government. The court held that, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the evidence supported the conclusion that she satisfied all the elements of 26 U.S.C. 1341, which allows a taxpayer who paid taxes on what she erroneously believed to be her income to recoup those unnecessary tax payments. Under section 1341, plaintiff had just as much of a right to recover the taxes she previously paid on the $300,000 she received and then gave back as did her ex-husband to recover the taxes he paid on his $300,000 that he returned. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the district court should determine whether any genuine dispute as to any factual issues necessary to resolve the inquiry on each of the section 1341 factors exists and, if so, any dispute should proceed to trial. If there is no such factual dispute, the district court should enter judgment in favor of plaintiff. View "Mihelick v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law

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Plaintiff filed a pro se action against MDT under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The district court concluded that MDT could not be sued in Florida and offered to allow plaintiff to amend his complaint to substitute the County in MDT's place, but plaintiff declined. The Eleventh Circuit held that MDT was the wrong party and the court could not now sub in the County on appeal. The court held that any further amendment of the complaint would be futile because plaintiff did not otherwise state a claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal. View "Silberman v. Miami Dade Transit" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure