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

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P.S.  cryopreserved several sperm samples before his death. His surviving wife, Plaintiff, relied on those sperm samples and in vitro fertilization to conceive a child, P.S.S. She then sought child’s insurance benefits (“CIB”) under the Social Security Act on behalf of P.S.S. The Social Security Administration (the “Administration”) denied the claim for CIB, and the administrative law judge, the magistrate judge, and the district court all upheld the Administration’s denial of the claim. The central issue in this appeal is whether P.S.S. is entitled to recover CIB under the Social Security Act.   Because the Florida Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter of Florida law, has not published a decision addressing this question, principles of comity and federalism suggest that the Florida Supreme Court should decide this issue. Thus, the Eleventh Circuit deferred a decision in this case until the Florida Supreme Court has had the opportunity to consider and determine whether to exercise its discretion in answering the court’s certified question: (1) Under Florida law, is P.S.S. “provided for” in the decedent’s will within the meaning of Fla. Stat. Section 742.17(4)? (2) If the answer is yes, does Florida law authorize a posthumously conceived child who is provided for in the decedent’s will to inherit intestate the decedent’s property? View "Kathleen Steele v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., a corporation headquartered in Florida, operates cruise ships that travel around the world. Norwegian requires everyone on board its ships to be vaccinated against COVID-19. To enforce that policy, Norwegian requires its customers to provide proof of vaccination. Florida sought to protect its residents from that kind of discrimination by enacting a statute that prohibits businesses from “requiring patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business operations in Florida.” Norwegian sued Florida’s Surgeon General and moved for a preliminary injunction. The district court entered a preliminary injunction on the grounds that the statute likely violates Norwegian’s right to speak freely.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the preliminary injunction. The court explained that Florida’s statute is a regulation of economic conduct that only incidentally burdens speech, which does not implicate the First Amendment. And its burdens on interstate commerce do not exceed the benefits of furthering Florida’s substantial interests in protecting its residents from discrimination and invasions of privacy. View "Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, et al. v. State Surgeon General" on Justia Law

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After the representative from Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District was appointed to serve as a cabinet secretary, the State held an out-of-cycle election to fill the seat. Plaintiffs, The Coalition for Good Governance did not trust the results. It organized several lawsuits targeting Georgia elections, including the one here: an action contending that the “precise outcome” of the runoff for the Sixth District seat was unknowable because the State’s electronic voting system was vulnerable to hacking. The Coalition (along with several individual plaintiffs) asked for a declaration that the runoff election was void and for an injunction against the system’s future use. Georgia began using new machines allowing voters to select their choices electronically.   Plaintiffs amended their complaint and moved to enjoin the use of the new election equipment. The district court entered its partial relief, and the Eleventh Circuit stayed the district court’s judgment. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s preliminary injunction on the state’s paper backup check-in list, as well as its related directives on provisional and emergency ballots, and dismissed the appeal with respect to the scanner order.   The court explained that the Coalition has not demonstrated a severe burden on the right to vote attributable to the State’s print date for the paper backup. The district court erred in treating that print date as such and abused its discretion when it reviewed the State’s backup practices under strict scrutiny. The court wrote that federal courts must resist the temptation to step into the role of elected representatives. View "Donna Curling, et al. v. Brad Raffensperger, et al." on Justia Law

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A.L. is an adult male diagnosed with autism. A.L. is in his late twenties, but his developmental age is “five-to-seven years old.” A.L.’s case is one of over forty actions filed by plaintiffs with disabilities against Disney in Florida and California federal courts, asserting that Disney failed to accommodate their requested modifications to its disability-accommodation program in violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii). The district court entered final judgment in favor of Disney after determining that A.L.’s requested modification to receive either ten “Re-admission Passes” for each person in his party or unlimited access to Disney’s expedited “FastPass” lines for its theme park attractions was neither necessary to accommodate A.L.’s disability nor reasonable under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA”).   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court wrote it discerned no clear error in the district court’s factual findings, no legal error in its fundamental-alteration analysis, and no abuse of discretion in its evidentiary rulings. Moreover, the district court here applied the correct legal test. It considered whether the requested modification would affect merely peripheral aspects of Disney’s parks or aspects essential to Disney’s services. The court further found that the other reasons A.L. offers for the presentation of the excluded evidence are neither relevant nor probative of the individualized injunctive relief he sought. View "A. L. v. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts US, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights
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Plaintiff appealed the district court’s dismissal of his amended complaint against Carnival Corporation for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiff contended that the district court erred in finding that his amended complaint failed to allege sufficient facts in support of his negligence claims to show that Carnival was on notice of the alleged hazard.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that Plaintiff failed to include factual allegations that plausibly suggest Carnival had constructive notice of the dangerous condition. Therefore, Plaintiff failed to satisfy the pleading standard set forth in Iqbal and Twombly. While Plaintiff alleged facts that establish the possibility that Carnival had constructive notice of the hazardous substance on the staircase as to invite corrective measures, a claim only has facial plausibility when the plaintiff’s allegations allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”   Furthermore, while Plaintiff alleged that there were crewmembers in the surrounding shops, he does not allege that there were any crewmembers in the immediate area of the glass staircase that could have observed or warned him of the hazard. Simply put, Plaintiff’s allegations do not cross the line from possibility to the plausibility of entitlement to relief. View "Donnie Holland v. Carnival Corporation" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was convicted by a Georgia jury of kidnapping, robbery, gang rape, and murder. The jury recommended that Petitioner be sentenced to death for his crimes. Having exhausted his state post-conviction remedies, Petitioner filed a federal habeas corpus petition, arguing, as relevant here, that his trial counsel rendered him constitutionally ineffective assistance in connection with the sentencing phase of his trial. The district court denied relief, but a panel of the Eleventh Circuit reversed and vacated Petitioner’s death sentence, holding that the state court’s rejection of his ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts and involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.   The Eleventh Circuit granted rehearing en banc to decide whether the state court’s decision that Petitioner is not entitled to relief on his ineffective assistance claim warrants deference under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). The court affirmed the district court’s denial of Petitioner’s petition and remanded it to the panel. The court held that the state court reasonably concluded that Petitioner was not prejudiced by any of his counsel’s alleged deficiencies in connection with his sentencing proceeding.   The court explained that while Petitioner argues that the background evidence that Mostiler should have presented parallels the evidence in Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000), and Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374 (2005), those cases “offer no guidance with respect to whether a state court has unreasonably determined that prejudice is lacking” because the Supreme Court “did not apply AEDPA deference to the question of prejudice in those cases.” View "Willie James Pye v. Warden, Georgia Diagnostic Prison" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff s required to register as a sex offender under the Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act (“ASORCNA” or the “Act”). Plaintiff sued the Alabama Attorney General and others, claiming that some provisions of ASORCNA impose retroactive punishment in violation of the Constitution’s Ex Post Facto Clause. After a bench trial, the district court entered judgment against Plaintiff, concluding that the retroactive application of these provisions did not amount to punishment.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and vacated and remanded in part. The court vacated the district court’s judgment insofar as it involves Plaintiff’s claims that it is unconstitutional to apply retroactively the following provisions of the ASORCNA, and remanded with instructions that it dismiss those claims as moot: (1) the identification-labeling requirement and (2) the dual registration requirements for homeless registrants and for registrants providing travel notification.   The court affirmed the district court’s judgment insofar as it rejects Plaintiff’s claims that it is unconstitutional to apply retroactively the following provisions of ASORCNA: (1) the residency and employment restrictions, (2) the homeless registration requirement, (3) the travel notification requirement, and (4) the community notification requirement. View "Michael A. McGuire v. Steven T. Marshall, et al" on Justia Law

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In Plaintiff’s malicious prosecution claim against Defendant, a detective with the Albany Police Department, the Eleventh Circuit previously vacated an order dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint for failure to allege a favorable termination on a charge of felony murder. Plaintiff appealed the summary judgment in favor of Defendant based on qualified immunity. The district court ruled that, even though Defendant’s affidavit was insufficient to provide probable cause to support the warrant to arrest Plaintiff, the detective had at least arguable probable cause to arrest Plaintiff.   The Eleventh Circuit again vacated the order granting summary judgment in the detective’s favor and remanded. The court concluded that because Plaintiff established that the legal process underlying his seizure was constitutionally infirm and it would not have been otherwise justified, the detective does not enjoy immunity from suit. The court explained that under longstanding Supreme Court precedent, an officer must provide particular information to support an arrest warrant. Here, no “reasonably competent officer” could have concluded that a warrant should issue based on the glaring deficiencies in the affidavit. As a result, the unlawfulness of the detective’s conduct was clearly established when he acted and he was not entitled to qualified immunity. View "Demetrius Rashard Luke v. Jameel H. Gulley" on Justia Law

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This appeal arises from a legislative invocation given by an invited, guest speaker before the opening of a Jacksonville City Council meeting. A City Council member  Anna Brosche, and a then-mayoral candidate, invited Plaintiff to give the invocation at the March 12, 2019, City Council meeting. When Plaintiff transitioned to levying criticisms against the City’s executive and legislative branches, the president of the City Council at the time, A.B., interrupted Plaintiff and later cut off his microphone.  Plaintiff brought suit against both the City and A.B. in his personal capacity. In his first two counts, actionable under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, Plaintiff alleged that both the City and Mr. Bowman violated his First Amendment rights under the Free Exercise Clause (Count I) and the Free Speech Clause (Count II) of the United States Constitution. The district court granted the Defendants’ motion to dismiss in part and denied it in part.   The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred in deeming Plaintiff’s invocation to be private speech in a nonpublic forum, the court affirmed the district court’s orders on the alternative ground that the invocation constitutes government speech, not subject to attack on free speech or free exercise grounds. The court explained that he did not bring a claim under the Establishment Clause. And since his invocation constitutes government speech, his speech is not susceptible to an attack on free speech or free-exercise grounds. View "Reginald L. Gundy v. City of Jacksonville, Florida, et al" on Justia Law

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Defendant argued that the district court improperly considered as an Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) predicate offense his prior conviction for drug trafficking under Florida Statutes Section 893.135(1)(b)1. Defendant contended that the particular Florida statute did not constitute a serious drug offense under the ACCA because the elements of that statute did not satisfy the requirements of the ACCA.The Eleventh Circuit certified the question raised by Defendant’s challenge to the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Supreme Court answered the court’s certified question, holding that, for purposes of Florida’s drug trafficking statute, “a completed purchase requires proof that the defendant both (1) gave consideration for and (2) obtained control of a trafficking quantity of illegal drugs,” and further that “the requisite control [consists] of the same range of conduct that qualifies as constructive possession under federal law.” In light of this response, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction and sentence. View "USA v. Michael Anthony Conage" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law