Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Footnote 7

In his characteristically snappy writing style, Judge Carnes summarized conflicting opinions with parentheticals that read "Bull!" and "au contraire." Read footnote 7 of United States v. Harris to see what I mean. But also read the rest of the opinion; it adds to the emerging body of law about what is a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act. Here, Harris was convicted of sexual battery on a child under the age of 16 under Florida statute §800.04(3) (1996). The Court found that that conviction was not a violent felony under the residual clause of the ACCA. Why? "Because the Florida statute, viewed categorically, imposes strict liability and covers such a broad range of conduct, we cannot say that a violation of it typically involves 'purposeful,' 'violent,' and 'aggressive' conduct" under Begay.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The need to file a timely motion for reconsideration

Reminding the reader that a timely notice of appeal is a jurisdictional requirement in a civil case, the Eleventh Circuit dismissed as untimely an appeal where the motion for reconsideration was filed a week late. It never hurts to check the rules, and if you need a little something to scare you into doing that, check out Green v. DEA, No. 07-15334.

Categorical approach;one type of agg assault not a crime of violence

The Eleventh Circuit addressed yet another "crime of violence" issue under Shepard and Taylor in United States v. Garcia, No. 09-10534. There, in the context of the 16 level enhancement under U.S.S.G. §2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(ii), the Court found that an Arizona conviction for aggravated assault was not a crime of violence. First, the Court rejected the government's argument that the name of the conviction was determinative: "We . . . hold that the label a state attaches to an offense is not conclusive of whether a prior conviction qualifies as an enumerated offense under §2L1.2." Second, after considering opinions from the 5th, 6th, and 9th Circuits, the Court addressed the elements that a generic aggravated assault must contain -- it "involves a criminal assault accompanied by the aggravating factors of either the intent to cause serious bodily injury to the victim or the use of a deadly weapon." The Arizona statue of conviction did not require either serious bodily injury or the use of deadly weapon; it only required a simple assault with an aggravating factor that the victim was a law enforcement officer. Third, as for the "use of physical force" consideration under §2L1.2, the Court determined that the Arizona statute's mens rea could be satisfied by recklessness, which was insufficient.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Other cases (week of March 29, 2010)

LeBlanc v. Unifund CCR Partners considered a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act issues under 15 U.S.C. §§1692e(5) and 1692f, reversed the grant of partial summary judgment to plaintiff, and remanded the matter for trial.

Mid-Continent Casualty Co. v. American Pride Building Company, LLC addressed duty to indemnify provisions in an insurance contract under Florida law.

SFM Holdings, Ltd. v. Bank of America Securities, LLC affirmed the dismissal with prejudice of a complaint seeking damages for breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud in a securities case.

Class action decision

In Sacred Heart Health Systems v. Humana Military Healthcare Services, the Court reversed the district court's determination under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 to certify a class in a case brought by 260 hospitals against Humana. Why? The Court agreed with Humana that "many important uncommon questions raised by this litigation overwhelm the one common issue and render the case unsuitable for class treatment." For instance, breach of contract claims are "peculiarly driven by the terms of the parties' agreement, and common questions rarely will predominate if the relevant terms vary in substance among the contracts." (The Court noted that a form contract would better suit class certification.) The Court also noted the differences in the applicable state laws governing those contracts. The Court acknowledged the disparity in power between Humana and "even the largest of the class members here." Nonetheless, it remanded the case to the district court to determine whether any subset of the claims or class members might be suspectible of fair and efficient class treatment.

1983 opinion -- deliberate indifference to medical need

In Townsend v. Jefferson County, the Court considered the actions of deputies in responding to the medical needs of a pregnant detainee who used crack cocaine daily. The undisputed evidence showed that both deputies knew that a nurse at jail and seen and spoken with the detainee, and it was undisputed that the nurse determined that the detainee's medical need was not an emergency. The detainee later suffered a miscarriage while incarcerated. She sued the deputies, claiming that they violated her civil rights under the 14th Amendment by acting with deliberate indifference to her medical needs. The district court denied the deputies' motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds, and the Eleventh Circuit reversed and rendered a judgment in favor of the deputies.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New false arrest case

In Rushing v. Parker, the Court considered a §1983 false arrest claim and affirmed the district court's grant of qualified immunity to the defendants. There, two Polk County sheriff's deputies misidentified and arrested Rushing based upon a citizen's complaint that a roofer had ripped him off. After an investigation, the deputies arrested Rushing although the state later dropped charges when it determined that Rushing had been misidentified. The victim filed a complaint against the plaintiff by name and identified the plaintiff as the perpetrator in a phot line-up, although fingerprint evidence later exonerated the plaintiff. Given these facts, the Court found that the deputy's arrest affidavit, although mistaken, was sufficient to establish probable cause to arrest Rushing.