U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Denial of Diabetes-Related Social Security Benefits Upheld, Plus Bankruptcy, Criminal and Employment Matters

Carlson v. Astrue, No. 09-1123, concerned petitioner's appeal from a judgment upholding the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of petitioner's application for supplemental security income.  The court of appeals affirmed, on the grounds that 1) the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) consideration of petitioner's physician's signed residual functional capacity assessment satisfied the obligation to receive an expert opinion on equivalence; 2) it was reasonable for the ALJ to conclude that petitioner's control of his diabetes prevented future episodes of ketoacidosis with vomiting and nausea, and thereby limited the severity of the impairment; and 3) substantial evidence supports the ALJ's conclusion that petitioner's impairments did not equal the severity of all the criteria in Listing 5.08.

In US v. Woods, No. 09-1364, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's drug conspiracy sentence, holding that 1) the district court properly calculated defendant's new advisory Guidelines range, as required by 18 U.S.C. section 3553(a)(4), and accounted for the 15% substantial assistance downward departure the court previously granted; and 2) while the district court would have been within its discretion to consider further the crack versus powder cocaine disparity in arriving at defendant's sentence, the district court was not required to apply this consideration by lowering defendant's sentence further.

In US v. Yang, No. 09-1572, the Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's marriage fraud conviction, holding that the circumstantial evidence was sufficient to justify a reasonable jury's conclusion that defendant knowingly entered into a marriage for the purpose of evading the immigration laws, and that he knowingly entered into an agreement for that purpose.

In re: Freier, 09-1916, concerned a bankruptcy adversary action seeking a determination that defendant was personally liable for a state-court money judgment rendered against a corporation wholly owned by defendant.  The Eighth Circuit reversed the bankruptcy appellate panel's reversal of the bankruptcy court's order holding defendant liable for the corporation's debt, on the grounds that 1) defendant's material promise to repay the debt in the future, made with the intent to defraud and without the intent to perform constituted actionable fraud; and 2) the evidence supported the bankruptcy court's finding that plaintiff relied on defendant's representation about taking draws.

Burkhart v. Am. Railcar Indus., Inc., No. 09-2077, involved a sexual harassment and retaliation action.  The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for defendants, on the grounds that 1) plaintiff's harassment claims were untimely because all of the actions about which plaintiff complained that occurred within 180 days of her filing were alleged to have been retaliation for complaining to the human resources manager, not harassment based on sex; and 2) even if plaintiff could establish a prima facie retaliation case, no reasonable factfinder could conclude that defendant's proffered reason for firing her was pretextual as required in the McDonnell Douglas framework.

In US v. Turner, No. 09-2864, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's drug conspiracy sentence, on the ground that the district court's determination that defendant was part of a conspiracy involving more than 100 kilograms of marijuana was correct, whether the court of appeals applied the standard for reviewing sufficiency of the evidence after a bench trial, or the clearly erroneous standard for reviewing drug quantity findings at sentencing.

In US v. Bastian, No. 09-3111, the Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's child pornography conviction and sentence, holding that 1) defendant's alleged dissatisfaction with his attorney did not negate the voluntariness of his plea, and the district court properly found that it did not provide a "fair and just reason" for withdrawing it; 2) defendant's sentencing enhancement did not violate the separation-of-powers doctrine; 3) the district court properly found that defendant's reluctance to plead guilty and attempt to withdraw his plea showed he had not accepted responsibility; and 4) the court of appeals did not need to decide whether the district court erred in applying a "thing of value" enhancement because any error was harmless.

In US v. Manes, No. 09-3163, the Eighth Circuit affirmed defendants' drug conspiracy conviction, on the grounds that 1) the Fourth Amendment was not violated when a law enforcement officer briefly detained an individual to investigate circumstances which gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was underway; 2) sufficient evidence was adduced at trial for the jury reasonably to find beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant had knowingly agreed with others to purchase and distribute methamphetamine; 3) an instruction requested by defendant did not correspond with the theory of defense he sought to prove at trial; and 4) through extensive cross examination, defendant's counsel made the jury aware that a certain photograph did not reflect the location of the drugs and money at the time of the stop, thus removing any undue prejudice due to the photograph's admission.

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