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

Dismissal of False Claims Act Action Regarding Medicaid Fraud Upheld, Plus Bankruptcy, Civil Rights and Criminal Matters

In US v. Holy Bull, No. 09-1544, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for sexual abuse of a minor, holding that 1) the testimony of the prior victim revealed a pattern of abuse quite similar to the abuse alleged in the indictment and therefore was properly admitted; 2) the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant committed sexual abuse of a minor "knowingly," as required by statute; and 3) the district court clearly included defendant's history of sexual abuse in its sentencing analysis.

In US v. Jewell, No. 09-1930, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's conviction for aiding and abetting tax evasion, on the grounds that 1) any alleged error in admitting a videotaped deposition did not contribute to defendant's conviction for aiding and abetting tax evasion; 2) there was no abuse of discretion in the district court's decision not to strike a witness's testimony based on defendant's claim that some of the witness's cross-examination answers were non-responsive and allegedly prejudicial; and 3) because defense counsel was able to thoroughly attack a witness's credibility, the district court did not abuse its discretion or violate the Confrontation Clause by limiting cross on this issue.

In re: Carpenter, No. 09-2897, involved a creditor's appeal from a bankruptcy appellate panel's holding that a social security payment to debtor was exempt and should not be included in his bankruptcy estate.  The Eighth Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy appellate panel's reversal of the bankruptcy court's order, holding that the social security payment was excluded from the Chapter 7 bankruptcy estate pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 407.

McDermott v. Royal, No. 09-3167, concerned an action claiming that plaintiff suffered First Amendment violations during her arrest and prosecution for obstructing police officers who arrested her son.  The Eighth Circuit reversed an injunction in favor of plaintiff against the ordinance at issue, holding that the terms used in the ordinance -- "obstruct" and "resist" -- covered only physical acts or fighting words and did not give officers unfettered discretion to make arrests for mere words that annoy them.

In US v. Cates, No. 09-3181, the Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence following the revocation of his supervised release, on the grounds that 1) the district court had valid and sufficient reasons to disbelieve defendant's explanation for his positive marijuana tests; 2) there was no plain error in the district court's explanation or weighing of the sentencing factors; and 3) there was no abuse of the district court's considerable sentencing discretion and no basis for concluding defendant's below-Guidelines sentence was substantively unreasonable.

In US v. Charboneau, No. 09-3064, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's conviction for sexual abuse of a minor and abusive sexual contact in Indian country, on the grounds that 1) when a child victim testifies at trial, the Supreme Court's decision in Crawford is inapplicable; and 2) neither the medical report nor any out-of-court statement by the examining physician was admitted into evidence, and thus there was no Confrontation Clause error.

US v. Health Mgmt. Sys., Inc., No. 09-3439, concerned a qui tam action against two companies that contracted to perform work for Iowa's Medicaid program, and against two employees of the Iowa Department of Health Services, claiming that the defendants violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by obtaining federal funds to pay for medical care resulting from medical negligence without seeking reimbursement from the tortfeasors as federal law required.  The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of the action, on the grounds that 1) the documents submitted by plaintiffs did not disclose the "essential elements" of what the relators sought to prove; and 2) there was no merit in the relators' contention that the defendants were somehow bound by an interpretation of Iowa Code section 147.136 that the State of Iowa relied on in that trial-court case against a Medicaid recipient's estate.

In US v. Henderson, No. 09-3326, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's convictions for conspiring to distribute, and possessing with the intent to distribute, in excess of five kilograms of cocaine, and distributing over five kilograms of cocaine, on the grounds that 1) following his arrest, defendant waived his Miranda rights and consented to a search of an apartment, and no intervening exculpatory act destroyed probable cause; 2) the district court's instruction regarding defendant's prior conviction mitigated concerns of prejudice; and 3) the district court's 18 U.S.C. section 851(b) error did not affect defendant's substantial rights.

In US v. Longs, No. 09-2781, the Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base (crack), and conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of the drug trafficking conspiracy, on the grounds that 1) the evidence overwhelmingly supported the charge that defendant participated in the crack conspiracy as alleged in the second superseding indictment; and 2) the indictment sufficiently apprised defendant of the evidence the government would introduce at trial.

In US v. Mitchell, No. 09-3041, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's conviction for money laundering conspiracy, holding that 1) the indictment was not so defective that defendant could not have reasonably understood the offense for which he was charged; and 2) defendant did not show that the danger of unfair prejudice substantially outweighed the probative value of certain tax information. However, the court vacated defendant's sentence on the ground that the evidence was sufficient to justify a six-level enhancement pursuant to U.S.S.G. section 2S1.1(b)(1).

Center for Fam. Med. v. US, No. 09-2780, involved an action against the U.S., seeking a refund for Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assessed and collected on stipends appellants paid to medical students.  The court of appeals affirmed the partial denial of plaintiffs' motion for attorney's fees, holding that 1) the government did not continue to push for a bright-line rule in its second motion for summary judgment; and 2) the government was substantially justified in taking the position that plaintiff did not qualify as a "school, college, or university."

Copeland v. Locke, No. 09-2485, concerned an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that defendant-police chief used excessive force to effectuate plaintiff's unlawful arrest and that the City of Bella Villa was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's constitutional rights.  The court of appeals affirmed in part summary judgment for defendants on the ground that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to create a triable issue of fact as to whether the municipality was deliberately indifferent to the risk that police officers would use excessive force to effectuate an unlawful arrest of citizens.  However, the court reversed the judgment in part on the grounds that 1) if, as plaintiff averred, defendant arrested plaintiff solely for distracting him from a traffic stop through the use of his protected expression, then the arrest was unlawful even if it arguably interfered with police activity; and 2) there was a material question of fact regarding whether plaintiff's injuries were the result of excessive force.

Kuelbs v. Hill, No. 09-2697, involved an action alleging embezzlement of a trust's assets.  The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of the action on the grounds that 1) the district court correctly determined that plaintiff was not the proper party to pursue the action due to her incompetency, and she did not move to substitute the proper party after being put on notice of the need for substitution; and 2) the tort claims plaintiff assigned to the trust were properly dismissed on the grounds they were not assignable under Arkansas law.

Mahamed v. Anderson, No. 09-2030, concerned an action alleging various civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. section 1983.  The court of appeals dismissed defendant's appeal from a denial of defendant's summary judgment motion based on qualified immunity, on the ground that, even though defendant sought to frame the issue in terms of qualified immunity, he asked the court to find qualified immunity on facts contrary to those plaintiff presented to the district court.

In US v. Dale, No. 08-3172, the court of appeals affirmed defendants' murder and conspiracy to distribute cocaine convictions, on the grounds that ) defendant's Sixth Amendment protections had not yet attached, and the admission of the out-of-court statements he made to a witness did not violate defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel; 2) a nontestifying defendant's out-of-court statements were non-testimonial; and 3) because defendant was permitted to impeach a witness's credibility, the district court did not abuse its discretion in limiting defendant's cross-examination of the witness.

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