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

October 2010 Archives

Ferguson v. US, No. 10-1127

Prisoner's Possession Sentence Affirmed

In Ferguson v. US, No. 10-1127, the court affirmed defendant's sentence for possession of a prohibited object in prison where 1) the district court imposed an upward variance and thus was not required to follow the procedural requirements for departing; 2) there was no plain error in the procedural adequacy of the court's consideration; and 3) although some might argue that there was a degree of unfairness when non-personal characteristics contributed to a sentence, here the district court's focus on deterrence and its balancing of the section 3553(a) factors did not make the sentence unreasonable.

US v. Quintana, No. 09-2749

Reentry Conviction Affirmed

In US v. Quintana, No. 09-2749, the court affirmed defendant's conviction for re-entry by a deported alien following an aggravated felony conviction, holding that 1) the district court did not abuse its discretion, much less commit plain error, in relying on an officer's affidavit without a hearing; 2) the Border Patrol made a sufficient showing of probable cause to believe that defendant was a deportable alien; and 3) the government did not need to prove that use of the IAFIS/IDENT system was the quickest means of investigation reasonably available to determine whether defendant was in the country illegally.

US v. Lozoya, No. 09-3870

Manslaughter Sentences Affirmed

In US v. Lozoya, No. 09-3870, the court affirmed defendants' voluntary manslaughter sentences where 1) simply because the district court weighed the relevant factors more heavily than defendants would prefer did not mean the district court abused its discretion; and 2) the government's opinion of the appropriate sentence in this case did not prevent the district court from making its own determination under section 3553(a).

Ginsburg v. InBev NV/SA, No. 09-2990

Clayton Act Action Concerning Merger

In Ginsburg v. InBev NV/SA, No. 09-2990, an action by beer consumers suing to enjoin the now-consummated acquisition of Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. by InBev NV/SA on the ground that the transaction violated Section 7 of the Clayton Act, the court affirmed judgment on the pleadings for defendant where any antitrust injury plaintiffs could prove would be both speculative and localized, and the hardship and competitive disadvantage resulting from forced divestiture would be both dramatic and certain.

Smith v. Fairview Ridges Hosp., No. 08-1924

Title VII Hostile Work Environment Matter

In Smith v. Fairview Ridges Hosp., No. 08-1924, an action claiming that defendant constructively discharged plaintiff after subjecting her to a hostile work environment and retaliation, in violation of Title VII, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendant where 1) the evidence did not support plaintiff's contention that her workplace was "permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult, that was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter" her conditions of employment; and 2) plaintiff produced no evidence that her coworkers were "involved in or accused of the same offense and [were] disciplined in different ways," thus she did not show that she and her coworkers "were similarly situated in all relevant aspects."

 

US v. Swift, No. 09-2713

Felon in Possession Conviction Affirmed

In US v. Swift, No. 09-2713, the court affirmed defendant's conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm, where 1) even though officers may have hoped that defendant would make incriminating statements when left alone, that action was not express questioning; and 2) even if the prosecutor's comments suggested that defendant had a burden to present certain evidence, which would have been improper, the comments were not prejudicial.

 

US v. Bravo, No. 10-1380

Drug Sentence Affirmed

In US v. Bravo, No. 10-1380, the court affirmed defendant's sentence for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, where 1) the record as a whole indicated that the district court was aware of its discretion to vary from the Guidelines range and it did not commit error under Rita; and 2) under plain error review, even if the court assumed the district court erroneously presumed the Guidelines to be reasonable and such error was plain, defendant failed to show there was a reasonable probability that he would have received a more favorable sentence without the presumption.

Danforth v. Crist, No. 05-3987

Criminal Sexual Conduct Habeas Petition

In Danforth v. Crist, No. 05-3987, a prosecution for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, the court affirmed the denial of petitioner's habeas petition where 1) Crawford v. Washington did not apply retroactively to petitioner's case; 2) petitioner failed to show a clearly established right to be present when a videotaped statement is made under federal law; and 3) the trial court did not make an unreasonable determination of the facts in finding the victim's statement reliable despite its finding that the victim was incompetent to testify at trial.

 

Am. Milling Co. v. Brennan Marine, Inc., No. 08-3915

Boat Collision Case

In Am. Milling Co. v. Brennan Marine, Inc., No. 08-3915, a case involving an allision between one or more barges and a casino boat on the Mississippi River, the court affirmed the district court's order requiring plaintiff to pay interest on its security at a rate of six percent compounded annually, and denying plaintiff's motion to deposit the cash value of the security into the court registry at a later stage of the proceedings, holding that 1) Supplemental Rule for Admiralty or Maritime Claims F(1) permitted the district court, in its discretion, to award compound interest at a rate of six percent annually; and 2) it was not an abuse of discretion for the district court to forbid the company to change its position at a late stage in the litigation in a manner that would have been detrimental to the claimants.

US v. Resinos, No. 10-1607

Methamphetamine Sentence Affirmed

In US v. Resinos, No. 10-1607, the court affirmed defendant's sentence for five counts of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, holding that 1) the district court properly reached the 50-gram threshold of 18 U.S.C. section 841(b)(1)(A); and 2) because section 841(b)(1) established minimum sentences based on the amount of the specific substance "involv[ed]" in the violation of section 841(a), Jenkins II necessarily decided that the cash converted came entirely from the sale of cocaine base.

 

US v. Brewer, No. 09-3909

Crack Cocaine Conviction Affirmed

In US v. Brewer, No. 09-3909, the court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, distribution of crack cocaine, and possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, holding that 1) the officers had probable cause to arrest defendant, and the search of his person was a valid search incident to arrest; 2) it was beyond serious question that the evidence in this case was sufficient to sustain defendant's convictions; 3) there was no abuse of discretion in the district court's refusal to instruct the jury about the punishment defendant faced if convicted; and 4) the district court considered and rejected defendant's request for a variance based on the crack/powder disparity, and thus was within its discretion to depart downward.

US v. Foster, No. 10-1122

Child Pornography Conviction Affirmed

In US v. Foster, No. 10-1122, the court affirmed defendant's conviction for possessing child pornography, holding that 1) the case against defendant was so overwhelming that there was not the remotest chance that he would not have been convicted had the evidence that he complained about not been admitted; and 2) the district court correctly concluded that defendant's new trial motion was untimely and did not abuse its discretion by finding no excusable neglect for the delay.

US v. De Oliveira, No. 10-1281

Alien Harboring Conviction Affirmed

In US v. De Oliveira, No. 10-1281, the court affirmed in part defendant's conviction and sentence for harboring illegal aliens, holding that 1) the court had no reason to doubt the district court's factual determination that, had defendant's counsel coerced defendant into pleading guilty, defendant's very involved wife would have notified the lower court of the issue earlier; and 2) severe overcrowding together with lack of heat and furnishings presented an inherent health-and-safety risk to each of the occupants such that the application of an enhancement was warranted.  However, the court reversed in part where the workers' status as illegal aliens did not alone justify a vulnerable-victim enhancement under the facts of this case.

Moore v. Astrue, No. 10-1126

Social Security Benefit Denial

In Moore v. Astrue, No. 10-1126,  plaintiff's appeals of a decision of a district court affirming the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security to deny his applications for supplemental security income, the court affirmed where 1) there was medical evidence to support the alternative position taken by the ALJ that plaintiff could handle interactions with coworkers on an "infrequent" basis; 2) there was substantial evidence to support the ALJ's determination that plaintiff could "adapt to infrequent work changes" and perform "simple, routine and repetitive work activity"; and 3) there was no direct conflict between "carrying out simple job instructions" for "simple, routine and repetitive work activity," as in the hypothetical, and the vocational expert's identification of occupations involving instructions that, while potentially detailed, were not complicated or intricate.

 

Christian v. Wagner, No. 09-2417

Civil Rights Action Alleging Medical Indifference

In Christian v. Wagner, No. 09-2417, an action by a former pretrial detainee at the Johnson County (Iowa) Jail, against several jail employees in their individual capacities, alleging that plaintiff suffered an adverse reaction to a cleaning product used at the jail, the court affirmed judgment for defendants where 1) the jury reasonably determined that plaintiff failed to establish a serious medical need while incarcerated; and 2) the district court did not err by not instructing the jury on a conditions of confinement claim distinct from a claim based on denial of medical care.

Nebraska v. US Dep't of Interior, No. 09-1657

Reversal of Indian Gaming Commission's Decision Vacated

In Nebraska v. US Dep't of Interior, No. 09-1657, an appeal from the district court's reversal of the National Indian Gaming Commission's decision concluding that the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska's five-acre parcel in Carter Lake, Iowa, was eligible for gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act as land taken into trust as part of "the restoration of lands for an Indian tribe that is restored to Federal recognition" pursuant to 25 U.S.C. section 2719(b)(1)(B)(iii), the court vacated where 1) the district court erred in concluding the Department of Interior (DOI) had already made a "restored lands" determination; and 2) the record was inadequate to make a conclusive determination as to the Corrected Notice of Intent To Take Land In Trust's validity as an agreement and its legal effect.

 

Doe v. Flaherty, No. 09-2535

Denial of Summary Judgment Title IX Action Against School Reversed

In Doe v. Flaherty, No. 09-2535, an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, alleging that the former principal of a high school failed to prevent plaintiffs' minor child from engaging in a sexual relationship with her basketball coach, the court reversed the denial of summary judgment for defendants where defendant's reasonable investigation of the information that came to her attention uncovered no evidence to substantiate the suspicions, and given the stringent standard for supervisory liability in this context, no reasonable jury could find actual notice on those alleged facts.

 

Bonn v. City of Omaha, No. 09-3332

Summary Judgment for Defendant in Political Whistleblowing Case

In Bonn v. City of Omaha, No. 09-3332, an action claiming that plaintiff was wrongfully terminated from her position as the Public Safety Auditor for the City of Omaha after she published a report criticizing the Omaha Police Department, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendants where the evidence did not support a finding that plaintiff reasonably believed that she opposed an unlawful employment practice by publishing her report.

Am. Milling Co. v. Trustee of the Distribution Trust, No. 08-3888

Case Involving Barge Accident

In Am. Milling Co. v. Trustee of the Distribution Trust, No. 08-3888, an action arising out of an accident in which a casino ship was damaged by a barge that broke loose from a towboat, the court affirmed partial judgment for plaintiff where the district court reasonably could conclude that the ship owners projected higher expenditures on promotional activities than the company actually spent after the accident, and therefore incurred no damages.

 

Jacobson v. Mott, No. 09-2484

In Jacobson v. Mott, No. 09-2484, an action against a police officer under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, claiming that defendant violated plaintiff's rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments by arresting and detaining him without probable cause, and by fabricating charges against him so that he would be held in jail over the weekend, the court affirmed judgment for defendant where 1) because the district court's instructions were consistent with the Supreme Court of Minnesota's interpretation of the obstruction statute in Engholm, the district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting a proposed instruction; and 2) it was of no moment whether defendant also had arguable probable cause to arrest for a different offense.

Dodd v. Jones, No. 09-2016

In Dodd v. Jones, No. 09-2016, an action under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 against Missouri police officers, alleging that they failed to protect plaintiff from an intoxicated driver in responding to his accident, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendants where 1) the evidence did not support a finding that defendants took plaintiff into custody and held him against his will so as to trigger the corresponding duty described in DeShaney; and 2) because the percentage of alcohol in the blood diminishes with time, an effort to secure evidence of blood-alcohol content by drawing blood from a suspect after his arrest was a reasonable search incident to arrest.

US v. Willett, No. 09-2627

In US v. Willett, No. 09-2627, the court vacated defendant's sentence for possession of a stolen firearm, holding that the district court miscalculated the advisory guideline range because it erred in its application of a four-level specific offense characteristic for trafficking in firearms, pursuant to U.S.S.G. section 2K2.1(b)(5).

US v. Watson, No. 09-3606

In US v. Watson, No. 09-3606, the court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for being a felon in possession of ammunition, holding that 1) Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(b) is a nonjurisdictional claim-processing rule; and 2) defendant's notice of appeal from the judgment of conviction and sentence was not timely filed, and the government properly objected by motion and in its merits brief.

Sierra Club v. Kimbell, No. 09-1639

In Sierra Club v. Kimbell, No. 09-1639, an action claiming that the Forest Service's Land and Resource Management Plan for the Superior National Forest violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the court affirmed summary judgment for defendants where nothing in either NEPA or its implementing regulations prevented the Forest Service from integrating consideration of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness into its analysis of the revised plan's effects on other resources within the Superior National Forest.

US v. Haas, No. 08-4012

Bank Robbery Conviction Affirmed

In US v. Haas, No. 08-4012, the court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for aiding and abetting burglary of a building used in part as a bank, holding that 1) the unambiguous language of 18 U.S.C. section 2113(a) applied to a defendant who took federally insured deposits from a bank-owned and operated ATM located within a store; 2) the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding evidence about the bank's FDIC insurance; and 3) defendant's earlier burglary conviction was a crime of violence.

 

Hulsey v. Astrue, No. 09-2838

Supplemental Security Income Benefit Case

In Hulsey v. Astrue, No. 09-2838, plaintiff's appeal from the judgment of the district court upholding the Social Security Commissioner's decision to deny her application for supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, the court affirmed where, even assuming for the sake of argument that plaintiff was unable to perform some unskilled work, the Appeals Council's conclusion that plaintiff could perform housekeeping work was supported by substantial evidence.

 

Preemption Issue in Medical Device Tort Case

In In re: Medtronic, Inc., Sprint Fidelis Leads Prods. Liab. Litig., No. 09-2290, consolidated actions by patients with implanted Sprint Fidelis Leads, an implanted defibrillator component, asserting tort and breach of warranty claims for injuries allegedly caused by the defective leads, the court affirmed the dismissal of the action where the claims were preempted by 21 U.S.C. section 360k(a), which preempts certain state law claims concerning medical devices that had received FDA approval.

 

US v. Amratiel, No. 09-3934

Unregistered destructive device conviction affirmed

In US v. Amratiel, No. 09-3934, the court affirmed defendant's conviction for possession of an unregistered destructive device, holding that 1) possession of a key is not the sole factor whether a third party has authority over a locked space for Fourth Amendment purposes; and 2) when officers obtain valid third-party consent, they are not also required to seek consent from a defendant, even if detained nearby.

Smith v. Hy-Vee, Inc., No. 09-2631

Judgment for Defendant in Sexual Harassment Action Affirmed

In Smith v. Hy-Vee, Inc., No. 09-2631, an action for sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act, the court affirmed judgment for defendant where 1) plaintiff's supervisor treated all employees, both male and female, in the same vulgar and inappropriate way; and 2) plaintiff effectively waived any objection to defendant's motion in limine.

Matschiner v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., No. 09-3576

ERISA's Impact on Death Benefit

In Matschiner v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., No. 09-3576, an action to recover a death benefit paid to an individual defendant by defendant-insurer, the court reversed summary judgment for plaintiff where defendant paid the death benefit in accordance with the plan documents and therefore complied with ERISA as construed in Kennedy.

US v. Paz, No. 10-1683

In US v. Paz, No. 10-1683, the court affirmed defendant's sentence for illegal reentry into the United States in violation of 8 U.S.C. section 1326(b), holding that the district court properly applied the sentencing enhancement for illegal reentry into the U.S. after a prior crime of violence, namely sexual assault under Arkansas law.

US v. Clay, No. 10-1222

In US v. Clay, No. 10-1222, the court affirmed defendant's sentence for distributing cocaine base and being a felon in possession of a firearm, holding that 1) the offense described in Iowa Code section 321.279(2) was a crime of violence for the same reasons the court held in Malloy that section 321.279(3) is a crime of violence; and 2) the court's review of defendant's sentence did not indicate that the district court abused its discretion.

Marksmeier v. Davie, No. 09-3074

In Marksmeier v. Davie, No. 09-3074, a section 1983 action claiming that defendant-officers arrested plaintiff for sexual assault without probable cause, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendants where 1) the district court did not err in concluding that plaintiff's constitutional rights were not violated by his arrest as there was probable cause to believe that plaintiff had committed a violation of Nebraska law; 2) plaintiff failed to identify a deliberate choice of a guiding principle or procedure made by the municipal official who has final authority regarding such matters; and 3) the district court did not abuse its substantial discretion in granting a protective order.

Fu v. Owens, No. 09-2489

Summary Judgment for Worker's Compensation Insurer Affirmed

In Fu v. Owens, No. 09-2489, an action against a worker's compensation insurance carrier, claiming that it wrongfully denied plaintiff's claim for benefits due to a coworker's attack upon her, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendants where 1) although the record reflects that the coworker may have harbored racial animus toward plaintiff, it also reflects that she disliked plaintiff for specific, work-related reasons such as plaintiff reporting her allegedly inferior job performance to clinic supervisors; and 2) plaintiffs failed to provide substantial justification for failing to timely disclose a witness's affidavit nor have they demonstrated that such failure is harmless.