U.S. Eleventh Circuit - The FindLaw 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Court Blocks Segregationist School Plan in Alabama

As a young civil rights lawyer, U.W. Clemon lost an important desegregation battle against the Jefferson County school district in Alabama.

A federal appeals court later reversed in his favor, however, with orders that set in motion desegregation in schools there and across the country. A lifetime of litigation later, Clemon lost it again.

In Stout v. Jefferson County Board of Education, a trial judge said the people of Gardendale could secede from the school district to form their own school system so long as they complied with the decades-old orders. That was not a victory for civil rights -- until the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

Taxpayer's Affidavit Can Preclude Summary Judgment

A federal appeals court gave some good news to taxpayers, and to one taxpayer in particular.

Estelle Stein had been fighting the Internal Revenue Service over $220,000 in assessments, penalties and interest. She swore she paid her debt, but a judge didn't buy the affidavit and entered summary judgment for the government.

The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling en banc in United States of America v. Stein, sent the case back to a three-judge panel and overruled its own precedent. It's not about the weight of evidence; it's about disputed evidence.

Court: Lawyer Led Trial Judge Astray in Winn-Dixie Case

How good is it when your lawyer can get a judge not to follow the law for you?

Not very good, according to a federal appeals court. While a BigLaw partner might have impressed his clients in the trial court, it backfired at the U.S Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appellate judges had ruled earlier in the case, and sent it back to the trial judge with instructions. The judge didn't follow them in Winn Dixie Stores v. Dolgencorp.

Judge Slams Clemency Board for Violating Ex-Felons' Voting Rights

Judge Mark Walker bent Florida's clemency board over his knee and gave it a spanking.

With a figurative flair, the federal judge said the board's arbitrary and "unfettered discretion" over felons' voting rights violates the Constitution. He compared it to a prison guard taking the key and swallowing it.

"Only when the state has digested and passed that key in the unforeseeable future, maybe in five years, maybe in 50 ... does the state, in an 'act of mercy' unlock the former felon's voting rights from its hiding place," he wrote in Hand v. Scott.

Court Affirms $620,000 in Damages for Smoker

When it comes to fault in a smoking-death case, there is no mystery.

Tobacco companies and smokers are both blameworthy. But in Florida there was some confusion about liability and damages in Smith v. R.J. Reynolds Company.

A jury said the smoker was partially responsible for her death, and awarded $620,000 against R.J. Reynolds. The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, but said the company was 100 percent responsible for fraudulently concealing the dangers of smoking.

When most people envision First Amendment civil rights challenges against college campuses, student protest groups come to mind. However, the University of Alabama just fought off a seemingly random Evangelical preacher's federal First Amendment lawsuit, and Eleventh Circuit appeal.

Fortunately for UA, both the district and appellate courts agreed that the preacher's case did not merit granting a preliminary injunction against the campus. Whether or not the case will get much further is a different story, but the facts are rather curious, and don't seem to bode well for the well-meaning plaintiff preacher.

PETA Fails in Suit to Release Captive Orca

Lolita, the killer whale, will remain in captivity.

That's the decision of the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Miami Seaquarium. The animal rights group and others claimed that Lolita should be freed under the Endangered Species Act.

The appeals court said PETA did not prove that captivity posed a serious threat to the whale. It will not be a sequel to "Free Willy."

A year and a half after losing a four-day trial, former Commodores guitarist, and founding member, Thomas McClary was dealt a blow by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

McClary used the Commodores name for his band in 2014. Not surprisingly, the surviving members of the Commodores (that never left the band) filed a lawsuit against McClary claiming trademark infringement, and were awarded a permanent injunction. On appeal, the permanent injunction was affirmed.

The Sovereign, Not the Plaintiff, Is King

John D. King was mad when he discovered the government had settled a case for $7.5 million -- because it was his case!

Or so he alleged in King v. United States Government. King said the government secretly settled his qui tam action, which he had initiated on behalf of the federal government.

In that underlying case, he claimed several corporations violated the False Claims Act. But to get a share of the recovery, he had to get around the United States' sovereign immunity.

Court Revives Officer's Tase-Me-Not Case

Jacqueline Lewis had a good reason not to get tased as part of her police training.

Nobody wants to get tased, but Lewis had another reason. She had a minor heart condition, and her doctor said she should not be subjected to the shock devices.

So the Union City Police Department didn't tase her; it fired her. She sued and asked for a jury to decide her case, and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals saw it her way in Lewis v. City of Union City.