U.S. Eleventh Circuit

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


Add yet another victory to the list for same-sex marriage advocates in Florida. After victories in four counties, a federal judge made a statewide ruling earlier today. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle in Tallahassee held that Florida's ban violates guarantees of equal protection and due process, but stayed his decision pending appeal. The decision covers both in-state and recognition of out-of-state marriages.

What's the real-world effect? Very little, for now. It's a near certainty that the Supreme Court will take on the issue of same-sex marriage during its next term, which begins this fall. Given that Judge Hinkle's opinion was stayed pending appeal, and any appeal to the Eleventh Circuit would likely not happen before SCOTUS weighs in, this is but a minor footnote, albeit a positive one.

Here are five takeaways from Judge Hinkle's ruling:

Vicki and Danny Weeks sued five drug companies in federal court over injuries Danny Weeks suffered after years of taking metoclopramide, the generic version of Reglan. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, in turn, certified to the Alabama Supreme Court the question of whether brand-name manufacturers can be held liable for fraudulent misrepresentation due to injuries sustained from generics.

Last week, in an opinion following a rehearing of this case, the court ruled 6-3 that they can.

Free speech? Or professional conduct regulation? The Florida law at issue prohibits doctors from asking a patient about his or her guns, unless gun ownership is relevant to the patient's medical care. A violation can lead to a suspended or revoked license to practice medicine, along with a fine of up to $10,000.

The doctors sued, claiming that it violated their First Amendment rights. But the Eleventh Circuit panel's majority disagreed, calling a permissible regulation of professional conduct.

Now the doctors are asking for an en banc rehearing, hoping that the larger court will agree with Judge Charles Wilson's dissent, where he called the law a "gag order."

An ordinance in West Palm Beach, Florida, prohibits using amplified sound within 100 feet of the property line of any health care facility. Sounds neutral, but the real purpose of the law is to prevent anti-abortion protesters from using megaphones outside of abortion clinics.

The appellants in this case, Mary Susan Pine and Marilyn Blackburn, are two such protesters. They sued the city for an injunction on First Amendment grounds. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied the injunction, and on August 6, the 11th Circuit affirmed.

Since the inception of the United States, the Alien Tort Claims Act has given a forum in U.S. courts to aliens harmed in violation of U.S. treaties or international law. To that end, more than 4,000 Colombians sued Chiquita (the North Carolina-based banana company) in the United States, alleging that Chiquita acted in concert with paramilitary forces in Colombia, resulting in injury and death.

The cases came to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to decide some concerns over the plaintiffs' pleadings, but the Eleventh Circuit dismissed the lawsuits, finding that U.S. courts were not the place to litigate claims where foreign nationals alleged they were being harmed by other foreign nationals.

Quartavious Davis and five others were found guilty of robbery and racketeering, among other things, in 2011. The government used historical cell-site information to place Davis and the others close to the scenes of the robberies around the time they occurred.

Historical cell-site information consists of the records of which cell tower a phone was closest to at the time it made a call, along with the direction of the caller from the tower. This can be used to calculate a location for the caller.

Hot on the heels of a similar ruling in Mississippi last week, a federal judge in Alabama has also declared part of the state's abortion law unconstitutional.

As in Mississippi, the issue in Alabama was the constitutionality of a state law requiring doctors administering abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. (Laws requiring admitting privileges are being used to try to eliminate access to abortions in several states, mainly in the South.)

Judge Myron Thompson's 172-page opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Strange found that the Alabama's Women's Health and Safety Act of 2013 is an "impermissible undue burden" that would "have the striking result of closing three of Alabama's five abortion clinics, clinics which perform only early abortions, long before viability."

In a 2-1 decision, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Florida statute prohibiting doctors from asking about patients' gun ownership. The Eleventh Circuit's opinion reverses a controversial District Court decision -- known in the media as "Docs v. Glocks" -- that found the law unconstitutional.

The Firearm Owners Privacy Act, passed in 2011, prevents a physician from inquiring into a patient's firearm ownership unless that ownership is relevant to the patient's medical care. Violation of the law could lead to a physician's license being suspended or revoked, along with a $10,000 fine.

The statute followed an American Medical Association policy enactment encouraging doctors to talk to patients about firearms in homes with children, according to The Christian Science Monitor. Almost immediately after the law's passage, several doctors and medical organizations sued the state of Florida, alleging that the law infringed on their First Amendment free speech rights.

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First it was Monroe County. Then, late last week, it was Miami-Dade County. And if the plaintiffs have their way, it'll soon be the entire state of Florida.

Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel held Friday that Florida's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional in a case that only applies to Miami-Dade County. The decision came a little more than a week after Circuit Judge Luis Garcia's similar decision in Monroe County. Both decisions are expected to be appealed, but the plaintiff-appellees in the Monroe County case are asking that the process be expedited by skipping the state appeals court and heading straight to the Florida Supreme Court.

If the motion is granted, a decision by the Florida Supreme Court would have statewide effect. If not, a parallel challenge to the state's ban in federal court could have the same effect. A decision in the federal case is expected soon.

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On Monday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Julie Carnes to a position on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta.

Judge Carnes graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia School of Law. She clerked for Judge Lewis R. Morgan of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, then served as Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Georgia from 1978 to 1990. She also served as Commissioner of the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 1990 to 1996.