U.S. Eleventh Circuit

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


Since we last brought you the story of Judge Mark Fuller, the Alabama federal district court judge accused of domestic violence, a lot has changed: America has suddenly decided it's a lot less tolerant of domestic violence than it was before NFL player Ray Rice's video appeared on TMZ.

Now, both of Alabama's Republican U.S. senators -- Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions -- have called on Fuller to resign.

Lisa West, an attorney, entered the Fulton County Courthouse in Georgia on December 9, 2010. She was wearing a suit jacket and no overcoat. A sheriff's duty told her to remove her suit jacket; she said she wouldn't because it would "improperly expose her undergarments." The deputy said that if she didn't remove the suit jacket, she could leave. If she didn't do either one, she'd be arrested.

West called her husband, also an attorney, while still at the checkpoint. Though there were no signs saying she couldn't have a cell phone, the deputy grabbed her hand, squeezed it, forcing the cell phone out. When a supervisor arrived, he said that she didn't have to remove her jacket. She could be wanded instead, and she could have been wanded from the very beginning.

West filed a lawsuit against the deputy, and last week, the Eleventh Circuit said at least part of it could proceed.

Well, it took 'em, what, three and a half years to finish interrogating him in a Navy brig? It's unsurprising, then, that nearly three years after the Eleventh Circuit rejected his previous sentence as too lenient, Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen-turned-terrorist affiliate (and alleged dirty bomb plotter), finally knows his fate: 21 years behind bars.

Thanks to that ruling, he did not get credit for the years of "harsh treatment" or torture he endured while locked up in the brig, without access to an attorney. However, the 21-year sentence is still below the guidelines, something that could draw the Eleventh Circuit's attention once again.

Alexander Michael Roy, 31, was an eighth-grade teacher. He's now a convicted felon, or at least he might be after the Eleventh Circuit makes up its mind on his appeal of a conviction for online enticement of a minor and five counts of child pornography possession.

After Roy was caught in a sting operation, convicted, and sentenced, the Eleventh Circuit reversed his conviction because the trial proceeded for seven minutes while his attorney was late returning from lunch. Though his attorney failed to object, and though the testimony was only tangentially related to the most severe charge -- enticing a minor, which carries up to a life sentence -- the majority of the panel held that his right to counsel at all critical stages of the trial was violated, necessitating an automatic reversal.

Chief Judge Edward Carnes dissented vehemently from the automatic rule, predicting gamesmanship by defense attorneys. Something he said must have been persuasive, it seems, because less than a month after the initial opinion was filed, the court granted an en banc rehearing [PDF].

Cell phone location data: Every time your phone pings the nearest tower, there is a record. Ever see a movie where they track a person using their cell phone? This is that, and no GPS chip is required. Sure, it's not as accurate, but it does say the defendant was in the general area of the crime.

That's what happened to Quartavious Davis. The government used a court order under the Stored Communications Act to get his cell-phone records, which requires a lower showing than probable cause under the Fourth Amendment.

The Eleventh Circuit held that Davis had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his location data, but will now give the case a second look with the full en banc treatment.

State and federal laws protect a person's ability to live in a housing unit with a service animal even if the landlord or homeowners association has a no pets policy. This is because a service animal isn't a "pet," it's a service animal.

A Florida homeowners association didn't seem to think so. It was skeptical of one tenant's claim that he needed a service animal that exceeded the HOA's weight limit. The Eleventh Circuit decided last week that its demands for more information were unreasonable.

It's been a slow week in the Eleventh Circuit. Last week, though, was a doozey. A Florida judge ruled the state's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Alabama's Supreme Court said that injured consumers could go after brand-name pharmaceutical companies for problems caused by generics (provoking no small amount of controversy).

With high courts in each state in the Eleventh remaining quiet, this week we have some (alleged) Chinese hackers and a class action lawsuit.

Judges can behave badly, too -- sometimes, very badly.

Earlier this month, police arrested Judge Mark Fuller of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama on suspicion of misdemeanor battery. Fuller had allegedly beaten his wife, who called 911 from a hotel. Fuller, however said his wife was the one who became violent when she accused him of cheating on her with a law clerk, reported the Montgomery Advertiser.

Last week, Fuller got some more bad news: The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals weighed in, sending Fuller a judicial misconduct complaint it had received and asking him to respond, according to The Associated Press. The Eleventh Circuit also reassigned Fuller's outstanding cases and ordered that he not receive new cases.

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.