U.S. Eleventh Circuit

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


In June, Cameron Bates, a former Florida sheriff's deputy, was convicted of possessing child pornography. But Bates also had sexual relationships with adult men, and he figured this information would be used at trial (which it was). Bates tried to head the problem off during voir dire by seeking to exclude potential jurors who were prejudiced against men who had sex with men.

The trial court denied the request. As expected, evidence of Bates' sexual relationships with adult men "was repeatedly paraded before the jury, over several objections from Mr. Bates." He was convicted of all counts.

If you attended college at least after the late 1990s, you probably remember that one or more of your professors made excerpts from books available in "electronic reserve" by scanning the relevant pages and turning them into PDFs that only students enrolled in the course could access.

At the time, you might not have wondered whether the practice was lawful. Well, even if you didn't wonder that, the Eleventh Circuit has your answer in a 129-page opinion: "Maybe."

We've talked before about the ongoing "Engle-progeny" cases in Florida: The state supreme court decertified the Engle class but gave res judicata effect to a jury's determinations on causation, negligence, breach of warranty, concealment, and conspiracy findings. The individual members of the class would then have to file their own claims to determine "individual issues such as legal causation, comparative fault, and damages." The Eleventh Circuit upheld this "novel" approach last year.

Thelma Aycock brought this suit on behalf of her late husband, Richard Aycock, a chain smoker with a bit of a drinking problem. A jury found R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company 72.5 percent at fault, leading to a net award of $4.28 million. Reynolds appealed, arguing that a denied continuance cost it its choice of counsel and more importantly, that exclusion of evidence of Richard's alcoholism was improper.

The Eleventh Circuit didn't touch the counsel issue, reversing the verdict on the evidentiary issue alone.

Earlier this year, we picked Lane v. Franks as our "SCOTUS sleeper" -- a case nobody was talking about, but one that was extremely important for whistleblowers and workers' speech rights. Edward Lane, the director of a state program for at-risk youth, noticed that a politician held a no-show gig at the local community college and fired her. He was subpoenaed to give testimony in her criminal trial.

Lane was then laid off. Fortunately for him, the Supreme Court came to his rescue somewhat, by holding that his speech was protected. Now that he's been vindicated in the eyes of the law, all that is left is to get his job back, assuming the courts even have the power to issue such an order.

But here's the punch line: The program Lane worked for doesn't even exist anymore.

We could start with cell towers disguised as trees. Or railroad fuel tax. But no, the case we really want to talk about, and the first case out of the Eleventh Circuit that will be argued this year, is the "One fish, two fish, red fish, short fish" case, where a guy, who was debating the size of his red grouper, tossed the fish overboard and was prosecuted under a banking statute (Sarbanes-Oxley) for destroying the evidence.

Only then will the Court will get to the Monopine, and what a city must do to keep these man-made mockeries of nature out of their neighborhood. And after that? Whether Alabama can gouge rail carriers for a sales-and-use tax while exempting trucks and boats.

The Federal Arbitration Act comes into play once again, this time in a case from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Last month, you'll recall, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck an arbitration agreement that wasn't mutual -- the phone company, Alltel, could enforce the arbitration clause against customers, but not the other way around.

The Eleventh Circuit in Inetianbor v. CashCall, Inc. affirmed the district court's refusal to compel arbitration due to a forum selection clause and a forum that was unavailable.

Why is an Italian restaurant suing a bagel company in federal court? Sure, you can chalk it up to it being Florida, but it turns out the dispute is unrelated to the vortex of sanity that seems to exist down there.

The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. advertises that its bagels are so awesome because it utilizes a "patented 14-stage water treatment process" designed to mimic the water in Brooklyn. As everyone knows, New York bagels are considered the best bagels because of the water in New York City.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision last term in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum has already put the kibosh on one Alien Tort Statute (ATS) claim in the Eleventh Circuit: In that case, the court said that Kiobel foreclosed using the ATS where all the conduct took place outside the United States.

In front of a different three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit, plaintiffs in Baloco v. Drummond Company argued that Drummond, an American coal mining company, "aided and abetted or conspired" with Colombian paramilitary forces by paying the paramilitary to murder several Colombian union leaders at Drummond's Colombian mines.

Bargain-basement airline company Spirit Airlines is known for a lot of things. Some of them include very cheap fares; others include nickel-and-diming and a "Draconian" cancellation policy (according to The Atlantic) that allows Spirit to cancel a customer's reservation, without notice, and without compensation, if the customer isn't at the boarding gate 15 minutes before the flight (even if he's already checked in).

Bryan Ray was fed up with this. Not only did he file a class action against Spirit, but he made his a civil RICO claim. That's right: He said Spirit was engaged in "racketeering," and the predicate crimes were mail and wire fraud due to Spirit's penchant for charging ancillary "fees" that placed the final price of a ticket well beyond what the customer was told it would cost.

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.