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

May 2012 Archives

Lafler, Frye Don't Warrant Second or Successive Motions

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued another opinion examining the practical implications of the Supreme Court's Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye decisions last week. If you do criminal appeals, this decision is bad news.

As you'll recall, the Supreme Court ruled in March that the right to effective counsel includes the right to representation during the plea bargaining process. In this appeal, the Eleventh Circuit ruled that Lafler and Frye do not justify second or successive motions to vacate, set aside, or correct a federal sentence.

Eleventh Circuit Uphold ACCA Enhancement for False Imprisonment

Judicial interpretation of what constitutes a “violent felony” when determining whether a defendant qualifies as an armed career criminal is a frequent issue in appellate litigation, and this week was no exception.

Thursday, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Florida prior for false imprisonment triggers armed career criminal status.

Dead Person is a 'Person' in Aggravated Identity Theft

Dead men tell no tales, but the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals says that they can be victims of aggravated identity theft.

Last week, the Eleventh Circuit joined the First, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits in finding that using a dead person’s identity can be grounds for an identity theft conviction.

Eleventh Circuit Narrowly Interprets Safety Valve Statute

Lawyers have a love-hate relationship with mandatory minimum sentencing: Prosecutors love it, and defense attorneys hate it. But mandatory minimum sentencing isn’t entirely rigid; there is a safety valve statute that lets courts give an offender less time in prison than the mandatory minimum requires.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals interprets the safety valve statute strictly, noting that “by its terms, the safety valve provision applies only to convictions under five specified [drug] offenses:”

No Apologies? Teacher Fired for Pregnancy Can Sue Christian School

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that a Florida teacher who was fired after admitting that she became pregnant out of wedlock can bring a pregnancy discrimination claim against her former employer.

Fourth grade teacher Jaretta Hamilton was fired shortly after she told her boss at Southland Christian School that she planned to take maternity leave. While being pregnant was not cause for termination at the school, Southland Principal John Ennis, said that he dismissed Hamilton because "she had sinned by engaging in premarital sex, and "there are consequences for disobeying the word of God."

Supreme Court Won't Answer Odyssey Marine's Booty Call

The Supreme Court denied certiorari in a dispute over sunken treasure on Monday. The High Court's refusal to reconsider the issue closes a case that was over 200 years in the making. The district court and Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decisions, finding that Spain was entitled to the loot under sovereign immunity, are now final.

Let's go back to the beginning to see how this case began its journey.

Georgia Senators Withholding Blue Slips in Jill Pryor Nomination

It looks like there’s a holdup in Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Jill Pryor’s confirmation. Georgia Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson have not submitted “blue slips” to allow the Senate Judiciary Committee to proceed with a hearing on Pryor, reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Chambliss and Isakson indicated to the White House in January that they would not block Jill Pryor's nomination to the bench, though they preferred Troutman Sanders partner Mark Cohen for the position. The Journal-Constitution noted that Cohen served as executive counsel and chief of staff to former Gov. Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat, while Pryor often donates to Democrats, and gave $2,500 to Obama's re-election campaign.

Yuby Ramirez to be Released from Custody

The Eleventh Circuit tossed a Miami woman's life sentence in a high-profile witness-tampering case last week, finding that the woman had received ineffective counsel a decade ago during the plea bargaining process for her case.

Based on the Supreme Court's Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper opinions, the Eleventh Circuit ordered that Yuby Ramirez be released from custody.

Elizabeth Gaddy Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Dismissed

Is a teacher’s pattern of inappropriate conduct toward students sufficient proof to support a Title IX sexual harassment lawsuit against the school district? Not necessarily, according the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

J.F.K. and M.C.K. sued the Troup County School District for sexual harassment under Title IX after learning that Elizabeth Gaddy, a 45-year-old teacher, had molested O.K.K., their 12-year-old son. O.K.K.’s parents claimed that multiple parents had alerted the school principal, Thomas Whatley, to Gaddy’s unprofessional behavior toward O.K.K. and other students, but Whatley failed to intervene.

Court Vacates Punitive Damages in Hustler Right of Publicity Case

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Hustler this week in a lawsuit over the magazine's decision to print 20-year-old nude photos of slain former-wrestler Nancy Toffoloni Benoit months after her husband, Chris Benoit, killed her.

Last year, a jury hit Hustler with $19.6 million in punitive damages for publishing the pics, according to the First Amendment Center. A federal judge later reduced the award to $250,000 to comply with a Georgia damages cap, and awarded Nancy's family $125,000 in compensatory damages.

This week, the Eleventh Circuit vacated the $250,000 punitive damages award.

Eleventh Circuit Reinstates Another FDCPA Claim

This week, we have another Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (FDCPA) claim in which the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that homeowners could sue attorneys acting as debt collectors.

Yes, attorneys are being sued, and you don't want to be one of them, so you need to heed the court’s warnings.