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

September 2013 Archives

Marissa Alexander Gets a New Trial; Will It Make a Difference?

While the George Zimmerman trial was working its way through the courts, another case, with a more sympathetic defendant, also claimed to Stand [her] Ground. While Zimmerman escaped prosecution under the law, Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years for firing a single "warning" shot at her allegedly abusive ex-husband.

Her "Stand Your Ground" defense was denied before trial, and earlier this week, the appellate court affirmed that holding. At trial, she asserted self-defense, amongst other theories, but the jury was decidedly unconvinced, taking only 12 minutes to convict her. Now, an appeals court has reversed the conviction, holding that the wrong standard for self defense was applied.

But even with a new trial, will the outcome be the same?

Rubio 'Blue Slips' Local Gay Judge; Blocks Fed Court Nomination

Last year, Florida Judge William Thomas, who is well-regarded amongst those who have worked with him in the Miami-Dade Circuit, was nominated by President Barack Obama with Senator Marco Rubio's support. Ten months later, Rubio, a Republican, has reversed course, and many are pointing the finger at the change of heart at politics, and the judge's sexual orientation.

Rubio's representative instead blamed the change of heart on Judge Thomas's "judicial temperament" and stated that the nomination was quashed because Sen. Rubio has "questions about ... his willingness to impose appropriate criminal sentences," reports the Miami Herald.

Accusations of Bias in 11th Cir. Judge Pryor's Nude Photo Scandal

Judge Wade McCree left the bench after an inappropriate photo leaked (though he was also embroiled in a sex scandal). Does a similar fate await Judge William Holcombe Pryor of the 11th Circuit?

The Internet and especially legal blogosphere exploded earlier this week when nude photos of a man bearing a striking resemblance to Judge Pryor appeared on Legal Schnauzer (link NSFW), a blog dedicated to fighting legal "injustice," and filled with criticism of allegedly-corrupt judges. The blog is authored by Roger Shuler, who holds a journalism degree from the University of Missouri, worked for 11 years at a daily newspaper, and then spent 19 years as a university editor.

Could Bipartisan Backroom Deal Fill 11th Cir Vacancies?

The Eleventh Circuit has twelve seats. One has been vacant for three years. Another has been vacant for fourteen months. And in two weeks, there will be a third vacancy when Judge Barkett leaves for Europe. Former Chief Judge Joel Dubina, meanwhile, is holding off on taking senior status until there is only one vacancy, as he doesn't want the court's business to grind to a halt.

The holdup, three years in the making, begins with the nomination of Jill Pryor, who often donates to (gasp) Democrats and gave $2,500 to President Barack Obama's re-election campaign. She was nominated last year, but two Georgia Republican senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, withheld "blue slips," grinding the nomination to a halt.

Res Judicata Upheld in 'Novel' R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Case

In 1994, a class-action lawsuit was brought against Big Tobacco, including R.J. Reynolds, in Florida state court on behalf of all Florida citizens and resident who have suffered or died as a result of medical conditions caused by their addiction to cigarettes. The trial court, realizing the enormity of the task at hand, split the trial into three phases:

  • Phase I "consisted of a year-long trial to consider the issues of liability and entitlement to punitive damages for the class as a whole;"
  • Phase II was a determination of the liability of the tobacco companies to three
    individual class representatives, compensatory damages for those
    individuals, and a determination of class-wide punitive damages;
  • Phase III would evaluate the individual claims of the remaining class members.

11th Cir. Bails Out Bankruptcy Firm, Reverses Suspensions

Ethics note: When one prepares a legal document for a client, even pursuant to an unbundled services agreement, your state likely requires a "prepared by counsel" note and signature. Failure to do so can lead to allegations of fraud on the court and ghostwriting, along with disciplinary proceedings.

Unless that document you prepped only required you to be a scrivener.

John Hood Jr. was the not-client. He filed a pro se Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition, possibly in bad faith to stall a foreclosure. When his customers expressed worries about whether they could continue to do business with someone entering bankruptcy, he claimed ignorance and told the court that he'd never filed the petition. The court didn't buy it, calling it a case of "buyer's remorse," as Hood's signature was all over the forms, in close proximity to the word "bankruptcy," which was used many times throughout the standardized forms.

Historically Black College Pays for Racial Slurs, Bad Lawyers

A double bench-slapping? Yes, please.

Alabama State University recently found itself on the losing end of a racial and sexual harassment verdict, brought after three former employees alleged that they were subject to repeated harassment and usage of the words "n----" and "b----" by one of their supervisors.

The other supervisor reportedly sexually harassed at least one of the women, and threatened retaliation if the women participated in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's investigation.