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

January 2014 Archives

Can't Knowingly Violate a Court Order That You Didn't Know About

This is not a particularly exciting case, but it is an issue of first impression and a new rule in the Eleventh Circuit.

Sirtaj "Tosh" Mathauda was running a fake franchise scam. His pop-up companies would advertise franchises for businesses opportunities, such as vending machines and greeting card displays. They'd collect the fees using a Costa Rican call center, then shut down and keep the money. The operation netted millions in fraudulently obtained cash.

Mathauda was convicted on a handful of fraud charges, and he received a sentence enhancement for violating a court order (to stop scamming people) from a related civil proceeding brought by the FTC. The problem is, he never knew about that order.

As Expected, Diversity Proponents Fighting 11th Cir. Nominees

Last month, a long-rumored bipartisan deal to fill a number of district court and Court of Appeals vacancies finally went through, much to the chagrin of Georgia civil rights leaders. Out of the six nominees, only one was a racial minority, and two had previously taken controversial stances on divisive issues (Confederate flags and voter ID laws).

Now, Advocacy for Action, a coalition of African-American attorneys, has asked Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. to allow the organization to testify in opposition to the slate of nominees.

Stand Your Ground: Ga. Dropping It? Theater Shooter Claiming It?

If you didn't get enough of Stand Your Ground debates over the last two years, after Trayvon Martin's death and George Zimmerman's acquittal, we have good news for you: it's back in the headlines in two states.

The word out of Georgia is that a state lawmaker plans to introduce a bill to repeal the state's version of the law, while in Florida, the question is whether Curtis Reeves, the retired Tampa police officer who allegedly shot and killed a man for texting in a movie theater, would have a plausible claim under Florida's version of the law.

Inexcusable: Muckraking Blogger is Still in Jail

In November of last year, we were shocked to hear that Roger Shuler, the blogger that broke the rumors of a conservative Eleventh Circuit judge's full-frontal porn past, had been jailed for exercising his free speech rights. A court found him in contempt after he refused to comply with an injunction that required him to take down posts discussing salacious rumors about Robert Riley, Jr., the son of a former two-term governor, and a lobbyist, Liberty Duke.

With powerhouses like the ACLU and the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press lining up behind him, and against the prior restraint of free speech via a sealed court case, you'd think that he'd be released by now, especially considering the "trial" on defamation already concluded.

11th Circuit Won't Recuse From Murder Case of One of Their Own

More than twenty-four years ago, Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert S. Vance was tragically murdered by a bomb mailed to his house.

His murderer, Walter Leroy Moody, is currently sitting on Alabama's death row and is seeking habeas relief in federal courts. At the time of his original prosecution, the Eleventh Circuit found it necessary to recuse themselves, as well as the local district court judges, from the federal case. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist assigned the case to a Minnesota district court, and when the appeal reached the Eleventh Circuit, a panel of judges from the Fourth Circuit sat by designation.

The question is: twenty-four years later, do the same recusal rules apply?

Democrats Waste No Time, Submit List for Appeals Court Vacancy

Curious about the Eleventh Circuit vacancies? After a long-rumored bipartisan deal came to fruition last month, that left only one vacancy on the Circuit Court of Appeals: Judge Joel Dubina's recently-vacated spot, created when he moved to senior status late last year.

Assuming the seven pending nominees are confirmed, that would leave the Circuit Court of Appeals bench with eight Democratic appointees (one of whom was rumored to be picked by the Republicans as part of the deal, and had previously been appointed to the district court by a Republican president) and three Republican appointees, plus Dubina's vacancy.

And though the backlog of nominations seems to be clearing, based on the years it took to fill other vacancies in the circuit, we expected Dubina's seat to be vacant for a while.

Collection 'Fees' or 'Costs'? Contractual Language Nails Debt Collector

This is an important case to check out if you work in the debt collection industry, or you work against the debt collection industry.

Two plaintiffs, with nearly identical back-stories, had outstanding medical bills. Neither paid their bills. Both accounts were referred to Franklin Collection Service, Inc., after the original healthcare providers tacked on a "collection fee" of 30 to 33.3 percent. Franklin had agreements with both providers that awarded it 30 percent of whatever it collected.

The difference? One plaintiff, Calma, signed an agreement that allowed for "all costs of collection including reasonable interest, reasonable attorney's fees (if suit is filed) and reasonable collection agency fees," while the other, Bradley, signed an agreement that agreed that he would be responsible for the "costs of collection."