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

February 2014 Archives

Robin Rosenberg Gets the Nomination; Gay Judge Passed Over

The seat was Judge William Thomas's, until it wasn't. He was approved by both Florida senators, vetted, and appeared set for the nomination to replace now-Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Adalberto Jordan. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) had a change of heart and blue-slip blocked the nomination, allegedly due to Judge Thomas's "judicial temperament" and doubt about his ability to hand out fair sentences.

Many believe the move was political, and due to Judge Thomas's sexual orientation.

There won't be a change of heart, it seems, as the district court seat is now set to be filled by Judge Robin Rosenberg (not to be confused with Judge Robin Rosenbaum, who was recently nominated to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals bench after a few years with the district court). She comes to the federal court from the state court bench.

SCOTUS Ruling Could Mean New Trial for Ala. Death Row Inmate

Three restaurant robberies. Two bullets fired at each. One surviving victim.

Anthony Ray Hinton was the triggerman ... maybe.

According to the original appellate case opinion, the surviving witness, as well as others, identified Hinton as the perpetrator of the third robbery. (He was neither indicted nor convicted for the robbery, but was convicted and sent to death row over the two prior murders.) Then again, his boss and other witnesses claim that he was working in a locked, secured warehouse at the time of the robbery.

Critics' Beef With Boggs Nomination Clarified: Abortion, Religion, Flag

We've been over and over the deal between the Obama Administration and Georgia Republicans that will place three of the latter's picks on the district court, and one on the Circuit Court of Appeals, in exchange for two Obama appointments to the Circuit Court and one to the district court.

Diversity proponents were immediately outraged by the Republicans' nominations, but one nominee in particular has drawn groups' ire for his actions as a state legislator: Judge Michael Boggs.

Ballot Access: Libertarian, Green, Constitution Parties Suing Ala.

The United States is basically a two-party system. Republicans versus Democrats. Before that, there were Whigs, Federalists, and a few others, but for the most part, there has never been a true third party.

Is it tradition? Popular preference and/or apathy? Or is it a matter of ballot access?

Since the last election, we've seen lawsuit, after lawsuit, after lawsuit, most brought by the Libertarian Party, regarding access to the ballot. Today's lawsuit: fighting Alabama's odd requirements for having one's party label affixed to candidates' names.

AG Strange Inducted Into ALF Fellows Program by 11th Cir. Judge Bill Pryor

Attorney General Luther Strange was recently inducted into the Fellows program of the Alabama Law Foundation.

Strange was nominated by former Attorney General William Holcombe Pryor, who now serves as a judge for the Eleventh Circuit. Yes, he's the same Judge Pryor embroiled in a nude photo scandal.

But what is the Fellows program and, more importantly, why aren't you a member?

Paul Howell, AEDPA's Habeas Time Limits, and SCOTUS's Mistake

"Here, Mr. Howell appears to have colorable claims that both his trial attorney, who fabricated death threats to be excused from representing Mr. Howell, and his initial habeas attorney, who did not even contact Mr. Howell until after his federal habeas deadline had passed, were incompetent, ineffective, and deeply unprofessional. I continue to believe that it is unconstitutional and immoral for death row inmates to lose a fundamental constitutional right because of their attorney's errors, especially when they are as egregious as those we deal with here." (Judge Rosemary Barkett)

In short: Paul Howell got screwed. As we related earlier this week, Howell was convicted of killing a state trooper using a pipe bomb that was intended for a witness in an unrelated case. He's probably not a nice guy. He is, however, guaranteed a fair trial and a habeas appeal. Arguably, he received neither.

And thanks to the intricacies of habeas procedure, he won't, unless the Supreme Court steps in.

Equitable Tolling, Incompetent Lawyers, and AEDPA's Firm Limits

Déjà freaking vu. In fact, déjà déjà vu.

Last April, a particularly unsympathetic death row inmate was denied habeas review by the Eleventh Circuit despite his incompetent attorney's negligence. She botched the state collateral review petition, thereby missing the federal one-year deadline. The Eleventh refused to apply the Supreme Court's Holland v. Florida (2010) decision, where the Court held that an attorney's gross negligence warranted equitable tolling of the statute of limitations.

At the time, noted anti-death penalty judge Rosemary Barkett wrote a reluctant concurrence, citing her dissent in a similar case, Hutchinson v. Florida. The issue creept up again in Howell v. Florida, though with a different procedural history. Again, Barkett reluctantly concurred, citing the same concurrence.

Howell is now seeking Supreme Court review.