Decisions in Criminal, Immigration, Contract, and Employment Law Matters - Civil Rights Law - U.S. First Circuit
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Decisions in Criminal, Immigration, Contract, and Employment Law Matters

Wells Real Estate Inv. Trust II, Inc. v. Chardon/Hato Rey P'ship, S.E., 09-1969, concerned a challenge to the district court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment in a suit for breach of contract involving a commercial building in San Juan, Puerto Rico, following a large fuel spill at the building that caused significant damages and displacement of the building's tenants.

In vacating in part, the court held that the district court erred by entering summary judgment sua sponte as to plaintiff's entire material damage claim without appropriate notice.  Also, given that the text of the agreement reasonably supports multiple, conflicting interpretations, the district court erred in concluding a reasonable estimate of costs to repair the "Property" unambiguously referred only to physical repairs. The court also held that the plaintiff has no remedy or recourse for defendant's alleged failure to provide the required estoppels as it chose not to pursue either of the options provided by Section 7.3.7(c) of the agreement.  Also, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the evidence permits a finding that defendant did not fulfill its maintenance obligations under Section 6.1.3 of the agreement. Lastly, the court held that the district court acted within its discretion in denying plaintiff's motion to compel.

Santana-Medina v. Holder, 09-2598, concerned a petition for review brought by a citizen of the Dominican Republic of the BIA's denial of his application for cancellation of removal under 8 U.S.C. section 1229b(b).  In dismissing the petition for lack of jurisdiction, the court held that, by statute, orders regarding cancellation of removal are not subject to judicial review, unless the appeal raises a question of law or a constitutional claim.  Here, petitioner's legal claim on appeal was not made before the IJ or BIA, and his other claims merely challenge the IJ's factual determinations.

Riva v. Ficco, 07-1998, concerned a challenge to the district court's dismissal of defendant's request for habeas relief, from his conviction for murdering his grandmother while under a paranoid delusion caused by his schizophrenia, as untimely.  In vacating the denial, the court held that the district court was correct in concluding that mental illness can constitute an extraordinary circumstance which may prevent a habeas petitioner from understanding and acting upon his legal rights and thereby equitably toll the AEDPA limitations period. The court also held that although mental illness does not per se toll the AEDPA limitations period, as there must be some causal link between a petitioner's mental illness and his ability seasonably to file for habeas relief, the district court's determination that defendant was not entitled to equitable tolling rests on too unsteady a foundation.

Collazo v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Mfg. Inc., 09-1665, involved a challenge to the district court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment in a plaintiff's suit for retaliatory termination against his former employer, alleging violations of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Puerto Rico law.  In affirming in part, the court held that the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's Act 115 claim is proper as the undisputed facts demonstrate that plaintiff did not engage in protected activity under Act 115.  However, the court vacated in part in holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on plaintiff's claim that he was terminated for opposing sexual harassment in the workplace as, plaintiff has raised a genuine issue of fact as to whether his termination was motivated by retaliatory animus.  Here, a jury could reasonably conclude, based on the particularly close temporal connection between plaintiff's protected conduct and his termination and the deficiencies in defendant's articulated reorganization and performance rationales, that plaintiff was terminated because of his protected conduct.

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