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Case Dismissed: Alleged Murder-for-Hire Widow Can't Get Usufruct

If Law & Order ever wants to give a civil dispute its "ripped-from-the-headlines" treatment, this case is an excellent contender.

Adam Anhang Uster was murdered in September 2005 while leaving a restaurant with his wife of six months, Áurea Vázquez-Rijos. In March 2006, Vázquez sued Adam's parents, Abraham and Barbara Anhang, in Puerto Rico Superior Court, alleging that the Anhangs had assumed control of Adam's estate and had prevented her from accessing the assets therein.

Estate of Charania v. Shulman, No. 09-2430, concerned a decedent's estate's challenge to the judgment of the tax court in a deficiency case. The court affirmed in part the judgment of the tax court that all of the Citigroup shares were the separate property of the decedent for federal estate tax purposes and, thus, were includable in his gross taxable estate, as the rule of De Nicols is that a change is marital domicile does not, in itself, effect a change in the marital property regime governing the spouses' rights in personal property acquired throughout the course of the marriage.  However, the court reversed in part as the tax court's approbation of the late-filing penalty was in error. 

US v. Laurent, No. 09-1543, concerned a challenge to a defendant's conviction and sentence for drug related crimes.  In affirming, the court rejected defendant's claim that the destruction of the surveillance videotape of defendant selling drugs to an undercover agent and failure by the prosecutor to disclose before trial the prior existence of the tape and the destruction violated his constitutional rights, as the tape was not exculpatory, but rather, it is more likely than not that the tape would have inculpated defendant.   

Martinez v. Cui, No. 09-1471, concerned a plaintiff's suit against a first-year medical resident, claiming that she was sexually assaulted during an examination.  In affirming the jury verdict in favor of the defendant, the court held that the district court's evidentiary rulings were not error; and that the jury was correctly instructed on the shocks-the-conscious element as this standard applies to claims that an executive official's sexual assault violated the substantive due process clause.   

Cortes-Reyes v. Salas-Quintana, No. 08-2210, concerned a political discrimination suit brought by thirty-six former Ranger cadets of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, claiming they were terminated due to their political affiliation with the New Progressive Party.  The court vacated in part the judgment of the district court as to the jury's finding of a due process violation and the related award of compensatory damages as the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on the due process claim.  However, the court affirmed the jury's finding of a First Amendment violation and the award of nominal and punitive damages for that violation.     

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Estate of Hevia v. Portrio Corp., No. 09-1096, involved a plaintiffs' suit alleging that defendants infringed a copyright on architectural plans created by the deceased.  Because the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants on the copyright claim, the judgment is affirmed.  However, defendants' argument that the district court should have exercised its inherent powers to assess attorneys' fees and costs against the plaintiffs is rejected. 

In Haddad Motor Group, Inc. v. Karp Ackerman Skabowski & Hogan, PC, No. 06-2206, the First Circuit dealt with a car dealership's suit against its former accounting firm and one of its partners alleging that the firm's negligent tax advice caused plaintiff to incur unnecessary penalties and interest.  In rejecting defendant's various claims, the district court's judgment was affirmed in its entirety, including its fact-finding underlying the Chapter 93A verdict and the treble damage award. 

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Ruling Involving the Colorado River Abstention Doctrine

In Jimenez v. Rodriguez-Pagan, No. 09-1135, the First Circuit dealt with the issue of whether the Colorado Abstention doctrine applied to two identical actions in federal district court and in a Puerto Rico Commonwealth court, involving plaintiff's action seeking her late husband's share of certain stocks and to exercise his option on a penthouse apartment, as had allegedly been previously agreed to with defendants.

Applying the Colorado River factors to the case, the court concluded that, although some of the factors are neutral, considering all the factors, this is one of the rare cases that merit abstention because of the possibility for inconsistent dispositions of a res, the heightened potential for piecemeal litigation, and other issues. 

Thus, having decided that conditions for Colorado River abstention are met, the court ordered the action in federal court to stay pending outcome of the Commonwealth court case. 

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