U.S. Second Circuit - The FindLaw 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

April 2015 Archives

Benihana Drama in the 2nd Circuit

This is a case about Benihana, burgers, and contracts. Benihana was founded in 1963 by Rocky Aoki, who would have been a serious contender for the title "Most Interesting Man in the World."

Unfortunately, the case doesn't really involve the considerable family drama surrounding the company after Aoki's death in 2008, which pitted Aoki's six children against his third (much younger) wife, who also happened to be the CEO of Benihana of Tokyo at the time. This case is about a 1994 agreement splitting the company into two entities.

Courts cannot apply the armed career criminal sentencing minimum based on juvenile offenses, the Second Circuit ruled on Monday. Just like your childhood paper route doesn't make you a career journalist, neither can a juvenile offense be used to apply a career criminal enhancement.

The case involved Jamell Sellers, who received a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years under the Armed Career Criminal Act, in part based on his juvenile drug conviction. That conviction, in which Sellers was adjudicated as a youthful offender, can't count as one of the predicate three prior convictions needed under the ACCA, the Second Circuit found. The Second Circuit's decision to nerf the federal version of a "three strikes" law comes just as the Supreme Court considers whether the Act results in unconstitutionally excessive sentences.

More than 22 years ago, environmental advocates accused Texaco, later acquired by Chevron, of polluting the Amazonian rainforest homeland of 30,000 Ecuadorians. Since then, the controversy has produced reams of media coverage, a well-received documentary, and a judgment of nearly $9 billion against Chevron.

It also produced a three hundred page court opinion finding that the billion dollar judgment to be based on fraudulent evidence, bribery and deceit -- and preventing enforcement of the judgment under an anti-racketeering statute often used for mobsters, not environmental lawyers.

Figure Skater Oksana Baiul Loses Defamation Suit (Again)

Okasana Baiul became famous after she beat both Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding to win the gold medal in figure skating at the infamous 1994 winter Olympic games. Then she fell into alcoholism, resulting in a 1997 car accident.

She revitalized herself, however, and joined season 13 of "The Apprentice." She's also the plaintiff in a defamation suit filed against Disson Skating and NBC, where she claimed Disson and NBC promoted her appearance at a skating event she was actually never supposed to appear at, then made statements creating the impression (she says) that she failed to show up for that appearance. The Second Circuit last week upheld a district court's dismissal of her claim, in which Brian Boitano makes a special guest appearance.

Arne Svenson, a visual artist, created a series of photographs, entitled "The Neighbors," by using a telephoto lens to photograph the residents of the building across the street from him. His photos capture people at mundane and intimate moments like napping on a couch or scrubbing a floor. The neighbors, who did not know they were being photographed in their homes and did not consent to having their images displayed, sued, alleging the works violated their privacy rights.

A New York appellate court sided with the artist last Friday, finding that the artistic expression is constitutionally protected and exempt from the state's privacy law.

2nd Cir. Affirms, Denies in Police Harassment Lawsuit

In November, 2007, a state trooper named Ben Campbell began to harass a woman named Joanne Smith. When Smith's adult son, Tom, said he would call 911 and speak to Campbell's supervisor, Campbell left without issuing any tickets.

This incident sparked a series of harassing activities that eventually rose to the level of a civil rights complaint. On April 1, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed and vacated in part a district court's order dismissing the case.

Inside traders can breathe a sigh of relief today. The Second Circuit has refused to revisit a ruling which federal prosecutors had said would severely limit their ability to pursue insider trading cases.

Prosecutors had asked the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear the case of hedge fund managers Todd Newman and Anthony Chiasson. The court had reversed the pair's convictions on insider trading charges last December.

The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal contesting a New York City policy refusing to allow outside groups to hold religious services on school facilities. The denial of cert, issued Monday, leaves in place the Second Circuit's decision from last April, which held that the NYC Board of Ed.'s policy was a reasonable way to ensure that the City did not violate the separation of church and state.

This may be the last round in litigation which began over 14 years ago, when the City first denied the request by Bronx Household of Faith to use school facilities for church services. The case illustrates the fine line municipalities walk when attempting to balance free practice of religion with the separation of church and state.