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

November 2011 Archives

Kleptocracy, Indeed: 11th Circuit Upholds Gary White Conviction

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed former Jefferson County Commissioner Gary White's sentence this week, finding that there was sufficient evidence to support White's corruption conviction, and that the corresponding prison sentence was reasonable.

Eleventh Circuit Judge Earl Carnes started the court's decision on White's appeal with a definition of "kleptocracy." While that signaled bad news for White, it was good news for those of us who delight in unusual vocabulary lessons in court opinions. (Thanks, Judge Carnes.)

Eleventh Circuit: No Mistrial for Mark Duke

These are not new ideas: a criminal defendant has the right to remain silent, both in questioning and at trial. The prosecutor isn’t allowed to encourage a jury to infer guilt from a defendant’s silence. Such assertions will end in a mistrial.

But what if the prosecutor doesn’t explicitly state, “he-didn’t-testify-so-he-must-be-guilty?” According to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, a petitioner is not entitled to relief for prosecutorial innuendo. This week, the Eleventh Circuit rejected an appeal to re-hear Mark Duke’s case. Duke had appealed for a new trial after a prosecutor allegedly inferred that he should have testified.

Eleventh Circuit OKs Georgia Death Penalty Standard

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Georgia’s “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for proving mental disability in capital crime cases on Tuesday.

In a 110-page opinion, the divided circuit reasoned that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act required the court to affirm the Georgia death penalty standard - even if the court believed the standard was “unwise or incorrect - because there is no “clearly established” standard in Supreme Court precedent or federal law regarding the burden of proof for mental retardation claims.

Email is Proof in Coca-Cola Copyright Lawsuit

Cautionary tale: If your client files a copyright lawsuit against a major corporation and loses, he could be stuck paying a small fortune in attorney’s fees.

Rafael Vergara Hermosilla sued Coca-Cola Company for copyright infringement, claiming that Coca-Cola used his Spanish adaptation of a song in its advertising without his permission. The district court ruled that Vergara had assigned his copyright interest in the adaptation to Universal Music Latin America, which in turn had assigned its rights to the adaptation to Coca-Cola.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the decision.

Denied: Procedural Vigilance Matters in Post-Conviction Relief

In October, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Maples v. Thomas, an Alabama death penalty appeal. In that case, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals previously held that a procedural default in an inmate’s death penalty appeal cannot be excused. The Supreme Court will soon let us know if they agree.

Why are we bringing up Maples v. Thomas without new information from The Nine on the issue? Because today we’re talking about another procedural snafu in another death penalty case from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Do You Support the Unauthorized Practice of Law Model Statute?

We’ve subscribed to the “fake it ‘til you make it” philosophy for many years. For most neophyte attorneys, it’s necessary to get a job.

When one of our law school classmates interviewed with his top-choice firm and learned that the firm was looking to hire a bankruptcy attorney, he faked it. “My focus is bankruptcy,” he told them before the start of third year, and he received an offer. (We took bankruptcy law and secured transactions together during the second semester of our third year. Neither of us knew what an automatic stay was.)

Eleventh Circuit Lags Behind Sister Circuits in Transparency

Law Geek Alert: If you’re like us, you plan all of your vacations around important hearing dates in the federal appellate courts. The U.S. Courts websites for each circuit make such planning easy, unless you want to attend oral arguments in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. That’s because the Eleventh Circuit is the only circuit that does not publish its calendar on its website.

Want to attend hearings in the challenge to the Alabama immigration law, or the Georgia ban on handguns in church? You have to call or go to the Eleventh Circuit clerk’s office during business hours to get details. Some court watchers say that kind of opacity has no place in the justice system.

No Mistrial: Eleventh Cir. Upholds Liberty City Seven Convictions

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of five men accused of working with al-Qaida to bomb the Sears Tower this week, rejecting their appeal that the judge in the case should have declared a mistrial.

Five of the “Liberty City Seven” were convicted in a 2009 Florida trial after two prior mistrials. The U.S. Attorney’s office had indicated that it would not prosecute the men a fourth time if the third trial also ended in a mistrial, reports The Miami Herald.

The five appellants appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals for a new trial, claiming that U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard erred in removing a juror, known as Juror No. 4, who refused to deliberate. Juror No. 4 was replaced with an alternate juror after the other jurors complained to the judge.