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

August 2014 Archives

Alabamans File Class Action for Patient Data Hack

It's been a slow week in the Eleventh Circuit. Last week, though, was a doozey. A Florida judge ruled the state's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Alabama's Supreme Court said that injured consumers could go after brand-name pharmaceutical companies for problems caused by generics (provoking no small amount of controversy).

With high courts in each state in the Eleventh remaining quiet, this week we have some (alleged) Chinese hackers and a class action lawsuit.

Ala. Federal Judge Mark Fuller Arrested for Alleged Battery

Judges can behave badly, too -- sometimes, very badly.

Earlier this month, police arrested Judge Mark Fuller of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama on suspicion of misdemeanor battery. Fuller had allegedly beaten his wife, who called 911 from a hotel. Fuller, however said his wife was the one who became violent when she accused him of cheating on her with a law clerk, reported the Montgomery Advertiser.

Last week, Fuller got some more bad news: The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals weighed in, sending Fuller a judicial misconduct complaint it had received and asking him to respond, according to The Associated Press. The Eleventh Circuit also reassigned Fuller's outstanding cases and ordered that he not receive new cases.

Federal Judge Tosses Fla.'s Gay Marriage Ban: 5 Takeaways

Add yet another victory to the list for same-sex marriage advocates in Florida. After victories in four counties, a federal judge made a statewide ruling earlier today. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle in Tallahassee held that Florida's ban violates guarantees of equal protection and due process, but stayed his decision pending appeal. The decision covers both in-state and recognition of out-of-state marriages.

What's the real-world effect? Very little, for now. It's a near certainty that the Supreme Court will take on the issue of same-sex marriage during its next term, which begins this fall. Given that Judge Hinkle's opinion was stayed pending appeal, and any appeal to the Eleventh Circuit would likely not happen before SCOTUS weighs in, this is but a minor footnote, albeit a positive one.

Here are five takeaways from Judge Hinkle's ruling:

Brand-Name Drug Cos. Can Be Sued Over Generic Labels: Ala. Sup. Ct.

Vicki and Danny Weeks sued five drug companies in federal court over injuries Danny Weeks suffered after years of taking metoclopramide, the generic version of Reglan. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, in turn, certified to the Alabama Supreme Court the question of whether brand-name manufacturers can be held liable for fraudulent misrepresentation due to injuries sustained from generics.

Last week, in an opinion following a rehearing of this case, the court ruled 6-3 that they can.

Docs in Fla.'s 'Docs v. Glocks' Case Seek En Banc Rehearing

Free speech? Or professional conduct regulation? The Florida law at issue prohibits doctors from asking a patient about his or her guns, unless gun ownership is relevant to the patient's medical care. A violation can lead to a suspended or revoked license to practice medicine, along with a fine of up to $10,000.

The doctors sued, claiming that it violated their First Amendment rights. But the Eleventh Circuit panel's majority disagreed, calling a permissible regulation of professional conduct.

Now the doctors are asking for an en banc rehearing, hoping that the larger court will agree with Judge Charles Wilson's dissent, where he called the law a "gag order."

No Megaphones Outside Abortion Clinics? Sounds OK to 11th Cir.

An ordinance in West Palm Beach, Florida, prohibits using amplified sound within 100 feet of the property line of any health care facility. Sounds neutral, but the real purpose of the law is to prevent anti-abortion protesters from using megaphones outside of abortion clinics.

The appellants in this case, Mary Susan Pine and Marilyn Blackburn, are two such protesters. They sued the city for an injunction on First Amendment grounds. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied the injunction, and on August 6, the 11th Circuit affirmed.

'Chiquita Terror' Lawsuits Dismissed by 11th Cir. Panel

Since the inception of the United States, the Alien Tort Claims Act has given a forum in U.S. courts to aliens harmed in violation of U.S. treaties or international law. To that end, more than 4,000 Colombians sued Chiquita (the North Carolina-based banana company) in the United States, alleging that Chiquita acted in concert with paramilitary forces in Colombia, resulting in injury and death.

The cases came to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to decide some concerns over the plaintiffs' pleadings, but the Eleventh Circuit dismissed the lawsuits, finding that U.S. courts were not the place to litigate claims where foreign nationals alleged they were being harmed by other foreign nationals.

Historical Cell-Site Data Privacy at Issue in Petition for Rehearing

Quartavious Davis and five others were found guilty of robbery and racketeering, among other things, in 2011. The government used historical cell-site information to place Davis and the others close to the scenes of the robberies around the time they occurred.

Historical cell-site information consists of the records of which cell tower a phone was closest to at the time it made a call, along with the direction of the caller from the tower. This can be used to calculate a location for the caller.

Ala. Abortion-Doctor Law Is Unconstitutional, District Court Rules

Hot on the heels of a similar ruling in Mississippi last week, a federal judge in Alabama has also declared part of the state's abortion law unconstitutional.

As in Mississippi, the issue in Alabama was the constitutionality of a state law requiring doctors administering abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. (Laws requiring admitting privileges are being used to try to eliminate access to abortions in several states, mainly in the South.)

Judge Myron Thompson's 172-page opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Strange found that the Alabama's Women's Health and Safety Act of 2013 is an "impermissible undue burden" that would "have the striking result of closing three of Alabama's five abortion clinics, clinics which perform only early abortions, long before viability."