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

September 2014 Archives

Kiobel Forecloses Another Alien Tort Statute Claim in 11th Cir.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision last term in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum has already put the kibosh on one Alien Tort Statute (ATS) claim in the Eleventh Circuit: In that case, the court said that Kiobel foreclosed using the ATS where all the conduct took place outside the United States.

In front of a different three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit, plaintiffs in Baloco v. Drummond Company argued that Drummond, an American coal mining company, "aided and abetted or conspired" with Colombian paramilitary forces by paying the paramilitary to murder several Colombian union leaders at Drummond's Colombian mines.

11th Cir. OKs RICO Suit Against Spirit Airlines

Bargain-basement airline company Spirit Airlines is known for a lot of things. Some of them include very cheap fares; others include nickel-and-diming and a "Draconian" cancellation policy (according to The Atlantic) that allows Spirit to cancel a customer's reservation, without notice, and without compensation, if the customer isn't at the boarding gate 15 minutes before the flight (even if he's already checked in).

Bryan Ray was fed up with this. Not only did he file a class action against Spirit, but he made his a civil RICO claim. That's right: He said Spirit was engaged in "racketeering," and the predicate crimes were mail and wire fraud due to Spirit's penchant for charging ancillary "fees" that placed the final price of a ticket well beyond what the customer was told it would cost.

Ala. Senators Call for Judge Mark Fuller's Resignation

Since we last brought you the story of Judge Mark Fuller, the Alabama federal district court judge accused of domestic violence, a lot has changed: America has suddenly decided it's a lot less tolerant of domestic violence than it was before NFL player Ray Rice's video appeared on TMZ.

Now, both of Alabama's Republican U.S. senators -- Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions -- have called on Fuller to resign.

Ga. Lawyer's Suit Against Deputy Who 'Seized' Her Can Proceed

Lisa West, an attorney, entered the Fulton County Courthouse in Georgia on December 9, 2010. She was wearing a suit jacket and no overcoat. A sheriff's duty told her to remove her suit jacket; she said she wouldn't because it would "improperly expose her undergarments." The deputy said that if she didn't remove the suit jacket, she could leave. If she didn't do either one, she'd be arrested.

West called her husband, also an attorney, while still at the checkpoint. Though there were no signs saying she couldn't have a cell phone, the deputy grabbed her hand, squeezed it, forcing the cell phone out. When a supervisor arrived, he said that she didn't have to remove her jacket. She could be wanded instead, and she could have been wanded from the very beginning.

West filed a lawsuit against the deputy, and last week, the Eleventh Circuit said at least part of it could proceed.

Convicted Terrorist Jose Padilla Resentenced to 21 Years

Well, it took 'em, what, three and a half years to finish interrogating him in a Navy brig? It's unsurprising, then, that nearly three years after the Eleventh Circuit rejected his previous sentence as too lenient, Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen-turned-terrorist affiliate (and alleged dirty bomb plotter), finally knows his fate: 21 years behind bars.

Thanks to that ruling, he did not get credit for the years of "harsh treatment" or torture he endured while locked up in the brig, without access to an attorney. However, the 21-year sentence is still below the guidelines, something that could draw the Eleventh Circuit's attention once again.

Case of Child Porn Suspect With AWOL Lawyer Gets En Banc Rehearing

Alexander Michael Roy, 31, was an eighth-grade teacher. He's now a convicted felon, or at least he might be after the Eleventh Circuit makes up its mind on his appeal of a conviction for online enticement of a minor and five counts of child pornography possession.

After Roy was caught in a sting operation, convicted, and sentenced, the Eleventh Circuit reversed his conviction because the trial proceeded for seven minutes while his attorney was late returning from lunch. Though his attorney failed to object, and though the testimony was only tangentially related to the most severe charge -- enticing a minor, which carries up to a life sentence -- the majority of the panel held that his right to counsel at all critical stages of the trial was violated, necessitating an automatic reversal.

Chief Judge Edward Carnes dissented vehemently from the automatic rule, predicting gamesmanship by defense attorneys. Something he said must have been persuasive, it seems, because less than a month after the initial opinion was filed, the court granted an en banc rehearing [PDF].

Case Involving Cell-Phone Location Data to Get En Banc Rehearing

Cell phone location data: Every time your phone pings the nearest tower, there is a record. Ever see a movie where they track a person using their cell phone? This is that, and no GPS chip is required. Sure, it's not as accurate, but it does say the defendant was in the general area of the crime.

That's what happened to Quartavious Davis. The government used a court order under the Stored Communications Act to get his cell-phone records, which requires a lower showing than probable cause under the Fourth Amendment.

The Eleventh Circuit held that Davis had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his location data, but will now give the case a second look with the full en banc treatment.

Fla. Man Denied Reasonable Accommodation for Service Dog: 11th Cir.

State and federal laws protect a person's ability to live in a housing unit with a service animal even if the landlord or homeowners association has a no pets policy. This is because a service animal isn't a "pet," it's a service animal.

A Florida homeowners association didn't seem to think so. It was skeptical of one tenant's claim that he needed a service animal that exceeded the HOA's weight limit. The Eleventh Circuit decided last week that its demands for more information were unreasonable.