U.S. First Circuit - The FindLaw 1st Circuit Court of Appeals News and Information Blog

August 2010 Archives

US v. Vargas-De Jesus, 09-1519, concerned a challenge to a conviction of defendant for possession with intent to distribute illegal drugs within one thousand feet of a school and related crimes. The court affirmd in part defendant's conviction as to the conspiracy as there was sufficient evidence of post-majority conduct to convict, and it was not plain error for the district court to fail to give the instruction that it could only find him guilty if he ratified and participated in the conspiracy after he turned 18. However, the court vacated in part because the district court lacked jurisdiction over the substantive drug charges, defendant's convictions with respect to those counts are vacated.


US v. Troy, 09-2121, concerned a challenge to a conviction of defendant for solicitation to commit a crime of violence and attempted arson, in connection with defendant's scheme to burn down her nightclub and bar.  In affirming, the court held that the district court acted appropriately in denying defendant's end-of-case motion for a judgment of acquittal as the evidence is sufficient to support a finding that, on the dates of the described arson, the defendant was taking meaningful, definite, and ongoing steps to return the building to the stream of commerce.  The court rejected defendant's claim that the indictment was defective because it failed adequately to allege section 844(i)'s interstate commerce element, as well as defendant's challenge to the district court's conclusion that it could not impose a stand-alone sentence of probation for a violation of section 844(i).


US v. Rivera-Rodriguez, 08-1799

US v. Rivera-Rodriguez, 08-1799, concerned a challenge to the district court's conviction of defendants for drug trafficking conspiracy, as part of a large organization known as "Las Avispas Dos," in Puerto Rico, and its imposition of lengthy prison terms. 


Penn-America Ins. Co. v. Lavigne, 09-2059, involved an insurer's suit against its insured and plaintiff seeking a declaratory judgment that the insured's insurance policy excluded liability coverage for claims arising from roofing, arising from serious injuries sustained by plaintiff when a portion of a scaffolding snapped while visiting his friend, the insured, at the job-site.  In affirming district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the insurer, the court held that the only language added to Endorsement A plainly expresses the intent of the parties to exclude claims arising from roofing.  Also,  there is no dispute that plaintiff's injuries originated from, grew out of, flowed from, or had a connection with, roofing.


US v. Verdugo, 08-2175, concerned a challenge to the convictions of defendants for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine.  In affirming the convictions, the court held that the district court did not err in denying defendants' motions to suppress.  The court found that defendant waived his right to object to witness's interpretative testimony, and that the district court properly excluded defendant's videotaped statement.  Lastly, the court held that the district court's mere presence instruction was a suitable substitute for co-defendant's proposed instruction on the subject.


US v. Agosto-Vega, 09-1158

US v. Agosto-Vega, 09-1158, concerned a challenge to a conviction of a company in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and its owner and principal officer for violating criminal provisions of the Clean Water Act.  In vacating the conviction, the court held that the district court committed a structural error by excluding the public from the courtroom during the selection of the jury.  However, in rejecting defendants' claim that the government failed to present sufficient evidence at the first trial to allow the jury to conclude that they were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the charges presented against them, the court held that the government proved the charges against defendants by sufficient evidence to establish their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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US v. Donath, 09-2287, concerned a defendant's appeal of his conviction for his participation in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine and other drugs and a below-guidelines sentence of 90-months' imprisonment.  In dismissing the appeal, the court held that defendant's waiver of his right to appeal his plea or sentence if it did not exceed 120 months as part of his plea agreement is enforceable and his argument that district court's error in calculating his sentence by mischaracterizing his prior crimes constituted a miscarriage of justice is meritless.


Boroian v. Mueller, 09-1630, concerned a challenge to the district court's dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, in plaintiff's suit challenging the government's retention and use of his DNA profile and sample now that he has successfully completed his term of probation for his federal conviction for making a false statement in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 1001(a)(2).

Young v. Murphy, 09-1685

Young v. Murphy, 09-1685, concerned a challenge to the district court's denial of defendant's petition for habeas relief, from his civil commitment to the Massachusetts Treatment Center pursuant to Chapter 123A of the Massachusetts General Laws, after a state court jury found that he was a sexually dangerous person.

In affirming, the court held that the district court did not unreasonably apply Supreme Court precedent when it refused to credit defendant's categorical claim that a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder (ADP) can never serve as a sufficient basis for civil commitment because the disorder does not affect volition and is so prevalent among criminal offenders that it cannot be used to distinguish ordinary recidivists from the dangerously mentally ill.  The court also held that the Massachusetts Court of Appeals did not unreasonably apply Supreme Court precedent in rejecting defendant's argument that the record does not establish that APD causes him serious difficulty in controlling his sexual impulses.

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Wells Real Estate Inv. Trust II, Inc. v. Chardon/Hato Rey P'ship, S.E., 09-1969, concerned a challenge to the district court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment in a suit for breach of contract involving a commercial building in San Juan, Puerto Rico, following a large fuel spill at the building that caused significant damages and displacement of the building's tenants.

In vacating in part, the court held that the district court erred by entering summary judgment sua sponte as to plaintiff's entire material damage claim without appropriate notice.  Also, given that the text of the agreement reasonably supports multiple, conflicting interpretations, the district court erred in concluding a reasonable estimate of costs to repair the "Property" unambiguously referred only to physical repairs. The court also held that the plaintiff has no remedy or recourse for defendant's alleged failure to provide the required estoppels as it chose not to pursue either of the options provided by Section 7.3.7(c) of the agreement.  Also, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the evidence permits a finding that defendant did not fulfill its maintenance obligations under Section 6.1.3 of the agreement. Lastly, the court held that the district court acted within its discretion in denying plaintiff's motion to compel.

Santana-Medina v. Holder, 09-2598, concerned a petition for review brought by a citizen of the Dominican Republic of the BIA's denial of his application for cancellation of removal under 8 U.S.C. section 1229b(b).  In dismissing the petition for lack of jurisdiction, the court held that, by statute, orders regarding cancellation of removal are not subject to judicial review, unless the appeal raises a question of law or a constitutional claim.  Here, petitioner's legal claim on appeal was not made before the IJ or BIA, and his other claims merely challenge the IJ's factual determinations.

Riva v. Ficco, 07-1998, concerned a challenge to the district court's dismissal of defendant's request for habeas relief, from his conviction for murdering his grandmother while under a paranoid delusion caused by his schizophrenia, as untimely.  In vacating the denial, the court held that the district court was correct in concluding that mental illness can constitute an extraordinary circumstance which may prevent a habeas petitioner from understanding and acting upon his legal rights and thereby equitably toll the AEDPA limitations period. The court also held that although mental illness does not per se toll the AEDPA limitations period, as there must be some causal link between a petitioner's mental illness and his ability seasonably to file for habeas relief, the district court's determination that defendant was not entitled to equitable tolling rests on too unsteady a foundation.

Collazo v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Mfg. Inc., 09-1665, involved a challenge to the district court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment in a plaintiff's suit for retaliatory termination against his former employer, alleging violations of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Puerto Rico law.  In affirming in part, the court held that the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's Act 115 claim is proper as the undisputed facts demonstrate that plaintiff did not engage in protected activity under Act 115.  However, the court vacated in part in holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on plaintiff's claim that he was terminated for opposing sexual harassment in the workplace as, plaintiff has raised a genuine issue of fact as to whether his termination was motivated by retaliatory animus.  Here, a jury could reasonably conclude, based on the particularly close temporal connection between plaintiff's protected conduct and his termination and the deficiencies in defendant's articulated reorganization and performance rationales, that plaintiff was terminated because of his protected conduct.

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US v. Jadlowe, 08-2449, concerned a challenge to a conviction of defendant for drug conspiracy crimes.  In affirming, the court held that, although the district court erred in instructing the jurors that they could discuss the case among themselves during the trial, before formal deliberations commenced, a showing of prejudice is necessary to justify a new trial based on premature jury discussions and, before the issue of prejudice can be addressed, the defendant must show that such discussions in fact occurred.  Here, the defendant is not entitled to  a new trial on the claim of premature jury discussions as the record is silent on whether the jurors engaged in discussion of the case during the trial.  Lastly, there is no reversible error in the suppression and evidentiary rulings that defendant disputes.