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

March 2014 Archives

The Ninth Circuit may be the most reversed, and the Seventh Circuit "benchslappy," but if I had to come up with a catchphrase for the First Circuit it would be "logolepsy".

If you've been able to read an opinion by Judge Selya of the First Circuit without reaching/clicking for a dictionary, good for you. If you're like the rest of us, then you probably have a Merriam-Webster.com window open whenever you're reading a Judge Selya opinion -- so, you could say he's a logolept.

Fidelity Faces 401(k) Float Income Class Action in Mass.

Fidelity Investments, the largest U.S. provider of workplace retirement plans, is facing a putative class action in Massachusetts alleging that Fidelity improperly uses customer money earned in overnight accounts to pay its own operating expenses, Reuters reports.

Earlier this month, three Massachusetts residents filed suit against Boston-based Fidelity, accusing the company of using "float income" -- income generated from retirement fund assets -- by temporarily investing it for its own benefit, in violation of ERISA.

A recent ruling by the Eighth Circuit sheds some light on how the court might rule.

The First Circuit made headlines at the end of last week with news regarding two notorious Massachusetts convicted criminals, Gary Lee Sampson and Tarek Mehanna.

New Death Penalty Hearing

Gary Lee Sampson pleaded guilty to carjacking and killing three people, and a jury sentenced him to death in 2003, reports The Boston Globe. District court Judge Wolf vacated his sentence after he learned that "one of the jurors lied about her family's history with drugs and law enforcement," noting that "he would have excluded her if he had known," according to The Boston Globe.

On appeal, the First Circuit affirmed his decision.

Will 1st Circuit Nominee David Barron Be Nominated to SCOTUS?

The U.S. Supreme Court justices are drawing nearer toward retirement: Ruth Bader Ginsburg just turned eighty-one; Antonin Scalia is seventy-eight; Anthony Kennedy is seventy-seven; and Stephen Breyer is seventy-five. If President Obama gets the opportunity to fill another Supreme Court vacancy, whom will he select?

Jeffrey Toobin recently penned a piece for The New Yorker called "The Supreme Court Farm Team," referring to federal judges Obama can choose from whom he appointed himself.

Among the "farm team" members Toobin lists is Judge David Barron of the First Circuit.

The First Circuit decided a case last week that may result in a certiorari petition to the Supreme Court. The case deals with the intersection of the First Amendment and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act ("AETA"), and whether the plaintiffs actually have standing to challenge the Act.

AETA and the First Amendment

A group of individual animal rights activists are challenging the AETA arguing the Act violates the First Amendment on three grounds: (1) the Act is overbroad on its face and as applied; (2) the Act discriminates based on viewpoint and content; and (3) the Act is void for vagueness on its face and as applied. The plaintiffs want to protest certain animal enterprises, but argue that they have suffered in an injury-in-fact because they are restraining their speech in fear of future harm.

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Mastroianni: What's Next?

Hampden District Attorney Mark G. Mastroianni is on the verge of becoming a district court judge in Massachusetts.

Last week, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination unanimously to serve as the presiding judge in the U.S. District Court in Springfield.

His next stop in the confirmation rigmarole? The full Senate.

Lawson v. FMR LLC is a case originating in the First Circuit, that dealt with whether the Sarbanes-Oxley Act whistleblower protections extend to employees of a private company that are contractors for public companies. Last week, the Supreme Court issued its opinion clarifying the reach of the Act.

Lawson v. FMR LLC -- The Lower Courts

In Lawson, two contractors who worked for mutual funds (who in practice don't have employees of their own) were essentially fired after they brought up concerns regarding the funds' management. After they sued under 18 U.S.C. § 1514A, the district court denied the mutual funds' motions to dismiss, and the First Circuit reversed. The question before the Supreme Court was whether § 1514A applied to employees of private contractors that did work for public companies.

Mass. Supreme Judicial Court Chief Roderick Ireland to Retire

Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland, the first African-American on the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts, announced Monday that he is retiring.

Roderick's announcement means Governor Deval Patrick will have an opportunity to name a new head of the state's highest court before he leaves office next January, The Boston Globe reports.

Given the timing of Ireland's retirement, Patrick is uniquely poised to make a long-lasting impact on the composition of the Supreme Judicial Court.

The United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island vacated the conviction of Charles Moreau, former mayor of Central Falls, a financially troubled Rhode Island city. On Friday, the ex-Mayor walked out of prison after serving about half of his two-year prison term, reports the Associated Press.

Illegal Gratuities?

In 2012 Moreau pleaded guilty to illegally accepting gratuities in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666, and was sentenced to two-years' imprisonment on February 12, 2013. While serving his sentence, the First Circuit Court of Appeals decided an unrelated case, United States v. Fernandez, and held that 18 U.S.C. § 666 did not apply to the receipt of gratuities because, unlike quid pro quo, gratuities are "merely a reward for some future act ... or for a past act that he has already taken."