Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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Plaintiffs, a group of Secular Humanists and atheists, filed suit challenging the county's practice of opening its meetings with a religious invocation. Plaintiffs alleged that the opening prayers violated the Establishment Clause, and the county wrongfully barred plaintiffs from offering invocations of their own. The Eleventh Circuit held that the county's process of selecting invocation speakers violated the Establishment Clause because it selected invocation speakers in a way that favors certain monotheistic religions and categorically excludes from consideration other religions solely based on their belief systems. In this case, members of the county board of commissioners have plenary authority, on a rotating basis, to invite whomever they want to deliver invocations, with no consistent standards or expectation of inclusiveness. View "Williamson v. Brevard County" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas relief and partial grant of summary judgment for the Government regarding petitioner's claim that USCIS should have exercised jurisdiction over his application for asylum. The court held that the improper inclusion of irrelevant documents in the administrative record and its subsequent supplementation with relevant documents did not prejudice petitioner and any errors on the part of the Government in this respect were harmless; USCIS's decision not to exercise jurisdiction over petitioner's asylum claim was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law; and petitioner's habeas petition was moot because he did not otherwise argue that any meaningful relief could be granted to him via a habeas petition. View "Salmeron-Salmeron v. Spivey" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of S&M's complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the State of Georgia. S&M alleged several constitutional and state-law violations based on Georgia's scheme of tobacco regulation. S&M sought to enjoin the Attorney General from requiring it to use a revised escrow agreement. The court held that S&M has not plausibly alleged a Contract Clause violation where S&M's escrow agreement did not give rise to any reasonable contractual expectations that implicate the Contract Clause; S&M has not plausibly alleged an Equal Protection violation where the provisions that it challenges are not provisions with respect to which participating manufacturers (PMs) and non-participating manufacturers (NPMs) are similarly situated; and S&M's state law claim was barred by sovereign immunity. View "S&M Brands, Inc. v. State of Georgia ex rel Carr" on Justia Law

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Flat Creek filed suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had unfairly targeted it for compliance reviews and used an unsound methodology in doing so. The district court concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, but held that Flat Creek failed to establish the requisite standing to sue under Article III. In this case, Flat Creek has shown neither concreteness nor imminence. View "Flat Creek Transportation, LLC v. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration" on Justia Law

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In the underlying action, a death row inmate brought an as-applied challenge to Alabama's lethal injection protocol. After the inmate's case was dismissed, members of the press intervened, seeking access to the protocol. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to grant intervenors access to a redacted version of the protocol. The court held that Alabama's lethal injection protocol—submitted to the court in connection with a litigated dispute, discussed in proceedings and motions by all parties, and relied upon by the court to dispose of substantive motions—was a judicial record. The court explained that the public had a valid interest in accessing these records to ensure the continued integrity and transparency of our governmental and judicial offices. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in balancing the interests of Alabama, and the intervenors and concluding that Alabama had not shown good cause sufficient to overcome the common law right of access. Furthermore, the district court also properly granted intervention under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 for intervenors seeking to assert their common law right of access to the lethal injection protocol. View "Advance Local Media, LLC v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Fla. Stat. 95.231, which operates to cure certain defective deeds after the passage of five years, applies to a parcel on which the United States has asserted a federal estate-tax lien. The Eleventh Circuit held that section 95.231(1) cured the deed by operation of law in December 2003, and the property was at that point validly transferred to the trust. Furthermore, the court held that United States v. Summerlin, 310 U.S. 414, 416 (1940), was inapplicable here because, by the time the United States asserted its tax lien, the property no longer remained in the estate. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the United States' foreclosure claim and remanded for further proceedings. View "Saccullo v. United States" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the False Claims Act (FCA) allows a qui tam plaintiff to intervene in criminal forfeiture proceedings when the government chooses to prosecute fraud rather than to intervene in the qui tam plaintiff's action. The Eleventh Circuit held that, even if the FCA could be read to allow intervention, the statutes governing criminal forfeiture specifically barred it, with exceptions that did not apply in this case. The court held that the criminal forfeiture statutes controlled and agreed with the district court's denial of the interested party's motion to intervene. The court held that, because denial was proper, the court no longer had jurisdiction over the appeal. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal based on lack of jurisdiction. View "United States v. Couch" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated cases, plaintiffs alleged that their mortgage servicers, SLS and Caliber, breached plaintiffs' loan contracts, as well as an implied coverage of good faith and fair dealing, by charging inflated amounts for force-placed insurance. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the cases under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, holding that the filed-rate doctrine applied because plaintiffs challenged a rate filed with regulators. Therefore, plaintiffs' claims were barred because the filed-rate doctrine precluded any judicial action which undermined agency rate-making authority. View "Patel v. Specialized Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking records related to the suicide of Admiral J.M. Boorda. Specifically, plaintiff sought six pages of handwritten notes regarding official business found in the backseat of Adm. Boorda's official vehicle and the suicide note to Adm. Boorda's wife. The Eleventh Circuit held that the Navy improperly withheld the backseat notes because it withheld the responsive records when plaintiff asked for them. The court also held that FOIA contained nothing that would allow an agency to withhold records simply because it had previously given them to the requester, and the court rejected the Navy's argument that plaintiff's claim as to the backseat notes was precluded by the parties' prior litigation. The court also held that the suicide note was subject to protection under exemption 7(c), which covers records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes if their production could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sikes v. United States Department of the Navy" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated its original opinion in this case and issued the following opinion in its place. The CFTC begain investigating defendants in response to a customer's complaint of commodities fraud. The NFA also opened an investigation, which proceeded in tandem with the CFTC's, but ended in a settlement. The CFTC then filed suit alleging that defendants violated the Commodities Exchange Act (CEA) when they failed to register as futures commission merchants, transacted the purchase and sale of contracts for the future delivery of a commodity (futures) outside of a registered exchange, and promised to invest customers' money in precious metals (metals) but instead invested the funds in so-called "off-exchange margined metals derivatives" (metals derivatives). The court affirmed the district court's judgment except as to the restitution award for the group of investors whose losses were associated solely with the registration violations. In regard to the restitution award, the court vacated and remanded with instructions to consider other equitable remedies. View "U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission v. Southern Trust Metals, Inc." on Justia Law