Ward v. Stephens

Petitioner, convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, seeks a certificate of appealability (COA) under 28 U.S.C. 2253(c)(2). Petitioner, afflicted with mental illness, shot and killed a code enforcement officer in an incident involving a code citation.The court concluded that plaintiff exhausted his ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) claim; denied petitioner's application for a COA on his IAC claim because reasonable jurists could not debate the district court's decision under Strickland v. Washington; held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying petitioner's funding application under 18 U.S.C. 3599; denied petitioner's application for a COA on his Sixth Amendment claim were reasonable jurists could not debate whether his Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury was violated when a person believed to be associated with the prosecution ate lunch with the jury; and denied petitioner's application for a COA on the Eighth Amendment issue where reasonable jurists could not debate whether his death sentence violates the Eighth Amendment.View "Ward v. Stephens" on Justia Law

Meche v. Key Energy Servs., LLC

Plaintiff, the captain of a crew boat, filed suit against his employer and his supervisor under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 50101, and general maritime law, seeking maintenance and cure and damages. All parties cross-appealed the district court's judgment. The court concluded that the district court's finding that plaintiff merely strained his back while lifting a hatch cover is not clearly erroneous; the district court's findings regarding the weather and condition of the seas at the time and location of the incident are not clearly erroneous; the district court properly ruled against plaintiff on all of his unseaworthiness claims; the district court's finding that defendants were not negligent is fully supported by the record; the court vacated the maintenance and cure award against the supervisor where the maintenance and cure duty extends only to the seaman's employer; and the McCorpen v. Central Gulf Steamship Corp. rule precludes plaintiff from obtaining maintenance and cure from his employer in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment to the extent the district court rejected plaintiff's Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness claims; vacated the awards against the employer and supervisor in their entirety; and rendered judgment in favor of the employer and supervisor.View "Meche v. Key Energy Servs., LLC" on Justia Law

United States v. Harrison

Defendant pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to file false claims and subsequently moved to withdraw his guilty plea. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's refusal to hold an evidentiary hearing on the motion. The court concluded that, combined with the findings and reasons of the district court, defendant has not alleged sufficient facts to establish, under the totality of the United States v. Carr factors, that the district court abused its discretion in declining to hold the hearing. Accordingly, the court saw no legal errors or clearly erroneous factual findings in the district court's decision and affirmed the judgment.View "United States v. Harrison" on Justia Law

George v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co.

After RSL denied plaintiff's claim for long-term disability benefits, plaintiff, a helicopter pilot with an amputated leg, filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B). The district court held that the evidence supported RSL's determination that plaintiff's depression and PTSD contributed to his Total Disability. Therefore, RSL did not abuse its discretion by determining that the Exclusion Clause limited plaintiff's right to benefits. Declining to consider whether plaintiff carried his burden to show a right to benefits, the court held that RSL abused its discretion when it determined that plaintiff was not Totally Disabled where there was no evidence to show that he could earn a substantially similar salary in another position. Further, there is no rational connection between the fact that plaintiff can do sedentary work and the conclusion that he could earn a substantially similar salary in any alternative position. The court also held that RSL abused its discretion when it determined that the Exclusion Clause limited plaintiff's right to benefits, and when it affirmed RSL's determination on this basis. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded, rendering judgment for plaintiff.View "George v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co." on Justia Law

United States v. Fernandez

Defendant pleaded guilty to failing to register as a sex offender and subsequently challenged a life-term special condition of supervised release requiring him to install computer filtering software blocking/monitoring access to sexually oriented websites for any computer he possesses or uses. The court concluded that the district court abused its discretion in imposing the software-installation special condition provision at issue when, inter alia, neither defendant's failure-to-register offense nor his criminal history has any connection to computer use or the Internet. The district court's general concerns about recidivism or that defendant would use a computer to perpetrate future sex-crimes are insufficient to justify the imposition of an otherwise unrelated software-installation special condition. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for entry of the corrected judgment.View "United States v. Fernandez" on Justia Law

Waste Mgmt. of WA v. Kattler

The underlying litigation in this appeal stemmed from WM's suit against a former employee for misappropriating confidential business information and violating the terms of his employment agreement. This appeal arose from a contempt proceeding ancillary to the merits of the underlying case where Michael A. Moore, the attorney for the employee, appealed the imposition of sanctions following a finding that Moore was in civil contempt. The court concluded that the district court's finding that Moore participated in an attempt to mislead the court as to the existence of a thumb disk drive is clearly erroneous; Moore's failure to comply with the terms of a preliminary injunction by not producing an iPad image was excusable because the order required Moore to violate the attorney-client privilege; and requiring Moore to produce the iPad itself also violated the attorney-client privilege. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment of the district court. The court denied Moore's motion to remove WM as appellee.View "Waste Mgmt. of WA v. Kattler" on Justia Law

Abraham & Veneklasen Joint Venture v. American Quarter Horse Assoc.

Plaintiffs filed suit against AQHA, alleging violations of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, 2, and Texas antitrust law. Plaintiffs' allegations stemmed from votes by the Stud Book and Registration Committee of the AQHA, which had blocked AQHA registration of horses created through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT or cloning). On appeal, AQHA challenged the district court's denial of its motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL). The court concluded that reasonable jurors could not draw any inference of conspiracy from the evidence presented, because it neither tends to exclude the possibility of independent action nor does it suggest the existence of any conspiracy at all. Therefore, the court concluded that the JMOL motion should have been granted in the absence of substantial evidence on the issue of an illegal conspiracy to restrain trade under Section 1 of the Act. Further, the Section 2 claim failed as a matter of law because AQHA is not a competitor in the allegedly relevant market for elite Quarter Horses. Accordingly, the court reversed and rendered judgment for AQHA.View "Abraham & Veneklasen Joint Venture v. American Quarter Horse Assoc." on Justia Law

Vine Street LLC v. Keeling

Borg Warner appealed the district court's determination that it is liable to Vine Street for 75% of the costs associated with cleaning up a plume of perchlorethylene (PERC) that discharged from a dry cleaning business under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9607(a)(3), and the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act (TSWDA), Tex. Health & Safety Code 361.271(a)(3). The liability was associated with a former subsidiary of Borg Warner, Norge, which furnished dry cleaning equipment, design assistance, and an initial supply of PERC to the cleaning business. The court concluded that Borg Warner is entitled to judgment in its favor on the CERCLA and TSWDA claims because Norge did not intentional y dispose of a waste product when it sold dry cleaning equipment and an initial supply of PERC to the dry cleaning business. The court noted that the Supreme Court's decision in Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. United States changed the relevant law while this case was on appeal. Therefore, the court held that the district court's decision cannot stand in light of Burlington Northern.View "Vine Street LLC v. Keeling" on Justia Law

Graziosi v. City of Greenville

After plaintiff was terminated, she filed suit against the City and Chief Freddie Cannon under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the termination was a result of engaging in protected speech under the First Amendment. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants where plaintiff, a sergeant with the police department, made critical statements against the Chief on her Facebook page and such statements were not within the ordinary scope of her duties as a police officer. Therefore, the statements on Facebook were speech made as a citizen. Further, considering the content, form, and context of plaintiff's speech, the court held that the speech is not entitled to First Amendment protection where plaintiff's speech was primarily motivated by and primarily addressed her displeasure with the Chief and not a matter of public concern. Even assuming that plaintiff spoke as a citizen on a matter of public concern, she failed to demonstrated that her interests outweigh those of defendants to maintain discipline and close working relationships, while preventing insubordination within the police department.View "Graziosi v. City of Greenville" on Justia Law

Trent v. Wade

Plaintiffs, members of the Trent family, filed suit against police officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of their Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. After Defendant Wade, a patrol officer, was involved in a high speed chase with a Trent family member, he entered and searched the Trents' home without knocking and announcing his presence, and then seized and impounded the Trents' ATV. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant Walling, in his official capacity as Chief of Police, is a policymaker for the city and is liable under under Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York. The court affirmed the district court's denial of the motion for summary judgment as to plaintiffs' claim against Wade for the no-knock entry where there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether a reasonable officer would have taken into consideration that the other occupants at the home, at 2:00 a.m., were awake and aware of his authority and purpose; reversed as to plaintiffs' claim against Wade for the seizure of the ATV where Texas law allowed Wade to seize the ATV and where he was lawfully present on plaintiffs' property when he effected the seizure; and dismissed the appeal as to Walling for lack of jurisdiction because qualified immunity is not at issue in the claim against him.View "Trent v. Wade" on Justia Law