Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Defendant appealed his conviction for transporting, producing, and attempting to produce child pornography and with possessing one or more computer files and other matter containing child pornography, all after having been previously convicted of a state-law offense involving the sexual abuse of a minor. The court agreed with the district court that the information set forth in the affidavit in this case established probable cause to believe that defendant's residence would contain evidence of the prohibited images of the minor victim. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's motion for a Franks hearing where defendant's argument is based upon supposition and isolated testimonial statements taken out of context. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Brackett" on Justia Law
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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging Mo. Rev. Stat. 311.070.4(10) and its regulations, which detail the information alcohol manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers can include in their advertisements. Plaintiffs alleged a violation of their freedom of speech under the First Amendment because the challenged provisions prohibit truthful, non-misleading commercial speech and restrict the free flow of truthful information to potential customers. Plaintiffs also claim that the provisions are inconsistently enforced. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss. The court reversed, concluding that the amended complaint included sufficient allegations that the challenged provisions did not directly advance the substantial interest of promoting responsible drinking and the amended complaint included more than sufficient information to plead the challenged restrictions are more extensive than necessary. The court found it clear that there are reasonable alternatives to the challenged restrictions Missouri could have enacted that are less intrusive to plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. Finally, plaintiffs have pled that the provisions unconstitutionally compel speech and association. View "Missouri Broadcasters Association v. Lacy" on Justia Law

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Semmie John Guenther, Jr., filed an administrative charge with the EEOC, alleging that his former employer, Griffin Construction, discriminated against him on the basis of his disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. When Guenther passed away while his charge was pending, the special administrator of his estate filed suit on his behalf when he received the EEOC right-to-sue letter. The district court dismissed the action based on Ark. Code Ann. 16-62-101(a)(1) and found the claim had abated. The court held that federal common law does not incorporate state law to determine whether an ADA claim for compensatory damages survives or abates upon the death of the aggrieved party. The court joined its sister circuits that have allowed the individual’s estate to bring and maintain a suit for compensatory damages under the ADA in place of the aggrieved party. Therefore, Guenther’s ADA claim for compensatory damages survived his death and Griffin Construction is not entitled to judgment on the pleadings. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Guenther v. Griffin Construction Co." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was released from a twenty-year period of commitment when a jury found him responsible by reason of insanity, he filed suit against various psychologists, psychiatrists, and other employees, alleging medical malpractice under Nebraska state law. Plaintiff also alleged violation of his constitutional rights to be free from unnecessary confinement and free from retaliation for seeking access to courts. The court concluded that the district court did not err by dismissing the medical malpractice claim where plaintiff failed to comply with the requirements set forth by Nebraska's State Tort Claims Act (STCA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 81-8, 209 et seq. Assuming that Nebraska waived its sovereign immunity, plaintiff still failed to bring the suit in the district court of the county in which the act or omission occurred pursuant to the STCA. In regard to the district court's dismissal of the unnecessary confinement claim, the court concluded that plaintiff only alleged defendants' actions were negligent or, at worst, grossly negligent. Therefore, defendants are entitled to qualified immunity where actions that are merely negligent or grossly negligent do no implicate the protections of the Due Process Clause. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's retaliation claim where plaintiff failed to address the claim in his opening brief. View "Montin v. Moore" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted of three counts of capital murder and sentenced to death, challenges the district court's order denying his motion to reopen a final judgment dismissing his habeas corpus application as untimely. The court declined to express a view at this time regarding the district court's conclusion and thought it prudent under the circumstances for the district court to develop the record on the actions of original counsel so that a decision on petitioner's allegation of abandonment is based on a more complete understanding of the facts. Accordingly, the court remanded for a prompt, limited evidentiary hearing on the question of abandonment. View "Christeson v. Roper" on Justia Law
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After defendant pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm, he was sentenced to the statutory maximum penalty of 120 months in prison. On appeal, defendant challenged his sentence and argued that the district court improperly calculated his Sentencing Guidelines range. The court concluded, however, that it need not address the merits of defendant's contentions because even if the district court erred in its Guidelines calculation, its sentence is affirmable. In this case, the district court founded its sentence upon its determination that the statutory maximum is the appropriate sentence and that no sentence within any argued Guidelines range would suffice in this circumstance. Because any error was harmless, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. McGrew" on Justia Law
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Plaintiffs, detainees at the Cole County Detention Center, filed two putative class actions, one for current detainees and one for former ones, alleging that the laundry policy violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and corresponding provisions of the Missouri Constitution. The laundry policy allows guards and cellmates to see detainees naked while the detainees' one set of jail-issued clothing is being washed every few days. The detainees are given a bed sheet and a blanket. The court concluded that this practice constitutes more than a de minimis deprivation, and this practice is not related to a legitimate government interest. Therefore, the laundry policy is unconstitutional and the district court erred in dismissing the complaint. Finally, because the district court based its qualified immunity ruling on the perceived lack of a constitutional violation, the district court also erred as to this issue. Accordingly, the court reversed the dismissal and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ingram v. Cole County" on Justia Law

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Schnucks, a grocery store chain, filed suit against First Data, a credit card processor, and Citicorp, the acquiring bank for its credit transactions. Schnucks brought declaratory judgment and breach of contract claims, alleging that defendants withheld more money from Schnucks following a data breach at Schnucks than their contract allowed. Defendants counterclaimed. The district court denied defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings and granted Schnucks's motion for judgment on the pleadings. Determining that it has jurisdiction, the court applied Missouri law and concluded that the assessments are not carved out from Schnucks’s limitation of liability as “third party fees.” Furthermore, the court concluded that the district court did not err in holding that the assessments for issuing banks’ losses do not constitute “fines or penalties.” The underlying business arrangement, which represents defendants’ choice to vouch for Schnucks’s compliance with data-security standards, is not rendered commercially unreasonable merely because the limitation on Schnucks’s liability is broader than defendants now wish it to be. The court held that the district court did not misapply the standard for judgment on the pleadings in concluding that defendants had not raised the issue of the separate $3,000,000 limitation of liability. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendants’ motion for reconsideration or leave to amend, which essentially restated their assertions of error regarding judgment on the pleadings, and defendants failed to show good cause. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Schnuck Markets, Inc. v. First Data Merchant Services Corp." on Justia Law
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The government challenges the district court's grant of defendant's motion to suppress physical evidence obtained as a result of a warrant search of defendant's home. The court concluded that the district court committed plain error in not considering whether there was a sufficient factual nexus between the constitutional violation - the recklessly untrue warrant affidavit - and defendant's statements to an agent two days later. In this case, the factors supporting this conclusion include the fact that defendant received Miranda warnings, the temporal proximity between defendant's arrest and his interview with the agent, several intervening circumstances weighing against suppression, and the unintentional error in describing for an issuing magistrate what the deputy believed to be probable cause was not purposeful or flagrant misconduct. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Jorgensen" on Justia Law
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In the Original Action, Michelle Pratt filed a class action on behalf of residents of Autumn Hills against Collier and two other entities, alleging that two wells supplied by Autumn Hills contained contaminated water. Barbara Williams was later substituted as a class representative. The state court awarded plaintiffs $70,085,000 for medical monitoring, and $11,952,000 for the loss in value to their homes. Williams then filed an equitable garnishment action in state court against the Insurers and Collier pursuant to Missouri Revised Statute 379.200. The district court ultimately entered a consent judgment in favor of Collier. The court concluded that the consent judgment was a final judgment and the court had jurisdiction over the appeal of the consent judgment; Williams has not waived her right to appeal the consent judgment where Williams' consent to entry of judgment against her represented consent to the form, rather than the substance, of the judgment; and the judgment on the pleadings was not a final order, and thus Williams did not file her notice of appeal out of time. The court also concluded that because Williams brought this action on behalf of a class previously certified under a state-law analogue to Rule 23, the action was necessarily “filed under” Rule 23 or a state-law analogue, even though the complaint omits explicit reference to such a rule. Therefore, the district court had jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d). Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err in granting judgment on the pleadings to the Insurer because the Insurers had no duty to defend or indemnify Collier for the claims asserted in the Original Action. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Williams v. Employers Mutual Casualty Co." on Justia Law