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

by
After defendant installed drain tile on his property in a manner consistent with the NRCS map but inconsistent with the FWS map, defendant was convicted of the lesser-included offense of disturbing property in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Eighth Circuit vacated the conviction and held that the district court erroneously instructed the jury that the lesser offense was a strict liability crime when, in fact, the lesser offense requires proof of defendant's negligence. In this case, the evidence presented at trial would have been sufficient to allow a reasonable juror to convict defendant under the proper formulation of the lesser offense, but given the jury's acquittal of defendant on the greater offense of knowingly disturbing property, the court could not say that the evidence of his culpable mental state was so overwhelming that it rendered the erroneous instruction harmless. View "United States v. Mast" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action for damages, alleging that the city, the police department, and an officer violated plaintiff's constitutuional rights when he was detained and tased as part of an arrest. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the city, because plaintiff failed to provide the evidence to support his claims of municipal liability. In this case, plaintiff has not presented any evidence to suggest that the city has created, adopted, or supported any policy or custom that would demonstrate municipal liability. The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the officer on the First Amendment claim, where, as here, speech and nonspeech elements combine in the same course of conduct, a sufficiently important government interest in regulating the nonspeech element can justify incidental limitations on First Amendment freedoms. In regard to the excessive force claims against the officer, the court held that the first and third tasings were objectively reasonable, but there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the second tasing amounted to excessive force. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Jackson v. Stair" on Justia Law

by
Southern Bakeries appealed the Board's determination that it violated Sections 8(a)(1) and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by relying on a prior unlawful discipline in disciplining and terminating an employee (Briggs) and designating her "not for hire," and by violating Section 8(a)(1) by directing a second employee (Muldew) not to discuss her discipline with other employees and then telling her she was being discharged in part for doing so. The Eighth Circuit held that the Board erred in concluding that the prior final written warning, standing alone, satisfied the General Counsel's burden to prove a prima facie case of discriminatory discipline. Therefore, the court granted Southern Bakeries' petition for review in part. The court also held that the ALJ's credibility findings were based on careful review of the testimony, supported by the Muldew discharge document. Furthermore, the findings were far from conscience-shocking, and no extraordinary circumstance warrants reversing the Board's order to cease and desist from telling employees not to discuss their discipline with other employees, or that they are being disciplined for doing so. Accordingly, the court denied in part Southern Bakeries' petition for review and enforced in part the Board's order. View "Southern Bakeries, LLC v. NLRB" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Arkansas prison officials, alleging deprivations of his constitutional rights while incarcerated. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from his almost seven month detention in administrative segregation. The Eighth Circuit affirmed on the alternative ground that the complaint failed to adequately allege a violation of plaintiff's clearly established constitutional rights and therefore defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. The court explained that, although defendants did not raise qualified immunity in their motion to dismiss, the posture of the case has materially changed, and the court saw no bar to addressing qualified immunity. In regard to plaintiff's claim of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, the court held that defendants did not violate his clearly established rights. In this case, the nine occasions when plaintiff did not receive his daily treatment during his time in administrative segregation were insufficient to create an Eighth Amendment claim. In regard to plaintiff's claims related to his conditions of confinement, the court held that plaintiff failed to cite circuit precedent holding that an inadequate justification for administrative segregation or shortcomings in review of a prisoner's placement violates the Due Process Clause; defendants' conduct did not violate clearly established law; and it was not beyond debate that defendants curtailed plaintiff's liberty interest by segregating a prisoner with plaintiff's particular medical condition for 203 days under the conditions alleged. View "Hamner v. Burls" on Justia Law

by
Defendants Sayonkon and Samaan appealed their convictions for aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Defendant Sesay pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. All defendants appealed their sentences. The Eighth Circuit held that there was sufficient evidence to convict Sayonkon and Samaan for a single conspiracy to commit bank fraud; there was no variance between the indictment for a single conspiracy charged in the indictment and the proof at trial; the district court did not err in denying Samaan's motion to suppress evidence gathered when police examined the guest registry at a motel he was staying, because he had no legitimate expectation of privacy in the identification card that he provided when registering at the motel; the evidence was sufficient to support Samaan's conviction for aggravated identity theft where a reasonable jury could find that he knowingly used another person's identification and that "another person" includes both the living and deceased; the district court did not err by applying a sentencing enhancement under USSG 3B1.1 to Sayonkon for his role as a leader in the criminal activity; the district court properly calculated the loss amount for sentencing Samaan; and Sesay's below-guidelines sentence was not substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Sesay" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Plaintiffs, a class of civilly committed residents, appealed the dismissal of their claims against state officials, alleging that the state's commitment provisions are facially unconstitutional, and that the treatment program as applied to the residents violates their substantive due process rights. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that plaintiffs did not assert a typical substantive due process claim but, rather, they contend that defendant officials must change the way that they conduct annual reviews of civilly-committed persons, design procedures for releasing low-risk residents into less restrictive housing, and carry out a statutory duty to authorize petitions for release of low-risk residents. The court held that an entitlement to these actions is not deeply rooted in the Nation's history and tradition or implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. In this case, plaintiffs had procedures available to them that were sufficient to vindicate their liberty interest in gaining release from detention once the reasons that justified the commitment dissipate. The court explained that the fact that the Act provides additional opportunities to facilitate release, and that state officials allegedly have failed to implement them properly, does not run afoul of substantive due process. In the alternative, the court held that the shortcomings cited by the district court in Missouri mirror those that Karsjens v. Piper, 845 F.3d 394 (8th Cir. 2017), held were not conscience-shocking in Minnesota. Accordingly, the district court correctly reasoned that the as-applied substantive due process claims should be dismissed. Finally, there was no reversible error in the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs abandoned their state law claims. View "Van Orden v. Stringer" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's petition for habeas corpus relief. The court held that plaintiff's counsel's representation did not fall below an objective standard of reasonableness, and even if it did, plaintiff has not demonstrated that he was prejudiced. The court also held that, even assuming that plaintiff fairly presented his claim to the state court, his claim failed where considering an aggravating factor in violation of a state statute alone does not amount to a constitutional violation meriting federal habeas relief. Finally, the court held that the tools were available to plaintiff to make his arguments -- that his youth at the time of the offense and the serious mental illnesses categorically exempt him from the death penalty -- before the state court, he failed to show cause, and his procedural default was not excused. View "Anderson v. Kelley" on Justia Law

by
Removal is effective upon filing a copy of the notice of removal with the clerk of the state court, regardless of how state law might treat the notice after it is filed. The Eighth Circuit held that this case's removal to federal court by an attorney who was not licensed to practice in the state court where it was originally filed was effective. In this case, the attorney filed a copy of the notice of removal in state court, the deputy clerk stamped the notice "FILED," and Liberty Life had done all it needed to do under the federal removal statute. View "Brooks v. Liberty Life Assurance Co. of Boston" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon. The court held that defendant's prior Arkansas conviction for second degree battery was a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act. The court also held that defendant's two prior Texas convictions for delivering a controlled substance were serious drug offenses under the Act. Accordingly, the district court correctly sentenced defendant as an armed career criminal. View "United States v. Block" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Eighth Circuit held that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does not preempt the imposition of statewide tax on the gross receipts of a nonmember contractor for services performed in renovating and expanding the Tribe's gaming casino located on the Reservation. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Tribe and held that the Tribe has failed to show that the tax has more than a de minimis financial impact on federal and tribal interests. Furthermore, the State's legitimate interests in raising revenues for essential government programs that benefit the nonmember contractor-taxpayer in this case, as well as its interest in being able to apply its generally applicable contractor excise tax throughout the State, were sufficient to justify imposing the excise tax on the construction services performed on the Casino's realty. Finally, the court granted the State's motion to dismiss the State Treasurer and remanded for further proceedings. View "Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe v. Haeder" on Justia Law