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

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Plaintiff filed suit against JJSC for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging that the company denied him full and equal access to one of its service and gas stations. After removal to federal court, the district court dismissed the case without prejudice for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Eighth Circuit held that plaintiff lacks standing to bring an ADA claim based on the accessibility of the stations' slopes and accessible routes where he failed to allege or provide evidence showing that he intends to patronize the station in the imminent future. Furthermore, he concedes that he did not observe any potential hazards related to the slope. The court also held that the district court properly concluded that the accessible parking claim is moot where JJSC had remedied plaintiff's concerns. Finally, the court explained that when a federal court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over a removed case, it must remand it to state court even if, as is true here, the removed claim is one arising under federal, not state, law. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's judgment dismissing plaintiff's complaint and instructed the district court to remand to state court. View "Dalton v. JJSC Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging Section 204D.13(2) of the Minnesota Statutes, which requires that major party candidates be listed on the ballot in reverse order of the parties' electoral showing in the last general election. Plaintiffs contend that the law irrationally disadvantages their preferred political candidates and is therefore unconstitutional. The district court granted a preliminary injunction enjoining the law's enforcement and prescribed instead a lottery-based system of ordering candidates on Minnesota ballots. Political committees intervened and moved to stay the injunction. As a preliminary matter, the Eighth Circuit held that plaintiffs have Article III standing by alleging a cognizable and redressable injury fairly traceable to the statute. On the merits of the preliminary injunction, the court held that intervenors have shown that, absent a stay, they would be irreparably injured. As to intervenors' likelihood of success, the court held that, under the Anderson/Burdick standard, the burdens imposed by section 204D.13(2) do not unconstitutionally violate the rights asserted. The court considered the character and magnitude of the asserted injury, and observed that the statute does not in any way restrict voting or ballot access; the statute neither systematically advantages incumbents nor advantages the state’s most popular party; but, rather, the statute favors candidates from parties other than the one that received the most votes (on average) in the last general election. In this case, Minnesota's justifications are rationally related to placing political parties in reverse order of popularity and, by design, the statute cannot advantage the state's predominant party. Furthermore, incumbents cannot count on using the statute's operation to its advantage and the statute promotes political diversity. Therefore, the court granted the motion to stay the injunction pending appeal. View "Pavek v. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's eight year sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in finding that defendant fired the gun by crediting a witness's account in the circumstances. In this case, the record does not refute the witness's account or otherwise offer anything other than emanations of uncertainty, which is not enough to reverse the finding under the court's standard of review. View "United States v. Dock" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed Defendants McSmith and Teagues' sentences for drug-related offenses. The court held that the district court properly calculated the drug quantity under USSG 2D1.1; the district court correctly applied a three-level aggravating role adjustment for McSmith's role as a manager or supervisor under USSG 3B1.1; the district court correctly found that McSmith was under court supervision at the time of the offense in this case, justifying two criminal history points; and defendants' sentences were substantively reasonable where the district court did not abuse its discretion in weighing the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors. View "United States v. McSmith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of BNSF in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging a claim of retaliation for engaging in protected activity under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). The court held that, in order to make a prima facie case of unlawful retaliation under the FRSA, an employee must show, by a preponderance of the evidence: (i) he engaged in a protected activity; (ii) the rail carrier knew or suspected, actually or constructively, that he engaged in the protected activity; (iii) he suffered an adverse action; and (iv) the circumstances raise an inference that the protected activity was a contributing factor in the adverse action. Furthermore, the contributing factor that an employee must prove is intentional retaliation prompted by the employee engaging in protected activity. In this case, the court held that the record as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find that plaintiff's injury report prompted BNSF to intentionally retaliate against him. View "Neylon v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a sentence reduction under the First Step Act of 2018. Defendant was originally sentenced to 353 months' imprisonment for three counts of Hobbs Act robbery and two counts of using a firearm during and in relation to those robberies. The court held that defendant failed to establish extraordinary or compelling reasons to warrant compassionate release. The court need not decide whether the statute supersedes the policy statement in determining whether a movant qualifies for compassionate release, because the district court's order shows that it considered the circumstances urged by defendant and found them insufficient. The court held that the district court has broad discretion in determining whether proffered circumstances warrant a reduction in sentence and the district court's conclusion was a reasonable exercise of that discretion. View "United States v. Loggins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's order dismissing petitioner's appeal from an IJ's decision denying deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). As a preliminary matter, the court held that it need not determine whether the BIA applied an incorrect legal standard of review, because petitioner did not raise the aggregate risk argument before the BIA. The court held that the BIA correctly found that res judicata did not bar consideration of past torture petitioner suffered in the 1980s and any error by the IJ in concluding otherwise was harmless both because the IJ nevertheless considered that evidence and because the BIA also considered the evidence and applied the correct legal standard. The court also held that substantial evidence in the record supports the BIA's conclusion that petitioner's argument that he would likely be tortured upon return to Iraq was based on a chain of assumptions and speculation. View "Alzawed v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's challenge to the Commissioner's denial of her application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The court held that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's determination concerning the limits of plaintiff's ability to reach and handle throughout an otherwise sedentary workday. In this case, one of the jobs cited by the vocational expert as available in the national economy—call out operator—requires only occasional, rather than frequent, handling. Therefore, the identified job is even less demanding on plaintiff's upper extremities than would be permitted by the Commissioner's residual functional capacity limitation. View "Lawrence v. Saul" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to knowingly receiving a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct. The court held that the district court did not err by applying a two-level increase for a defendant who knowingly engaged in distribution of material involving sexual exploitation of a minor under USSG 2G2.2(b)(3)(F). In this case, the district court made an express finding of knowledge that was supported by sufficient evidence to meet the government's burden of proof. View "United States v. Martinez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against Assist American for defamation after the organization published a case study in a travel and insurance magazine concerning an injury plaintiff suffered. The district court granted Assist America's motion to dismiss the complaint, finding that the case study at issue did not refer to plaintiff and his wife either explicitly or by implication and thus defamation was improperly pled under Minnesota law. The Eighth Circuit reversed and held that there is a plausible inference, sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss, that persons who read the case study about a middle-aged doctor from the Midwest who injured his leg while zip lining in Mexico resulting in amputation would understand the article to be referencing plaintiff. Because the description in the case study is so specific and unique that it could be viewed by a jury as fitting one individual, this was sufficient to satisfy the pleading requirements. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Tholen v. Assist America, Inc." on Justia Law