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

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Defendant walked away from the Fort Des Moines Residential Reentry Center (RRC), where he had been placed during the supervised release portion of his sentence for a firearms violation. He was later arrested and charged with escape. At his revocation sentencing hearing, the district court sentenced him to 12 months and 1 day for the escape, to be served consecutively with his existing sentence. He appealed both the length of the sentence and its consecutive imposition.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that here, the district court correctly calculated Defendant’s Guidelines range for his offense and criminal history as 8 to 14 months. It also considered the Section 3553(a) factors and stated, “I recognize the defendant’s—those same factors here, relative youth and lack of youthful guidance and childhood trauma, are present in the defendant's history as well, and the Court considers that in determining the appropriate sentence to impose.” Further, Section 3553(a) factors were adequately considered, and the district court provided a reasonable explanation for imposing the sentence consecutively. The district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing a consecutive sentence. View "United States v. Hakeem Boyum" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant received a 120-month prison sentence after he threatened to “kill some” government employees and assaulted two guards. Although he requested a downward departure based on his mental-health problems, the district court instead varied upward. On appeal Defendant argues that, neither enhancement applies.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that it makes no difference that money may have played a role. The court wrote that Defendant’s theory is that he would have lashed out against anyone who treated him that way, government official or not. But just because he may have taken similar actions against someone else does not mean that their status played no role. To the contrary, his victims were government employees, Defendant wanted them to take certain actions on his behalf, and their status influenced the choices he made. As long as official status was one motivation for the crime, the enhancement applies. View "United States v. Travis Feeback" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiffs in these 177 consolidated appeals1 were participants in a 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan (the “Plan”) provided to employees by DST Systems, Inc. (“DST”), a financial and healthcare services company based in Kansas City, Missouri. At the time in question, DST was the Plan’s sponsor, administrator, and a designated fiduciary. Ruane Cunniff & Goldfarb Inc. (“Ruane”) was a Plan fiduciary involved in managing the Plan’s investments. Between October and December 2021, the district court issued seven largely identical orders confirming the arbitration awards to 177 claimants and granting their requests for substantial costs and attorneys’ fees. Defendants appealed, raising numerous issues.   The Eighth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment including the awards of attorney’s fees, and the consolidated cases are remanded to the district court for determination of transfer and subject matter jurisdiction issues, to the extent necessary. The court concluded that transfer under Section 1631 is an issue that can be addressed before the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction is resolved. The court declined to consider the issue because Badgerow has changed underlying circumstances that may affect whether transfer “is in the interest of justice.” View "Theresa Hursh v. DST Systems, Inc" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Guatemala, applied for cancellation of removal pursuant to 8 U.S.C. Section 1229b(b)(1). He has three children, who were 19, 10, and 5 years old at the time of the merits hearing in April 2017. The immigration judge denied Petitioner’s application. The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) dismissed his appeal, and Petitioner timely petitioned for review of the BIA’s decision.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Petitioner failed to provide authority allowing the court to direct the BIA to implement a new analytical standard for exceptional and extremely unusual hardship. To the extent Petitioner claims the BIA misapplied the applicable hardship standard—a question of law which the court may review—his claim is without merit. Further, the court wrote that the BIA’s discretionary conclusion that the hardship to the children is not substantially beyond that typically caused by an alien’s removal “is precisely the discretionary determination that Congress shielded from our review.” View "Hector Gonzalez-Rivas v. Merrick B. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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This case concerns a $225,000 life insurance policy issued on the life of C.S. When C.S. died in 2018, his estate (“Estate”) made a claim for the policy proceeds. His former employer, Kansas City Chrome Shop (“KCCS”), together with KCCS’s president, Dora Clark-Wall, made a competing claim. After the district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the Estate, Clark-Wall brought equitable claims in her personal capacity. Following a bench trial, the district court found that Clark-Wall was entitled to an equitable portion of the proceeds totaling $55,253.28 and that the Estate was entitled to the remaining $169,746.72. KCCS and Clark-Wall appealed.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Clark-Wall’s continued payments and renewal of the policy were essentially a gamble on C.S’s life—a benefit she hoped to reap if he died before she did. The law does not view such conduct favorably. The court, therefore, failed to see how the principles of fairness and justice demand that Clark-Wall is awarded accumulated interest on her payments. Accordingly, the court found no abuse of discretion in the district court’s equitable award to Clark-Wall. View "The Estate of Charles D. Smith v. Kansas City Chrome Shop, Inc." on Justia Law

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A Debtor is appealing a bankruptcy court order dated June 30, 2022 (the “Order”) which disposes of a multitude of matters that were before the court. At the core of this appeal are the Debtor’s repeated motions to reopen his case. A bankruptcy court's decision whether to reopen a bankruptcy case is reviewed for an abuse of discretion.    The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that after reviewing the Order and the underlying record, it saw no need to address every one of the matters addressed by the bankruptcy court. The court wrote that Debtor states in his Appellant Brief that the bankruptcy court “blanket” denied all 27 of his motions, the Order itself belies that accusation – the court based its ruling on a thorough legal analysis of the individual pleadings and why denial of each was appropriate. A few of the matters involve letters or notices on which the Debtor is not seeking relief. With regard to many of the others, the Debtor mischaracterizes the facts or the law. Further, the court explained that the Bankruptcy Court’s analysis of each of the matters it considered in the Order was thorough and legally sound. View "Bryan Reichel v. Mary Jo A. Jensen-Carter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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Plaintiffs own 375 Slane Chapel Road, LLC (“375”), a limited liability company that owns and operates a substantial vacation home adjacent to Table Rock Lake in Stone County, Missouri. When Plaintiffs' personal use of the home declined, 375 applied in October 2020 for a conditional use permit (“CUP”) to rent out the property to short-term renters on platforms such as Airbnb. The Board of Adjustment voted 3-0 to reverse the Planning & Zoning Commission’s decision and deny 375 a CUP. 375 filed separate actions in state and federal court to overturn the Board of Adjustment’s decision. Defendants promptly moved to dismiss this lawsuit, arguing, as relevant here, that 375’s federal claims are “barred by the Younger abstention doctrine.” Invoking Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), the district court granted the motion.   The Eighth Circuit reversed, concluding that the district court misinterpreted the “exceptional circumstances” warranting Younger abstention. The court explained that the district court’s definition of Category 3 shares the flaw in relying exclusively on the Middlesex factors identified by the Supreme Court in Sprint -- it “would extend Younger to virtually all parallel state and federal proceedings . . . where a party could identify a plausibly important state interest.” The two cases cited by NOPSI as examples of Category 3 make clear that its focus is institutional -- “the state courts’ ability to perform their judicial functions” -- not simply the State’s interest in enforcing a particular court order. Therefore the district court erred in abstaining under Younger. View "375 Slane Chapel Road, LLC v. Stone County, Missouri" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of four counts related to the distribution of controlled substances. On appeal, Defendant challenges three evidentiary rulings made by the district court during his trial. He argued that the district court erred in admitting (1) the driver’s license record with his name, address, and photograph; (2) the video and audio recordings from the controlled buys, including the phone calls arranging those buys; and (3) the text messages Special Agent (SA) and Defendant exchanged during the undercover investigation   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that this is not a case where the “extra helping of evidence” from the challenged record is “so prejudicial as to warrant a new trial.” The information on the improperly admitted driver’s license record was cumulative of other evidence, and any error from admitting the record is not reversible. Next, the court held that SA’s testimony satisfies the second McMillan factor that he was competent to operate the recording equipment. The court has also held that a recording’s existence itself can establish that the person operating the device was competent to operate the equipment. Further, the court concluded that the government adequately established that the recordings in Government Exhibit 5 were “authentic and correct.”  Moreover, the court rejected Defendant’s argument that the government did not sufficiently identify the speakers in the recordings. Finally, the court held that the government laid an adequate foundation to authenticate the text messages. View "United States v. Bryan Kimble" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Department of Homeland Security commenced removal proceedings after Petitioner, a citizen of Cameroon, entered the United States on November 30, 2019, in Laredo, Texas. Petitioner conceded removability, but sought asylum, withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture ("CAT"). Following a hearing, the Immigration Judge (IJ) denied her application, finding that she failed to establish past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution.The Eighth Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review, electing not to reverse the BIA’s ruling that Petitioner's credible but weak testimony supporting her asylum claim was not adequately corroborated. Petitioner failed to present corroborating medical records and her testimony, while credible, appeared memorized. Any questions outside the scope of her seemingly-prepared testimony caused Petitioner to stumble, giving the impression that there was more to the story. View "Carine Adongafac v. Merrick B. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Defendant was arrested in connection to a narcoticcs trafficking operation after police pulled over the vehicle he was riding in as a passenger. The driver consented to a search, during which offers found heroin. Officers seized Defendant's phone and obtained a warrant on the basis that Defendant was a drug dealer.The district court denied Defendant's motion to suppress the contents of his phone under the Wiretap Act, as well as his statements to police. The court later denied his motions for a directed verdict and new trial. Defendant appealed the denial of his motions as well as his sentence.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Regarding the motion to suppress, officers had probable cause to approach the car based on the evidence in the officers' possession. The Eighth Circuit also found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion for a directed verdict and motion for a new trial.Finally, the Eighth Circuit found that the district court reviewed all the evidence that Defendant presented to the court and did not err in weighing the evidence differently than Defendant would have preferred. View "United States v. Eric Griggs" on Justia Law