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

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Defendant appealed a judgment of the district court committing him to the custody of the Attorney General for medical care and treatment under 18 U.S.C. Section 4246. The court found that Defendant presently suffered from a mental disease or defect as a result of which his release from custody posed a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the findings underlying the commitment were not clearly erroneous. The court explained that the district court’s finding that Defendant posed a substantial risk to persons or property was adequately supported in the record. The court relied on the unanimous recommendation of the experts. The experts observed that the most reliable predictor of future violence is past violence, and they detailed Defendant’s history of random and unpredictable violent actions. The court further found that the parties have not made a sufficient showing to justify sealing the briefs in this appeal. View "United States v. Dewayne Gray" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 lawsuit stemming from her son’s death while under the supervision of employees at an Arkansas jail. She alleged that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to her son’s serious medical needs. The district court denied Defendants’ motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity.   The Eighth Circuit reversed. The court explained that it disagreed with the district court’s opinion that a layperson would recognize seizure-like activity as a serious medical need that one of the Defendant’s deliberately ignored. The court reasoned that a reasonable jury could not conclude from this description of events that Defendant was aware of a serious medical need. Second, a reasonable officer would not necessarily infer that seizure-like activity in these circumstances required him to take additional action. The decedent was behaving normally at booking, though very thirsty and reportedly under the influence of methamphetamine. It isn't unreasonable to believe that whatever medical episode he experienced during transport (if he actually experienced one) had fully resolved itself by the time Defendant encountered him.   Further, the court explained that in these circumstances, Defendants can't be faulted for presuming that the medical staff best knows the quantity and quality of information needed for assessments. And even though the decedent was obviously sick, recognizing that someone is sick is not the same as knowing that he is receiving inadequate care from a trained medical professional. View "Donna Reece v. S. Williams" on Justia Law

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Continental Resources, Inc. operates an input well on Timothy and Tracy Browns’ land in Harding County, South Dakota. The Browns sued Continental, seeking compensation for damage to the surface of their land and Continental’s use of their pore space. Continental removed the case to federal court and twice moved for partial summary judgment. The district court granted both motions, finding that Plaintiffs: (1) released Continental from liability for surface damage; and (2) could not recover damages under South Dakota law for Continental’s pore space use.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that section 45-5A-4 clearly articulates three categories of compensable harm. Plaintiffs sought damages for lost use, which is not one of the categories. They try to infuse ambiguity into the statutory scheme by pointing to Chapter 45-5A’s purpose and legislative findings sections. While these sections may help a court interpret ambiguous statutory language, the court found none in Section 45-5A-4. Accordingly, the court held that Plaintiffs have not suffered compensable harm under South Dakota law, so the district court did not err in granting summary judgment. View "Timothy Brown v. Continental Resources, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. On appeal, Defendant challenged an order of the district court denying her motion to suppress evidence obtained during a traffic stop.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed and concluded there was no error. The court explained that probable cause “is not a high bar: It requires only the kind of fair probability on which reasonable and prudent people, not legal technicians, act.” In this case, the detective was not required to exclude all reasonable possibilities that Defendant was ignorant of the scale; he needed only a fair probability that she knew what was in the console. The combination of Defendant’s control over the vehicle, her proximity to the console, her history of an arrest for drugs, and her association with a backseat passenger who possessed drugs was sufficient to establish probable cause for an arrest. View "United States v. Jessica Mathes" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of attempted enticement of a minor, travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, and transfer of obscene material to a minor. The district court sentenced him to 144 months in prison. He appealed his conviction. Defendant argued that the district court erred in admitting parts of his signed plea agreement that the court had not accepted.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that at trial, Defendant’s prior counsel testified that Defendant knowingly and voluntarily signed the plea agreement, noting that he read, discussed, and explained each paragraph to him, specifically covering the waiver. Defendant believes the district court should not have relied on his prior counsel’s testimony alone because it contradicted Defendant’s testimony. But it is the district court’s role to determine the credibility of testimony, and that determination is “virtually unassailable on appeal.” Accordingly, the court found that the district court did not err in finding Defendant waived his Rule 410 rights and admitting parts of the plea agreement.   Further, because Defendant waived his attorney-client privilege on communications about the plea agreement and because his prior counsel properly testified to refute Defendant’s testimony, the district court did not err in allowing the testimony. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err in finding the evidence sufficient to show Defendant took a substantial step toward the enticement of a minor under 18 U.S.C. Section 2422(b). View "United States v. Jeremy Hahn" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Appellant brought a variety of state and federal claims against the City of Waynesville (the City), the Waynesville Police Department (WPD), WPD Chief, WPD Officers, and Pulaski County Prosecutor (collectively, Appellees). The district court dismissed most of Appellant’s claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and later granted the Appellees’ motion for summary judgment on Appellant’s remaining claims. Appellant appealed the grant of summary judgment. Appellant conceded that his unreasonable seizure and conspiracy-to-cause-false-arrest claims do not involve the officer. Additionally, Appellant clarified that his appeal of the unreasonable search claim is limited to “the district court’s determination about the computer and home searches.”   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that, at minimum, it was objectively reasonable for the police Chief and Officer to believe that Appellant had committed or was committing a violation of Mo. Rev. Stat. Section 455.085.2, Mo. Rev. Stat. Section 565.090.1 or Mo. Rev. Stat. Section 565.225.2-3. Accordingly, arguable probable cause exists, meaning that it was not clearly established that arresting Appellant on these facts would violate his right to be free from unlawful seizure. Thus, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on Appellant’s unreasonable-seizure claim because Appellees are entitled to qualified immunity.   Further, the court concluded that reasonable suspicion supported the search of Appellant’s house. Moreover, because there is only one minor inaccuracy in the otherwise thorough search warrant affidavit for Appellant’s computer, and the issuing judge found that there was enough evidence to support a finding of probable cause, that judgment is entitled to deference on appeal. View "Dennis Ryno v. City of Waynesville" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was electrocuted by a powerline owned and operated by the City of Sibley, Iowa. Plaintiff sued the City, in relevant part, for negligence and negligence per se. Plaintiff’s wife also brought a loss of consortium claim. The district court granted summary judgment.   The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to negligence and affirmed as to negligence per se. The court reinstated the loss of consortium claim. Plaintiff alleged that the City violated the Iowa Administrative Code, specifically (1) its adopted NESC standards and (2) Iowa Administrative Code 199- 25.4(1). The City argued that the NESC, as adopted by Iowa regulations, establishes the standard of care. But it hasn’t pointed to any authority stating that compliance with Iowa regulations is conclusive of the standard of care in ordinary negligence actions. The court reasoned that compliance with Iowa regulations is not dispositive of the standard of care for negligence. Because a jury could find that the City breached its duty, Plaintiff’s negligence claim has genuine issues of fact for trial. Further, the court held that the public-duty doctrine does not bar Plaintiff’s negligence claim because it involves City misfeasance. View "Victor Maldonado v. City of Sibley" on Justia Law

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DirecTV and Dish Network (“Defendants”) provide video services in part through the Internet. The City of Creve Coeur filed this class action in Missouri state court on behalf of local government authorities, seeking a declaratory judgment that Defendants are liable under the Video Services Providers Act (“VSPA”) and implementing local ordinances, plus injunctive relief, an accounting of unpaid fees, and damages. Defendants removed the action based on diversity jurisdiction and the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). After the state court entered an interlocutory order declaring that VSPA payments are fees, rather than taxes, DirecTV filed a second notice of removal, arguing this order established the required federal jurisdiction. The district court granted Creve Coeur’s motion to remand.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed on different grounds. The court explained that the district court’s remand order plainly stated that the remand was based on comity principles as articulated in Levin, not on “state-tax based comity concerns.” Comity as a basis to remand was raised and fully argued in the first remand proceeding. Federal courts have long precluded two bites at this apple. Second, the Supreme Court in Levin emphatically stated that the century-old comity doctrine is not limited to the state-tax-interference concerns that later led Congress to enact the TIA. Third, the state court’s December 2020 Order addressed, preliminarily, only the VSPA fee-or-tax issue under state law. It did not address the broader considerations comity addresses. The state court order in no way overruled or undermined the basis for the district court’s first remand order. Therefore, DirecTV failed to establish the essential basis for a second removal. View "City of Creve Coeur v. DirecTV LLC" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Defendant of possessing at least five kilograms of cocaine. Defendant retained new counsel and moved for judgment of acquittal or a new trial, raising numerous issues. The district court denied the motion. Defendant appealed. His principal argument, raised for the first time in the post-verdict motion, is that law enforcement violated the Fourth Amendment by using expired tracking warrants to locate him when he was arrested returning to the Twin Cities from a trip to Chicago with thirteen pounds of cocaine in his vehicle.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that it is undisputed that the Fourth Amendment argument at issue was an issue reasonably available for a pretrial motion to suppress that Defendant did not raise. However, the court agreed to review for plain error.  The court reasoned that nothing seriously affected the fairness or integrity of this prosecution. Whether the tracking warrants expired when Defendant was arrested, interviewed, and released on October 7 is an issue the court does not decide. However, it is hardly free from doubt, so any error in not reaching the issue was not plain. Moreover, Defendant fled when the police attempted to stop him on November 1, leading them on a hazardous high-speed chase that provided probable cause to arrest Defendant for resisting arrest, failing to stop after a collision, and reckless driving. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal or a new trial based on the alleged expiration of the tracking warrants. View "United States v. John Pickens, Jr." on Justia Law

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Block, Inc. appealed from an order granting in part H&R Block, Inc. and HRB Innovations, Inc.’s (collectively, “H&R Block”) motion for a preliminary injunction. H&R Block claims that the use of “Block” and a green square logo in connection with tax services: (1) is likely to cause confusion because H&R Block and Block, Inc. both offer overlapping services, including tax preparation and filing, other related financial services, and charitable services; (2) has confused consumers, the media, and investors; and (3) will cause irreparable harm, as it will undermine H&R Block’s ability to control its public image and perception and lead consumers to incorrectly believe Block, Inc’s tax service is connected to H&R Block or one of the “building blocks” in the Block, Inc. family of brands.   The Eighth Circuit reversed and vacated the preliminary injunction. The court explained that H&R Block failed to satisfy its burden because the evidence in the record is inadequate to establish substantial consumer confusion by an appreciable number of ordinary consumers, nor irreparable harm that is concrete and imminent. The court wrote that if there is, in fact, trademark infringement, H&R Block will have a full opportunity to demonstrate that infringement at a trial on the merits. View "H&R Block, Inc. v. Block, Inc." on Justia Law