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

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's partial denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence. Defendant pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance (Count 2), and was sentenced to 262 months imprisonment.The court found that the initial encounter between defendant and the officers was consensual and thus his Fourth Amendment rights were not violated. In this case, the totality of the circumstances indicated that the officers' retention of defendant's identification did not restrain his liberty; the officers did not activate their patrol car's lighter or siren, or physically touch defendant; and the officers did not brandish their weapons or threaten arrest. The court also concluded that the officers did not violate defendant's Fifth Amendment rights during the first encounter, and the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress the statements. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err in denying the motion to suppress the evidence found in defendant's car where defendant did not contest that the drug dog's positive alert on his car gave the officers probable cause to search it. View "United States v. Lillich" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's 180 month sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. At sentencing, the district court calculated defendant's Sentencing Guidelines offense level as 30 and his criminal history category as VI, which yielded a sentencing range of 180-210 months. However, the district court ruled that defendant's five prior convictions qualified as predicate convictions under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA).The court rejected defendant's contention that the ACCA violates his equal protection rights and concluded that defendant has not presented any proof of a discriminatory intent or purpose in the enactment of the ACCA or its application to his case. As to defendant's claim regarding differing treatment of juvenile convictions, the court concluded that defendant's predicate convictions do not include any "acts of juvenile delinquency" under the ACCA. The court also concluded that, even if defendant's Wisconsin robbery conviction does not qualify as a predicate offense, defendant's remaining convictions were sufficient to apply the ACCA. Finally, the court concluded that there was no error in denying defendant's request for credit for time served on a prior conviction, and he provided no proof for his claim that the government improperly delayed bringing charges against him. View "United States v. Ronning" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against Boeing, alleging that defendants wrongfully escheated her property to the state. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Boeing. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that plaintiff's claims are subject to Missouri's five-year statute of limitations period and, in this case, plaintiff's cause of action accrued more than five years before she filed suit. Accordingly, the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiff's claim as time-barred. View "Weinbach v. The Boeing Company" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Plaintiff, a former employee of the Pine Bluff Arsenal, filed suit against the Army under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that she was subject to a hostile work environment based on sex and that the Army retaliated against her after she reported sexual harassment. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the Army.The Eighth Circuit concluded that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the Army on plaintiff's hostile work environment claim where she failed to establish that the harassment she experienced was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment and create an abusive working environment. However, the court concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the Army on plaintiff's retaliation claim where she presented enough admissible evidence to raise a genuine doubt as the legitimacy of the Army's stated motive for her termination. Accordingly, the court remanded this claim for further proceedings. View "Hairston v. Wormuth" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting text messages and transcripts of phone calls between defendant and his co-defendants. The court found that the government properly authenticated the text messages, providing sufficient evidence to support a finding that the messages sent and received from the 6140 number were sent and received by defendant. The court also concluded that the district court properly admitted texts between the co-conspirators in furtherance of the conspiracy and even if admitting such evidence was in error, the error was harmless given the overwhelming evidence against defendant. Finally, the court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction. View "United States v. Ramirez-Martinez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision concluding that petitioner was removeable and denial of his request for a form of cancellation of removal available to children who have been battered by parents who are lawful permanent residents. The court concluded that petitioner failed to exhaust his claim that the BIA engaged in improper fact finding, the issue is not before the court, and the issue will not be considered. Although the court has jurisdiction to review the predicate legal question whether the Board properly applied the law in determining eligibility, the court lacked jurisdiction to review an ultimate decision denying cancellation of removal as a matter of discretion. View "Mencia-Medina v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Defendant distributed, received, produced, and possessed child pornography using two separate Facebook accounts: one under his name, and the other under the fictitious name Mike Malone. After the Government tried to authenticate evidence from Facebook using certified records, the district court required additional circumstantial evidence tying defendant to the Malone account before ultimately admitting the evidence. Defendant appealed the district court's admission of the evidence and the denial of his request to question witnesses at trial.The Eighth Circuit agreed with the Third and Seventh Circuits that the Government may authenticate social media evidence with circumstantial evidence linking the defendant to the social media account, which the Government did here. In this case, the evidence taken together, provided a rational basis for the district court to pass the question of authentication to the jury. The court also concluded that Facebook messages between defendant and another person, the Malone account, and a minor provided context for defendant's responses and his connection to the Malone account and were not hearsay. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing defendant's request for hybrid representation. The court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Lamm" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel dismissed debtor's appeal as moot where he challenged the bankruptcy court's order denying his motion for relief from a previous order denying his request for a waiver of the Bankruptcy Code's credit counseling requirement. The court concluded that the bankruptcy case was subsequently dismissed, and thus a reversal of the waiver denial order would be of no benefit to debtor. View "Lincoln v. Snyder" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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Pepsi previously granted Mahaska exclusive rights to distribute bottles and cans of certain Pepsi products in identified territories. Pepsi also granted Mahaska limited rights to distribute fountain syrup products in identified territories. The claims and counterclaims in this case arose out of these agreements. After a jury trial, the jury returned a split verdict. The jury awarded Mahaska a total of $2,956,540.10 in damages and Pepsi a total of $24,000 in damages. Pepsi filed a motion for a new trial asserting a number of claims, including that Mahaska's closing arguments were improper and prejudicial. The district court denied Pepsi's motion and Pepsi appeals only the closing argument issue.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the comments Pepsi challenges, either alone or together, did not so infect the trial with the type of impropriety that would make a new trial appropriate. In this case, the court grouped Pepsi's claimed improper statements into a five categories: (1) statements regarding Mahaska's survival; (2) statements referencing Pepsi's size; (3) statements allegedly encouraging local bias; (4) statements denigrating Pepsi's defenses and counterclaims and its witnesses' credibility; and (5) statements related to punishment, sending signals, or malice. The court explained that, while portions of Mahaska's closing argument were hyperbolic and other portions perhaps approached the line for permissible argument, Pepsi's failure to object during or after the closing argument is some indication that the multitude of statements deemed improper weeks after the jury returned its verdict were not viewed by Pepsi's counsel as prejudicial or improper when they were made in context before the jury. Furthermore, the statements raised by Pepsi on appeal were based on evidence presented during trial or reasonable inferences that could be drawn from the evidence. View "Mahaska Bottling Co. v. Pepsico, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for four counts related to unlawful possession of drugs and a gun. Under the facts of this case the court concluded that defendant cannot show that voir dire on race was constitutionally required and thus the court saw no reason why voir dire on implicit racial bias would be constitutionally required. The court explained that the district court's inquiries on racial bias went beyond the requirement to eliminate any reasonable possibility that racial or ethnic prejudice would influence the jury. Moreover, the district court was not required to inquire into potential implicit bias. The court also concluded that defendant's prior two Missouri drug convictions for the sale of cocaine base qualified as serious drug offenses under the Armed Career Criminal Act. Therefore, the district court did not err in applying the career criminal enhancement. View "United States v. Young" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law