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

by
Plaintiff brought suit in state court against the officers for violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Federal Constitution and under Article I, Section 8 of the Iowa Constitution and for conspiracy to violate his federal and state constitutional rights. He also brought claims against the chief of police and the City of Des Moines for deliberate indifference under federal and state law. Defendants timely removed the suit to federal court. Plaintiff moved for summary judgment on all counts except for the number of damages; Defendants filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on the basis of federal qualified immunity and state immunity.   On appeal, Defendants argue that the district court erred in denying the individual officers qualified immunity on Plaintiff’s federal law claims, in denying the officers state immunity on his Iowa law claims, and in denying summary judgment to the City on his deliberate indifference claim.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court reasoned that even combined with the fact that the stop occurred in an area known for criminal activity as well as a momentary display of nervousness on the part of a passenger, there is not enough here to justify the stop. The officers argue that there is no clearly established right to drive with a nervous passenger through a high-crime neighborhood with a temporary tag.  These facts, in isolation, do not support a conclusion that Plaintiff’s vehicle was connected to unlawful activity in general, much less to the specific kind of unlawful activity for which the officers pulled him over. View "Jared Clinton v. Ryan Garrett" on Justia Law

by
Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of possession of an unregistered National Firearms Act firearm. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained from the trailer he occupied. He contends that the warrant was invalid because it lacked probable cause and failed to describe with particularity the items that police intended to seize.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court reasoned that the description of items found in the warrant meets the pragmatic standards imposed by the Fourth Amendment. Further, Defendant has not shown that the officers’ reliance on the warrant was objectively unreasonable. The warrant application affidavit passes muster. It was neither deceptive nor deficient. The district court did not err in admitting evidence found pursuant to the warrant. View "United States v. Philip Maccani" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Courthouse News is a national “news service that reports on civil litigation in state and federal courts throughout the country.” When Missouri switched to an e-filing system, same-day access became the exception, not the rule. Newly filed petitions remain unavailable until court staff processes them, which can sometimes take “a week or more.” Courthouse News sued the Circuit Clerk for St. Louis County and the Missouri State Courts Administrator, alleging First Amendment violations. In their motion to dismiss Defendants asked the district court to either abstain under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), or rule that Courthouse News’s complaint failed to state a First Amendment claim. The district court decided to abstain and never ruled on the merits.   At issue on appeal is: First, does sovereign immunity protect state-court officials who run an e-filing system that delays public access to newly filed civil petitions? Second, should federal courts abstain from hearing this type of case anyway? The Eighth Circuit reversed concluding that the answer to both is no. The court explained that the case-at-issue does not resemble the classic Younger situation: a litigant runs to federal court to cut off an impending or actual state-court proceeding that is unlikely to go well. Here, the dispute about who gets to see newly filed petitions and when, and neither is the subject of any pending state-court proceeding. The court reasoned that if Courthouse News eventually prevails on its constitutional claim, declaratory relief would mitigate this concern to some degree by giving Missouri courts “the widest latitude in the ‘dispatch of [their] own internal affairs.’” View "Courthouse News Service v. Joan Gilmer" on Justia Law

by
The district court entered a Consent Decree between the City of Fort Smith, Arkansas (the City), and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with the State of Arkansas. The Consent Decree imposed various sewer system improvement requirements on the City over an initial 12-year period. The Consent Decree’s requirements generally include (1) assessing the condition of the sewer system, (2) identifying control measures to address certain defects, and (3) developing a plan to ensure adequate capacity in the sewer system. The City filed a motion for judicial resolution. The district court granted the City’s motion and issued two orders on March 19, 2021, and April 30, 2021. The City appealed those two orders, challenging the court’s ruling that certain severe structural defects had to be repaired by a date certain.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that nothing in the Consent Decree or in Appendix D explicitly indicates that the decision tree only applies to defects with Grades 1 to 3 and not to Grades 4 and 5. But assuming arguendo that it applies to all defects identified in the City’s SSA irrespective of grade, Appendix D conflicts with Paragraph 18. Paragraph 18 provides that all Grade 4 and 5 defects must be included in the RMP. Accordingly, the court affirmed the conclusion of the district court that “the Consent Decree requires the City to resolve the defects in Grade 4 and 5 manholes and sewer lines, and this cannot be accomplished solely by monitoring and maintenance analysis.” View "United States v. City of Fort Smith, Arkansas" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff fell victim to a massive Ponzi scheme. Plaintiff sued JP Morgan and Richter Consulting. Plaintiff’s principal theory is that these firms aided and abetted fraud. And even if they did not, the complaint alleges that the transfers to JP Morgan were fraudulent.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint. The court explained that early on, JP Morgan agreed to pay over $30 million to settle a group of claims filed by the trustees. To protect the settlement, two courts issued bar orders preventing creditors like Plaintiff from asserting any claims that belong or belonged to one or more of the bankruptcy trustees. Those orders, along with general bankruptcy-standing doctrine, prevent Plaintiff from pursuing JP Morgan separately. The same goes for the fraudulent-transfer claims against JP Morgan.   Further, Plaintiff’s aiding-and-abetting claim against Richter Consulting under New York law cannot move forward either, but for a different reason. The court explained that viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the allegations in the complaint describe no more than constructive knowledge of the fraud. View "Ritchie Spec. Cred. Investments v. JPMorgan Chase & Co." on Justia Law

by
A jury convicted Defendant of possessing materials containing child pornography. The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 also required the court to order restitution to the victims of Defendant’s child pornography offense. The government moved for an order directing the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to turn over $2,084 from Defendant’s inmate trust account to pay the remaining balance of his restitution obligation. The district court summarily denied Defendant’s motion requesting a hearing and granted the government’s turnover motion. The court concluded that funds in an inmate’s trust account are not exempt from the payment of restitution. Defendant appealed, raising all these issues. The district court stayed the collection or payment of restitution pending the appeal.   The Eighth Circuit vacated the district court’s Order of September 2, 2021. The court held that the district court must determine on remand whether the victim has been fully compensated for the trafficking losses proximately caused by Defendant’s offense. If she has then amended Section 2259(b)(2)(C) states the governing rule: Defendant’s liability to pay the restitution set forth in his February 2014 Amended Judgment in a Criminal Case “shall be terminated.” The court left for the district court’s determination on remand Defendant’s requests for appointment of counsel and discovery. View "United States v. Robert Evans" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Defendant appealed a sentence of 240 months imprisonment imposed by the district court after he was convicted of a drug trafficking offense and two firearms offenses. The district court determined that Defendant was a career offender under the sentencing guidelines and calculated his advisory sentencing range accordingly. On appeal, Defendant challenged the career-offender determination.   The Eighth Circuit vacated Defendant’s sentence and remanded it for resentencing. The court explained that in light of intervening authority, the court concluded that one of Defendant’s prior felony convictions does not qualify as a crime of violence under the guidelines and that he is not properly classified as a career offender based on that conviction. Specifically, the court concluded that Defendant’s violation of Section 708.6(2) does not have as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force against the person of another. The offense thus does not qualify as a crime of violence under USSG Section 4B1.2(a)(1). View "United States v. Dreshon Frazier" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
This case concerns the application of two Minnesota statutes and a rule promulgated by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) that establishes the liability of a parent company for the unmet contractual obligations of its subsidiary under certain kinds of agricultural contracts. At issue is whether the relevant laws apply to chicken production contracts between Defendants (collectively, the Growers), who are Minnesota chicken producers, and Simply Essentials, LLC (Simply Essentials), a chicken processor. If they apply, then Plaintiff Pitman Farms (Pitman Farms), a California corporation and Simply Essentials’ parent company is liable to the Growers for Simply Essentials’ breaches of contract.   The district court granted Pitman Farms’s summary-judgment motion and denied the Growers’ cross-motion based upon its conclusion that the Minnesota parent-liability authorities do not by their terms apply to the subject contracts because those authorities do not apply to parent companies of LLCs.   The Eighth Circuit reversed. The court explained that the Minnesota legislature’s lack of amendment subsequent to the advent of LLCs played a significant role in the district court’s conclusion. The court concluded that it does think that this fact suffices to exclude LLCs from the operation of the laws at issue in this case. Further, here, the legislative intent is clear: with respect to agricultural contracts, the Minnesota legislature intended parent companies to be liable for the breaches of their subsidiaries. Accordingly, the court held that the use of the phrase “corporation, partnership, or association” in the relevant statutes and Rule is intended to include LLCs for the purpose of parent company liability. View "Pitman Farms v. Kuehl Poultry, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff suffered serious injuries when his motorcycle collided with a car driven by a negligent motorist. After exhausting its liability limits, he next looked to the underinsured-motorist benefits of a policy covering just his motorcycle. When those benefits fell short too, he turned to a policy underwritten by Standard Fire Insurance Company that covered vehicles other than his motorcycle.   Relying on what the parties call the owned-but-not-insured exclusion, it denied coverage because the accident occurred with a vehicle that Plaintiff had decided to insure elsewhere. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court agreed with Standard Fire that it owed nothing. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court rejected Plaintiff’s argument that the exclusion is ambiguous. Even if “this coverage” might lend itself to some ambiguity in isolation, the remainder of the policy points to only one reasonable interpretation: the owned-but-not-insured exclusion applies in precisely this situation. View "John Eberlein v. Standard Fire Ins Co" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff sued I.C. System, Inc. (ICS) under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) for violating 15 U.S.C. Section 1692c(b), which prohibits a debt collector from contacting a third party about the collection of a debt without the prior consent of the consumer. The district court granted ICS’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, finding that Plaintiff, a non-consumer, lacked standing to bring a cause of action under Section 1692c(b).   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that it joined the other circuits that have considered this issue in concluding that non-consumers cannot bring a claim under Section 1692c(b). The court further concluded that there was no abuse of discretion because Plaintiff failed to follow the applicable rules, including Eastern District of Missouri Local Rule 4.01(A). Further, the court wrote that Plaintiff confuses Article III standing, which implicates subject matter jurisdiction and is undisputed here, and statutory standing. Thus, because Plaintiff only alleged a violation of Section 1692c(b) and the district court correctly determined that Section 1692c(b) does not provide Plaintiff standing to sue, judgment as a matter of law was appropriate. View "Andrew Magdy v. I.C. System, Inc." on Justia Law