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

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An August 14, 2019 subpoena duces tecum ordered the IDPS to appear before the court's grand jury and provide documents relating to the investigation of an ISP officer for misconduct or use of excessive force. IDPS complied with five of the listed document categories but filed a motion to quash categories 3 and 4, which seek any and all records relating to the investigation of Officer John Doe for misconduct and any and all records relating to complaints made against Officer John Doe. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying IDPS's motion to quash and rejected IDPS's assertion that quashing the subpoena is needed to protect the Fifth Amendment rights of IDPS employees who participated in internal investigations; the procedural protections established by Kastigar v. U.S., 406 U.S. 401 (1972), and Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967), provide sufficient protection from the improper use of compelled statements; the Fifth Amendment allows the government to prosecute using evidence from legitimate independent sources; and the district court did not abuse its Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 17(c)(2) discretion in deciding that IDPS failed to meet its substantial burden to show that compliance with the challenged portions of the grand jury subpoena would be "unreasonable or oppressive" when balanced against the interests of the government in enforcing the subpoena. View "In Re: Grand Jury Subpoena Dated August 14, 2019" on Justia Law

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Dunbar, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), was awarded an Army Corps of Engineers ditch and tributary project in Arkansas. Dunbar then hired a subcontractor, Harding Enterprises, to work on the project. After Harding Enterprises defaulted, Dunbar made a demand on the bond guaranteed by Hanover, which Hanover denied. Hanover then filed suit seeking a declaration that it had no obligations under the bond and seeking to have the bond rescinded based on illegality of the subcontract. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Hanover, holding that the district court erroneously concluded that the subcontract was undisputedly in violation of 13 C.F.R. 125.6(b)(2) because the percentage that Dunbar spent on contract performance relative to the prime contract price could not be conclusively ascertained until conclusion of performance of the prime contract. The court also held that the potential that Hanover may have liability under the False Claims Act if it were to perform under the bond does not justify discharging Hanover from its obligations and rescinding the contract. View "Hanover Insurance Co. v. Dunbar Mechanical Contractors, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income to plaintiff. The court held that the ALJ properly weighed the opinions of medical professionals, including a physician's assistant, and gave partial weight to the opinion of a certain medical expert. The court also held that sufficient evidence in the record supported the ALJ's decision, including clinical notes that plaintiff lost weight from moving around so much, left a clinical appointment with a brisk walk and no cane, and stated he was doing well after a total hip replacement. Finally, the court held that a hypothetical question given to the vocational expert captured the concrete consequences of plaintiff's impairments, and the court need not consider plaintiff's Appointments Clause challenge. View "Hilliard v. Saul" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits
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The Eighth Circuit held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction for conspiracy to retaliate against a witness. The court held that a reasonable jury could believe that defendant and her co-defendants formed a conspiracy where a reasonable jury could understand a certain conversation between defendant and her sister as evidence of a knowing agreement between them to retaliate against the new interim executive director that replaced defendant at the not-for-profit for providing evidence to federal investigators. Furthermore, a reasonable jury could conclude that overt acts were taken in furtherance of the conspiracy. View "United States v. Colombe" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against a police officer under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the officer used excessive force and seeking damages for injuries sustained during plaintiff's arrest. The district court denied the officer's motions for summary judgment. The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court that, on balance, the challenged use of force was unreasonable, but that the question is not beyond debate, and the right at issue was thus not clearly established. In this case, officers were attempting to arrest plaintiff for his role in a brutal beating, plaintiff fled from officers at high speed for several miles while armed with a handgun and ammunition, and a foot race ensued after the car chase where five officers pinned plaintiff. While the officers pinned plaintiff, plaintiff refused to surrender his hands and the officers reasonably believed that plaintiff's position posed a threat to officer safety, because at least one of his hands was unrestrained in an area of his body where weapons could be concealed. Therefore, the court held that it was objectively reasonable for officers to apply some amount of supplemental force in order to gain control of plaintiff's hands and to restrain him. However, the court held that the officer's use of force was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. The court stated that a stomp on the ankle with sufficient force to break it was excessive when the legitimate objective was to facilitate restraint of plaintiff's hands while he was pinned to the ground by several officers. The court stated that a number of the relevant factors supported the use of force, so reasonableness was a matter of degree, and qualified immunity protects officers from the specter of lawsuits and damages liability for mistaken judgments in gray areas. Accordingly, the court reversed the denial of qualified immunity. View "Shelton v. Stevens" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that the district court did not err by imposing sentencing enhancements for possessing three to seven firearms and possessing a firearm capable of accepting a high capacity magazine. In this case, the evidence was sufficient to show constructive or joint possession, if not actual possession of the firearms. The court also held that the district court did not err by imposing an enhancement for possession of the firearm in connection with another felony offense where the firearm facilitated or had the potential of facilitating drug possession. Finally, the court held that any error in imposing any of the enhancements was harmless because the district court expressly stated it would have adopted the sentence regardless of its rulings on the enhancements. View "United States v. Fisher" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a petition for review of the Commissioner's denial of plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The court held that, although the record provides ample support for determinations regarding the severity and limiting effect of most of plaintiff's impairments, further development is required as to the functional limitations on walking and standing. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Noerper v. Saul" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 or more grams of methamphetamine. The court rejected defendant's claim of evidentiary error in admitting Exhibit 113, a chart showing records of all contacts between phone numbers identified with defendant and others. The court held that, even if the exhibit was admitted without proper foundation, the error was harmless. Furthermore, like Exhibit 113, the contents of Exhibits 114 and 125 duplicate other evidence and testimony and any error in admitting them was harmless. The court also held that the district court did not err by applying a sentencing enhancement for obstruction of justice for threatening a witness; defendant's 300 month sentence was substantively reasonable; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in varying downward from the guidelines. View "United States v. Vera-Gutierrez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Petitioner sought review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's denial of his motion to reopen removal proceedings and to deny his motion to remand. The court held that it lacked jurisdiction to review the vast majority of petitioner's arguments concerning his motion to reopen his asylum and withholding of removal claims because they merely constitute a brief in opposition to the BIA's factual findings. In regard to the CAT claim, the court held that the BIA did not abuse its discretion in determining that he had not shown facts that would likely change the result in the case on account of a material change in country conditions. In regard to the motion for remand, the court lacked jurisdiction to review petitioner's arguments to the extent they concern his asylum and withholding of removal claims; petitioner's claims that the BIA committed legal error lacked merit; and the court cannot say the BIA abused its discretion in determining that further proceedings on his motion to reopen his CAT claim were not warranted by the newly presented evidence attached to his motion to remand. Finally, the court rejected petitioner's Fifth Amendment due process claim. View "Sharif v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that defendant's contention that his three prior Minnesota robbery convictions did not qualify as violent felonies under the Armed Career Criminal Act is foreclosed by Eighth Circuit decisions issued while his appeal was pending. The court also held that defendant's challenge to his conviction, contending that his indictment violated his due process rights, falls within the scope of the appeal waiver in his knowing and voluntary plea agreement, and no miscarriage of justice would result from enforcing the waiver. View "United States v. Jackson-Bey" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law