Justia U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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O’Kroley googled himself and found “Texas Advance Sheet,” followed by “indecency with a child in Trial Court Cause N . . . Colin O’Kroley v Pringle.” O’Kroley was never involved in an indecency case; his case was listed immediately after such a case, on a service that summarizes judicial opinions. If users clicked the link they would see that the cases were unrelated. Claiming “severe mental anguish,” O’Kroley sued Google for $19,200,000,000,000, asserting “libel,” “invasion of privacy,” “failure to provide due process,” “cruel and unusual punishment,” “cyber-bullying,” and “psychological torture.” The court dismissed, citing the Communications Decency Act, which insulates interactive computer services from certain lawsuits, 47 U.S.C. 230. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Google is an interactive computer service, providing “access by multiple users to a computer server,” not the publisher or speaker of the allegedly defamatory content. A separate “entity [was] responsible . . . for the [content’s] creation.” Google cannot be held liable for merely providing access to, and reproducing, the allegedly defamatory text. “ Google performed some automated editorial acts on the content, such as removing spaces and altering font, and kept the search result up even after O’Kroley complained; these acts come within “a publisher’s traditional editorial functions.” View "O'Kroley v. Fastcase, Inc" on Justia Law

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In 2001, EQT sold or leased to Journey several oil- and natural-gas-producing properties in Kentucky. Both parties continued to conduct oil and natural-gas operations in the state, but Journey later concluded that EQT was operating on some of the lands that had been conveyed to Journey. Journey sought a declaration that it owned or controlled those properties and that EQT was liable for the oil and natural gas that EQT had removed from those properties. The district court concluded on summary judgment that the parties’ 2001 contract had unambiguously conveyed the disputed properties to Journey. A jury found that EQT’s trespasses on Journey’s lands were not in good faith. The court subsequently required EQT to pay $14,288,432 in damages and transfer certain oil and natural-gas wells to Journey. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the district court erred in construing the parties’ contract, in excluding portions of EQT’s proffered evidence, and in crafting the remedy for EQT’s trespasses. EQT carried out its drilling despite obvious indicators that its ownership of the underlying property was doubtful, establishing an ample basis to conclude that EQT’s trespasses were not in good faith. View "Journey Acquisition-II, L.P. v. EQT Prod.Co." on Justia Law

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Bickerstaff, a private investigator for Ohio criminal-defense law firms, was conducting an investigation on behalf of a defendant accused of breaking into the Harris house. After speaking with Harris, Bickerstaff received a phone call from Detective Lucarelli, telling her to discontinue her contacts with Harris. Bickerstaff claimed that Lucarelli was involved in a “personal and/or sexual relationship” with Harris, and with other female crime victims, based upon text messages and photos that Bickerstaff alleges were sent from Lucarelli’s cell phone. Bickerstaff alleged that Lucarelli’s supervisor and a fellow detective were aware of Lucarelli’s “improper relationships” and received sexually explicit pictures of and text messages concerning the victims from Lucarelli. Harris had filed a complaint, attached to a report prepared by Lucarelli, indicating that Harris had originally agreed to an interview but later felt harassed by Bickerstaff’s repeated calls and unannounced visit. Bickerstaff was indicted for intimidating a crime victim or witness and for telecommunications harassment. The charges were dismissed the following month.The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of Bickerstaff’s claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging malicious prosecution, abuse of process, retaliation, supervisory liability, municipal liability, civil conspiracy, and reckless, wanton, or willful conduct, calling the allegations “naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement,” not sufficient to survive the motion-to-dismiss stage. View "Bickerstaff v. Lucarelli" on Justia Law

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In 1994, Govindbhai Patel, a citizen of India, sought asylum and employment authorization, stating that he arrived in New York as a visitor in 1993. His wife, Vidhyaben, also applied, asserting that she arrived as a visitor in 1994. Both denied traveling through another country before entering the U.S. An immigrant petition for an alien worker was approved for Govindbhai in 2004. He applied for adjustment of status, reiterating that he entered as a visitor. Vidhyaben and their children filed derivative applications, indicating that they entered without inspection. In 2005, Govindbhai stated under oath that he entered, through New York, with a visa . In subsequent interviews, Govindbhai stated under oath that he entered by crossing the border from Mexico with a smuggler and that his family members also used smugglers. In 2008, USCIS denied the applications. DHS initiated removal and charged Govindbhai with seeking to procure an immigration benefit by fraud or by willfully misrepresenting a material fact. Seeking adjustment under 8 U.S.C. 1255, all four Patels testified that they were smuggled into the U.S.: two from Mexico, and two from Canada. The IJ ordered their removal. The BIA dismissed an appeal. The Sixth Circuit rejected an appeal. Govindbhai bore the burden to prove that he satisfied the requirements for adjustment of status. His concession of removability was not sufficient to prove that he satisfies the 8 U.S.C. 1255 requirement of having entered the country without inspection. View "Patel v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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Rios, Casillas, and 29 co-defendants were charged in a “sprawling racketeering indictment” involving the Latin Kings. Count One, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961, alleged that the Holland, Michigan Latin Kings was a racketeering enterprise that “was and is overseen by, has always had connections to, and received directions from, the Chicago Heights” Latin Kings, alleged 129 overt acts in furtherance of the 20-year conspiracy, and contained special sentencing allegations. Rios and Casillas were each charged regarding the distribution of cocaine; Rios was charged with three assaults with the intent to commit murder. Count Fourteen alleged conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine from 2006-2012. Three witnesses described the national Latin Kings and how the Holland Latin Kings fit into that structure. Other testimony, largely from cooperating co-defendants, corroborated that testimony and provided details about specific charged acts. The jury found Rios and Casillas guilty of Counts One and Fourteen and found each responsible for the distribution of five kilograms or more of cocaine, 1993-2013. Rios was sentenced to concurrent terms of 240 months on Count One and 300 months on Count Fourteen, with 61 months of credit “for gang-related discharged terms of imprisonment.” Casillas was sentenced to concurrent terms of 200 months and 360 months, with 148 months of credit. The Sixth Circuit​ affirmed both convictions and sentences, rejecting various challenges to testimony and jury instructions. View "United States v. Casillas" on Justia Law
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Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) filed a class action suit alleging securities fraud against Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), a government sponsored entity chartered by Congress that operates in the secondary mortgage market. OPERS alleged that Freddie Mac concealed its overextension in the nontraditional mortgage market (subprime mortgages or low credit and high-risk instruments) and its materially deficient underwriting, risk management, and fraud detection practices through misstatements and omissions to investors. OPERS claimed that the fund suffered foreseeable losses triggered when the risk that had been concealed materialized. The district court dismissed, concluding that OPERS failed to show loss causation. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Considering “the relationship between the risks allegedly concealed and the risks that subsequently materialized,” as well as the close correlation between the alleged revelation or materialization of the risk and the immediate fall in stock price, the court concluded that OPERS had alleged sufficient facts to support a plausible claim. View "Oh. Pub. Employees Ret. Sys. v. Fed. Home Loan Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law
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In 2007, Harper, then 70 years old and partially paralyzed, allowed McKinney to move into his Michigan home in exchange for chores. On October 22, 2009, Harper's caregiver left the men by themselves. McKinney shot Harper at point-blank range while Harper slept, killing him. McKinney fled in Harper’s van. Police arrested him in Illinois following a traffic stop during which McKinney claimed to be Harper. Officers searched the van and discovered two handguns, including the one used to kill Harper, and Harper’s wallet. After reading McKinney his Miranda rights, officers asked for “his side of the story.” McKinney replied: Well if you don’t mind, I just assume wait until I get a public defender or whatever. The officer stated: Well that’s fine, but like I said. McKinney said, “We can talk over all the other circumstances” and proceeded to confess. McKinney successfully moved to suppress the confession. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, holding that McKinney did not unequivocally request counsel. McKinney was convicted of first-degree murder after his videotaped confession was played at trial. A federal district court conditionally granted McKinney’s habeas petition. The Sixth Circuit reversed: the district court failed to show the requisite deference to state court decisions on habeas review. The Michigan Supreme Court’s decision was not an unreasonable application of established federal law. View "McKinney v. Hoffner" on Justia Law

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Multi-employer funds established by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractor National Association and the Sheet Metal Worker’s Union sought confirmation of arbitration awards granted against five employers. None of the employers had participated in the arbitration, which concerned contributions to the funds. The district court declined to confirm the award, concluding that there was an open question as to whether the employers were party to the CBA, and, therefore, bound to its arbitration procedures. After initially ruling that state law applied to the question of whether the employers were bound to arbitrate under the CBA, the court certified a question for appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1292(b): whether state or federal law will apply at trial to the question of whether the employers “are bound/signatory to” the CBA? The Sixth Circuit reversed. While state contract law may provide helpful guideposts to federal courts, it is well-established that in the field of labor relations, the technical rules of contract law do not determine the existence of a CBA. The law to be applied to the question of whether a party has assented to the terms of a CBA, including an arbitration provision, is ultimately federal. View "Sheet Metal Employers Indus. Promotion Fund v. Absolut Balancing Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1996 (Free Press I), the Sixth Circuit held that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, requires government agencies to honor requests for the booking photographs of criminal defendants who have appeared in court during ongoing proceedings. Despite that holding, the U.S. Marshals Service denied the Free Press’s 2012 request for the booking photographs of Detroit-area police officers indicted on federal charges. The district court, bound by Free Press I, granted summary judgment to the newspaper in the ensuing lawsuit. A Sixth Circuit panel affirmed in 2015, while urging the full court to reconsider the merits of Free Press I. The court subsequently reversed, overruling Free Press I. FOIA Exemption 7(C) protects a non-trivial privacy interest in keeping “personal facts away from the public eye.” Individuals do not forfeit their interest in maintaining control over information that has been made public in some form. Criminal defendants do not forfeit their interest in controlling private information while their cases remain pending. View "Detroit Free Press v. Dep't of Justice" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Jones of conspiracy to distribute heroin, 21 U.S.C. 846, three counts of distribution of heroin, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), and three counts of aiding and abetting distribution, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1). A probation office initially attributed to Jones at least five but less than 10 grams of heroin. The government objected, stating that the quantity did “not reflect the scale of the offense.” U.S.S.G. 2D1.1 n.5. Based on a confidential informant’s testimony that he purchased half a gram of heroin each day for six months, the government asserted that Jones’s relevant conduct included 60 grams of heroin. After testimony from the officer who handled the confidential informant, the court found by a preponderance of the evidence that Jones’s conduct involved at least 40.3 grams, but stated: I don’t think ... that there’s clear and convincing evidence that it’s 40 grams. The court calculated Jones’s guidelines range as 63-78 months and sentenced Jones to 78 months of imprisonment . The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that due process does not require sentencing courts to employ a standard higher than preponderance-of-the-evidence, even with respect to large enhancements. The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Alleyne, that any fact that increases the mandatory minimum sentence must be submitted to the jury, did not address the standard of proof for judicial fact-finding at sentencing. View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law
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