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

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From 1983-2005, Moen entered into collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with the union. Employees who retired 1983-1996 and their dependents received hospitalization, surgical and medical coverage without cost. If the retirees (or spouses) were over age 65, Moen also reimbursed the full cost of Medicare Part B premiums. After 1996, retirees and dependents received hospitalization, surgical, and medical coverage upon payment of a co-premium frozen at the time of retirement. If over 65, they received Part B premium reimbursements at specified rates. In 2008, Moen shut down its Elyria operations. A “Closure Effects Agreement” provided that health-care coverage “shall continue” for retirees and spouses “under the [final] Collective Bargaining Agreement.” In 2013, Moen decreased benefits in response to “recent Medicare improvements” and the imposition of an excise tax on “Cadillac plans” through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 26 U.S.C. 4980I. Medicare-eligible retirees no longer receive coverage or Part B premium reimbursements; Moen shifted non-Medicare-eligible retirees to a plan that requires higher out-of-pocket payments. The court certified a class of about 200 individuals who had retired from the plant and were not covered by an earlier settlement agreement, then granted the plaintiffs summary judgment in reliance on Sixth Circuit precedent that was subsequently repudiated by the Supreme Court. The Sixth Circuit reversed, based on that 2015 decision. View "Gallo v. Moen Inc." on Justia Law

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Martin, Kentucky Mayor Thomasine Robinson, sought reelection. Her challenger, Howell, won by three votes. Husband James confronted and threatened to kill Howell; he was convicted in state court of terroristic threatening and menacing. Thomasine was charged with bribery, coercion, and intimidation. Testimony indicated that: Thomasine gave a woman $20 to vote for her and coerced voters to vote for her by absentee ballot; that her son Steven attempted to intimidate a voter; that James paid $10 for a vote; and that James gave an individual money with which to purchase votes. The jury returned a guilty verdict on conspiracy and vote-buying (52 U.S.C. 10307(c)) charges, but the court granted James acquittal on the conspiracy charge. Thomasine was convicted of vote-buying and conspiracy to violate civil rights (18 U.S.C. 241); Steven was found guilty of conspiracy and two counts of vote-buying, but acquitted of a third count. The court assessed a leadership enhancement to James for directing another to purchase votes and an obstruction of justice enhancement for behaving menacingly during a trial recess and sentenced him to an above-guidelines 40 months in prison. Steven was sentenced to 21 months and three years of supervised release, with a condition requiring him to abstain from the consumption of alcohol. Thomasine was sentenced to 33 months. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentences, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence. View "United States v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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Convicted-felon Houston resided on a farm containing signs critical of government and depicting the dead bodies of an officer and his companion. Houston and his brother (Leon) were acquitted of those murders. The farm is not enclosed. The Roane Sheriff’ informed ATF that Houston possessed firearms. ATF attempted drive-by surveillance. Later, at the direction of ATF and without a warrant, the utility company installed a surveillance camera on a utility pole 200 yards from Leon’s trailer, which broadcast recordings. An ATF agent testified that the captured footage was identical to what he would have observed by driving down public roads. After 10 weeks of warrantless monitoring, ATF obtained a warrant on the same day that the Sixth Circuit expressed “some misgivings” about the constitutionality of long-term warrantless surveillance of an individual’s backyard via a pole camera. Weeks later, agents arrested Houston, away from the farm. No firearms were found on his person. Agents executed warrants for the farm and seized 17 firearms from Houston’s house, five from Leon’s trailer, and three from Leon’s person. The Sixth Circuit affirmed Houston’s conviction, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). Use of the camera did not violate Houston’s reasonable expectations of privacy because it recorded the view as seen by passersby on public roads. The court also rejected challenges to his classification as a “prohibited person” and to the reasonableness of his 108-month sentence. View "United States v. Houston" on Justia Law

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Cadillac Place (former General Motors Building), a Detroit office complex, is home to state offices, a court of appeals, a restaurant, a gift store, and even a barber shop. It is owned by Michigan Strategic Fund, a public entity, and leased by the state. Babcock, an attorney, s disabled due to Friedreich’s Ataxia, a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that impairs her ability to walk. She worked in Cadillac Place. Babcock alleged that its design features denied her equal access to her place of employment in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act , 42 U.S.C. 12132, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794(a). The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal. Babcock did not identify a service, program, or activity of a public entity from which she was excluded or denied a benefit. The court noted the dispositive distinction between access to a facility and access to programs or activities. Babcock only identified facilities-related issues. View "Babcock v. State of Mich." on Justia Law

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Alsante pleaded guilty to failing to register as a sex offender under 42 U.S.C. 16913. At his sentencing hearing, the district court permitted the government to introduce evidence that Alsante had committed other sexual-misconduct crimes with a minor, all of which were the subject of pending Tennessee state court charges. The district court relied on that conduct in imposing a 54-month sentence, an upward variance from his advisory guidelines range of 15-21 months. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Alsante’s argument that his due process rights or his rights against self-incrimination were violated by permitting the government to introduce evidence related to pending state court charges at his federal sentencing hearing because any attempt to rebut the government’s evidence at the federal sentencing hearing hampered his ability to defend himself in state court. The court noted that Alsante did not seek a continuance and did not suffer “actual or threatened physical harm” for remaining silent, not face “mental coercion overbearing the will.” View "United States v. Alsante" on Justia Law

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During negotiations, Rubber Associates proposed to the Union that it decrease its contribution rate to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Employer Pension Fund (governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001) from 62 cents per hour to 30 cents per hour. The Fund’s actuary opined that collecting withdrawal liability would result in a better funding status for the Fund than accepting reduced contributions. Rubber Associates agreed to maintain its previous contribution rate. Negotiations resumed without success. The Union authorized a strike, which lasted for 17 months. After the Union unilaterally disclaimed interest in representing its employees, Rubber Associates was deemed to have withdrawn from the Fund, pursuant to the Multiemployer Pension Protection Amendments Act (MPPAA). The Fund calculated Rubber Associates’ withdrawal liability obligation at $1,713,169, which the arbitrator awarded in full. The Fund sued to enforce the award. Rubber Associates counterclaimed that, because withdrawal from the Fund was union-mandated, its liability should be calculated by an alternate method, making its liability only $312,000. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the counterclaim, declining to recognize a claim under the federal common law of ERISA for equitable relief in the case of union-mandated withdrawals. View "United Food & Commercial Workers v. Rubber Assocs., Inc." on Justia Law

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Cleveland officers Kazimer and Crisan drove to an apartment complex to investigate a sighting of armed-robbery suspects. Seeing someone who matched the description, they gave chase. A resident slowed Kazimer, knowing the officer was chasing 16-year-old Juan, and told Kazimer about Juan’s disability, Down Syndrome. “Shut up, get out of my way,” Kazmier responded. Juan stopped running at the parking lot, where his family was waiting. Kazimer, who arrived seconds later, admits that he saw Juan “surrendering.” According to witnesses, Kazimer “grabbed Juan from behind, forcefully pulled him from his mother’s arms, and slammed him very hard into [a] vehicle.” He handcuffed Juan and used his 205-pound weight, twice Juan’s weight, “to pin Juan against the hot vehicle.” Juan was not resisting and was crying in pain. Kazimer reportedly kept Juan pinned 15 minutes, telling Juan’s parents that they were “lucky he didn’t shoot.” Crisan did nothing—except, according to witnesses, hurl racial slurs. When police dispatch radioed that the robbers had been apprehended, they released Juan. Juan allegedly suffered chest pains, abrasions, posttraumatic stress, and other medical complications. The court denied the officers’ qualified immunity motion with respect to Juan’s excessive-force claims and some state-law claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding that the claims must go to a jury. View "Ortiz v. Kazimer" on Justia Law

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In 2009-2010, eight tenants were evicted from their respective homes for alleged violations of the Lansing Housing and Premises Code. Each eviction followed an inspection of the buildings conducted in conjunction with criminal drug investigations. Each inspector summarized his findings in an eviction “red-tag” notice form, which he gave to the tenant; none of the red-tags provided any information regarding the right to appeal and have an administrative hearing. Each stated: “You must contact the undersigned, no later than ... to set up an appointment to meet at the structure (to verify that all corrections have been completed) or to acquire an authorized extension. Before the re-inspection you must obtain all required permits and have those repairs inspected .... If you have any questions or concerns about complying within the time indicated, you may contact ….” None of the tenants filed an appeal within the 20-day period prescribed by the code. They later filed suit. The Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of the Inspectors’ qualified immunity defense with respect to the constitutional adequacy of the notice. Sixth Circuit precedent did not clearly establish that a notice of eviction must include a direct explanation of the post-deprivation appeals process. View "Gardner v. Evans" on Justia Law

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Over the course of seven years, Circle C, a contractor that built 42 warehouses at Fort Campbell Army base, paid some electricians about $9,900 less than the Davis-Bacon (40 U.S.C. 3142) wages specified in its contract with the Army. The government obtained a damages award of $763,000 under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729, arguing that all of the electrical work was “tainted” by the $9,900 underpayment and, therefore, worthless. The Sixth Circuit, reversed the damage award and remanded for entry of an award of $14,748. Actual damages are the difference in value between what the government bargained for and what the government received. The government bargained for the buildings and payment of Davis-Bacon wages. It got the buildings but not quite all of the wages. The shortfall was $9,916--the government’s actual damages. That amount tripled is $29,748 (31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(G)). Minus a $15,000 settlement payment, Circle C is liable for a total of $14,748. View "Wall v. Circle C Constr., LLC" on Justia Law

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Trumbull County has provided sewer service to General Motors’ Lordstown Assembly Plant since 1964. In the mid-2000s, the County borrowed $3.4 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to maintain and improve its sewer lines. That loan obligation triggered the protections of 7 U.S.C. 1926(b), under which sewer providers that owe money to the Department are protected from competition with other sewer providers. The County claims that the Village of Lordstown violated section 1926(b) when the Village built sewer lines that could one day serve GM’s Plant. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, holding on the merits that the Village’s mere construction of sewer lines did not curtail or limit the County’s service. The Sixth Circuit vacated, reaching the same result on grounds of lack of standing. While the County still owes a balance, section 1926(b) affords it a legally protected interest in freedom from competition, but it has shown not any actual or imminent invasion of that interest. Sewer lines can last for decades, so the mere fact of their construction does not show that the Village intends to compete with the County anytime soon. View "Trumbull Cnty. Bd. of Comm'rs v. Village of Lordstown" on Justia Law