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

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Ford hired Ferrari in 1996. In 2000, Ferrari suffered a neck injury at work. He was on medical leave for almost two years. Ford then accommodated his restrictions for nine years, in light-work positions, and approved leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) four times. After the last leave, Brewer, Ford's doctor, cleared Ferrari to return from psychiatric medical leave. Brewer did not lift Ferrari’s neck injury restrictions pending further testing, citing recent notes finding Ferrari disabled and an ongoing need for narcotics. Another doctor had found that Ferrari was addicted. Meanwhile, two skilled trades apprenticeships, to which his seniority entitled Ferrari if he passed a physical, opened. Ferrari obtained clearances from outside doctors and a functional capacity evaluator. The evaluators did not address whether the opioids could affect his performance. Brewer concluded that Ferrari was “able to work without restrictions from a physical perspective,” but maintained the ladder-climbing and overhead-work restrictions until he could be taken off the prescribed opioids, "3-4 months.” The supervisor concluded that Ferrari’s restrictions disqualified him from the apprenticeship. Ferrari was bypassed and is now first on the wait list for an apprenticeship. Ferrari alleged that Ford’s decision was unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act and FMLA retaliation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Ford. Ford only barred Ferrari from a particular job, temporarily; the evidence does not show that Ford regarded Ferrari’s opioid use as a substantial impairment on the major life activity of working. There was no evidence that the decision-makers did not honestly believe that his restrictions reflected a reasonable medical judgment. View "Ferrari v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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In 2010, Eggers fired four shots into a home where he thought his rival, Bryant, was staying. A bullet struck and killed Snyder, the woman both men loved, sparing Bryant. Eggers pled guilty to felony murder. During allocution, Eggers said: “I’d like to apologize to the family. You know I loved her. You know I didn’t do this. I didn’t do this. I love you, mom. I don’t know. That’s it. I don’t know what else to say.” Days later, Eggers tried to withdraw his plea. He claimed that this “assertion of innocence” made his guilty plea involuntary, suggested that he was actually innocent, and required the state court to conduct an “Alford” hearing to ascertain the voluntariness of his plea and to ensure that there was evidence supporting his plea. The state courts upheld the guilty plea. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s rejection of Eggers’ federal habeas petition, holding that the state courts did not unreasonably apply clearly established Supreme Court precedent or unreasonably determine the facts in Eggers’ case. View "Eggers v. Warden, Lebanon Corr. Inst." on Justia Law

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Minor suffers from migraine headaches, injuries from a serious car accident, fibromyalgia, and depression. Minor previously appealed the Social Security Commissioner’s decision to deny her disability claims; in 2013, the Sixth Circuit remanded with instructions to award benefits. The district court, calculating attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. 2412, substantially reduced Minor’s requested hourly rate and number of hours. While fees awarded under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 406(b) are deducted from a claimant’s award of past-due Social Security benefits, the government must pay fees awarded under the EAJA out of government funds, so the issue was, essentially, whether the government had to reimburse Minor for some or all of the attorney fees to be deducted from her benefit award. The Sixth Circuit vacated, stating that the district court provided little explanation for drastically reducing the requested EAJA fee award. View "Minor v. Comm'r of Social Sec." on Justia Law

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In 1999, Hosseini’s wife was granted asylum. Hosseini lawfully entered the U.S. as a derivative asylee in 2000. Hosseini sought to obtain permanent resident status, 8 U.S.C. 1159. No action was taken on Hosseini’s application for 12 years. In 2013, the district court ordered USCIS to adjudicate Hosseini’s application within 60 days. USCIS sent Hosseini a Notice of Intent to Deny his application based on it determination that he had engaged in terrorist activities as defined by 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)(B)(iv)(VI)(dd). Hosseini denied ties to terrorism, but acknowledged affiliation with a political organization called Fedaeian from 1979-1982 in Iran and that he had distributed literature for Fadayeen Khalq (FeK) and Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK) until 1985. USCIS denied his application, finding that Fek and MeK fell within the definition of undesignated terrorist organizations. Hosseini’s asylum status was not revoked; no removal proceedings were instituted. Hosseini challenged USCIS’s decision, stating that he could not be “inadmissible” because he was admitted as a derivative asylee. The court rejected the government’s jurisdictional arguments, but dismissed, holding that the denial was not a “final agency action” under the Administrative Procedure Act. The Sixth Circuit reversed, concluding that the denial was a final agency action, given that no removal action is pending. View "Hosseini v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Binno, a legally blind individual, unsuccessfully applied for admission to law schools. He then filed suit against the American Bar Association (ABA), under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), claiming that his lack of success was due to a discriminatory admissions test “mandated” by the ABA. Thar examination, the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is used by nearly all U.S. law schools. Binno claimed that the LSAT's questions have a discriminatory effect on the blind and visually impaired because a quarter of those questions “require spatial reasoning and visual diagramming for successful completion.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the complaint, concluding that Binno does not have standing to sue the ABA because his injury was not caused by the ABA and because it is unlikely that his injury would be redressed by a favorable decision against the ABA. The LSAT is written, administered, and scored by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), which is not part of the ABA. The LSAC provides ADA accommodations (42 U.S.C. 12189) for persons with disabilities who wish to take the LSAT. The law schools to which he applied, not the ABA, determine what weight, if any, to give Binno’s LSAT score. View "Binno v. Am. Bar Ass'n" on Justia Law

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A 2012 event at Allegan High School was intended to educate the public about House Bill 4769, which aimed to limit foreign law’s influence in Michigan. The organizers wanted to warn citizens about the “internal threat to America posed by radical Muslims” and “the dangers ... of Sharia law.” The District agreed to rent the organizers a room. They paid the customary $90 fee. Objectors wrote a letter arguing that the speaker, Saleem, was a purveyor of hatred and asked the district to rescind its permission. The School received calls expressing the same view; the event received local press coverage. Shortly before the event began, an unidentified woman approached the police, claiming that Saleem had a $25 million bounty on his head. Saleem’s body guard discounted the threat. The event began. When it was underway, authorities shut it down. The organizers allege that people were allowed to stay in the building for 30-45 minutes and that Saleem remained inside without law enforcement surveillance. The organizers filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of claims against the city, for lack of evidence of an applicable municipal policy or custom, and reversed and remanded an order allowing the school district to withdraw its Fed.R.Civ.P. 68 offer to stipulate to judgment of $500. View "Agema v. City of Allegan" on Justia Law

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Giles was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in 2007. The Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed his conviction in an opinion dated October 21, 2010. Under Kentucky Rule 76.30(2)(a), the opinion was considered final 21 days later (November 12, 2010), as reflected by a docket notation labeled “finality.” Giles did not seek certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, but filed a state post-conviction petition on February 23, 2011, 34 days into the one-year limitations period for his federal habeas petition. That limitations period was tolled while Giles’s state petition was pending, leaving 331 days. The state Supreme Court denied discretionary review on May 15, 2013. On May 16, the limitations period began to run, Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(a); Giles had until Monday, April 14, 2014, to file. On May 1, 2014, Giles filed his federal habeas petition, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. The court found Giles’s petition untimely and that equitable tolling was not appropriate. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, the limitations period begins to run from the latest of four dates—in this case “the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review,” 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A). Delayed finality under Kentucky’s procedure did not entitle Giles to an additional 21 days. View "Giles v. Beckstrom" on Justia Law

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In 2006, the district court adopted a consent order to resolve Dispatch's suit for an accounting of the gold from the S.S. Central America shipwreck. The order required defendants to produce financial documents regarding the period starting January 1, 2000. The court later issued a contempt order, citing defendants’ failure to produce an inventory of the gold recovered and sold. Defendants then produce an inventory of gold that they sold to California Gold Group from February 15 to September 1, 2000. They did not produce any prior inventories, which would have provided a complete accounting of treasure recovered from the ship. At a 2007 contempt hearing, the parties argued about whether the defendants possessed any earlier inventories. The court issued another contempt order in 2009. Defendants continued to assert that they had no such inventories. In 2013, Dispatch obtained the appointment of a receiver that it had first sought in 2008 to take control of and wind down the defendants. The receiver recovered found numerous inventories created before the California Gold sale, in a duplex owned by defendants' attorney and leased to defendants. The court concluded that defendants’ attorney engaged in bad-faith conduct, rejected Dispatch’s request for $1,717,388 (its total litigation expenses) and limited sanctions to the cost of pursuing the motion for sanctions, plus the expenses to uncover the fraud and locate the inventories. Dispatch submitted bills for $249,359.85. The Sixth Circuit affirmed a reduced award of $224,580. View "Williamson v. Recovery Ltd. P'ship" on Justia Law

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McBride signed a plea agreement after being charged in five jurisdictions with six counts of bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. 2113(a), (d). The agreement included an “understand[ing]” that McBride would be sentenced as a career offender because “he ha[d] at least two prior crime of violence convictions,” USSG 4B1.1(a). The presentence report recommended designating McBride a career offender based on two prior convictions for bank robbery. McBride’s sentencing memorandum asked the court to depart downward from the advisory range of 188-235 months, but agreed that “[t]here is no dispute that McBride is a ‘career offender.’” His counsel conceded the career-offender point at sentencing. Had he not been labeled a career offender, the Guidelines range would have been 100-125 months. The court sentenced McBride to 216 months of imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting McBride’s argument that, in light of the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Johnson v. United States, section 2113 is not a predicate offense under the career-offender guideline. Conviction for bank robbery under 2113(a) requires proving that a defendant “by force and violence, or by intimidation, takes, or attempts to take . . . any property . . . belonging to, or in the care, custody, control, management, or possession of, any bank.” View "United States v. McBride" on Justia Law
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Lee, now 47, moved to the U.S. from South Korea with his family in 1982 and has lived here legally ever since. After completing high school, he became a successful Memphis restaurateur. He also became a small-time drug dealer, and, in 2009, following a sting operation, he was charged with possession of ecstasy with intent to distribute, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1). The case against him was very strong. Lee’s attorney advised him to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Lee, unlike his parents, never became an American citizen. His lawyer incorrectly assured him that he would not be subject to deportation. Possession of ecstasy with intent to distribute is an “aggravated felony,” rendering Lee deportable, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(B), 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). Lee moved to vacate his conviction and sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, contending that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Applying the Strickland v. Washington test, the Sixth Circuit affirmed denial of relief. A claimant’s ties to the U.S. should be taken into account in evaluating, alongside the legal merits, whether counsel’s bad advice caused prejudice. Lee had no bona fide defense, not even a weak one, so despite his very strong ties to the U.S., he cannot show prejudice. View "Lee v. United States" on Justia Law