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

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On Christmas night 2011, Coil and Starcher were walking home in Brilliant, Ohio. They stopped to rest along the road. Officer Kamerer approached in his cruiser and asked if anything was wrong. According to Starcher, the two stated that nothing was wrong. Kamerer asked for their names, but Coil got up and walked away. That caused Kamerer to “go[] off on [them] like a crazy person.” The parties disagree about the details, but ultimately both Coil and Kamerer were struck by a car. The crash caused Coil severe traumatic brain injury, requiring around-the-clock care. Kamerer broke his shoulder and leg and spent 30 days in a hospital. Coil’s legal guardian filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action. The district court denied Kamerer’s motion for qualified immunity, stating that a reasonable jury could find that Kamerer seized Coil without reasonable suspicion and was deliberately indifferent to Coil’s safety, based on Starcher’s account and the length of time Kamerer left Coil handcuffed, face-down in the road. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Although Kamerer exposed himself to danger when he raced into the road to try to save Coil from the approaching car, it is possible that he behaved recklessly, rather than negligently, in handcuffing Coil in the street. That is a jury question. View "Family Serv. Ass'n v. Wells Twp" on Justia Law

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The Wenks have a 17-year-old daughter, M, who has an IQ of 70 or below, and requires special education services. M attended high school in Grandview Heights, under an Individualized Education Program (IEP), as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400. In 2011, teachers expressed “concerns” about M’s father’s treatment of M. An administrator’s report to Franklin County Children Services (FCCS) included statements and behaviors by M that were thought to indicate sexual abuse and many comments about father’s physical appearance and demeanor. FCCS concluded that the allegations were unsubstantiated; the police department dropped its criminal investigation. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Wenks claimed that the report was filed in retaliation for their advocacy to change M’s educational plan, in violation of their First Amendment rights. The district court denied the school administrator qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, but denied the Wenks‘s motion for fees and costs for defending the appeal. The right to be free from retaliation for exercising First Amendment rights was clearly established at the time of the report and a reasonable official would have understood that filing a child abuse report in bad faith violated those rights. View "Wenk v. O'Reilly" on Justia Law

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Harris, a Ford Motor Company employee had irritable bowel syndrome. Ford initially tried to accommodate Harris, allowing telecommuting. After three attempts failed, Ford denied her request to work from home on an as-needed basis, up to four days per week, deeming regular and predictable on-site attendance essential to Harris’s highly interactive job. Harris had placed in the bottom 22% of her peer group in her fourth year on the job (2007) and in the bottom 10% in 2008. By her last year (2009), Harris “was not performing the basic functions of her position.” Ford said she lacked interpersonal skills, delivered work late, was not concerned with quality, and failed to properly communicate with suppliers. In 2008, she missed an average of 1.5 work days per week; in 2009, she was absent more than she was present. After Ford terminated her employment, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Ford under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12112(b)(5). The district court granted summary judgment to Ford. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that the ADA does not endow all disabled persons with a job—or job schedule—of their choosing. View "Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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Stafford was convicted of conspiring with four others to bomb a bridge near Cleveland in connection with their membership in a spinoff of Occupy Wall Street. Stafford had a history of mental illness, but, after a competency hearing, the district court found him competent to stand trial and granted his motion, supported by his appointed counsel, to represent himself at trial. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Although the district court could likely have exercised its discretion, recognized by the Supreme Court in Indiana v. Edwards, to impose counsel under the circumstances, it was not an abuse of that discretion in this case to grant Stafford’s motion and permit Stafford to defend himself. The court carefully examined Stafford’s ability to represent himself, and standby counsel was provided. The court upheld application of a Guidelines enhancement for crimes of terrorism. View "United States v. Stafford" on Justia Law

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Henricks, an Ohio prisoner, had symptoms of acute appendicitis. The following day, upon the recommendation of Dr. Gonzalez, the prison medical director, Henricks was sent to an emergency room. Officer Maynard, who had accompanied Henricks, initially refused to remove Henricks’s restraints, causing a 45-minute delay. The surgery caused nerve damage to Henricks’s leg. Gonzalez refused to prescribe a medication (Neurontin) for the pain caused by that nerve damage, although other doctors indicated that Neurontin was necessary. Henricks filed a pro se complaint (42 U.S.C. 1983) regarding his medical care, naming Maynard and Gonzalez, who invoked qualified immunity. A magistrate concluded that Henricks had stated a colorable claim, but did not address qualified immunity. The defendants did not file an answer, but litigated discovery requests in the ensuing years. The district court subsequently granted Henricks’s motion to strike affirmative defenses of qualified immunity and failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act , finding that defendants had waived them by not asserting them in an answer and that permitting them to assert the defenses at so late would unduly prejudice Henricks. The Sixth Circuit concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the exhaustion requirement ruling and upheld the holding that defendants waived their qualified immunity defense. View "Henricks v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs obtained a home loan and granted a mortgage that was eventually assigned to Bank of America (BOA). Plaintiffs defaulted in 2007. In 2011, plaintiffs received a letter explaining the right to seek a loan modification. Plaintiffs sought assistance from NMCA; met with BOA’s counsel; provided information and forms prepared with help from NMCA; and were offered reduced payments for a three-month trial period. If all trial period payments were timely, the loan would be permanently modified. Plaintiffs allege that they made the three payments, but did not receive any further information, and that BOA returned two payments. BOA offered plaintiffs a permanent loan modification, instructing plaintiffs to execute and return a loan modification agreement. Plaintiffs do not allege that they returned the agreement. BOA never received the documents. BOA sent a letter informing them that because they were in default and had not accepted the modification agreement, a nonjudicial foreclosure would proceed. Notice was published. The property was sold at a sheriff’s sale. BOA purchased the property, and executed a quitclaim deed to Federal National Mortgage Association, which filed a possession action after the redemption period expired. Six months later, plaintiffs sued, claiming Quiet Title; violations of due process rights; and illegal/improper foreclosure and sheriff’s sale. The district court dismissed all claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the Michigan foreclosure procedure does not violate due process. View "Garcia v. Fed. Nat'l Mortg. Ass'n" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a nonprofit charitable organization, solicits donations of clothing and shoes at unattended, outdoor donation bins for distribution in other countries. It locates bins at businesses that are “easily visible and accessible” with the consent of the owner. Its representatives generally collect donations weekly to avoid bin overflow. Bins are labeled so that people can report if they are full. In 2012, the city did not regulate donation bins. Plaintiff placed bins at a former grocery store and at a gas station. The city sent a letter claiming that they had “been found to create a nuisance as people leave boxes and other refuse around the containers,” denied a request for review, and removed the bins. A year later, the city council enacted a “total prohibition,” exempting the already-operational Lions Club Recycling. The ordinance states a purpose of preventing blight, protecting property values and neighborhood integrity, avoiding creation and maintenance of nuisances and ensuring safe and sanitary maintenance of properties. The Sixth Circuit affirmed entry of a preliminary injunction, finding that operation of bins to solicit and collect charitable donations qualified as protected speech and that the content-based ordinance fails strict scrutiny because it implements an overly broad, prophylactic ban on all bins so the city can avoid hypothetical nuisances or other issues that may arise in the future. View "Planet Aid v. City of St. Johns" on Justia Law

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In 1983, Pratt & Whitney made false statements to the Air Force while competing with GE to supply fighter jet engines. Pratt did not obtain more business and the fraud was discovered. The government filed a 1998 action before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals seeking relief under the Truth in Negotiations Act, and a 1999 federal court action, seeking relief under the False Claims Act and common law restitution. The government lost the administrative action. While Pratt’s statements violated the truth-in-negotiation requirements, the Board refused to lower the price of the contracts retroactively (the remedy permitted by the Act) because the Air Force had relied on the competitive bids, not the 1983 false statements, in determining a reasonable price for the contracts. The Federal Circuit affirmed. After it was established that Pratt violated the False Claims Act and that it owed the government $7 million in statutory penalties, the case was remanded for damages calculation. The district court awarded $657 million. The Sixth Circuit remanded again, noting that the matter has been in litigation for 17 years. The award was not supported by the evidence given the government expert’s refusal to account for the competition between the companies in setting a fair market value for the engines. View "United States v. United Techs. Corp." on Justia Law

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Slep-Tone Entertainment sued Karaoke Kandy and Polidori under federal and state law for unlawfully selling hard drives bearing Slep-Tone’s registered trademarks without authorization. After trial, the jury answered a single interrogatory finding that the defendants had not infringed Slep-Tone’s trademarks. The district court entered judgment in the defendants’ favor. The Sixth Circuit stayed a separate appeal and remanded to the district court because Slep-Tone’s timely post-judgment motion for findings of fact and conclusions of law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52 was pending before the district court. In a separate appeal, the Sixth Circuit remanded for further proceedings regarding defendants’ a motion for attorney fees under 15 U.S.C. 1117(a) based on the judgment in their favor. The motion was not untimely; the FRCP 52 motion remained pending. The court must determine whether it is necessary to reassess if this case qualifies as “extraordinary.” View "Slep-Tone Entm't Corp. v. Karaoke Kandy Store, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2009, Defendant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, 21 U.S.C. 846, and was sentenced to 10 months of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release, with conditions prohibiting him from committing another crime and from possessing, using, or distributing any controlled substance. He was required to attend substance abuse treatment and submit to periodic drug and alcohol testing. Within months of being released, Defendant violated those terms. He stopped attending substance abuse treatment, admitted to his probation officer that he used a controlled substance, and was arrested and found guilty of two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance. After serving his time in state prison for the trafficking offenses, Defendant admitted, in open court, to the violations of conditions of supervised release. The court imposed an 18-month term of imprisonment plus an additional three years of supervised release. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that his admission that he violated conditions was involuntary because the magistrate judge did not conduct a complete Rule 11 colloquy, which would have informed Defendant of his full sentencing exposure and that the custodial sentence and additional supervised release are substantively unreasonable as longer than necessary to satisfy the purposes of sentencing. View "United States v. Melton" on Justia Law
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Posted in: Criminal Law
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