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

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Witzke is currently serving four sentences in the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) for using forged financial instruments. In May 2013, the Parole Board released Witzke on parole for a 15-month term. A year later, authorities arrested him for eight alleged parole violations, including a new criminal conviction for using a fake check. An MDOC agent found probable cause for all eight counts. Witzke pled guilty to two counts. At a second hearing, another MDOC officer dismissed all remaining counts except the fraudulent check violation. Finding Witzke guilty of that violation, the officer recommended revocation of Witzke’s parole. The Parole Board adopted the recommendation. Without seeking relief in Michigan courts, Witzke filed a pro se habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254, alleging violation of his due process rights and requesting a new hearing before the Parole Board. The district court summarily dismissed his petition without prejudice for failure to exhaust state remedies. While his appeal was pending, the Parole Board re-released Witzke on parole. He will finish serving his sentence for his underlying criminal conviction in May 2017. The Sixth Circuit dismissed his appeal as moot, stating that there was nothing to remedy. View "Witzke v. Brewer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, who purchased EveryWare securities in 2013-2014, alleged a “pump and dump” scheme by EveryWare’s principal shareholders and officers to inflate the price of EveryWare shares and then sell their EveryWare shares before prices plummeted. They claim that EveryWare’s CEO released EveryWare’s financial projections for 2013, despite actually knowing those projections to be false and misleading and, months later, told investors, with the intent to deceive, manipulate, or defraud, that EveryWare was on track to meet its projections and that when EveryWare offered a portion of its shares to investors in September 2013, and submitted a registration statement and a prospectus in connection with that offering, EveryWare’s underwriters and directors signed documents, incorporating EveryWare’s financial projections and failing to disclose material downward trends in the business. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of plaintiffs’ claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Securities Act of 1933. The Exchange Act claims failed because plaintiffs did not allege particularized facts giving rise to a strong inference that defendants acted with the requisite scienter; the Securities Act claims failed because plaintiffs did not allege any well-pleaded material statement or omission in the registration statement or the prospectus. View "IBEW Local No. 58 Annuity Fund v. EveryWare Global, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ohio sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, alleging that the federal government illegally collected certain monies from the state in order to supplement the Affordable Care Act’s Transitional Reinsurance Program, 42 U.S.C. 18061. The Program is a premium-stabilization arrangement that aims to combat volatility in the individual market by collecting payments from “health insurance issuers” and “group health plans” and distributing those payments over a three-year period to health insurance issuers that cover high-risk individuals in the individual market. Arguing that the Program’s mandatory payment scheme applies only to private employers and not to state and local government employers, Ohio sought a refund of all payments made on its behalf and a declaration that the Program would not apply to the state in the future. Ohio also argued that application of the Program against the state violated the Tenth Amendment and principles of intergovernmental tax immunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal, holding that the Program applies to state and local government employers just as it applies to private employers, and that the Program as applied to Ohio does not violate the Tenth Amendment. View "Ohio v. United States" on Justia Law

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After receiving notices of federal tax lien and of intent to levy, the taxpayers requested that the IRS hold a Collection Due Process hearing. The IRS took five months to process the request. At the hearing, the presiding agent refused to discuss multiple issues. The taxpayers were still dissatisfied after a second hearing before a different agent and sued the government for the agents’ alleged misbehavior under 26 U.S.C. 7433. They also requested a temporary restraining order against further tax-collection efforts. The district court dismissed, finding that the challenged activity did not fall within the scope of section 7433, and the Tax AntiInjunction Act, 26 U.S.C. 7431(a) precluded a restraining order. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The government has not consented to being sued in this case, so the district court lacked jurisdiction. A person may sue the federal government for damages under 26 U.S.C. 7433 “[i]f, in connection with any collection of Federal tax with respect to [the] taxpayer, any officer or employee of the Internal Revenue Service recklessly or intentionally, or by reason of negligence, disregards any provision of” the tax code or any regulation promulgated thereunder. This suit falls outside this waiver of sovereign immunity because the challenged conduct did not occur in connection with tax collection. View "Agility Network Services, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law
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Before his jury trial on charges of murder, Watkins submitted four times to psychiatric evaluation. Though the first evaluator found him incompetent, subsequent evaluators found him competent and criminally responsible for his actions. Despite his bizarre behavior during trial, including exhibiting paranoid beliefs and urinating on a television screen, defense counsel did not request a fifth psychiatric evaluation. A jury found Watkins guilty. Nearly four years after filing a timely habeas petition alleging ineffective assistance of counsel for “failure to investigate and raise a defense,” Watkins filed an amended petition arguing ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to request another psychiatric evaluation after Watkins’ conduct during trial. The Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of habeas relief. Watkins cannot establish that his amended petition relates back to his original petition or that he is entitled to equitable tolling; the petition was, therefore, untimely. View "Watkins v. DeAngelo-Kipp" on Justia Law

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Tax attorneys advised the family to use a “domestic international sales corporation” (DISC) to transfer money from their family-owned company to Roth Individual Retirement Accounts. DISCs incentivize companies to export goods by deferring and lowering taxes on export income. An exporter avoids corporate income tax by paying the DISC “commissions” of up to 4% of gross receipts or 50% of net income from qualified exports. The DISC pays no tax on commission income up to $10,000,000, 26 U.S.C. 991, 995(b)(1)(E), and may hold onto the money indefinitely, though its shareholders must pay annual interest on their shares of deferred tax liability. Money and other assets may exit the DISC as dividends, taxable at the qualified dividend rate, which is lower than the corporate income rate that otherwise would apply to the export revenue. The IRS acknowledged that the family complied with the law, but reasoned that the effect of the transactions was to evade the Roth IRA contribution limits and applied the “substance-over-form doctrine” to recharacterize the transactions as dividends followed by excess Roth IRA contributions. The Tax Court affirmed. The Sixth Circuit reversed, stating: If the government can undo transactions that the terms of the Code expressly authorize, it’s fair to ask what the point of making these terms accessible to the taxpayer and binding on the tax collector is. “Form” is “substance” when it comes to law. View "Summa Holdings, Inc. v. Commisioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law
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The Jackson County Michigan Board of Commissioners begins its monthly meetings with a Christian prayer. Bormuth, a non-Christian county resident, attended meetings because he was concerned about environmental issues. During the prayer, Bormuth was the only one in attendance who did not rise and bow his head. Bormuth felt isolated, and worried that the Commissioners would hold against him his decision to stay seated. He later raised the First Amendment issue during a public comment period. The Commissioners reacted with “disgust.” Bormuth filed suit asserting that this prayer practice violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. In the meantime, the Commissioners declined Bormuth’s application to serve on an environmental committee. The district court granted the County summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The prayer practice coerced residents to support and participate in the exercise of religion and was well outside the tradition of historically tolerated prayer. View "Bormuth v. County of Jackson" on Justia Law

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Moore was convicted in 1994 of kidnapping, robbery, and murder. The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed. The Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed denial of post-conviction relief. The Ohio Supreme Court denied review. Moore applied to reopen his appeal, claiming ineffective assistance by counsel in his first appeal. The Ohio Court of Appeals denied the application as untimely and based on res judicata. The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed. The district court granted federal habeas relief on claims that Moore had received ineffective assistance at sentencing and alleging improper jury instructions in the penalty phase. The Sixth Circuit remanded in part, holding that a 2011 Supreme Court decision precluded the district court from considering additional evidence that Moore had introduced in support of his ineffective assistance claim and rejecting Moore’s argument that the Supreme Court’s 2012 Martinez decision required remand for factual development of the claim. Moore moved to set aside the judgment, arguing that the Supreme Court’s 2013 Trevino decision permitted him to use newly-developed evidence of ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel to establish cause for his failure to present evidence to support his post-conviction claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The district court denied relief. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Trevino expanded Martinez only to cases in which an ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim could not have been made meaningfully on direct appeal. Moore made that claim on direct appeal; the Ohio Supreme Court adjudicated it on the merits. View "Moore v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

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Turner robbed four Memphis-area businesses at gunpoint in October 2007 and was arrested by officers working with a joint federal-state anticrime task force. He was charged with aggravated robbery under Tennessee law and retained attorney McDaniel. During the pendency of the state proceedings, the U.S. Attorney’s Office told McDaniel that the United States planned to bring federal charges against Turner under the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951, for interference with commerce by threats or violence, and for using a firearm during a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c). Turner rejected a federal plea offer (15 years imprisonment) regarding the uncharged case, but subsequently pled guilty to those charges with a 25-year sentence. He moved, under 28 U.S.C. 2255 to vacate or set aside his federal conviction based on ineffective assistance of counsel during federal plea negotiations. The government argued that Turner had no Sixth Amendment right to counsel regarding plea negotiations conducted before the filing of formal charges. The district court denied the motion without reaching the merits of the ineffective assistance of counsel claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, citing its precedent holding that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel does not attach before formal charges are filed. View "Turner v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2005, B&W entered into a contract to design and construct a Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR) system to control emissions at KCP&L’s coal-burning Kansas power station. B&W purchased catalyst modules for the SCR from Cormetech, which guaranteed that the catalyst would perform under specified conditions for 24,000 operating hours before needing replacement. KCP&L began operating the SCR in April 2007. A June 2007 performance test revealed that the rate of “ammonia slip” was higher than expected, but within guaranteed limits. B&W advised Cormetech of the issue. Cormetech began testing. A September 2008 letter from KCP&L advised that it was B&W’s obligation to “generate a corrective action plan.” After KCP&L determined in 2008 that the catalyst was at the end of its useful life, it contracted directly with Cormetech for a replacement, which also failed before the end of its expected life. KCP&L’s claim against B&W resulted in a $3.5 million meditation settlement. B&W sued Cormetech; the case was dismissed without prejudice pursuant to the parties’ tolling agreement while B&W pursued mediation with KCP&L. After those efforts resulted in the settlement, B&W reinstituted the action within the agreed period. Following discovery the district court granted Cormetech summary judgment, finding a breach-of-warranty claim time-barred and that an indemnification claim failed for lack of evidence that B&W’s losses resulted from a defect in goods or services purchased from Cormetech. The Sixth Circuit vacated, finding that the court erred by failing to view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. View "Babcock & Wilcox Co. v. Cormetech, Inc." on Justia Law
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