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

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The Section 8 low-income housing assistance voucher program, 42 U.S.C. 1437f(o), is administered by public housing agencies such as Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA). Program regulations define “rent to [the] owner” as “[t]he total monthly rent payable to the owner under the lease for the unit. Rent to owner covers payment for any housing services, maintenance and utilities that the owner is required to provide and pay for.” Velez and Hatcher, voucher recipients, entered into one-year leases with K&D. The leases provide: “If Resident(s) shall holdover after the end of the term of this Rental Agreement, said holdover shall be deemed a tenancy of month to month and applicable month to month fees shall apply.” Velez entered into a month-to-month tenancy after her one-year term expired; Hatcher entered into month-to-month tenancies, and, later, a nine-month agreement. K&D charged fees of $35.00 to $100.00 per month. CMHA did not treat these short-term rental fees as rent under the voucher program. Velez and Hatcher were required to pay the fees and filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court granted CMHA summary judgment, holding that the fees were not rent. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Recasting the charge as a short-term fee, rather than rent, does not change that it is consideration paid by the tenant for use of the rental unit. View "Velez v. Cuyahoga Metro. Hous. Auth." on Justia Law

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Sergeant Boulton, working in the county jail, was a union leader. The union initiated mandatory contract arbitration with the Sheriff’s Office, at which Undersheriff Swanson testified regarding Taser, firearm, and CPR training. Boulton testified that Swanson had misrepresented the degree of training. The next day, Boulton was instructed to wear his uniform or business attire to subsequent arbitrations. When he later wore a blazer and golf shirt, he was investigated for failing to follow a direct order. Soon after, there was a short power outage at the jail. Boulton was told that there would be an investigation of his actions during the outage. Boulton was notified that subordinates had brought complaints against him and that the department was starting a new investigation. Boulton was “forbidden to inquire with any witnesses or investigators.” Boulton admits that he asked his subordinates for details about the investigation. Boulton was suspended without pay for several days and demoted for creating a “hostile” and “unprofessional” environment for subordinates and for making derogatory comments to female detainees. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the county. Boulton’s speech at the arbitration was protected by the First Amendment, but he did not show that the demotion and suspension resulted from a policy against criticism, rather than his other “extensive misconduct.” View "Boulton v. Swanson" on Justia Law

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Howell, Michigan undertook to refurbish and landscape its streets and removed a tree planted in the curb strip by Shoemaker. Shoemaker claims that when he protested, city workers told him “that’s not your property, you have no say.” Later, Code Enforcement Officer Donahue twice left a door-hanger notice informing Shoemaker that his lawn was in violation of the Ordinance, and obtained compliance. A third time, Donahue left a door-hanger notice, and mailed Notice of Ordinance Violation, but returned to find that, although the lawn had been mowed, the grass on the curb strip remained in excess of the limitation. Donahue returned several times and spoke with Shoemaker’s daughter. Shoemaker contacted City Hall to complain about the interaction, which his daughter described as “nerve [w]racking.” Shoemaker insisted that he would not mow the curb strip because he had been told by city employees that the area was city property, not his. The city hired a contractor to mow Shoemaker’s curb strip twice and charged him $600. Shoemaker claimed procedural and substantive due process violations. The court granted him summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed with instructions to dismiss. No fundamental right is implicated by the Ordinance requirement and it is rationally related to a legitimate governmental purpose. View "Shoemaker v. City of Howell" on Justia Law

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When the plant closed, plaintiffs retired under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that provided that the employer would continue health insurance and that coverage an employee had at the time of retirement or termination at age 65 or older (other than discharge for cause) “shall be continued thereafter provided that suitable arrangements for such continuation[] can be made… In the event… benefits … [are] not practicable … the Company in agreement with the Union will provide new benefits and/or coverages as closely related as possible and of equivalent value." In 2011 TRW (employer’s successor) stated that it would discontinue group health care coverage beginning in 2012, but would be providing “Health Reimbursement Accounts” (HRAs) and would make a one-time contribution of $15,000 for each eligible retiree and eligible spouse in 2012 and, in 2013, would provide a $4,800 credit to the HRAs for each eligible party. TRW did not commit to funding beyond 2013. Plaintiffs sued, claiming that the change violated the Labor-Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1001. The court entered summary judgment, ruling that the CBAs established a commitment to lifetime health care benefits. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, but subsequently vacated and remanded for reconsideration in light of the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in M & G Polymers. View "United Steel v. Kelsey-Hayes Co." on Justia Law

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Agent Seig posed as a father of an 11-year old girl, “Katie,” to respond to a Craigslist.org ad: “I want to be your daddy,” with images of male genitalia. Seig told Roman that he was “active” with his daughter. Roman indicated that he was interested. The men conversed, extensively, by text message, about sexual acts Roman wished to perform and about whether Katie would agree. Seig reassured Roman that was not “the law.” They planned to meet. Seig approached Roman’s vehicle and confirmed that Roman expected to engage in sexual acts with an 11-year old girl. Agents arrested him. Roman’s vehicle was searched. Agents seized Butterfinger candy (identified as Katie’s “fav”), a flower, gum, condoms, and personal lubricant. Roman entered a conditional guilty plea to attempting to use a facility of interstate commerce to knowingly persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity, 18 U.S.C. 2422(b). The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Lowe’s argument that his conduct was not prohibited because he communicated with an adult intermediary and not a minor. While it is not sufficient to prove that a defendant intended to persuade an adult intermediary to cause a child to engage in sexual activity, the intent to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a minor exists where the defendant seeks the minor’s assent. View "United States v. Roman" on Justia Law
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Detective Allman learned that someone was using a particular Internet Protocol (IP) address to share child pornography. He subpoenaed AT&T for information. AT&T’s records listed James Lowe of Athens, Tennessee, as the account holder. During a search, officers seized a Dell laptop with the username “Stacy” (Lowe’s wife) from the bedroom, an HP laptop with the username “Jamie” from the office, and a desktop from the office. Michael, a minor relative, lived with them during 2011 but moved out before agents searched the home in August. FBI Agent McFall examined the hard drives and discovered that only the HP laptop contained child pornography. He found 639 image files and 176 video files depicting child pornography on the device. Its settings did not require users to enter a password to access the “Jamie” account or any files. The laptop automatically connected to the home’s wifi through a stored wireless password. The Shareaza peer-to-peer file-sharing program was installed in February 2011. The Sixth Circuit reversed Lowe’s conviction for knowingly receiving, distributing, and possessing child pornography, 18 U.S.C. 2252(a), agreeing that no rational juror could find beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew about the files or procured the. View "United States v. Lowe" on Justia Law
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At a bar, Gradisher had three or four beers and a shot of whiskey. Gradisher noticed the outline of a gun in the pocket of a man sitting to his left. Gradisher made a comment, causing a heated exchange. Gradisher went home and drank more beer. Gradisher then called 911 from his cell phone to report the man with the gun. On the first call, he refused to give his name and hung up. The operator called back. Gradisher and the operator got into a heated exchange, causing the operator to hang up, which prompted Gradisher to call 911 twice more, using obscenities. Akron officers went to his residence. Gradisher locked his door. They feared that someone might need help, broke down the door, entered, and found Gradisher under a sheet in his basement. An officer used a taser because Gradisher allegedly resisted arrest. Gradisher was found guilty of improperly using the 911 system. He filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for excessive force, warrantless entry, malicious prosecution, and common-law torts. The district court rejected all claims. Finding genuine disputes of material facts related to excessive force in tasing Gradisher, the Sixth Circuit reversed summary judgment on those and state-law causes of action for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and gross neglect, but otherwise affirmed. View "Gradisher v. City of Akron" on Justia Law

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At a bar, Gradisher had three or four beers and a shot of whiskey. Gradisher noticed the outline of a gun in the pocket of a man sitting to his left. Gradisher made a comment, causing a heated exchange. Gradisher went home and drank more beer. Gradisher then called 911 from his cell phone to report the man with the gun. On the first call, he refused to give his name and hung up. The operator called back. Gradisher and the operator got into a heated exchange, causing the operator to hang up, which prompted Gradisher to call 911 twice more, using obscenities. Akron officers went to his residence. Gradisher locked his door. They feared that someone might need help, broke down the door, entered, and found Gradisher under a sheet in his basement. An officer used a taser because Gradisher allegedly resisted arrest. Gradisher was found guilty of improperly using the 911 system. He filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for excessive force, warrantless entry, malicious prosecution, and common-law torts. The district court rejected all claims. Finding genuine disputes of material facts related to excessive force in tasing Gradisher, the Sixth Circuit reversed summary judgment on those and state-law causes of action for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and gross neglect, but otherwise affirmed. View "Gradisher v. City of Akron" on Justia Law

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Witnesses originally charged as co-conspirators testified that Garcia sold cocaine in Chicago and received deliveries from Santana, who worked for Soto. Ramirez delivered cocaine to Garcia on Soto’s behalf. Garcia and Santana sold Soto’s cocaine to Detroit-based sellers, the Enriquez brothers, who resold it to Freeman. When another middleman, El Cartero, disappeared without paying for a 10-kilogram cocaine delivery to the Enriquez brothers, Soto told Garcia, who had brokered the deal, to find them. Garcia, Santana, Gudino, Ramirez, and Espinoza went to Detroit. Espinoza, Santana, and Ramirez confronted Enriquez and his cousin, forced them into a van at gunpoint and returned to Chicago. After an hour of questioning, the kidnapping participants left; Ramirez stood guard. Gudino, Garcia, Ramirez, Espinoza, Santana, and Enriquez returned to Detroit to lure Freeman by offering to sell three kilos of cocaine. Garcia took Freeman’s money, Santana, Ramirez, and Espinoza tied Freeman in the basement and left him. On the return to Chicago, officers stopped and searched the cars and found the cocaine, currency, and three handguns. The Seventh Circuit affirmed convictions for conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute and to distribute, 21 U.S.C. 846, 841(a)(1) & 841(b)(1)(A)(ii)(II); conspiracy to kidnap, 18 U.S.C. 1201(a)(1)(c); possession of a firearm in furtherance of and during a drug trafficking crime, 18 U.S.C. 924(c); and possession of a firearm in furtherance of and during a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c). View "United States v. Soto" on Justia Law
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Witnesses originally charged as co-conspirators testified that Garcia sold cocaine in Chicago and received deliveries from Santana, who worked for Soto. Ramirez delivered cocaine to Garcia on Soto’s behalf. Garcia and Santana sold Soto’s cocaine to Detroit-based sellers, the Enriquez brothers, who resold it to Freeman. When another middleman, El Cartero, disappeared without paying for a 10-kilogram cocaine delivery to the Enriquez brothers, Soto told Garcia, who had brokered the deal, to find them. Garcia, Santana, Gudino, Ramirez, and Espinoza went to Detroit. Espinoza, Santana, and Ramirez confronted Enriquez and his cousin, forced them into a van at gunpoint and returned to Chicago. After an hour of questioning, the kidnapping participants left; Ramirez stood guard. Gudino, Garcia, Ramirez, Espinoza, Santana, and Enriquez returned to Detroit to lure Freeman by offering to sell three kilos of cocaine. Garcia took Freeman’s money, Santana, Ramirez, and Espinoza tied Freeman in the basement and left him. On the return to Chicago, officers stopped and searched the cars and found the cocaine, currency, and three handguns. The Seventh Circuit affirmed convictions for conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute and to distribute, 21 U.S.C. 846, 841(a)(1) & 841(b)(1)(A)(ii)(II); conspiracy to kidnap, 18 U.S.C. 1201(a)(1)(c); possession of a firearm in furtherance of and during a drug trafficking crime, 18 U.S.C. 924(c); and possession of a firearm in furtherance of and during a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c). View "United States v. Soto" on Justia Law
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