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

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Kidis, driving home, after drinking heavily, caused a minor accident, exited his vehicle, and fled. Officer Reid attempted to arrest Kidis; he fled with a handcuff attached to his wrist. He jumped barbed-wire fences before entering a wooded area. Eventually, Kidis surrendered, lying face down, his hands stretched out above his head. Kidis asserts that Officer Moran thrust his knee into Kidis, punching and strangling Kidis, yelling that he was going to “teach [him] to . . . run.” Kidis pleaded guilty to resisting and obstructing a police officer, operating a motor vehicle with high blood-alcohol content, and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.Kidis filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against both officers. Rejecting Kidis’s deliberate indifference claim, the court found that Kidis could not prove that either officer was aware of Kidis’s medical needs. The court rejected an excessive force claim against Reid. A jury found that Moran used excessive force but that Kidis did not prove that this force caused his injuries. The jury awarded Kidis $1 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages. The court rejected the officers’ motions for attorneys’ fees but awarded Kidis $143,787.97 in fees. The Sixth Circuit reversed the punitive damages award but otherwise affirmed. Measured against the harm and compensatory damage findings, the punitive damages award runs afoul of due process principles. On remand, the court is to reduce the award to no more than $50,000. View "Kidis v. Reid" on Justia Law

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Cruz pleaded guilty to transporting a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity; receiving child pornography; and transporting child pornography. Cruz, then 37, had maintained a two-year online relationship with the 12-year-old victim before he picked her up in California, traveled across the country, and had sex with her on multiple occasions.The Sixth Circuit affirmed his sentence of 188 months' imprisonment. Imposing a two-level offense enhancement on Count 1 for “unduly influenc[ing] a minor to engage in prohibited sexual conduct,” USSG 2G1.3(b)(2)(B), was not an abuse of discretion. The presumption of undue influence is triggered if there is a difference of 10 years between the defendant and the victim. Here, there was a difference of 25 years. Even if that were not the case, any claimed error is harmless. The application of the enhancement did not alter Cruz’s Sentencing Guidelines range or resulting sentence because Cruz was sentenced to a term of imprisonment at the top of the Guidelines range established by Counts 2 and 3, which did not include the undue-influence enhancement. View "United States v. Cruz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Officer Render saw a new warrant to arrest Baker for receiving stolen property. A judge had issued this warrant on the ground that Baker had received a stolen Nextbook tablet. The subject who pawned the tablet revealed that the tablet was purchased in Madisonville from Baker. Render and Officer Knelson met at the listed address, which appeared to be a hybrid residence and pawnshop, with a sign flashing “open.” Through the windows, Render could see merchandise and a man. The door was locked. The man voluntarily let him in and acknowledged that he was Baker, In response to a request for identification, Baker walked through a door. According to Render, officers should maintain visual contact with arrestees to ensure they are not getting firearms, so he followed Baker. The door led to a kitchen and then another door led to another area, where Baker retrieved his wallet. Render noticed jars of marijuana and a rifle in plain view and asked Baker if he was a convicted felon. Baker confirmed he was. Render left to secure a search warrant. Knelson searched Baker incident to his arrest and found crack cocaine. With a search warrant, officers found more crack cocaine, marijuana, firearms, and methamphetamine.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of Baker's motion to suppress the evidence. The officer acted reasonably in monitoring Baker’s movements. The affidavit supporting the warrant contained enough of a connection between Baker and a crime that the officers could reasonably rely on the judge’s probable-cause finding. View "United States v. Baker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In multi-district litigation (MDL), the district court certified an opt-out “negotiation class” under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, consisting of all cities and counties (34,458 identified entities) throughout the United States for purposes of negotiating a settlement. These municipalities brought RICO and Controlled Substances Act claims, alleging that opioid manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, and retailers acted in concert to mislead medical professionals into prescribing, and millions of Americans into taking and often becoming addicted to, opiates. Unlike a litigation class, formed to aggregate and try common issues, the negotiation class would attempt to reach a settlement while the individual MDL cases continue on litigation paths. Negotiation class members would likely not have a second opportunity to opt-out and would have to decide at the class certification stage—without knowing the settlement figure— whether they wish to bind themselves. A proposed agreement could only be accepted if a supermajority of six categories of voting class members assent to it.Several defendants objected; 556 putative class members opted-out of the negotiation class. In consolidated appeals, the Sixth Circuit reversed the class certification. Rule 23 does not identify negotiation as a separate category of certification distinct from settlement. The negotiation class device frustrates a court’s analysis of whether a class action is the superior method of adjudication and avoids some of the procedural requirements of litigation class certification without halting the underlying litigation. View "In re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation" on Justia Law

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Trooper Malone stopped Snoddy for speeding and learned that there were Georgia warrants out for Snoddy’s arrest, including for drug crimes. Malone and another officer arrested Snoddy on the warrants. Malone suspected that Snoddy might have drugs in the car. Immediately after making the arrest, the officers sought consent to search the car. Snoddy refused. Malone stated, “I’m gonna have to get the car towed ... and we have to do an inventory on the car.” Malone repeatedly asked Snoddy for consent, warning Snoddy that if he did not consent, the car would be inventoried. Roughly eight minutes after the arrest, Malone called the tow truck but continued to seek consent. About five minutes after calling the truck, Malone began conducting an inventory. Malone discovered and seized approximately one pound of methamphetamine, two handguns, and a set of scales.Snoddy unsuccessfully moved to suppress the drugs and guns. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. Snoddy conceded that the traffic stop was lawful, that his arrest was valid, that it was within Malone’s discretion to impound the car, and that an inventory was required once Malone decided to tow the car. Snoddy did not challenge the scope of the search. The district court did not err in rejecting his argument that the decision to impound and inventory the car was a pretext for a warrantless investigative search. View "United States v. Snoddy" on Justia Law

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In 1999, Hiller, the largest home-services company in Tennessee, became a paying “member” of Success Group, which offers management advice and customer-service training to home-services companies. Clockwork owned Success, which conducted training courses using manuals copyrighted by Clockwork. Hiller sent its employees to those courses; they had access to the Manuals. In 2014, Clockwork sold Success to Aquila. Clockwork retained ownership of the Manual copyrights but granted Aquila a perpetual license. In 2015, Hiller hired the Pike Group to create the Guide for use in place of the Manuals to train its technicians. Pike had no expertise in the home-services industry; to learn what Hiller wanted, Pike conducted a workshop attended by Hiller employees and representatives of Aquila and Success. The participants referred to at least one of the Manuals.The resulting Guide included some content taken directly from the Manuals. In 2016, Success conducted a class using a workbook that closely resembled the Guide. Hiller ended its Success membership, demanded that Success stop using the workbook, registered its copyright in the Guide, and sued Success for copyright infringement. Clockwork was allowed to intervene.A jury concluded that Hiller had a valid copyright in the Guide and that the Success workbook copied protected elements of the Guide. Clockwork’s request for declaratory relief invalidating Hiller’s copyright was rejected. The Third Circuit affirmed. The jury reasonably concluded that Hiller created enough original material to gain copyright protection and the jury was correctly instructed that the Guide’s incorporation of some Clockwork-copyrighted content did not invalidate Hiller’s copyright in the Guide’s original parts. View "Hiller, LLC v. Success Group International Learning Alliance, LLC" on Justia Law

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Griffith was arrested after a failed robbery attempt and was held at Franklin County Regional Jail. Griffith suffered seizures six days into his detention. He was sent to a local hospital, where he suffered another seizure, and was then airlifted to the University of Kentucky Hospital. He recovered but continues to suffer headaches and other negative symptoms. Griffith sued county defendants and SHP, a private medical company that provides medical services at the jail, and SHP medical staff under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that he received unconstitutionally inadequate medical care. Griffith argued that the defendants were deliberately indifferent because they failed to adequately monitor him for drug withdrawal, allowing his vomiting to progress to the point of dehydration, which led to his kidney failure, which caused his seizures.The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, finding that Griffith failed to establish that they acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. There is no evidence that the nurse knew or should have known that Griffith’s vomiting evinced a substantial risk to his health or that he was experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. Griffith made no effort to obtain further care other than two sick call slips he filled out in detox; there is no evidence that the nurse would have expected that he had not responded to the treatment provided. Even a failure to follow internal processes does not, alone, indicate deliberate indifference. View "Griffith v. Franklin County" on Justia Law

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Schrank visited the dark web and downloaded “nearly 1,000 images of babies and toddlers being forcibly, violently, and sadistically penetrated.” After a government investigation identified Schrank, he confessed and pled guilty to possession of child pornography 18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(4)(B). The Sentencing Guidelines called for a sentence of 97-120 months in prison. The district court imposed a non-custodial sentence of 12 months’ home confinement. The government appealed, and the Sixth Circuit vacated the sentence as substantively unreasonable. It both “ignored or minimized the severity of the offense” and “failed to account for general deterrence.” On remand, the district court imposed the same sentence, criticizing the appellate court’s “second-guess[ing]” and saying that she refused to impose a sentence that “does not make sense.” The judge said that Schrank’s misconduct—accessing the dark web over the course of five days and downloading nearly 1,000 images of children being raped—was “much less exaggerated” than “the Sixth Circuit judges realize.” The Sixth Circuit again vacated and remanded for resentencing, ordering that the case be reassigned on remand. A sentence is substantively unreasonable when it is not “proportionate to the seriousness of the circumstances of the offense and offender.” View "United States v. Schrank" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Simmons pleaded guilty to drug charges. Simmons’s judgment became final on September 22, 2016, He had until September 22, 2017, to file a motion to vacate. On August 13, 2018, Simmons moved to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 and cited Section 2255(f)(2), which provides “[t]he limitation period shall run from . . . the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action.” Simmons explained that, after his sentencing, he returned to state custody until December 2016 and served time at Wayne County Jail after that. Simmons claimed that those law libraries did not have federal law materials, which was an impediment to filing a 2255 Motion. He arrived at a federal facility on August 29, 2017. He claimed that the only way to obtain Section 2255 materials there was to request them but “you have to know what you need.”The district court dismissed, finding that Simmons had not sufficiently alleged what specific legal materials he was missing and how the lack of those materials prejudiced his ability to pursue his section 2255 rights. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Even if a lack of federal materials, combined with a lack of a legal assistance program, constituted an unconstitutional impediment, a prisoner is required to allege a causal connection between the purported constitutional impediment and how the impediment prevented him from filing on time. Simmons did not. View "Simmons v. United States" on Justia Law

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The House of Blues music studio in Memphis suffered a burglary and arson in 2015. Brown owned House of Blues through TME. He and two tenants, Falls and Mott, submitted insurance claims to Hanover for the loss. Brown submitted fraudulent documents in connection with this claim, resulting in an insurance-fraud lawsuit. Brown was found liable after admitting on the stand that he had forged documents submitted in his insurance claim. Falls prevailed before the jury, only to have the judge set aside the verdict and direct judgment for Hanover under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b). Rule 50(a) provides for a motion for judgment as a matter of law at trial; Rule 50(b) provides for “Renewing the [50(a)] Motion after Trial.” Hanover failed to make a Rule 50(a) motion at trial. The Sixth Circuit affirmed as to Mott, who failed to raise any issues on appeal, and as to Brown. The court rejected Brown’s arguments that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to allow him to introduce an exhibit that he tried to introduce several times; by intervening excessively to question witnesses; and by imposing a time limit on Brown and not on Hanover. The court reversed as to Falls. Hanover forfeited its ability to “renew” a motion for a directed verdict after trial under Rule 50(b). View "Hanover American Insurance Co. v. Tattooed Millionaire Entertainment, LLC" on Justia Law