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

by
Bell was charged with distribution of a controlled substance that resulted in death, 18 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C), and possession with intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl, section 841(a)(1). Bell pled guilty to a lesser included, but not indicted, offense--distribution of a controlled substance. The district court accepted the guilty plea but ultimately rejected the plea agreement. The court then sentenced Bell to 30 months’ imprisonment—a sentence approximately 82 percent lower than that contemplated under the plea agreement. The government appealed, alleging a right to withdraw its consent to a plea to a lesser included, but not indicted, offense when a district court rejects a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement.The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting the government’s arguments. Rule 11 contemplates that the rejection of a plea agreement allows the defendant, not the prosecutor, to withdraw or persist in the plea. Where, as here, the defendant pleads to all charges against him and chooses not to withdraw his pleas, there are no remaining charges for which the government may proceed to trial, and a subsequent re-indictment for the greater included offense implicates double jeopardy concerns under the Fifth Amendment. View "United States v. Bell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Alcoa Officers arrested an obviously inebriated Colson following a report that, while driving her SUV, she chased her 10-year-old son in a field and then crashed in a ditch, and transported her to a hospital. Colson then withdrew her consent. to a blood draw. Colson defied repeated orders to get back into the cruiser. During the struggle, an officer's knee touched Colson’s knee, followed by an audible “pop.” Colson started screaming “my fucking knee” but continued to resist. Once Colson was in the cruiser, officers called a supervisor, then took Colson to the jail where a nurse would perform the blood draw. Colson never asked for medical care. At the jail, Colson exited the vehicle and walked inside, with no indication that she was injured. As she was frisked, Colson fell to the ground and said “my fucking knee.” Jail nurse Russell asked Colson to perform various motions with the injured leg and compared Colson’s knees, commented “I don’t see no swelling,” and then left. A week later, Colson was diagnosed with a torn ACL, a strained LCL, and a small avulsion fracture of the fibular head. Colson pleaded guilty to resisting arrest, reckless endangerment, and DUI.Colson sued; only a claim for failure to provide medical care for her knee injury survived. The Sixth Circuit held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on that claim. View "Colson v. City of Alcoa" on Justia Law

by
Maddux and his wife, Carman trafficked cigarettes in a way that bypassed governmental taxing authorities. They were indicted; Maddux pleaded guilty and Carman was convicted in 2016. Before their sentencing hearings, the government sought two multi-million-dollar money judgments against each of them—forfeiture orders representing the gross proceeds of their scheme. At sentencing, however, the district court failed to enter preliminary forfeiture orders, nor did it include the money judgments as “part of the sentence[s]” announced, 28 U.S.C. 2461(c); Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.2(b)(2)(B), (b)(4)(A)–(B). Years after their sentences were affirmed by the Sixth Circuit, the district court imposed the money judgments sought, justifying its late-issued money judgments by calling Rule 32.2(b)’s procedural requirements time-related directives—deadlines that may be violated so long as the defendant receives adequate notice and a hearing.The Sixth Circuit reversed. Rule 32.2(b) is not a time-related directive. Its text, context, and purpose indicated that it is a mandatory claims-processing rule—one that ensures forfeiture is resolved fairly and fully before becoming final, which preserves judicial resources by avoiding wasteful appeals over avoidable errors. Once a criminal sentence is imposed, the judgment is final, both as to what it includes and what it lacks. If the government wishes to “enlarge [the] sentence” with forfeiture omitted from the sentence, it must timely appeal. View "United States v. Maddux" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Smith worked for CommonSpirit and participated in CommonSpirit’s defined-contribution 401(k) plan. CommonSpirit's administrative committee administers the plan, which serves more than 105,000 people and manages more than $3 billion in assets. It offers 28 different funds in which employees may invest their contributions, including several index funds with management fees as low as 0.02% and several actively managed funds with management fees as high as 0.82%. The actively managed Fidelity Freedom Funds are the default investment if employees do not choose to place their contributions in a different fund instead; they are “target date” funds and managers change the allocation of the underlying investments over time. Other target-date funds have lower costs. Smith sued CommonSpirit and the administrative committee under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) for breach of fiduciary duty. 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(2), seeking to represent a proposed class of similarly situated plan participants and claiming that the plan should have offered a different mix of fund options. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her suit. ERISA does not give courts a broad license to second-guess the investment decisions of retirement plans. It supplies a cause of action only when retirement plan administrators breach a fiduciary duty by, for example, offering imprudent investment options. Smith has not alleged facts from which a jury could plausibly infer that CommonSpirit breached any such duty. View "Smith v. CommonSpirit Health" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA
by
Harrington, the founder of a nonprofit corporation that engages in anti-abortion protests, sought to demonstrate at the Democratic Party’s presidential-primary debates in Detroit in 2019. In response to security concerns, the Detroit Police Department imposed and enforced several measures that impeded the group’s speech. A “restricted area” blocked access to the debate venue’s immediate vicinity. Protestors were divided into “right-leaning” and “left-leaning” camps and were barred from commingling. Harrington was briefly detained after a confrontation with police. Harrington and his group eventually abandoned the site. They filed suit, alleging violations of the First and Fourth Amendments and the Equal Protection Clause.The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants—the city and three individual officers. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The restricted area satisfies intermediate scrutiny; to hold that law enforcement could not establish a restricted area around such an event without a known, specific threat would make it essentially impossible to guard against terroristic violence. The plaintiffs failed to establish a genuine dispute that the defendants’ asserted security rationale was somehow pretextual or non-existent. Noting that the protestors were not “similarly situated” to other groups, the court rejected equal protection claims. The court further noted that the property that the group was asked to leave was privately owned; when officers began to place Harrington in cuffs, they reasonably believed he was committing criminal trespass. View "Reform America v. City of Detroit" on Justia Law

by
Detroit police officers apprehended a fleeing suspect who had run across several yards, including White’s yard. Believing that the suspect had disposed of a weapon nearby, officers called in a canine unit to search. Bodycam and security camera footage captured the events that followed. Officer Cherry arrived with her trained canine, Roky. The White family had two dogs outside, White’s daughter, Mi-Chol, grabbed Chino, a pit bull, to put him inside but he escaped and ran to the front yard. Mi-Chol went inside to grab a leash. As Officer Cherry and Roky reached the corner of the adjoining yard, Chino lurched through the fence’s vertical spires and bit down on Roky’s snout. Roky yelped. Cherry turned and saw Roky trapped up against the fence with his nose in Chino’s mouth. Cherry tugged at Roky’s leash and yelled at Chino to “let go.” Chino began “thrashing.” Unable to free Roky and afraid for the dog’s life, Cherry shot Chino. Six seconds passed between Chino’s attack and Cherry’s shot. Chino died from the shot. The Whites sued. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants, citing qualified immunity. Officer Cherry acted reasonably. View "White v. City of Detroit" on Justia Law

by
In 2005, Adolphe was found murdered in front of his apartment building. Adolphe and Carr had been dating. Carr, age 16, was arrested and entered an Alford plea in 2008 to second-degree manslaughter, conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit burglary, and tampering with physical evidence. She was paroled in 2009 and discharged in 2018. In 2019, Kentucky Governor Bevin granted Carr “the full and unconditional pardon she has requested.”A year later, Carr sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the defendants fabricated evidence, coerced false statements, and withheld exculpatory evidence. The district court dismissed Carr’s complaint, finding that her section 1983 claims were not cognizable under the Supreme Court’s “Heck” decision. The Sixth Circuit reversed. While a full pardon does not always indicate that the individual is innocent, Heck did not impose a prerequisite of innocence to seek relief under section 1983; a full pardon in Kentucky removes all legal consequences so that a plaintiff can proceed with her section 1983 claims. View "Carr v. Louisville-Jefferson County" on Justia Law

by
BDC lent $800,000 to a company owned by the Suggs, who personally guaranteed the loan and secured it with a $200,000 mortgage on their Shaker Heights home. Bank of America and MidFirst Bank held more senior mortgages on the home. The Suggs’ home suffered serious water damage from a burst pipe in 2014. State Farm insured the home for up to $352,130. State Farm denied their claim on the ground that the Suggs had failed to heat their home at a temperature required by their policy.The Suggs sued State Farm in an Ohio state court and sued all three lenders with mortgages on their home, explaining that these lenders “have an interest in the policy proceeds” because the policy entitled them to payment even if State Farm had a valid defense against the Suggs. BDC did not appear. After the case settled, the state court found that BDC had no right to the proceeds. BDC did not seek relief in the state court but filed a federal suit alleging that State Farm, its lawyers, and the Suggs’ lawyers colluded to defraud it. The district court dismissed the suit under Ohio’s claim-preclusion law. The SIxth Circuit affirmed. BDC cannot meet the demanding test required to attack the state court’s judgment in this collateral fashion. View "Business Development Corporation of South Carolina v. Rutter & Russin, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Hopkinses kept cattle on their Marshall County, Tennessee farm. Detective Nichols received a complaint about the treatment of those cattle, drove by, and observed one dead cow and others that did not appear to be in good health. Nichols returned with Tennessee Department of Agriculture Veterinarian Johnson. Wearing his gun and badge, Nichols knocked and. according to Mrs. Hopkins, “demanded that [she] escort them to see the cattle,” refusing to wait until Mr. Hopkins returned or until she fed her children. Johnson completed a Livestock Welfare Examination, as required by law, noting that the cattle were not in reasonable health, that they lacked access to appropriate water, food, or shelter, and that major disease issues were present; she determined that probable cause for animal cruelty existed. Nichols returned to the Hopkins’s farm several times and discovered a sinkhole containing the remains of multiple cattle. Nichols and Sheriff Lamb eventually seized the cattle without a warrant and initiated criminal proceedings. The cattle were sold.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion for qualified immunity in a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Forced compliance with orders is a Fourth Amendment seizure; words that compel compliance with orders to exit a house constitute a seizure. While the open fields doctrine allowed the officers to lawfully search the farm, it did not give them lawful access to seize the cattle; they lacked exigent circumstances when they seized the cattle. View "Hopkins v. Nichols" on Justia Law

by
Born in 1967, Carroll was raised by a single mother near Albert Barber's property. Albert’s younger sister was Arlene. Albert died in 1998. . In 2000, Arlene informed the Geauga County Probate Court that she had lost Albert’s will and possessed only an unsigned copy. She filed an application to probate the will. The court found that all interested parties were given appropriate notice and admitted the will. The court distributed most of the estate— land worth $232,000 and slightly over $30,000 in other assets—to Arlene under the will.Carroll claims that in 2018, Arlene told her that Albert was Carroll’s father. Carrol sued, claiming that Arlene submitted an invalid version of Albert’s will to an Ohio probate court and that she should have inherited Albert’s estate. The district court concluded that she lacked standing and that the probate exception to federal jurisdiction barred it from hearing her claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, citing her lack of standing. Carroll has not plausibly pleaded that the Barbers’ misconduct injured her, that they left her any worse off. Even given an opportunity to contest Albert’s will, Carroll would not have been eligible to contest Albert’s will under Ohio law when he died. View "Carroll v. Hill" on Justia Law