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

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Hollins-Johnson pleaded guilty to student loan fraud and theft of government funds, conspiracy to commit those crimes, making false statements to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and witness tampering. The Sixth Circuit dismissed her appeal based on the appellate-waiver provision in Hollins-Johnson’s plea agreement, rejecting her argument that her plea agreement does not expressly cover a challenge to “the manner in which a sentence is to be served and the timing of the sentence.” Hollins-Johnson did not argue that the appellate waiver was not knowing or voluntary and the sentence imposed did not exceed the statutory maximum for any of Hollins-Johnson’s crimes. Her waiver is not ambiguous. Hollins-Johnson agreed to waive her right to challenge her sentence on any grounds so long as she was not sentenced above the statutory maximum. View "United States v. Hollins-Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The plaintiffs, captains in Cleveland’s Emergency Medical Service division, belong to the same union; all are black. Each fall, captains bid on their schedules for the upcoming year. The city uses a seniority-based bidding system to assign shifts. The collective bargaining agreement also allows Carlton, the EMS Commissioner, to transfer up to four captains to a different shift that conflicts with a captain’s first choice. The 2017 bidding generated a schedule in which three plaintiffs were slated to work a day shift together; only black captains would staff the shift. Carlton removed Anderson from that day shift and replaced him with a white captain to “diversify the shift[].” Informal discussions failed. Discrimination charges were filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the federal EEOC. A rebidding generated a schedule that again resulted in reassignment to “create diversity.” A local news station ran a story about the shift situation.The captains sued, bringing discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII and Ohio law, and a section 1983 claims based on the federal constitution. The district court ultimately rejected all of the claims, reasoning the captains could not show that the shift change subjected them to a “materially adverse employment action.” The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. Shifts count as “terms” of employment under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(a)(1) and the shift change is not “de minimus.” View "Threat v. City of Cleveland" on Justia Law

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In 2008, another inmate, Macari, assaulted Himmelreich, who had pleaded guilty to producing child pornography, Himmelreich alleges that Macari was placed in the general population despite making comments about targeting “pedophiles.” Himmelreich filed a Tort Claim Notice with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Himmelreich alleges that Captain Fitzgerald warned him not to complain and threatened to have him transferred. Prison officials subsequently placed Himmelreich in the special housing unit (SHU). Himmelreich claims that Fitzgerald told him it was because of the Tort Claim. Prison officials claim they placed Himmelreich in the SHU for his own protection after he complained of threats from other inmates.Himmelreich’s subsequent lawsuits alleged numerous claims against prison officials, including a “Bivens” claim for retaliation in violation of the First Amendment based on Fitzgerald’s alleged threats and statements. Fitzgerald unsuccessfully moved for summary judgment only on the ground that there is no Bivens remedy for a First Amendment retaliation claim. The Sixth Circuit dismissed Fitzgerald’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction because her appeal concerns neither a final order nor a non-final order entitled to review under the collateral order doctrine. View "Himmelreich v. Federal Bureau of Prisons" on Justia Law

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Rowland brought claims arising from injuries she sustained while incarcerated. The district court entered partial summary judgment in favor of the defendants on Rowland’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 and punitive damages claims. After that judgment, by agreement of the parties, the court entered an order dismissing Rowland’s remaining state-law negligence claims without prejudice, so that Rowland could pursue an appeal on her federal claims. Civil Rule 54(b) permits a district court to enter final judgment “as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties” when it determines, using a multi-factor analysis, that “there is no just reason for delay.”The Seventh Circuit concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal because the voluntary dismissal of Rowland’s remaining state-law claims did not create an appealable final order under 28 U.S.C. 1291, A litigant cannot circumvent the requirements of Rule 54(b) by the expedient of voluntarily dismissing her surviving claims in order to seek immediate appellate review of an adverse judgment on her resolved claims, with the intention of reinstating the dismissed claims should she obtain a favorable outcome on appeal. Such a dismissal does not create a final order under 28 U.S.C. 1291. View "Rowland v. Southern Health Partners, Inc" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Kensu, a resident of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), was sentenced to life imprisonment for first-degree murder. He has filed several actions under 42 U.S.C. 1983 during his sentence; he won $325,002 after the jury found that five defendants had been “deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need[s].” Since then, Kensu has filed several more suits against MDOC and Corizon, a correctional health care contractor, including putative class actions, some of which remain pending.The complaint, in this case, had 808 numbered allegations plus additional sub-allegations, spanning 180 pages. Although his counsel failed to identify this case as related to any of his earlier actions (in violation of a local rule) the district court determined that it was a companion to Kensu v. Borgerding, and reassigned it. Finding his complaint too long and unclear, the district court dismissed, allowing Kensu to try again. His second effort was still too long and unclear. The district court explained the problems with Kensu’s complaint in more detail and gave him one last chance to amend it. Kensu made his complaint longer instead of reducing it to a plain statement of his grievance. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his complaint with prejudice. View "Kensu v. Corizon, Inc." on Justia Law

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Pioch and co-defendants were convicted based on their scheme to defraud the multimillion-dollar estate of an elderly widower. Pioch was sentenced to 111 months’ imprisonment with a special assessment of $3,700 and restitution of $2,037,783.30. Pioch shares joint-and-several liability with her co-defendants for $1,990,342.76 of the restitution to McLaughlin (victim’s son), under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. 3664(i)). Pioch personally owes the remaining $47,440.54 to the IRS, so she is liable for a total of $2,041,483.30 for the assessment and restitution. The government sought garnishment and, invoking the Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act (FDCPA), 28 U.S.C. 3011(a)), requested a 10% surcharge, $204,148.33.The district court granted the garnishment and surcharge requests. The Sixth Circuit remanded, rejecting Pioch's argument that the surcharge should be calculated based on the “debt” that the government “actually recover[s] through enforcement of a collection remedy” (10% of the $367,681.48 subject to garnishment) and not the total debt resulting from her crimes (10% of the $2,041,483.30 judgment). When the government initiates an FDCPA action to recover debt owed to the United States, the government is entitled to recover a 10% surcharge on the entire outstanding debt; the debt must be paid off before the United States may collect the surcharge, which is added to, not subtracted from, the judgment. View "United States v. Pioch" on Justia Law

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Sands pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The PSR recommended a four-level sentencing enhancement because the firearm had an altered or obliterated serial number, U.S.S.G. 2K2.1(b)(4)(B).. The final PSR acknowledged that the serial number in two locations was significantly defaced, but still readable. The district court did not examine the weapon itself but examined photographs that magnified the size of the gun and applied the enhancement, stating that the serial number “is clearly made less legible and is clearly altered for the purpose of trying to mask the identity of this weapon.” The Seventh Circuit instructed the district court that it had the option to reexamine the serial numbers or rely on its prior factual findings and use the “naked eye test” to determine the sentence enhancement’s applicability.At the resentencing hearing, the district court examined the firearm itself and made factual findings that the serial number was not readable in two of the three places it appeared on the weapon and again applied the four-level enhancement. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The court applied the correct legal framework, and there was no clear error with the factual finding that the gun had an altered serial number. View "United States v. Sands" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Sanchez immigrated from Honduras in 1994 and became a lawful permanent resident when he married a U.S. citizen. In 1999, Sanchez pleaded guilty to sexual battery in Ohio. He was ordered removed because sexual battery is a crime involving moral turpitude, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(i). The BIA noted that Sanchez implied that he pled guilty in reliance on his attorney's assurance that a conviction would not result in immigration consequences but concluded that it had no authority to look behind his conviction. Immigration authorities encountered Sanchez in the U.S. again in 2012 and 2018, twice reinstated the removal order, and removed him.Following his 2018 detention, Sanchez's counsel realized that his guilty plea was legally infirm. Ohio law requires that a judge advise defendants such as Sanchez that a guilty plea might result in deportation but the judge in Sanchez’s case failed to give that advisement. The court vacated the sexual battery conviction. Sanchez entered a new plea for simple assault—which is not a crime involving moral turpitude.Sanchez moved the BIA to reopen his 2008 removal order, citing ineffective assistance by former counsels. The BIA denied the motion, determining that it lacked jurisdiction because 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(5), “prohibits reopening of removal proceedings if those proceedings are subject to reinstatement.” The Sixth Circuit denied relief. Nothing in section 1231(a)(5) implies exceptions for exceptional circumstances. Sanchez’s original removal order “is not subject to being reopened” because he illegally reentered the country. View "Sanchez-Gonzalez v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Michigan attorneys, like those in most other states, must join an integrated bar association in order to practice law. Taylor, a Michigan attorney, argued that requiring her to join the State Bar of Michigan violates her freedom of association and that the State Bar’s use of part of her mandatory membership dues for advocacy activities violates her freedom of speech. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of Taylor’s First Amendment claims as foreclosed by two Supreme Court decisions that have not been overruled: Lathrop v. Donohue (1961) Keller v. State Bar of California (1990). The court rejected Taylor's argument that Lathrop and Keller no longer control because of the 2018 decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees where the Court held that First Amendment challenges to similar union laws are to be analyzed under at least the heightened “exacting scrutiny” standard Even where intervening Supreme Court decisions have undermined the reasoning of an earlier decision, courts must continue to follow the earlier case if it “directly controls” until the Court has overruled it. View "Taylor v. Buchanan" on Justia Law

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RLR owns land on the Little Pigeon River. Tract 1 had a private resort and parking spaces. Tract 2 had a duplex building. The city decided to build a pedestrian walkway along the River, going through both tracts, and filed a petition for condemnation of a permanent easement. The easement would make some of the parking spaces on Tract 1 unusable. The petition also sought temporary construction easements, including one on which the city would construct Tract 2 parking spaces to replace those lost on Tract 1. RLR argued that the compensation for the loss of the spaces was too low and that the plan of building parking spaces on Tract 2 was a private, rather than public, purpose. The court ruled in favor of the city, which took possession of the land and built the walkway, but never built the parking spots. Before valuation proceedings, RLR filed suit in federal court, alleging an unlawful taking under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court held that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine because the source of RLR’s injury was the state court’s order. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the Supreme Court’s 2005 Exxon decision abrogated Sixth Circuit precedent applying Rooker-Feldman to interlocutory orders. The state-court order of possession counts as a judgment under Rooker-Feldman. View "RLR Investments, LLC v. City of Pigeon Forge" on Justia Law