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The Hagys took a loan to purchase a mobile home and property on which to park it. In 2010, they defaulted. Green Tree initiated foreclosure. Hagy called Green Tree’s law firm, Demers & Adams, wanting to settling the claim. Demers sent a letter containing a Warranty Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure, stating, “In return for [the Hagys] executing the Deed … Green Tree has advised me that it will waive any deficiency balance.” The Hagys executed the Deed. Demers wrote to the Hagys’ attorney, confirming receipt of the executed Deed and reaffirming that “Green Tree will not attempt to collect any deficiency balance.” Green Tree dismissed the foreclosure complaint but began calling the Hagys to collect the debt that they no longer owed. Green Tree realized its mistake and agreed that the Hagys owed nothing. In 2011, the Hagys sued, citing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act. Green Tree resolved the dispute through arbitration. The court granted the Hagys summary judgment, reasoning that Demers’ letter “fail[ed] to disclose” that it was “from a debt collector” under 15 U.S.C. 1692e(11). The court awarded them $1,800 in statutory damages and $74,196 in attorney’s fees. The Sixth Circuit dismissed an appeal and the underlying suit. The complaint failed to identify a cognizable injury traceable to Demers; Congress cannot override Article III of the Constitution by labeling the violation of any statutory requirement a cognizable injury. View "Hagy v. Demers & Adams" on Justia Law

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The Hagys took a loan to purchase a mobile home and property on which to park it. In 2010, they defaulted. Green Tree initiated foreclosure. Hagy called Green Tree’s law firm, Demers & Adams, wanting to settling the claim. Demers sent a letter containing a Warranty Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure, stating, “In return for [the Hagys] executing the Deed … Green Tree has advised me that it will waive any deficiency balance.” The Hagys executed the Deed. Demers wrote to the Hagys’ attorney, confirming receipt of the executed Deed and reaffirming that “Green Tree will not attempt to collect any deficiency balance.” Green Tree dismissed the foreclosure complaint but began calling the Hagys to collect the debt that they no longer owed. Green Tree realized its mistake and agreed that the Hagys owed nothing. In 2011, the Hagys sued, citing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act. Green Tree resolved the dispute through arbitration. The court granted the Hagys summary judgment, reasoning that Demers’ letter “fail[ed] to disclose” that it was “from a debt collector” under 15 U.S.C. 1692e(11). The court awarded them $1,800 in statutory damages and $74,196 in attorney’s fees. The Sixth Circuit dismissed an appeal and the underlying suit. The complaint failed to identify a cognizable injury traceable to Demers; Congress cannot override Article III of the Constitution by labeling the violation of any statutory requirement a cognizable injury. View "Hagy v. Demers & Adams" on Justia Law

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Medical personnel treated three infants, between 19-days old and six-months-old, in the emergency room of Nationwide Children’s Hospital for serious injuries, including skull fractures and a broken leg. Nationwide’s physicians suspected child abuse. They conducted testing to identify additional injuries, then alerted Franklin County Children Services of their concerns. One family did not appeal the finding that the suspicion of child abuse was “substantiated’ or the designation of their case for “ongoing supportive services.” In another case, the county found no evidence of abuse. The parents of the infants filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim against Nationwide and the County, alleging that the medical testing violated their children’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and their own right to familial association. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. State action did not prompt Nationwide, a private hospital, to perform the diagnostic tests, and the county had nothing to do with the tests. The court noted that the parents consented to the tests. View "Thomas v. Nationwide Children's Hospital" on Justia Law

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Higdon pled guilty as a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 15 years in prison as an armed career criminal based in part on a 1984 North Carolina conviction for discharging a firearm into an occupied structure. The offense requires an application of force to an occupied structure, but not to the occupants themselves. Higdon did not appeal but moved to set aside his sentence after the Supreme Court invalidated the Armed Career Criminal Act’s residual clause. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that the offense was not a “violent felony” under the Act's remaining provisions because it does not involve the use “of physical force against the person of another,” 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B)(i). Under the North Carolina statute, the projectile can miss the structure’s occupants altogether—with no physical force applied to the person of anyone—and yet the shooting can satisfy all the elements of the offense. The elements might satisfy a requirement that the defendant act recklessly, but that requirement is separate from the one that the force be used “against the person of another.” View "Higdon v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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John attended a party, drank six beers, then proceeded to a bar and drank more beer and alcohol. He left the bar in the early morning, sufficiently intoxicated that he cannot remember what happened for the remainder of the night. Based on text messages he later found on his cellphone, John knows that he called Jane. The two had engaged in several prior physical encounters. Jane, who had also been drinking, joined John in his bed. According to Jane’s subsequent statement, the two engaged in some consensual sexual acts, but Jane stopped consenting and John continued to engage in non-consensual sexual acts. John was found responsible for violating Miami University’s sexual assault policy and was suspended for four months. John sued Jane, Miami University, and individual University employees. John and Jane reached a settlement. The court dismissed John’s remaining claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of John’s Title IX hostile-environment claim, Title IX deliberate-indifference claim, and 42 U.S.C. 1983 substantive-due-process claim. The court reversed, in part, finding that John sufficiently pleaded procedural-due-process and equal protection claims against one employee based on the claims that she was not an impartial adjudicator and did not fully disclose the evidence against him. The court also reversed a finding of qualified immunity as to that employee and held that John sufficiently pled his Title IX erroneous-outcome claim. View "Doe v. Miami University" on Justia Law

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Following a spate of home-invasion robberies around Dallas, police interrupted a robbery attempt that fit the pattern. The robbers fled on foot. Later that day, police arrested Olaya after finding him in a stolen vehicle with a suspected accomplice. The police inventoried the vehicle’s contents, took custody of a cell phone, and obtained a warrant to search the phone. An officer reviewed the phone's contents by hand, found potentially incriminating evidence, took screenshots, then stored the phone in an evidence storage facility. Texas officials then merged their investigation with a federal investigation focused on a multistate criminal enterprise and transferred the phone to the FBI for analysis. The Bureau searched the phone based on the state warrant. Meanwhile, Texas officers came to suspect that Castro had organized the robberies. They followed a signal coming from a stolen cell phone to a house where Castro lived. Officers watched the home, searched it twice, and conducted a brief search of Castro’s cell phones after obtaining her consent. Based on this evidence, a different Texas judge issued search warrants for Castro’s two phones. Officers searched each phone and found incriminating evidence about the robberies. The federal government charged Castro and Olaya with violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The defendants successfully moved to suppress the cell-phone evidence. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that each search complied with the Fourth Amendment. View "United States v. Castro" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Smith pleaded guilty to three federal counts stemming from his armed robbery of a Sevierville, Tennessee pharmacy. He was sentenced to 262 months in prison, the bottom of the Guidelines range, as a career offender based in part on his prior North Carolina state conviction for common-law robbery. He also had a South Carolina drug-trafficking conviction. A defendant qualifies as a career offender if he was at least 18 years old at the time of the instant offense; the instant offense of conviction is a felony that is either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense; and the defendant has at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court subsequently vacated the sentence in light of its 2015 "Johnson" decision, which cast the constitutionality of the Guidelines’ residual clause into doubt. On remand, the Sixth Circuit again held that North Carolina common-law robbery does qualify as a “crime of violence” within the meaning of U.S.S.G. 4B1.1(a). The court cited the Supreme Court’s 2017 decision, Beckles v. United States, clarifying that the Guidelines’ residual clause remains valid after Johnson. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Debtors filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. They included their interest in Franklin, Ohio real property with three mortgages. PNC held the first two. The home was “underwater.” The Trustee filed an adversary proceeding to avoid PNC’s alleged first mortgage under 11 U.S.C. 544(a)(1) and 544(a)(3) and Ohio law. The bankruptcy court stayed the proceeding pending resolution of questions of law that had been certified to the Ohio Supreme Court in another matter. The Ohio Supreme Court ultimately responded that O.R.C. 1301.401 applies to all recorded Ohio mortgages and acts to provide constructive notice to the world of a recorded mortgage that was deficiently executed under O.R.C. 5301.01. Although the parties agreed that the mortgage's acknowledgment clause was defective and did not substantially comply with section 5301.01, PNC asserted that section 1301.401 vitiates the Trustee’s power to avoid recorded mortgages based on defects in their execution as either a hypothetical bona fide purchaser under 11 U.S.C. 544(a)(3) or hypothetical judicial lien creditor under 11 U.S.C. 544(a)(1). The bankruptcy court denied a motion to dismiss. The Sixth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed, finding the Ohio Supreme Court did not address the Trustee’s avoidance powers as a hypothetical judicial lien creditor, and the Ohio Legislature did not make its amendments retroactive. View "In re Oakes" on Justia Law

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Hernandez pled guilty to conspiring to distribute two kilograms of cocaine. Hernandez was to receive the two kilograms from a larger, 28-kilogram shipment of cocaine as payment for an outstanding debt. At sentencing, the district court held Hernandez responsible for all 28 kilograms because he volunteered to locate the whole shipment after it had gone missing prior to delivery. Hernandez objected to that finding and, in the alternative, a minor-participant reduction for his reduced role in the conspiracy. He also objected to a two-point enhancement for maintaining a drug-involved premises. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. All 28 kilograms of cocaine were within the scope of the conspiracy. Hernandez knew the precise scope of the conspiracy, unlike low-level members of the enterprise, such as couriers. The district court also noted that Hernandez was unique among participants in that he stood to reap a significant benefit from the conspiracy’s success, rendering him “quite high on the ladder.” He secured the abandoned warehouse for at least three separate shipments of marijuana, and expected to be paid handsomely for each effort. View "United States v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Harris, a registered stockbroker, and his co-conspirators, including government witness Durand, agreed to recommend shares of Zirk de Maison’s companies to clients in exchange for commissions. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority began an investigation and questioned Harris and Durand on wire transfers from certain organizations controlled by de Maison. The two told investigators that the deposits resulted from selling expensive watches, and sent letters to FINRA summarizing this fictitious explanation. After Harris was arrested, he purportedly called and texted Durand on multiple occasions, instructing him to stick with their story. Durand later admitted that the watch story was entirely false. Harris was convicted of conspiracy to commit securities fraud or wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, 1348, 1349; obstruction of justice, 18 U.S.C. 1503, and three counts of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343. The district court sentenced Harris to 63 months’ imprisonment and $843,423.91 in restitution. The Sixth Circuit vacated. The district court abused its discretion by not allowing Harris to introduce a prior inconsistent statement for impeachment of a government witness. The court upheld the admission of government summary exhibits and a jury instruction relating to stockbroker’s fiduciary duties. Harris presented a colorable claim of extraneous influence on a juror, so the court abused its discretion by failing to hold a "Remmer" evidentiary hearing or by denying defense counsel’s request to question the juror and his friend. View "United States v. Harris" on Justia Law