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

by
The Ohio Department of Public Safety fired Trooper Johnson after he sexually harassed women while on duty. When the Department learned of the first incident, it let him sign a “Last Chance Agreement,” which said the Department would not fire him if he followed the rules for two years. When the Department learned of another incident, it fired Morris Johnson for violating the Last Chance Agreement. The district court and Sixth Circuit found that the Department did not racially discriminate against Johnson in doing so. Johnson did not show that he was “similarly situated” in all of the relevant respects to an employee of a different race who was treated better. While Johnson and a white trooper both acted inappropriately, their situations were different. The white trooper’s first incident was unverified while the Department verified all of Johnson’s incidents. Johnson propositioned a woman to go out with him; the white trooper did not. Johnson pulled a woman over without probable cause to ask her out; the white trooper did not. Johnson went to a woman’s home; the white trooper did not. The two troopers had different direct supervisors and were subject to different standards because Johnson signed a Last Chance Agreement. View "Johnson v. Ohio Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

by
D.T.’s parents, concerned that their son, who has autism, was not getting an appropriate education in the Tennessee schools, removed him from public school and placed him in a private therapy program, where he improved. They were convicted of truancy. To avoid further prosecution. they enrolled D.T. in a state-approved private school and a private therapy program. To have the option of removing him from school again in the future, they sought a preliminary injunction to keep the state from charging them with truancy. They argued they had the right to remove D.T. from school because federal disability law preempts state educational requirements. The district court found that D.T.’s parents had not yet suffered an immediate and irreparable injury. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. The hypothetical threat of prosecution is not an “immediate,” “irreparable” injury that warrants the “extraordinary remedy” of a preliminary injunction. View "D.T. v. Sumner County Schools" on Justia Law

by
In 2018, Mosley visited the Kohl’s stores in Northville and Novi, Michigan and encountered architectural barriers to access by wheelchair users in their restrooms. He sought declaratory and injunctive relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions governing public accommodations, claiming that Kohl’s denied him “full and equal access and enjoyment of the services, goods and amenities due to barriers ... and a failure . . . to make reasonable accommodations,” 42 U.S.C. 12182. According to the district court, Mosley has filed similar lawsuits throughout the country. A resident of Arizona, Mosley “has family and friends that reside in the Detroit area whom he tries to visit at least annually.” Mosley, a musician, had scheduled visits to “southeast Michigan” in September and October 2018. He is planning to visit his family in Detroit in November 2018. He stated that he would return to the stores if they were modified to be ADA-compliant. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of standing. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded. Mosley has sufficiently alleged a concrete and particularized past injury and has sufficiently alleged a real and immediate threat of future injury. Plaintiffs are not required to provide a definitive plan for returning to the accommodation itself to establish a threat of future injury, nor need they have visited the accommodation more than once. View "Mosley v. Kohl's Department Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

by
While in federal prison in Ohio, Gallivan had surgery. According to Gallivan, the surgery left him permanently disabled and the Bureau of Prisons was to blame. The Bureau found no evidence that its employees had done anything wrong. Gallivan sued the United States for negligence under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(1). The district court believed Ohio Civil Rule 10(D)(2) governed and required a person alleging medical negligence to include a medical professional’s affidavit stating that the claim has merit. Gallivan did not include an affidavit with his complaint; the district court dismissed his case. The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded. The FTCA expressly requires courts to use the Federal Rules. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint include a short and plain jurisdictional statement, a short and plain statement of the claim, and an explanation of the relief sought. Rule 8 implicitly excludes other requirements that must be satisfied for a complaint to state a claim for relief. Rule 8 does not require litigants to file any affidavits. Nor does Rule 12, which does not demand “evidentiary support” for a claim to be plausible. View "Gallivan v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Winget created the Trust, retaining the right to revoke the Trust at any time and to receive income generated by the trust property during his lifetime. He also served as the trustee with broad powers. Venture (a company owned by Winget) sought a loan from Chase. Winget guaranteed the loan both in his individual capacity and as a representative of the Trust. Venture defaulted on the loan, Chase sued. During one of six previous appeals, the Sixth Circuit held that the guarantee agreement limited Winget’s personal liability to $50 million but did not limit the Trust’s liability. Winget paid Chase $50 million; the Trust has not satisfied its obligation and now owes $750 million. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that Chase could recover that money from the Trust property. Under Michigan law trusts can enter into contracts and satisfy their contractual obligations through the trust property. Creditors can sue to recover from the trust property, just like with any other contract. Under Michigan law and the trust agreement, Winget had the power to enter into contracts on behalf of the Trust. The court rejected Winget’s argument that he “owns” the trust property because he can revoke the Trust and pays taxes on the trust property and that Chase cannot take the property to satisfy the Trust’s obligation. The trust property would not be used to satisfy Winget’s personal liability but would be used to satisfy the Trust’s liability. View "JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget" on Justia Law

by
Wilson recruited people near Escanaba and taught them how to package, transport, price, and sell heroin and crack cocaine. One or two women would travel as passengers to pick up the drugs from Wilson and would conceal the drugs in their vaginal cavities until returning to the Upper Peninsula. The drugs were then removed and sold. Eventually, a member of the conspiracy went to the police with information. They set up controlled buys that confirmed the trafficking of drugs. Subsequent police raids turned up heroin and crack cocaine, cash, a drug ledger, cell phones, and MoneyGram receipts that listed who sent and received money. The police extracted the phones’ call logs and contact lists and obtained call records and subscriber information from the phone companies by subpoena. The phone records revealed a network of coconspirators, including Smith-Kilpatrick, Wilson, his mother, and two others. Wilson and another pleaded guilty. Smith-Kilpatrick and two others were convicted. The Sixth Circuit affirmed Smith-Kilpatrick’s conviction, rejecting arguments that the trial court made evidentiary errors; no rational jury could have convicted her based on the evidence, and her 96-month sentence was procedurally and substantively unreasonable. The court upheld the admission of records of phone calls and wire transfers, hotel records, and car rental documents and of out-of-court statements by co-conspirators. View "United States v. Smith-Kilpatrick" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Gaetanos run a cannabis dispensary. After a failed business transaction, a third party sued the Gaetanos and their attorney, Goodman, and filed a disciplinary complaint against Goodman. An ethics inquiry uncovered multiple violations. Goodman lost his license to practice law. The Gaetanos severed their relationship with him. The IRS later audited the Gaetanos’ tax returns and contacted Goodman for assistance. Goodman threatened the Gaetanos that unless they gave him a “significant down-payment” he would see them “take[n] down”. They did not oblige, Goodman sent menacing emails. The Gaetanos contacted the IRS. Goodman assured the IRS that his information was not privileged but was obtained through on-line searches and a private investigator; he discussed several aspects of the Gaetanos’ business. Goodman then taunted the Gaetanos, who again notified the IRS. The Gaetanos filed suit, seeking to stop the government from discussing privileged information with Goodman and requiring it to destroy attorney-client confidences. The IRS asserted that the court lacked jurisdiction, citing the Anti-Injunction Act, 26 U.S.C. 7421(a). The Sixth Circuit agreed that the Act bars the lawsuit; the “Williams Packing” exception does not apply. The exception requires that the taxpayer show that under no circumstances could the government prevail against their claims and that “equity jurisdiction otherwise exists.” The Gaetanos have not identified any privileged information that Goodman provided to the IRS and have adequate remedies at law. View "Gaetano v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Babb worked as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist at Maryville, a small practice group. Approximately a month into her employment, one of Maryville’s physician-owners observed Babb “placing her face very close to a computer screen.” Babb stated that she suffered from a “degenerative retinal condition” that made it hard for her to read certain screens and medical records but that this disorder did not affect her ability to do her job. Other Maryville physician-owners later raised similar concerns regarding Babb’s vision. At a meeting, Babb explained her diagnosis and insisted that the disorder did not affect her ability to do her job, One doctor asked Babb if she had “disability insurance.” Others requested a report by an ophthalmologist. One opined that they might have to “talk to [their] attorney.” Babb’s annual evaluations mentioned Babb’s vision problems. Babb subsequently committed clinical errors unrelated to her vision. In communicating its decision to terminate Babb, Maryville focused exclusively on her clinical errors. Babb claims nobody had criticized her anesthesiology techniques before her termination. An internal email focused on Babb’s worsening vision problems. Babb sued Maryville under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibition on discrimination against employees “regarded as” disabled, 42 U.S.C. 12102(1)(C). The district court granted Maryville summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The district court overlooked too many genuine factual disputes and improperly excluded expert testimony favorable to Babb. View "Babb v. Maryville Anesthesiologists, P.C." on Justia Law

by
Benton, a former schoolteacher, was convicted by a jury for having sex with a 12-year-old student. The judge sentenced her to 25-38 years’ imprisonment. With new appellate counsel, Benton raised constitutional and evidentiary arguments. Her conviction was affirmed. Months later, the Supreme Court handed down its “Lafler” decision, holding that defendants could establish a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel by proving that their lawyer’s incompetence caused them to reject a favorable plea offer. Benton sought postconviction relief, alleging that her attorney told her she had 20 minutes to decide whether to accept a plea offer: a year in jail for a guilty plea to a lesser charge. Her lawyer allegedly told Benton she would lose custody of her infant children. She rejected the deal. Benton claims she would have accepted the plea had the attorney conveyed that the termination of her parental rights would not be automatic. Benton’s appellate counsel offered to stipulate to his own ineffectiveness in not raising the argument. Michigan courts and the federal district court rejected her petitions. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Benton has no good excuse for not timely raising her claim. Although Lafler was decided in 2012, Benton did not lack the tools to construct her claim in her 2011 appeal. View "Benton v. Brewer" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs were hourly workers at an Amazon fulfillment center. After clocking out, they were required to undergo an anti-theft security screening. They were not compensated for the time spent in the screening process. The district court rejected a purported class action under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (PMWA), citing the Supreme Court’s 2014 “Busk” decision. Busk interpreted the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201, and the Portal-to-Portal Act, 29 U.S.C. 250 to find post-shift security screening non-compensable. The Sixth Circuit certified two questions to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Is the time spent on an employer’s premises waiting to undergo and undergoing mandatory security screening compensable as “hours worked” under the PMWA; Does the doctrine of de minimus non curat lex bar claims brought under the PMWA? The U.S. Supreme Court has applied the doctrine to the FLSA, to hold that employers are not required to compensate employees for small amounts of time that are administratively difficult to track. View "Heimbach v. Amazon.com" on Justia Law