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Home / Opinions / 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals / 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Digest: March 23
These opinions were released March 23. They will appear in the March 28 print edition of Minnesota Lawyer.

8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Digest: March 23

ERISA; Collateral Estoppel; Waiver

Where administrators of employee benefit plans under ERISA sued a bank for claims arising from their participation in certain securities lending programs, and the trial plan for a jury to hear non-ERISA claims while the court heard ERISA fiduciary duty claims with common-law plaintiffs’ claims being heard by both the court and jury, the district court failed to consider whether the parties waived the application of collateral estoppel, so the judgment is vacated and remanded for a determination of waiver.

Vacated; remanded.

14-3457 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota v. Wells Fargo Bank, Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Frank, J.



Social Security; Denial of Benefits; Heart Failure

Where the family of a man who died of heart disease challenged the denial of his application for Social Security disability benefits, substantial evidence supported the administrative law judge’s finding that the man’s impairment did not meet the listing for chronic heart failure, and the ALJ did not err in according limited weight to a doctor’s letter that supported the claimant’s application for benefits since the doctor did not identify specific functional limitations, and the ALJ also properly applied medical evidence to determine the claimant’s residual functional capacity.

Dissenting opinion by Bright, J.: “Having reviewed many social security disability cases regarding heart failure, a pattern has evolved whereby ALJs deny benefits to individuals because they are capable of ‘light work’ or ‘sedentary work’—largely relying on the individual’s

ability to complete certain activities of daily living. Such findings have the unfortunate result of denying benefits to individuals with heart failure unless the evidentiary record shows the individual is totally bedridden. See Haggard v. Apfel, 175 F.3d 591, 594 (8th Cir. 1999) (‘[A]

claimant need not be totally bedridden to be disabled’). Denying benefits to individuals simply because they are not bedridden is inconsistent with the purpose of the Social Security Act and I behoove ALJs to consider the impact of forcing individuals with severe heart failure to continue to work.”

Judgment is affirmed.

15-1030 Stoner v. Colvin, appealed from U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa.



Constitutional Law

Homecare Providers; Preliminary Injunction; Mootness

Where individual homecare providers challenged the constitutionality of a Minnesota statute designating them as state employees for the purpose of unionization, the appeal is dismissed as moot because the election and certification of the exclusive representative has already occurred, and the reversal of the denial of the preliminary injunction would not adequately address the harm that the providers sought to prevent.

Appeal dismissed.

14-3468 Bierman v. Dayton, appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Davis, J.



Corporate Law

Securities Fraud; Verdicts; Disgorgement

(1)Where the manager of a hedge fund appealed a judgment entered on jury verdicts finding securities fraud from his investments in what turned out to be a Ponzi scheme, the defendant did not show that the verdicts were internally inconsistent, and a claim that the evidence was not sufficient to support a verdict against the finance company was not raised on appeal and thus was forfeited, and the judgment is affirmed over the defendant’s challenges to the verdict and to the accuracy of jury instructions.

(2)Where a defendant in a securities fraud case challenged the district court’s order of disgorgement, the award was a permissible equitable remedy, which the court had authority to order, so the judgment is affirmed.

Judgment is affirmed; remanded.

14-3707 Securities and Exchange Commission v. Quan, appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Montgomery, J.


Criminal Law

Child Pornography; Destruction of Images; Closing Argument

Where a defendant in a child pornography case destroyed the images, the phone he used to make them and a memory card, the absence of the images did not require an acquittal since the defendant’s testimony was sufficient for the conviction, and the defendant did not show that a prosecutor committed reversible error by commenting that the defendant used his camera to “zoom in” on a child’s pubic area since the comment could be interpreted to mean that the defendant focused on that area rather than technically used a  zoom feature, which the evidence did not support.

Judgment is affirmed.

15-1990 U.S. v. Paris, appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri, Phillips, J.


Criminal Law

Drug Trafficking; Sufficiency of Evidence; Prior Convictions

(1)Where a defendant challenged the sufficiency of evidence to convict him of possessing a firearm as a felon and possession of drugs recovered from his vehicle, the evidence was sufficient to show his dominion and control over the vehicle even though he had given the keys to another person to change a tire.

(2)Where a defendant challenged the admission of a 1996 state conviction in a drug trafficking case, the defendant placed his state of mind at issue when he denied knowledge of drugs recovered from his vehicle, so the evidence was probative of knowledge, intent and absence of mistake, and the conviction was not too remote in time especially since the defendant was incarcerated for much of the period.

Close case

Opinion concurring in part; dissenting in part by Bright, J.: “This is a close case marked by the lack of direct evidence of appellant-defendant Albert Ellis’s (Ellis) guilt. Instead, the government relies, primarily, on circumstantial evidence to sustain Ellis’s convictions. Based upon the evidence submitted at trial, while on somewhat different grounds, I concur in the majority’s

conclusion that the circumstantial evidence is sufficient to sustain Ellis’s convictions for possessing a firearm as a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), 924(e), and possessing heroin with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C). I further agree with the majority that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of Ellis’s prior felony drug-trafficking conviction. I dissent, however, from the majority’s holding that sufficient evidence supported Ellis’s conviction for ‘carr[ying]’ a firearm ‘during and in relation to’  a drug trafficking crime, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A).”

Judgment is affirmed.

15-2243 U.S. v. Ellis, appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Montgomery, J.



Criminal Law

False Refund Claim; Good-Faith Defense; Excluded Evidence

Where a defendant who was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the government and making a false claim against the government challenged the exclusion from evidence of a video, which she argued supported her good-faith defense,  the district court reasonably found that the video could mislead and confuse the jury, and the court also questioned its relevance and probative value, so the court did not err in excluding the evidence since it did not affect the defendant’s substantial rights.

Judgment is affirmed.

14-3605 U.S. v. McQuarry, appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Schiltz, J.


Criminal Law

False Tax Returns; Sufficiency of Evidence; Jury Instruction

(1)Where a defendant who was found guilty of making a false tax return argued that the evidence did not show that she knowingly and willfully underreported her income as an adult entertainer, a judge could find that information given by the defendant to her accountant demonstrated the falsity of her tax return, and the jury could decide to disregard evidence that the defendant believed that money from men who paid her for private parties was a gift.

(2)Where a defendant in a false tax returns case argued that the government created a duplicitous instruction, even assuming duplicity the district court’s instruction cured any potential prejudice and the defendant also failed to show that her sentence was procedurally or substantively unreasonable.

Judgment is affirmed.

14-3517 U.S. v. Fairchild, appealed from U.S. District Court, District of South Dakota, Schreier, J.


Criminal Law

Jurisdiction; Finality of Judgment; Execution Challenge

Where plaintiff, who was sentenced to death, sued state officials arguing that the method of execution was unconstitutional, the district court dismissed the complaint without prejudice but would allow the amendment of the complaint to remedy deficiencies, so the order of dismissal was not final, and the court could not invoke Rule 54(b) to certify the decision for appeal because the rule does not apply to a single-claim action, so the appeal must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Appeal is dismissed.

15-3420 Johnson v. Lombardi, appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri, Kays, J.



Criminal Law

Search; Supervised Release Condition; Tattoo Restriction

(1)Where police officers responding to a call about a man lying next to a fallen bicycle righted the bike, which resulted in an unzipped bag falling open to reveal two guns and drug paraphernalia, the movement of the bike under the unique circumstances of the case including the fact that the bike was blocking a sidewalk was not a search, so the guns were in plain view, and the district court properly denied the suppression motion.

(2)Where a district court imposed a prohibition on new tattoos as a condition of a supervised release, the condition that the defendant not get new tattoos while in prison is affirmed but the condition is modified to remove the words “or on supervised release.”

Judgment is affirmed.

15-1346 U.S. v. Campos, appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri, Whipple, J.



Criminal Law

Sentencing; Enhancement; Prior Conviction

Where a defendant in a child pornography case argued that his 1989 conviction for deviate sexual assault should not trigger a sentencing enhancement, the district court did not err in considering the charging document, and the court properly found that the state conviction qualified as a predicate offense and that his suspended sentence likewise qualified as a conviction.

Judgment is affirmed.

15-1509 U.S. v. Sumner, appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri, Phillips, J.



Criminal Law

Terry Stop; Reasonable Suspicion

Where a defendant entered an active crime scene to sit in a vehicle that had not yet been searched or secured by law enforcement and the vehicle matched the description of a vehicle connected to an armed robbery, an officer had reasonable suspicion to conduct a Terry stop and the trial court did not err in refusing the motion to suppress.

Judgment is affirmed in part; reversed in part; remanded.

15-2385 U.S. v. Diriye, appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota.



Employer – Employee

Gender Bias; MHRA; Retaliation

Where plaintiff sued his former employer, a blood plasma collection facility, for alleged violations of the anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation provisions of the Missouri Human Rights Act, the judgment for the employer is affirmed because the plaintiff failed to show that written warnings that he received about non-sex-related performance issues lacked credibility, he admitted that he failed to comply with employment policies, and there was not a genuine issue as to whether he was treated less favorably than similarly situated female employees, and summary judgment against the plaintiff on the retaliation claim was also proper because he did not show that his discrimination complaint was a contributing factor to adverse action.

Judgment is affirmed.

15-1494 Denn v. CSL Plasma, Inc., appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri,

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