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8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Digest: Dec. 7, 2022

Civil Rights

Excessive Force

Challenge to Jury Award; Failure to Move for New Trial

Plaintiff, a state correctional facility inmate, appealed the judgment imposed following a favorable jury verdict in his §1983 action alleging excessive force. Plaintiff challenged the amount of nominal and punitive damages awarded by the jury.

Where plaintiff failed to move for a new trial, he waived his right to challenge the jury verdict, and would not have succeeded on such a challenge where plaintiff had not shown that the verdict was a shocking result or would result in manifest injustice.

Judgment is affirmed.

21-3158 Eoff v. Mallett, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas.

 

 

Referrals to Immigration Authorities

Equal Protection Clause; False Imprisonment Theory

Defendants appealed the judgment entered for plaintiff. Defendants referred every detainee born outside the U.S., including plaintiff, to ICE, regardless of whether the person was a U.S. citizen. Plaintiff filed suit, alleging that defendants discriminated against her based on her country of origin in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and that defendants falsely imprisoned her. A jury found defendants liable on both theories, awarding plaintiff $30,000 for false imprisonment and nominal damages on her constitutional claim.

Where plaintiff’s complaint was broad enough to encompass a direct liability theory, defendants impliedly consented to a trial on the issue after plaintiff’s counsel expressly stated that trial would focus on plaintiff’s claim that defendants falsely imprisoned her, and defendants lacked statutory immunity where they failed to follow the required policymaking process.

Judgment is affirmed.

21-3082 Parada v. Anoka County, Stras, J. Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minesota, Tunheim, J.

 

 

Criminal Law

 

Conspiracy to Distribute Drugs Resulting in Death

Defendants appealed the denial of their motion for judgment of acquittal on charges of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl resulting in death. Defendants met the victim and arranged to obtain heroin. Defendants later gave some of the purported heroin to the victim, who overdosed and died. Subsequent testing revealed the substance to be fentanyl. Defendants unsuccessfully moved for judgment of acquittal, arguing that the government lacked evidence to prove that the fentanyl they distributed caused the victim’s death.

Where the evidence supported finding that the victim had a low opioid tolerance due to lack of experience with the drug and displayed symptoms consistent with a fentanyl overdose, the government presented a sufficient evidentiary basis for the jury’s guilty verdict.

Judgment is affirmed.

21-3688 & 21-3778 U.S. v. Morgan, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa.

 

 

Drug and Firearm Offense

Below-Guidelines Sentence; Motion to Suppress

Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence after he pled guilty to drug and firearms offenses, receiving a below-Guidelines sentence. Defendant challenged the denial of his motion to suppress and argued that his sentence was substantively unreasonable.

Where the GPS warrant application contained sufficient information to establish probable cause and where the officer executing the warrant relied upon its validity in good faith, the district court correctly denied defendant’s suppression motion, and imposed a presumptively reasonable sentence by departing downward from the Guidelines range.

Judgment is affirmed.

22-1440 U.S. v. Washington, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa.

 

 

 

Drug and Firearms Offenses

Motion to Suppress Evidence; Warrantless Collection of GPS Data

Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence for drug and firearms offenses, challenging the denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized following his arrest. Defendant argued that he was arrested “based on the warrantless collection of GPS locational data,” after law enforcement installed a tracker on the vehicle with the owner’s consent before defendant borrowed it.

Where defendant had no property interest or expectation of privacy in a borrowed vehicle, nor a reasonable expectation of privacy in his movement in public, the district court properly denied defendant’s suppression motion.

Judgment is affirmed.

22-1066 U.S. v. Dewilfond, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa.

 

 

Drug Conspiracy

Sufficiency Of Evidence

Where defendants challenged their convictions in a methamphetamine conspiracy, the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions for distribution of the drug.

Judgment is affirmed.

21-3896 U.S. v. Bailey, Benton, J. Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of South Dakota.

 

 

Felon in Possession of Firearm

Motion to Suppress Evidence; Prosecutorial Misconduct

Defendant appealed his guilty plea conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm, challenging the denial of his motion to suppress evidence and arguing that the government committed prosecutorial misconduct by not providing an identified police report prior to the suppression hearing. Defendant also claimed that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel.

Where law enforcement conducted a lawful inventory search of defendant’s vehicle after conducting a traffic stop supported by probable cause to believe that the vehicle was involved in a robbery, the government’s failure to turn over the police report would not have changed the outcome of the suppression hearing.

Judgment is affirmed.

22-1467 U.S. v. Crosdale, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri.

 

 

 

Firearm Offense

Challenge to Sentence; Calculation of Guidelines Range

Defendant appealed the sentence imposed following his jury conviction for a firearms offense, challenging the calculation of the Sentencing Guidelines range.

Where the district court found, based on trial evidence, that defendant’s firearm was used in another felony offense, it correctly determined the Guidelines range.

Judgment is affirmed.

22-2534 U.S. v. Spencer, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Tostrud, J.

 

 

 

Photographic Evidence

Sentencing

Where a defendant challenged the admission of evidence and his sentence after being found guilty of a firearm offense, the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting photographs of the firearm and its markings, and the sentence was not unreasonable.

Judgment is affirmed.

22-2113 U.S. v. Day, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri.

 

 

Supervised Release

Revocation; Due Process

Defendant began a three-year term of supervised release for a conviction for use of interstate facilities to promote prostitution. Defendant’s supervised release was first revoked when he admitted to drug use. His parole officer later moved to revoke again for numerous violations, which defendant contested. The district court found that defendant had committed the violations and sentenced defendant to 10 months’ imprisonment followed by two years of supervised release. On appeal, defendant argued that the district court violated his right to confront witnesses and imposed substantively unreasonable conditions of supervised release.

Where defendant’s probation officer was called to the revocation hearing and was available for cross-examination in the defense case, and where the district court declined to allow defendant to confront the victim witness due to concerns about reprisal, no due process violation occurred, and the record supported the need for the new conditions of supervised release.

Judgment is affirmed.

22-1389 U.S. v. Clower, Loken, J. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri.

 

 

 

Supervised Release

Violation; Hearsay

Where a defendant disputed two alleged violations of supervised release, arguing that one rested on improperly admitted hearsay and that he lacked the intent to commit the other, the admission of hearsay was harmless since the defendant’s own admissions confirmed the relevant facts, and it was not clearly erroneous for the district court to infer that the defendant intended to destroy a cellphone when he threw it onto a concrete parking lot from a second-floor balcony.

Judgment is affirmed.

22-2338 U.S. v. Putman, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Northern District of Iowa.

 

 

 

Unlawful Use of ID

Misuse of Social Security Number; Substantive Reasonableness of Sentence

Defendant appealed the judgment of sentence imposed after he pled guilty to unlawful use and possession of an identification document and misuse of a Social Security number. Although defendant requested a time-served sentence, the district court imposed a sentence of time served plus a term of supervised release. Defendant challenged the substantive reasonableness of the term of incarceration.

Where defendant attempted to challenge a term of incarceration he requested, he had no grounds for relief.

Stras, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part: “To the extent Suastegui-Leon challenges the length of a now-expired term of imprisonment, we cannot grant him any relief. See United States v. Juvenile Male, 564 U.S. 932, 936–37 (2011) (per curiam); Owen v. United States, 930 F.3d 989, 990–91 (8th Cir. 2019). The issue is moot, in other words, which means we cannot decide it.”

Judgment is affirmed.

22-2744 U.S. v. Suastegui-Leon, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Northern District of Iowa.

 

 

Domestic Relations

 

Joint Custody Violation

Hague Convention; Mature Child Defense

Where a mother violated a joint custody agreement by traveling from Switzerland to the United States with her 12-year-old daughter, and the father sought the child’s return under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the district court erred in denying the father’s petition based on the mature child defense.

Judgment is reversed.

21-1289 Dubikovskyy v. Goun, Kelly, J. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri.

 

Employer-Employee

 

Discrimination

Termination; Failure to Reinstate

Plaintiff appealed the grant of summary judgment to defendant, plaintiff’s former employer, in his employment discrimination action.

Where plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of discriminatory determination or failure to reinstate under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework, the district court properly granted summary judgment for defendant.

Judgment is affirmed.

22-1950 Guelache v. Conagra Brands, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas.

 

Immigration

 

Denial of Visa Application

Subject Matter Jurisdiction; Reviewability

Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of their suit to reverse the denial of plaintiff Benjamin Slappendel’s application for an immigrant visa. The district court dismissed the case, ruling that decisions on immigrant visas were unreviewable under the circumstances.

Although the district court correctly found that subject matter was lacking, it should have dismissed the action without prejudice due to the lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Judgment is affirmed and modified.

21-2551 Slappendel v. Miller, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Nebraska.

 

Insurance Law

 

Life Insurance Policy

Death Benefit Guarantee; Termination

Where plaintiffs sued an insurer for breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing in a dispute over the termination of a life insurance policy and death benefit guarantee, the plaintiffs failed to allege facts sufficient to prove that their acceptance of the defendant’s terms created an enforceable agreement since the insured was not alive at the time of reinstatement, so the alleged agreement was incomplete, which meant that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim for breach of contract, and the plaintiffs also failed to state a claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing since there was no enforceable agreement and no allegation of a dishonest motive on the defendant’s part.

Judgment is affirmed.

21-3648 GWG DLP Funding V, LLC v. PHL Variable Insurance Company, Gruender, J. Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Doty, J.

 

 

Torts

 

Trip and Fall

Federal Property; Discretionary-Function Exception

Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of his trip and fall complaint. Plaintiff fell while leaving a federal building, falling off a vertical drop after assuming that concrete bollards at the top of the stairs were meant to deter pedestrians from walking down the stairs. The district court dismissed plaintiff’s suit against the government, finding that the claim was barred by the discretionary-function exception to the government’s waiver of sovereign immunity for tort claims.

Where plaintiff failed to identify specific federal rules and regulations regarding design of federal property, the government’s accessibility commitments merely constituted an aspirational principle that did not constrain the discretion of federal building designers.

Judgment is affirmed.

22-1872 Alberty v. U.S., Gruender, J. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa.


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