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8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Digest: Dec. 28, 2022

Attorneys

 

Ethics Complaint

Violation of Constitutional Rights; Abstention

Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of his lawsuit against defendant, the Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, the Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board, various government officials, his former law partner and the partner’s firm and attorneys. Plaintiff and his former law partner had an acrimonious professional relationship that included filing ethics complaints against one another. Plaintiff filed suit, alleging that the disciplinary proceedings against him violated his constitutional rights and constituted malicious prosecution. The district court granted defendants’ motions to dismiss and for Rule 11 sanctions, ruling that plaintiff lacked standing and a valid cause of action.

Where the district court could abstain from the case under the Younger doctrine, the court properly dismissed the case and awarded sanctions where sufficient facts supported a finding that plaintiff’s claims were frivolous and motivated by retaliatory animus towards the private defendants.

Judgment is affirmed.

21-3826 Igbanugo v. Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, Gruender, J. Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Schiltz, J.

 

 

Civil Rights

 

§1983

Unlawful Traffic Stop; Qualified Immunity

Defendant, a state highway patrol trooper, appealed from the denial of his motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. Plaintiff had filed suit under §1983, alleging defendant pulled him over without probable cause. Defendant testified that he stopped defendant for speeding; while processing plaintiff’s information, defendant requested plaintiff’s consent to search his vehicle but uncovered nothing in the search and let plaintiff off with a warning.

Where the factual record was not settled and facts had been assumed by the district court in ruling on defendant’s summary judgment motion, the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain defendant’s appeal.

Appeal is dismissed.

22-1618 Mulbah v. Jansen, Kobes, J. Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of South Dakota.

 

Criminal Law

 

Drug Offense

Plea Agreement; Substantive Reasonableness of Sentence

Defendant appealed the sentence imposed by the district court in accordance with his plea agreement to a drug charge. On appeal, defendant challenged the substantive reasonableness of the sentence and the voluntariness of his plea, asserting that he was actually innocent of the charge.

Where defendant acknowledged that the factual basis of his plea was true and that he was voluntarily entering a plea, there was no basis to challenge the plea or to assert ineffective assistance of counsel.

Judgment is affirmed.

22-2906 U.S. v. Davis, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri.

 

 

Felon in Possession of Firearm

Upward Variance; Consecutive Sentences

Defendant appealed the 180-month sentence imposed by the district court on his brandishing a firearm conviction. Defendant pled guilty to brandishing and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The district court imposed a within-Guidelines sentence for the possession conviction and a consecutive 180-month sentence on the brandishing conviction after varying upward by 96 months.

Where the evidence at sentencing indicated that defendant posed a risk to reoffend, the district court did not abuse its discretion in varying upward or imposing consecutive sentences after weighing all mitigating and aggravating factors to arrive at an individualized sentence.

Judgment is affirmed.

21-3887 U.S. v. Dismuke, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas.

 

 

Possession with Intent to Distribute

Above-Guidelines Sentence; Substantive Reasonableness of Sentence

Defendant appealed his above-Guidelines sentence imposed after he pled guilty to possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute. While the Guidelines range was 78 to 97 months, the government recommended a sentence of 115 months, and defendant asked for a sentence of 97 months, the district court imposed a 180-month sentence.

Where the district court based its sentencing decision on the heightened risk of fentanyl, defendant’s violent criminal history, and his apparent disregard for the law due to violations committed while out on bond, there was no abuse of discretion in imposing an above-Guidelines sentence.

Judgment is affirmed.

22-1098 U.S. v. Owens, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of North Dakota.

 

 

Possession with Intent to Distribute

Motion to Suppress Evidence; Lack of Probable Cause for Search Warrant

Defendant appealed his conviction for possession with intent to distribute and conspiracy, challenging the denial of his motion to suppress evidence. Defendant argued that law enforcement lacked probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant for his residence, and thus the evidence seized in the search and statements he made following his arrest were fruit of the poisonous tree.

Where a cooperating witness informed police that drug activity was occurring at defendant’s residence and investigators monitored a controlled buy at the residence, there was sufficient probable cause for the search warrant, which was not invalidated by any technical violations.

Judgment is affirmed.

22-1042 U.S. v. Becker, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Nebraska.

 

 

Possession with Intent to Distribute

Motion to Suppress Evidence; Traffic Stop

Defendant appealed the denial of her motion to suppress evidence found during a traffic stop. Defendant argued that police lacked reasonable suspicion to extend the traffic stop, which ultimately led to the discovery of the methamphetamine that defendant was convicted for. Defendant further argued that neither she nor her passenger freely and voluntarily consented to the search.

Where officers proceeded with the legitimate purposes of the traffic stop in an expeditious manner, asking off-topic questions did not constitute a Fourth Amendment violation, and officers had a basis to extend the stop when defendant and her passenger gave conflicting stories about the purpose of their travel and gave suspicious explanations about the suitcase in their possession.

Judgment is affirmed.

22-1178 U.S. v. Robles, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas.

 

 

Possession with Intent to Distribute

Revocation of Supervised Release; Withdrawal of Guilty Plea

Defendant appealed the judgment of sentence imposed on remand following revocation of defendant’s supervised release and his conviction for possession with intent to distribute. Defendant argued that he should have been permitted to withdraw his guilty plea.

Where the government fulfilled its obligation under a plea deal that did not contemplate an illegal sentence, the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to permit defendant to withdraw his plea, as any challenges to the performance of standby counsel had to wait for collateral review.

Judgment is affirmed.

22-3367 & 22-3369 U.S. v. Light, per curiam. Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Magnuson, J.

 

 

Revocation of Supervised Release

Incarceration; Substantive Reasonableness of Sentence

Defendant appealed the sentence imposed following the revocation of his supervised release. After finding that defendant had committed three Grade C violations, the district court imposed a within-Guidelines term of incarceration to be followed by a term of supervised release. On appeal, defendant argued that ordering imprisonment rather than extending his residential reentry placement was substantively unreasonable.

Where the district court imposed a within-Guidelines sentence, its sentence was presumptively reasonable, and defendant’s multiple infractions including suspected drug trafficking supported the imposition of incarceration

Judgment is affirmed.

22-2019 U.S. v. Harris, Loken, J. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa.

 

 

Transporting Minor with Intent to Engage in Sexual Activity

Jury Instructions; Knowledge and Intent

Defendant appealed his conviction for transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, challenging the district court’s denial of his motion in limine. Defendant sought jury instructions that would require the government to prove that defendant knew the victim was underage and that he intended to engage in unlawful sexual activity.

Where Congress intended for the criminal statute to have a strict-liability age element, the government was not required to prove that defendant knew the victim’s age, nor was the government required to prove defendant specifically intended to engage in unlawful sexual activity. Instead, the government only needed to prove defendant intended to engage in sexual activity and that such activity was unlawful.

Grasz, J., dissenting: “Yet the court today holds that when trying to convict a person of violating 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a) the government need not prove the defendant knew the person transported was under eighteen years old. Because I believe both the plain language of the statute and well-established rules of statutory construction demand otherwise, I respectfully dissent.”

Judgment is affirmed.

21-3355 U.S. v. Moreira-Bravo, Gruender, J. Appealed from U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa.

 

 

Immigration

Asylum

Convention Against Torture; Criminal History

Petitioner sought review of the BIA’s decision to affirm an IJ’s denial of petitioner’s application for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture. Petitioner came to the U.S. as a refugee of the Somali Civil War but had multiple criminal convictions from 2005 through 2019.

Where the BIA concluded that petitioner’s positive equities, including his family’s presence in the U.S. and his mental health and substance abuse issues, were outweighed by his lengthy criminal history, there was no abuse of discretion in denying petitioner’s application for asylum and withholding of removal where petitioner had not sought treatment for his issues and had failed to establish a clear probability of persecution if returned to Somalia.

Petition is denied.

22-1124 Yusuf v. Garland, per curiam. Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals.


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