Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ suit challenging the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) termination of tier disability benefits for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on Plaintiffs’ failure to have exhausted their administrative remedies. After the SSA terminated the disability benefits that Plaintiffs had been receiving, Plaintiffs challenged that decision administratively. Before they had exhausted the administrative review process, however, Plaintiffs filed suit in federal court seeking various kinds of relief based presumably on the same grounds as the claims that had presented to the SSA in seeking to continue to receive their benefits. The district court granted the government’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to show that they could not obtain a restoration of their benefits through the administrative review process, despite evidence suggesting that they would have a substantial chance of doing so. View "Justiniano v. Social Security Administration" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants in this action filed by Plaintiff claiming that Defendants discriminated against her based on her gender and sexual preference and exposed her to a hostile work environment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and various provisions of Puerto Rico law. The district court ultimately dismissed all of the claims. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the district court erred in concluding that Plaintiff failed to show a genuine factual dispute as to whether she experienced a hostile work environment based on gender and retaliatory motivation and erred in finding those claims to be untimely. The Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims under both federal and Commonwealth law, holding that Plaintiff failed to meet her burden to produce competent evidence showing that any of the work conditions she encountered within the statute of limitations period amounted to harassment on the basis of the improper motivations she alleged. View "Maldonado-Catala v. Municipality of Naranjito" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration of the district court’s grant of summary judgment dismissing all of their claims against various insurance companies and certain of those companies’ employees under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and Puerto Rico law. The complaint alleged that Defendants unlawfully interfered with Plaintiffs’ right to “make or enforce” existing and prospective contracts with Defendants’ insureds or third-party claimants. The district court granted summary judgment on all claims against Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, largely on waiver grounds, holding (1) Plaintiffs expressly waived certain issues on appeal by failing to raise them in their opening brief; and (2) Plaintiffs’ remaining claims on appeal were unavailing. View "Best Auto Repair Shop, Inc. v. Universal Insurance Group" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated Defendant’s sentence imposed in connection with his conviction for five counts of using facilities of interstate commerce in connection with the hiring of a person to commit a murder in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1958(a), holding that the indictment was multiplicitous and that the five counts of conviction should be merged. On appeal, the court held (1) the district court did not commit reversible error in allowing certain testimony; but (2) the appropriate unit of prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 1958(a) is a single plot to murder a single individual, not the number of times that the facilities of interstate commerce were used. Therefore, the indictment used the wrong unit of prosecution and, thus, was multiplicitous. View "United States v. Gordon" on Justia Law

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In this civil rights action brought of a Town of Hull police officer, the First Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim, affirmed the district court’s holding that Plaintiff’s Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 185(b)(3) claim was waived, and vacated the entry of summary judgment as to Plaintiff’s state claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 185(b)(1) and directed the district court to dismiss this claim without prejudice. When Plaintiff, a decade-long veteran of the police department, was passed over for a promotion, he brought suit alleging that the Town of Hull and its then chief of police alleging that Defendants intentionally let his application lapse and did not promote him, in retaliation for exposing the police chief’s professional misconduct. The district court granted summary judgment for the Town. The First Circuit largely affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly held that Plaintiff failed to raise a genuine dispute as to whether the Town’s Board of Selectmen ratified the alleged retaliation; (2) Plaintiff waived his section 185(b)(3) claim; and (3) the court declines to exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s remaining state law claim based on section 185(b)(1) of the Massachusetts Whistleblower Act. View "Saunders v. Town of Hull" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the order of the district court granting Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a Network Investigative Technique (NIT) warrant obtained from a magistrate judge in the Eastern District of Virginia, holding that suppression was not warranted where the FBI acted in good faith reliance on the NIT warrant. The FBI in this case installed the NIT software on Playpen, a child pornography website it had taken over and was operating out of Virginia. The NIT effectively travelled to computers that were downloading from the website and then caused those computers to transmit information back to the FBI allowing the FBI to locate the computers. One computer the FBI located in this manner belonged to Defendant, who lived in Massachusetts. Defendant was charged with one count of possession of child pornography. The district court granted Defendant’s motion to suppress, concluding that the NIT warrant was issued without jurisdiction because the warrant purported to authorize a search of property located outside the federal judicial district where the issuing judge sat. The First Circuit reversed, holding that because the executing officers acted in good faith reliance on the NIT warrant, the exception set forth in United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984) applied. View "United States v. Levin" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to vacate his consecutive sentence, holding that Appellant’s appeal from the district court’s ruling was foreclosed by the First Circuit’s recent decision in United States v. Ellison, 866 F.3d 32 (1st Cir. 2017). Appellant was convicted of federal armed bank robbery, conspiracy, and possession of a firearm by a felon, for which he received a 210-month prison sentence. Appellant was also convicted of use of a firearm during a crime of violence, for which he received a consecutive five-year mandatory minimum sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)(i). In moving to vacate his consecutive five-year sentence Appellant argued that the definition of “crime of violence” in 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(B) was unconstitutionally vague. The district court denied the motion, concluding that Defendant’s crime of federal armed bank robbery still qualified as a crime of violence under section 924(c)(3)(A) - the force clause. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that federal bank robbery, and a fortiori federal armed bank robbery, are crimes of violence under the force clause of section 924(c)(3). View "Hunter v. United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress drugs, a digital scale, and a firearm obtained following a traffic stop of the vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger. In his motion to suppress, Defendant argued that the evidence was obtained through an illegal search and pat-frisk. The district judge denied the motion after an evidentiary hearing, finding that the pat-frisk was warranted. Defendant then pled guilty to possession of heroin with intent to distribute, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding that the totality of the circumstances provided a particularized objective basis for the officer’s suspicion that Defendant was armed and dangerous, and therefore, the district court properly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress. View "United States v. Orth" on Justia Law

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While police officers conducted an unlawful search by testing a key in the lock of the unit in which he was staying, the district court properly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress because, in searching the apartment, the officers relied in good faith on a warrant issued to search that unit. The key was seized from Defendant during a search incident to his arrest. The police tried the key on doors to apartments inside a multi-family building outside which Defendant was arrested. The key opened the door to one of the units. When a warrant issued, police searched the unit and discovered a firearm and drugs. The district court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress. Defendant was subsequently convicted drug- and firearm-related crimes. The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction and sentence, holding (1) there was an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment, but the exclusionary rule should not apply in this case; (2) the district court did not err in admitting evidence that there was a credit-card-making machine in the unit; and (3) under plain error review, there was no error in the district court’s application of the fifteen-year-mandatory minimum sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act. View "United States v. Bain" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit dismissed portions of this interlocutory appeal for want of appellate jurisdiction and otherwise affirmed the district court’s ruling that Defendant was not entitled to qualified immunity at the summary judgment stage. Stephen McKenney died at the hands of Defendant, a police officer “who was trying to do his job.” Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Defendant’s use of deadly force transgressed McKenney’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures. Defendant filed an interlocutory appeal challenging a pretrial ruling in which the district court denied summary judgment for Defendant on qualified immunity grounds. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal in part for want of appellate jurisdiction and otherwise affirmed the district court’s denial of summary judgment, holding (1) certain aspects of the interlocutory order denying summary judgment were not appealable; and (2) while this court had jurisdiction to consider whether the contours of the relevant Fourth Amendment law were so blurred at the time Defendant shot McKenney that he was deserving of qualified immunity, the argument lacked force. View "McKenney v. Mangino" on Justia Law