United States v. McLaurin

Defendants McLaurin and Lowery appealed their convictions and sentences for conspiracy and firearms charges related to their involvement in a plan to rob a drug "stash house." The court concluded that the district court did not err in giving the jury supplemental instructions clarifying the term "inducement" on defendants' entrapment defense; the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of prior bad acts under Rule 404(b); the district court did not err in determining that the conspiracy and felon-in-possession offenses were properly joined; even if the counts were improperly joined, the misjoinder caused no actual prejudice to McLaurin; and the court exercised its discretion to correct the plain error in calculating McLaurin's Guidelines' range by vacating his sentence and remanding for resentencing. Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions but vacated McLaurin's sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. McLaurin" on Justia Law

United States v. Stephens

Defendant, convicted of illegal firearm possession, appealed the district court's denial of his pretrial motion to suppress evidence. A law enforcement officer, acting without a warrant, had installed a battery-powered GPS device under the rear bumper of defendant's vehicle. While defendant's case was pending, the Supreme Court held in United States v. Jones that the government's installation of a GPS on a target vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle's movements, constituted a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The district court concluded that, in light of Jones, the officer's warrantless use of the GPS on defendant's vehicle was an unconstitutional search that led to the seizure of the challenged evidence. However, the district court held that the exlcusionary rule did not apply because the officer acted in good faith. The court concluded that, under the facts of this case, the rule announced in Davis v. United States directly controls: the officer's use of the GPS was objectively reasonable at the time because of the binding appellate precedent of United States v. Knotts. Accordingly, the court concluded that the exclusionary rule does not apply and the court affirmed defendant's conviction. View "United States v. Stephens" on Justia Law

EQT Production Co. v. Adair

This appeal arose from the district court's decision to certify five related class action suits where plaintiffs in each case generally alleged that EQT and CNX have unlawfully deprived the class members of royalty payments from the production of coalbed methane gas (CBM) in Virginia. The court granted defendants' petition to appeal the five orders granting class certification and concluded that the district court abused its discretion when it certified the five classes. The court held that the district court's analysis lacked the requisite rigor to ensure that the requirements of Rule 23 were satisfied by any of the certified classes. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "EQT Production Co. v. Adair" on Justia Law

Wood v. Crane Co.

Crane, one of the many defendants in this asbestos litigation, removed this case to federal court, asserting a federal defense to plaintiff's state tort claims. Plaintiff amended his complaint, eliminating the claims underlying that federal defense, and the district court remanded to state court. Crane appealed. The court concluded that it had jurisdiction over the appeal because this case was originally removed under the federal officer removal statute. The court affirmed the district court's decision to remand where Crane complained that it should have been given the opportunity to assert a new basis for federal jurisdiction but it had declined to do so in a timely fashion. View "Wood v. Crane Co." on Justia Law

Russell v. Absolute Collection Services

Plaintiff filed suit against Absolute Collection, alleging that the collection agency's conduct violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692-1692p, and the North Carolina Collection Agency Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. 58-70-1 et seq. Plaintiff alleged that Absolute Collection falsely reported the status of a 2008 debt to credit bureaus as "past due." The district court granted plaintiff's motion for judgment as a matter of law with respect to certain claims under the FDCPA and allowed the state claims to go to the jury, which found in favor of plaintiff. Absolute Collection appealed. The court concluded that the district court did not err in denying Absolute Collection's motion for judgment as a matter of law and held that a debtor is not required to dispute his or her debt under section 1692g as a condition to filing suit under section 1692e. The court rejected Absolute Collection's remaining arguments and affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Russell v. Absolute Collection Services" on Justia Law

United States v. Modanlo

Twenty days after his trial had begun, before the prosecution had finished presenting its evidence, defendant filed a notice of appeal of the district court's written order denying his motion to dismiss one of the eleven charges against him as barred by collateral estoppel. Sixteen days later, on the eve of jury deliberations, defendant filed a second notice of appeal challenging the district court's denial of his motion to sever that same charge from the remainder of the trial. The court dismissed because neither notice was effective to confer appellate jurisdiction over the merits of the underlying rulings. View "United States v. Modanlo" on Justia Law

Cherry, Jr. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City

Plaintiffs, active and retired Baltimore police officers and firefighters who participate in a public pension plan, challenged the City's decision changing the manner in which annual increases to pension benefits are calculated. Plaintiffs claimed that the substitution of a cost-of-living adjustment for a "variable benefit" violates the members' rights under the Contract Clause and the Takings Clause. The court concluded that the members' rights under the Contract Clause were not impaired because the members retained a state law remedy for breach of contract. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment with respect to the City's elimination of the variable benefit. The court affirmed the district court's decision upholding the remaining portions of the ordinance at issue, and vacated the district court's order dismissing the Takings Clause claim. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Cherry, Jr. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City" on Justia Law

Defenders of Wildlife v. NC Dept. of Transp.

This dispute concerns the Bonner Bridge, which provides highway access between mainland North Carolina and the Outer Bank's Hatteras Island. Plaintiffs filed suit claiming that defendants violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321-4370f, and Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. Defendants settled on a plan that essentially mirrors what currently exists: replacing the Bonner Bridge and maintaining NC 12 on Hatteras Island. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment regarding plaintiffs' NEPA challenge where defendants have not engaged in unlawful segmentation with respect to the five studied parallel bridge alternatives. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment regarding plaintiffs' Section 4(f) challenge because a Section 4(f) analysis is irrelevant if the joint planning exception applies. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Defenders of Wildlife v. NC Dept. of Transp." on Justia Law

Flame S.A. v. Freight Bulk Pte. Ltd.

Freight Bulk appealed the district court's denial of its motion to vacate a writ of maritime attachment previously issued in favor of Flame under Supplemental Rule B of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court held that the district court did not err in concluding that the Forward Freight Swap Agreements at issue in this case are maritime contracts. Therefore, the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter before it. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Flame S.A. v. Freight Bulk Pte. Ltd." on Justia Law

Minter v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

Plaintiffs filed a class action suit against defendants, alleging that they violated Section 8 of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. 2607, by creating a joint venture (Prosperity) to skirt RESPA's prohibition on kickbacks while failing to disclose this business arrangement to its customers. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion denying plaintiffs' claims because plaintiffs' failed to move for judgment as a matter of law before the jury reached its verdict and because of the highly deferential lenses through which the court must review the issues before it. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Minter v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law