Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Paulo Trindade, a former employee of Grove Services, Inc., sued his previous employer for breach of contract and violations of the Massachusetts Wage Act, claiming he had been underpaid on his sales commission compensation for the years 2014, 2015, and 2016. Following a bench trial, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled in part for Trindade and in part for Grove, awarding Trindade $330,597 in damages. Both parties appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the lower court's judgment. The Court of Appeals agreed with the district court's conclusion that Trindade's amended complaint, which included a claim for unpaid wages for 2016, related back to his original complaint, making the claim timely under Massachusetts law. The Court of Appeals also concluded that the district court was correct in its decision to award the damages it did, including an amount for the late payment and underpayment of Trindade's 2016 commission. View "Trindade v. Grove Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute about the interpretation of the National Voter Registration Act ("NVRA"), specifically Section 8(i)(1). The plaintiff, Public Interest Legal Foundation, Inc. ("PILF"), requested a copy of the Maine Party/Campaign Use Voter File ("Voter File") from the Secretary of State for the State of Maine, Shenna Bellows. The Secretary denied the request under Exception J of Maine's Privacy Law, which restricts the use and publication of the Voter File.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that Section 8(i)(1) of the NVRA applies to the Voter File and that Maine's restrictions on the use and publication of the Voter File are preempted by the NVRA. The court reasoned that both federal and state law require Maine election officials to create and update voter registration records, and these activities fall within Section 8(i)(1). The Voter File, as an electronic report generated from the Central Voter Registration system, reflects the additions and changes made by Maine election officials in carrying out voter list registration and maintenance activities. Therefore, it is a record concerning the implementation of those activities, and its use is subject to disclosure under Section 8(i)(1). The Use Ban and Publication Ban under Exception J, as applied to PILF, were found to be preempted by the NVRA, and the fines for violating these restrictions were also preempted. View "Public Interest Legal Foundation, Inc. v. Bellows" on Justia Law

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A pregnant inmate, Lidia Lech, filed a lawsuit against several healthcare providers and staff at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women's Correctional Center (WCC), alleging that they ignored her serious medical symptoms and denied her requests to go to the hospital, resulting in the stillbirth of her baby. The district court permitted most of Lech's claims to proceed to trial, but granted summary judgment in favor of one of the correctional officers. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defense. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found that the district court abused its discretion in two evidentiary rulings. The first error was allowing the defense to use Lech's recorded phone calls to impugn her character for truthfulness. The second error was excluding testimony from Lech's friend, which would have corroborated her version of events. The court concluded that at least one of these evidentiary rulings was not harmless, vacated the jury verdict, and remanded for a new trial against most of the defendants. However, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the correctional officer, as well as the jury verdict in favor of one of the medical providers. View "Lech v. Von Goeler" on Justia Law

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Clare Mundell worked as a licensed clinical psychologist for Acadia Hospital in Maine. She discovered that her male colleagues were paid significantly more than her for comparable work. Mundell brought a sex discrimination action against Acadia under federal and state law, specifically the Maine Equal Pay Law ("MEPL"). The district court found Acadia liable under the MEPL and awarded Mundell treble damages. On appeal, Acadia argued that the district court erred in holding that Mundell could prevail without establishing Acadia's discriminatory intent and because Acadia claimed a reasonable-factor-other-than-sex defense to explain the pay difference. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the MEPL does not impose an intent requirement on a plaintiff, nor does it permit a defendant to rely on a catch-all affirmative defense such as market factors to explain pay disparity. The court also concluded that treble damages are available for MEPL violations. View "Mundell v. Acadia Hospital Corp." on Justia Law

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James De La Cruz was indicted for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin and 400 grams or more of fentanyl. He pleaded guilty to both counts and was subsequently sentenced to 108 months in prison. De La Cruz appealed the sentence, arguing it was substantively unreasonable. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reviewed the case and affirmed the lower court's decision. The court noted that the sentence was within the properly calculated sentencing guideline range and considered the dangerous nature of fentanyl, the large quantity involved in the transaction, and De La Cruz's role as a manager in the drug trafficking organization. Moreover, the court rejected De La Cruz's argument that his sentence was disproportionate to sentences for violent crimes and that he was unfairly punished for the potential harm caused by the drugs, not actual harm. The court also dismissed his claim of sentencing disparity with a co-defendant, noting that De La Cruz and his co-defendant were not identically situated. Lastly, the court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in considering deterrence when determining De La Cruz's sentence. View "US v. De La Cruz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The case involves Nicholas Triantos, who sued various parties, including the law firm that represented Deutsche Bank in the foreclosure sale of his home, and the three partners of the firm. The district court dismissed his suit, and the law firm and its partners then moved for sanctions against Triantos under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. The district court granted the motion and ordered Triantos to pay $10,000 in attorneys' fees and $32.00 in costs. Triantos appealed this order. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed and vacated the order. The court found that the district court had imposed sanctions under Rule 11 without following the rule's procedural requirements. The court explained that the law firm served its motion on Triantos only after the district court had dismissed the case, and it did not meet its obligation under Rule 11's safe-harbor provisions to serve the motion on Triantos twenty-one days prior to filing it with the court. The district court also erred by imposing sanctions without describing in its order the sanctionable conduct or explaining the basis for its decision. View "Triantos v. Guaetta & Benson, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case, the plaintiff, Virginia Cora Ward, the administratrix of the estate of Edmund Edward Ward, appealed against the verdict in favor of Dr. Ernst J. Schaefer. Edmund Edward Ward, who suffered from a rare genetic deficiency that caused his body to refrain from producing a critical blood enzyme, was a subject of experimental enzyme therapy developed by Dr. Schaefer and others. The plaintiff claimed that Dr. Schaefer fraudulently induced Ward to participate in the experimental protocol and failed to obtain informed consent for his participation. However, the jury disagreed and returned a verdict in favor of Dr. Schaefer.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the lower court. The appellate court found that the district court did not err in excluding the patent for the experimental drug from evidence, as its probative value was substantially outweighed by the potential for confusion. Further, the court found no error in the jury instructions provided by the district court regarding the nature of the doctor-patient relationship and the application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. The court concluded that the jury instructions sufficiently conveyed the legal standards to be applied, and the plaintiff failed to show that the occurrence of a medical condition during the experimental protocol implied that the protocol caused the condition. View "Ward v. Schaefer" on Justia Law

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Ricardo Jose Pineda-Maldonado, a native and citizen of El Salvador, sought review of a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) that denied his application for asylum and claims for withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). He entered the United States without inspection in 2016, following threats and physical harm from "cattle thieves" who had previously murdered his father over a gambling-related financial debt. The cattle thieves subsequently targeted Pineda-Maldonado and his brother for the father's debt and also out of fear that they would seek reprisals for their father's murder. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit determined that the BIA's denial of Pineda-Maldonado's claims was not supported by substantial evidence and failed to adequately assess the evidence presented. The court found that the BIA had failed to consider whether the threats Pineda-Maldonado received constituted past or potential future torture, and also failed to find the required nexus between the persecution Pineda-Maldonado experienced and his family status. The court granted the petition, vacated the BIA's decision, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Pineda-Maldonado v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit considered an appeal from a ruling by the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico concerning the restructuring of debts of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico's public power company (PREPA) under Title III of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA). The appellants, GoldenTree Asset Management and Syncora Guarantee (the "Bondholders"), held around $1 billion of PREPA's roughly $8 billion in bonds and sought relief from the automatic stay on actions against PREPA's estate, hoping to appoint a receiver for PREPA.The Bondholders argued that the automatic stay lifted by operation of law, because the district court denied their latest motion for relief without first noticing and holding a hearing within the timeframe prescribed by 11 U.S.C. § 362(e)(1). However, the appellate court held that the Bondholders waived their right to a prompt notice and hearing on that motion for relief. The court reasoned that the Bondholders accepted a litigation schedule that postponed any hearing on their request for leave to seek the appointment of a receiver until after a parallel proceeding about whether—and to what extent—the Bondholders had any collateral to protect in the first place. The court therefore affirmed the judgment of the Title III court. View "GoldenTree Asset Management LP v. Financial Oversight and Management Board" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed a lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the government of Mexico against several U.S. gun manufacturers and a gun distributor. The lawsuit alleges that these companies facilitated illegal gun trafficking into Mexico, causing significant harm to the country. The lower court had dismissed the case based on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which generally prohibits lawsuits against gun manufacturers and sellers for harm caused by the criminal misuse of their products. On appeal, the First Circuit held that the PLCAA does apply to lawsuits initiated by foreign governments for harm suffered outside the United States. However, the court also found that Mexico's lawsuit plausibly alleges a type of claim that is statutorily exempt from the PLCAA's general prohibition, specifically, that the defendants knowingly violated federal and state statutes applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms, and that this violation was a proximate cause of the harm Mexico suffered. The case was remanded back to the lower court for further proceedings. View "Estados Unidos Mexicanos v. Smith & Wesson Brands Inc." on Justia Law