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

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In this case involving the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon, the First Circuit vacated Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's death sentences and reversed his three convictions for carrying a firearm during crimes of violence, holding that the judge did not meet the standard set by Patriarca v. United States, 402 F.2d 314, 318 (1st Cir. 1968), and erred in denying Tsarnaev's post-trial motion for judgments of acquittal. A jury convicted Tsarnaev of all charges for which he was indicted arising from the Boston Marathon bombing. The district judge imposed a sentence of death on six of the death-eligible counts. On appeal, Tsarnaev argued, among other things, that the judge erred in the way he handled Tsarnaev's venue-change motions and the jury-selection process. The First Circuit held (1) the trial judge in this high-profile case did not fully comply with Patriarca by running a voir dire sufficient to identify prejudice, which provided a sufficient ground to vacate Tsarnaev's death sentences; and (2) because not each of the underlying offenses constituted a crime of violence, three of Defendant's convictions for carrying a firearm for crimes of violence are reversed. View "United States v. Tsarnaev" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the bankruptcy court denying Chapter 7 Trustee Nathaniel Richard Hull's objection to Jeffrey Rockwell's homestead exemption listed at the time he filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, holding that the Bankruptcy Code dictates that Rockwell's homestead exemption maintains the status it held on the day Rockwell filed his bankruptcy petition. When he filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy Rockwell exempted his home from the bankruptcy estate under Maine's homestead law. While the bankruptcy was proceeding, Rockwell sold that home and did not reinvest the proceeds of the sale in another homestead within six months, contrary to Maine law. When he converted his bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 proceeding, Hull objected to Rockwell's homestead exemption. The bankruptcy court denied the objection. The district court affirmed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that exemptions are analyzed on the date the debtor files for bankruptcy and that the complete snapshot rule applies. View "Hull v. Rockwell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy
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The First Circuit affirmed the sentence imposed on Defendant for intimidating or interfering with United States probation officers (count one) and influencing United States probation officers by threat (count two), holding that the sentence was both procedurally and substantively reasonable. Defendant pled guilty to both charges without a plea agreement. The judge gave Defendant an above-guidelines sentence of sixty months in prison, consisting of twelve months on count one and forty-eight months on count two, to run concurrent with each other. Defendant appealed, challenging the substantive and procedural reasonableness of his sentence. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) there was no reversible procedural defect in Defendant's sentence; and (2) the challenged sentence was neither implausible nor indefensible. View "United States v. Davila-Bonilla" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit denied Defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment for failing to update his registration as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 18 U.S.C. 2250(a), holding that venue for a section 2250 prosecution is proper in the departure jurisdiction. Defendant, a state sex offender, failed to update his registration after he moved from Massachusetts to New York. Defendant was indicted in Massachusetts for his failure to register. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that, under the Supreme Court's decision in Nichols v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1113 (2016), he committed no crime in Massachusetts because his failure to register occurred in New York. The district court denied the motion, concluding that venue was proper where Defendant's interstate travel began. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that venue for Defendant's prosecution was proper in Massachusetts because the nature of the offense shows that its locus delicti encompasses the departure jurisdiction. View "United States v. Seward" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's plea-based conviction for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, holding that Defendant's prosecution did not violate constitutional double jeopardy protections. In 2011, Defendant pleaded guilty in the United States District Court of the District of Puerto Rico to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute. In 2016, Defendant pleaded guilty in the United States District Court of the District of Puerto Rico to a drug trafficking conspiracy charge. Defendant appealed, arguing that his double jeopardy rights were violated because the two conspiracy prosecutions concerned conduct at the same "places" and charged him with violations of "the same statutory provision." The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was a rational basis to conduct that the two conspiracies were distinct. View "United States v. Perez-Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint seeking to recoup assets purportedly gifted to a charitable institution for less than adequate consideration by Plaintiff's ex-husband, holding that the district court erred by dismissing Plaintiff's claims on the basis that she lacked standing. Janet and Robert Foisie entered into a divorce settlement agreement in which each party agreed to a mutually acceptable split of assets. When Janet discovered that Robert had fraudulent transferred several million dollars to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Janet brought a civil action against WPI asserting claims of actual and constructive fraudulent transfers under both the common law and Connecticut's version of the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (UFTA). The district court dismissed the complaint. The First Circuit vacated the judgment, holding (1) Janet easily satisfied the three elements of Article III standing, and her claims were ripe; (2) a choice-of-law analysis would be better performed on a more fully developed factual record; (3) the district court erred by dismissing Janet's UFTA claims on the basis that she lacked standing as a creditor; (4) the dismissal of Janet's common law claims on preemption grounds cannot stand; and (5) Janet's UFTA and common law claims were adequately pleaded. View "Foisie v. Worcester Polytechnic Institute" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA) decision to deny his application for deferral of removal under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT), holding that Petitioner was not eligible for deferral of removal under the CAT. Petitioner, who was born in Venezuela, was convicted of heroin trafficking in the United States. Petitioner was subsequently served with a notice informing him that he was removable as an alien convicted of an aggravated felony. Petitioner requested withholding of removal under CAT protection, stating that if he returned to Venezuela he feared retaliation by drug traffickers, as well as persecution, torture, and death because of his earlier membership in a Venezuelan opposition political party. An immigration judge (IJ) denied Petitioner's application, and the BIA dismissed Petitioner's appeal. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the record did not compel the conclusion that Petitioner demonstrated eligibility for deferral of removal under the CAT. View "Sanabria Morales v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Walden Security and dismissing the suit brought by Plaintiffs for statutory separation pay pursuant to Puerto Rico Law 80, holding that Plaintiffs had no remedy pursuant to Law 80. Plaintiffs had served as court security officers for the District of Puerto Rico for thirty-two years when Walden Security assumed the federal contract to provide courthouse security services. Walden refused to hire Plaintiffs because they lacked certification from a law enforcement training academy. Plaintiffs subsequently filed the instant lawsuit for statutory separation pay. The district court granted summary judgment for Walden, reasoning that Law 80 did not apply to Plaintiffs' claims. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the district erred in ignoring the theory of liability that Plaintiff's advanced: Puerto Rico's common law successor employer doctrine. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court misconstrued Plaintiffs' theory of liability; but (2) the successor employer doctrine was clearly inapplicable to Plaintiffs' case. View "Lopez-Santos v. Metropolitan Security Services" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to TLS Management and Marketing Services, LLC (TLS) on its breach of contract claims against Ricky Rodriguez-Toledo, ASG Accounting Solutions Group, Inc. (ASG), and Global Outsourcing Services, LLC (GOS) and the court's finding that Rodriguez and ASG were liable for misappropriation of trade secrets, holding that TLS failed to prove its trade secret claims, and the nondisclosure agreements were unenforceable. Rodriguez was the founder of ASG, a company that, like TLS, offered services in tax planning. ASG signed a subcontractor agreement with TLS that included a nondisclosure provision. Rodriguez later began working for TLS and signed a nondisclosure agreement. After his departure from TLS Rodriguez provided tax services in competition with TLS through ASG and GOS. TLS alleged that Rodriguez and ASG misappropriated TLS's trade secrets and that Rodriguez, ASG, and GOS breached their nondisclosure agreements. The district court granted summary judgment to TLS on the breach of contract claims. After a non-jury trial on the trade secret claims, the district court found in favor of TLS. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) TLS failed to satisfy its burden to prove the existence of trade secrets; and (2) the nondisclosure agreements were so broad as to be unenforceable. View "TLS Management & Marketing Services, LLC v. Rodriguez-Toledo" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Appellants' motion to compel arbitration in this putative class action, holding that the Federal Arbitration Act's (FAA) exemption for "contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce" encompasses the contracts of transportation workers who transport goods or people within the flow of interstate commerce. Plaintiff was a delivery driver for Amazon.com, Inc. and its subsidiary, Amazon Logistics, Inc. (collectively, Amazon) who collected packages for delivery in Massachusetts and did not cross state lines during the course of his deliveries. Plaintiff filed this putative class action asserting misclassification of Amazon's drivers contracted with through its smartphone application as independent contractors and violations of Massachusetts labor laws. Amazon moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the mandatory arbitration provision of Plaintiff's employment agreement with Amazon. The district court denied the motion in part, concluding that Plaintiff's agreement was exempt from the FAA and that the provision was unenforceable based on Massachusetts public policy. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the FAA does not govern the enforceability of the dispute resolution section of the agreement; and (2) the district court rightly refused to compel arbitration pursuant to state law. View "Waithaka v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law