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

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The case involves a dispute over the rights of parties holding certain revenue bonds issued by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority ("PREPA") before it entered reorganization proceedings under Title III of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act ("PROMESA"). The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico ("the Board") filed an adversary proceeding within the Title III restructuring proceeding to define the rights and remedies that bondholders had against PREPA. The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico held that the bondholders only had a secured claim on moneys deposited into the Sinking and Subordinate Funds, and that the bondholders had an unsecured claim on PREPA's Net Revenues.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit disagreed with the district court's findings. The appellate court held that the bondholders have a lien on PREPA's present and future Net Revenues, and that the bondholders' lien is not avoidable. The court also held that the proper amount of the bondholders' claim is the face value (i.e., principal plus matured interest) of the Revenue Bonds. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the bondholders' breach of trust claim, but reversed the dismissal of the bondholders' accounting claim. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the appellate court's opinion. View "Financial Oversight and Management Board v. U.S. Bank National Assn." on Justia Law

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The case involves a 52-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, G.P., who unlawfully entered the United States twice and was convicted for drug trafficking both times. After serving his sentence for the second conviction, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intended to remove him again. However, G.P. expressed fear of retaliation in the Dominican Republic due to his cooperation with the government in prosecuting the leader of the drug trafficking organization. An asylum officer found his fear credible and placed him into withholding-only proceedings. G.P. applied for deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), but his application was denied by an immigration judge (IJ) and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). G.P. appealed the decision, and the case was remanded for further consideration of his CAT claim.While his CAT claim was pending, G.P. was held in immigration detention. He brought an application for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that there was "no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future," and that he should therefore be released subject to supervision. The district court disagreed, and G.P. appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that G.P.'s situation was distinguishable from the case of Zadvydas v. Davis, which G.P. cited as precedent. The court noted that G.P.'s detention was not indefinite or potentially permanent, as his CAT proceedings were still pending and there was no indication of bad faith or undue delay by the agency. Furthermore, G.P. did not dispute that if he was ultimately denied relief, the government would be able to remove him to the Dominican Republic. Therefore, the court concluded that G.P. had failed to show that there was "no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future." View "G.P. v. Garland" on Justia Law

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A graphic designer, Cynthia Foss, filed a lawsuit against Marvic, Inc., Brady-Built, Inc., and Charter Communications, alleging copyright infringement. Foss claimed that Marvic and Brady-Built used a marketing brochure she created without her permission. She also sought a declaratory judgment that Charter Communications was not eligible for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's safe-harbor defense.Previously, Foss had filed a similar lawsuit against Marvic alone, which was dismissed because she had not registered her copyright before filing the suit. This dismissal was affirmed by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. In the current case, the District Court dismissed Foss's copyright infringement claim against Marvic and Brady-Built on the grounds of claim preclusion, citing the dismissal of her earlier lawsuit. The court also dismissed her claim against Charter Communications for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a plausible claim.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated the dismissal of the copyright infringement claim against Marvic and Brady-Built. The court found that the dismissal of Foss's earlier lawsuit was not a "final judgment on the merits" for claim preclusion purposes. However, the court affirmed the dismissal of Foss's claim against Charter Communications for lack of jurisdiction. The court also vacated the District Court's alternative merits-based dismissal of Foss's claim against Charter Communications. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Foss v. Marvic" on Justia Law

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A minor, L.M., represented by his father and stepmother, sued the Town of Middleborough, Massachusetts, the Middleborough School Committee, and various school officials, alleging that his First Amendment rights were violated when he was prohibited from wearing a t-shirt that read "There Are Only Two Genders" at his public middle school. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied L.M.'s motion for a preliminary injunction and granted final judgment in favor of the defendants.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the District Court's rulings. The Court of Appeals held that the school officials reasonably interpreted the message on L.M.'s t-shirt as demeaning to the gender identities of other students. The court also found that the school officials reasonably forecasted that the t-shirt's message would negatively affect the psychology of students with the demeaned gender identities and disrupt the learning environment. The court concluded that the school's actions were permissible under the "material disruption" limitation of the Supreme Court's decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which allows schools to regulate student speech that materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder.The Court of Appeals also rejected L.M.'s facial challenges to the school's dress code, finding that he lacked standing to challenge one provision and that the other provision was not unconstitutionally vague or overbroad. View "L. M. v. Town of Middleborough, Massachusetts" on Justia Law

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The defendant, Yavier Mojica-Ramos, was on supervised release after serving a five-year sentence for possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. In 2020, he was arrested for unlawfully possessing two modified machine guns, discovered when police officers were enforcing a COVID-19 mask mandate. Mojica entered into a plea agreement in 2021, promising to plead guilty to the unlawful possession charge. The agreement required both parties to request a sentence within the guidelines range, later calculated as thirty-seven to forty-six months.The government filed a sentencing memorandum requesting an upper-end guidelines sentence of forty-six months, attaching photos and a video from Mojica's cellphone as evidence of his involvement in other criminal behavior. Mojica filed a motion to compel specific performance of the plea agreement, alleging that the government breached the agreement by advocating for an upwardly variant sentence. The district court denied Mojica's motion.The district court imposed an upwardly variant seventy-two-month sentence for the unlawful possession charge, rejecting the parties' recommendations for a guidelines sentence. Immediately following this, the court held a supervised release revocation hearing and issued a sixty-month statutory maximum revocation sentence to run consecutively to Mojica's unlawful possession sentence.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found that the prosecutor's sentencing advocacy did not conform to the meticulous standards of performance required by Mojica's entrance into the plea agreement. The court vacated Mojica's sentences for unlawful possession and revocation, remanding the cases for resentencing before a different judge. View "United States v. Mojica-Ramos" on Justia Law

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The defendant, Ronald Yoel Marte Carmona, was convicted on charges related to multiple fentanyl sales. He appealed, challenging the district court's denial of his motions to suppress the fruits of a Terry stop and arguing that the evidence supporting his six convictions was insufficient.Previously, the defendant had been indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl, and five counts of distribution and possession with intent to distribute forty grams or more of fentanyl. Each of the distribution counts corresponded with a particular controlled buy. The defendant moved to suppress the fruits of a traffic stop and the fruits of a search of an apartment, arguing that the stop was unconstitutional because it was not supported by probable cause or reasonable suspicion. The district court denied the motions, finding that the agents possessed reasonable suspicion to effectuate the stop.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the Terry stop was reasonable, grounded in articulable suspicion, and that the verdicts were supported by the record evidence. The court also found that the agents who stopped the defendant possessed a reasonable, articulable suspicion that he was involved in past criminal conduct, making the Terry stop permissible. The court further held that the evidence presented at trial established that a rational factfinder could conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was guilty of the charges. View "US v. Carmona" on Justia Law

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The defendant, Jean Carlos Polaco-Hance, was convicted of being a felon in unlawful possession of a machinegun. He was sentenced to seventy-two months in prison, a sentence that was forty percent higher than the upper end of the range recommended under the federal sentencing guidelines. Polaco appealed his sentence, arguing that it was both procedurally and substantively unreasonable.In the lower courts, Polaco had pled guilty to attempting to smuggle about $100,000 in cash from the United States to the Dominican Republic and making a false statement to a United States agency. He was sentenced to fifteen months of imprisonment for each offense, to be served concurrently, and three years of supervised release. He began his supervised release term on May 29, 2020. About three months later, Polaco was arrested for the offenses that form the basis of this appeal. A federal grand jury indicted Polaco on one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and one count of unlawfully possessing a machinegun. The case proceeded to trial, after which a jury found Polaco guilty on both counts.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that the district court had provided sufficient reasons to justify its higher sentence, including the large amount of ammunition in Polaco's possession. The court also found that the sentence was both procedurally and substantively reasonable. The court noted that the district court had considered Polaco's machinegun possession alongside other case-specific factors, including the large cache of ammunition and the high-capacity magazines Polaco had when he was arrested, as well as what the district court viewed as a heightened need for deterrence. View "US v. Polaco-Hance" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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A Rhode Island oral and maxillofacial surgeon, Dr. Stephen T. Skoly, refused to comply with a COVID-19 Emergency Regulation issued by the Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH) that required all healthcare workers and providers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Following his public declaration of noncompliance, the RI DOH issued a Notice of Violation and Compliance Order against him. Skoly then filed a lawsuit in federal court against the state and its officials, alleging violations of equal protection, due process, and First Amendment rights. The district court dismissed his complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).The district court's decision was based on the fact that the state officials were either entitled to absolute or qualified immunity for their actions. The court held that the RI DOH directors were exercising prosecutorial authority delegated to them by Rhode Island law, thus granting them absolute immunity. As for Governor McKee, the court found that he was protected by qualified immunity as Skoly had no clearly established right to continue practicing while violating the vaccine mandate. The court also rejected Skoly's First Amendment retaliation claim, stating that the posting of the Notice constituted government speech, which could not form the basis of a plausible First Amendment retaliation claim.Upon appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Skoly's complaint. The appellate court agreed with the lower court's findings that the state officials were entitled to either absolute or qualified immunity and that Skoly's constitutional claims were without merit. The court also upheld the dismissal of Skoly's First Amendment retaliation claim, stating that Skoly had not sufficiently alleged that he was targeted due to his opposition to the First Emergency Regulation. View "Skoly v. McKee" on Justia Law

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Nathan Reardon, who had been self-employed for 24 years, was convicted of bank fraud after submitting fraudulent applications for loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a financial assistance program enacted by Congress in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reardon used several of his businesses to submit the fraudulent applications and misused the funds from the approved loan. He was sentenced to twenty months of imprisonment and three years of supervised release. As part of his sentence, the district court imposed a special condition prohibiting Reardon from all forms of self-employment during his supervised release term.Reardon appealed this special condition, arguing that it was overly restrictive and unnecessary. The government suggested a "middle ground" where the condition could be modified to avoid a total prohibition against self-employment, but the district court overruled Reardon's objection and imposed the self-employment ban without explaining why it was the minimum restriction necessary to protect the public, as required by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found that while the district court was justified in imposing an occupational restriction, it did not provide sufficient explanation for why a total ban on self-employment was the minimum restriction necessary to protect the public. The court therefore vacated the self-employment ban and remanded the case for reconsideration of the scope of that restriction. View "United States v. Reardon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Criminal Law
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The case involves an Indonesian family, Edwin Kurniawan Tulung, Elizabeth Angelia Karauwan, and their son Enrico Geraldwin Tulung, who fled to the United States in 2004 due to fear of persecution for their Christian faith. They entered the US on tourist visas and applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Their application was denied by an Immigration Judge in 2009, a decision affirmed by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in 2011 on the grounds that past harm did not rise to the level of persecution and future persecution was not sufficiently likely. The family's petition for review was denied in 2012.The family filed their first motion to reopen based on changed country conditions in 2014, which was denied by the BIA. They did not appeal. In 2020, they filed their second motion to reopen, which was also denied by the BIA. Again, they did not seek judicial review. Instead, they filed three motions in 2022: a third motion to reopen, a motion to reconsider the denial of the second motion to reopen, and a motion to amend the second motion to reopen. The BIA denied all three motions.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the BIA's denial of the motions to reconsider and amend. However, it found that the BIA committed an error of law in reviewing the motion to reopen. The court held that the BIA incorrectly disregarded evidence by comparing it to conditions at the time of the previous motion to reopen, rather than at the time of the original merits hearing. The court vacated the BIA's denial of the motion to reopen and remanded for further proceedings. View "Tulung v. Garland" on Justia Law