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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Ronald Tilley, the appellant, was convicted for robbing a credit union in Bangor, Maine, in 2019. His pre-sentence investigation report (PSI Report) revealed two prior convictions involving potential sexual misconduct, leading to a suggestion for special conditions of supervised release requiring Tilley to participate in sex-offender treatment. The first conviction in 2005 involved an incident where Tilley's then-wife accused him of choking and sexually assaulting her. The second conviction in 2008 was for violating a protective order and involved sexually explicit text messages allegedly exchanged between Tilley and his underage niece. Tilley objected to the sex-offender treatment conditions, leading to a compromise requiring him to undergo a Sexual Offense Assessment and Treatment Evaluation (SOATE).The SOATE, conducted by a licensed clinical social worker, placed Tilley in the "well below average risk" category for sexual recidivism due to the time elapsed since his last sexual misconduct. However, the assessment recommended caution due to a deceptive response in a sexual history polygraph. The SOATE also diagnosed Tilley with antisocial personality disorder and opioid use disorder, and recommended that he have no unsupervised contact with minors and participate in weekly group therapy for sexually problematic behavior.Based on the SOATE report, the government petitioned to add several special conditions to Tilley's supervised release terms, including participation in sex-offender treatment and restrictions on associating with minors. Tilley objected to these conditions, arguing that they were not supported by his previous convictions and that the relevance of these convictions was significantly mitigated by the time elapsed without any sexual misconduct incidents.The United States District Court for the District of Maine granted the government's petition, finding that the proposed modifications promoted the goals of supervised release. The court also found the conditions restricting Tilley's association with minors to be proportionate and reasonably related to the goals of supervised release and his history and characteristics.Tilley appealed, arguing that the district court relied on "clearly erroneous facts" in imposing the modified conditions. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reviewed the case for abuse of discretion and found no clear error. The court upheld the district court's decision, concluding that the modified conditions were reasonable and supported by the record. View "US v. Tilley" on Justia 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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The case revolves around the Employees Retirement System of the Government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (ERS), which was established in 1951 as the Commonwealth's pension program for public employees. The appellants are seven individual beneficiaries of pensions paid by ERS. They had been litigating claims against UBS Financial Services Inc. (UBS) in the Commonwealth Court of First Instance related to UBS's role in issuing ERS pension funding bonds in 2008. Meanwhile, in January 2022, as part of its broad authority to promulgate orders necessary to carry out the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), the district court confirmed the Modified Eighth Amended Title III Joint Plan of Adjustment (the Plan).The district court had previously confirmed the Plan, which implemented several changes related to ERS and its pension plan payments to retired Commonwealth employees. The Plan replaced the Committee with the Avoidance Action Trustee as the plaintiff with exclusive power to prosecute the Underwriter Action and recover damages that ERS incurred. The Plan also ordered the immediate dissolution of ERS.UBS filed a motion to enforce the Plan, requesting that the district court enjoin the ERS Beneficiaries from pursuing the Commonwealth Action. The district court granted UBS's motion and enjoined the ERS Beneficiaries from pursuing the Commonwealth Action. The district court concluded that the ERS Beneficiaries' Commonwealth Action claims were rooted in a generalized injury and were derivative of ERS's right to recover on its own behalf. The district court further rejected the ERS Beneficiaries' arguments that they were entitled to recover for non-derivative general tort claims against UBS under various Commonwealth statutes.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, concluding that the ERS Beneficiaries sought to raise derivative claims that belong exclusively to the Trustee or the Commonwealth. The court held that continued litigation of the FAC's derivative claims violates the terms of the Plan and PROMESA. View "UBS Financial Services Inc. v. Estate of Jose Nazario Serrano" on Justia Law

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Suzanne Brown, a federal prisoner, appealed the denial of her habeas corpus petition. Brown was convicted on twelve counts of making a materially false statement to a federal agency and was sentenced to twelve months of imprisonment and a two-year term of supervised release. She began her term of imprisonment in January 2022, with release scheduled for January 2023. However, in March 2022, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) calculated that Brown had earned fifteen First Step Act (FSA) credits, which it applied to accelerate her release date to December 17, 2022. In August 2022, BOP transferred Brown to home confinement under the emergency measures of the CARES Act, still with a calculated release date of December 17, 2022.Brown filed a petition for habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, arguing that she had earned enough FSA credits to qualify for release on September 2, 2022, and that BOP's decision not to correct her FSA credit calculation and apply FSA credits to accelerate her release would result in her being held unlawfully in custody. A magistrate judge recommended that Brown's petition for habeas corpus be denied, and the district court adopted that recommendation and denied the petition. Brown timely appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reviewed the denial of the habeas petition de novo. Brown conceded that controlling precedent foreclosed some of the relief she sought earlier. She now asked only that the court hold her term of supervised release began on August 2, 2022, when she was transferred to home confinement. However, the court affirmed the denial of habeas relief, stating that the BOP's transfer of Brown to home confinement was a form of BOP custody, and her term of supervised release could not begin until the BOP released her from that custody. The court expressed no view as to whether Brown could receive relief under other procedural mechanisms, such as 18 U.S.C. § 3583. View "Brown v. Penders" on Justia Law

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The case involves Hartono Djokro and his son William Djokro, citizens of Indonesia who entered the United States as nonimmigrant visitors and overstayed their visas. In 2007, Hartono Djokro filed an application for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), including his son as a derivative applicant. They were served with notices to appear by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2008, charging them with removability for having remained in the United States longer than they had been authorized.In 2009, an immigration judge (IJ) denied their applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the CAT. The IJ found that the petitioners were ineligible for relief on several grounds, including that they had failed to establish a pattern or practice of persecution against either Chinese or Christians in Indonesia. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upheld the IJ's decision in 2012. The petitioners' first motion to reopen was denied by the BIA in 2013.In the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the petitioners sought review of the BIA's denial of their second untimely motion to reopen, filed in 2021. The court denied the petition, finding that the BIA reasonably concluded that the petitioners had failed to satisfy the requirements for an exception to late filing. The court held that the BIA did not abuse its discretion in finding that the petitioners failed to establish changed conditions or circumstances material to their eligibility for asylum or withholding of removal. The court found that the record amply supported the BIA's determination that the petitioners had not met their burden of showing that the exception for changed country conditions applies. View "Djokro v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The case involves Carlos M. Rivera-Velázquez, an employee of the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division (CEPD), a component of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Rivera, a military veteran with a service-connected disability, was hired by the CEPD in 2001. Throughout his tenure, he expressed interest in being promoted to a GS-13 position. In 2006, the CEPD was reorganized, and Teresita Rodríguez became Rivera's supervisor. After Rivera returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2010, Rodríguez began checking on his well-being. In 2012, Rivera was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In 2014, Nancy Rodríguez became the chief of the Multimedia Permits and Compliance Branch and Rivera's supervisor. Rivera filed several formal and informal complaints about his treatment by his supervisors, alleging discrimination and harassment.In the lower courts, Rivera filed formal complaints with the EPA Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in 2011, 2017, and 2018, alleging discrimination and retaliation. He also filed claims of "harassment" under EPA Order 4711 in 2017 and 2018. The OCR and the EPA Order 4711 investigations found no merit to Rivera's complaints. Rivera then filed a complaint in the District Court in 2019, alleging employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The District Court granted summary judgment to the Administrator of the EPA on Rivera's claims.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision. The court found that Rivera failed to establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act or retaliation under Title VII. The court concluded that Rivera failed to show that his supervisors regarded him as having a disability, that he was subjected to an adverse action, or that there was a causal connection between his protected conduct and the alleged adverse actions. View "Rivera-Velazquez v. Regan" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute over the construction of an offshore wind project aimed at reducing reliance on fossil fuels. The project, proposed by Vineyard Wind 1, LLC, was expected to provide energy sufficient to power 400,000 Massachusetts homes. However, residents of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket opposed the project, arguing that federal agencies failed to properly assess the potential impact of the project on the endangered North Atlantic right whale.Previously, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts had granted summary judgment in favor of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Vineyard Wind, rejecting the residents' challenge to a biological opinion issued by the NMFS and relied on by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in permitting the construction of the wind power project.In the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the residents challenged the lower court's decision, arguing that the NMFS's determination that the incidental harassment of up to twenty right whales constituted a "small number" under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) was arbitrary, capricious, and unlawful. They also argued that NMFS's consideration of the "specified activity" and the "specific geographic region" within which that activity would occur for purposes of issuing the Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) to Vineyard Wind was impermissibly narrow in scope.The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's decision, finding that the NMFS's determination was not arbitrary or capricious and that it had properly delineated the "specific geographic region" for the purposes of the IHA. The court also found that the residents' concerns about the broader effect of the project on the right whale population were unwarranted, as the agency had considered the impact on the entire right whale population in its "negligible impact" analysis, its biological opinion, and in its participation in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's Environmental Impact Statement. View "Melone v. Coit" on Justia Law

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A group of Nantucket residents, organized as Nantucket Residents Against Turbines, challenged the approval of the Vineyard Wind project by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The project involves the construction of a wind power facility off the coast of Massachusetts. The residents alleged that the federal agencies violated the Endangered Species Act by concluding that the project's construction would not jeopardize the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. They also claimed that BOEM violated the National Environmental Policy Act by relying on a flawed analysis by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).The case was initially heard in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, which granted summary judgment in favor of the federal agencies. The court found that NMFS and BOEM had followed the law in analyzing the right whale's current status and environmental baseline, the likely effects of the Vineyard Wind project on the right whale, and the efficacy of measures to mitigate those effects. The court also found that the agencies' analyses rationally supported their conclusion that Vineyard Wind would not likely jeopardize the continued existence of the right whale.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court. The appellate court found that the lower court had correctly interpreted the law and that the federal agencies had not violated the Endangered Species Act or the National Environmental Policy Act. The court concluded that the agencies' analyses were rational and that their conclusion that the Vineyard Wind project would not likely jeopardize the continued existence of the right whale was supported by the evidence. View "Nantucket Residents Against Turbines v. U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Carlos Rubén Boyrie-Laboy, a Puerto Rico Police officer, who was convicted under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1951, 371, and 641 for his involvement in a conspiracy to commit robbery and theft of government property. Boyrie-Laboy was part of the Humacao Drugs Division, responsible for seizing illegal weapons, drugs, and other contraband. In 2015, Officer Gabriel Maldonado-Martínez joined the division and began working with Boyrie-Laboy. Maldonado-Martínez later became an undercover FBI informant to identify corrupt police officers. Boyrie-Laboy was involved in two thefts of fireworks and was present during two FBI operations designed to catch corrupt officers. However, he did not accept any stolen goods or money from these operations.The government indicted Boyrie-Laboy and three other officers based on these activities. Boyrie-Laboy was charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to steal and convert government property, and theft and conversion of government property. He proceeded to a five-day jury trial, where the jury found him guilty on all counts. Boyrie-Laboy appealed the convictions, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support them.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reviewed the case. Boyrie-Laboy's counsel had declined the opportunity to move for a judgment of acquittal twice during the trial and did not make a post-trial motion for judgment of acquittal. As a result, the court applied the "clear and gross injustice" standard of review. The court found that the evidence sufficiently supported the jury's findings and that upholding Boyrie-Laboy's convictions did not result in a clear and gross injustice. Therefore, the court affirmed the convictions. View "United States v. Boyrie-Laboy" on Justia Law

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The case involves Jennifer Root Bannon, who sued six law enforcement officers and the City of Boston on behalf of her brother's estate. Her brother, Juston Root, was fatally shot by the officers after a series of events that began with him pointing a gun at a hospital security guard and a responding police officer, leading the officers on a high-speed chase, and disregarding police instructions to drop his weapon. Bannon claimed that the officers used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit agreed with the district court's conclusion that the officers acted reasonably under the circumstances during the fatal shooting and did not violate the Fourth Amendment. The court also held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity and affirmed the grant of summary judgment on Bannon's other claims. The court found that no reasonable jury could conclude that the officers acted unreasonably in employing deadly force against Root in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The court also independently concluded that the officers were entitled to summary judgment on Bannon's § 1983 and MCRA claims based on qualified immunity. View "Bannon v. Godin" on Justia Law