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

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The First Circuit reversed the ruling of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of a general liability insurer (Insurer) and dismissing Insured's complaint seeking full coverage of its defense when the company faced a trade secrets lawsuit brought by a competitor, holding that Insured was entitled to summary judgment on the duty to defend.Insured brought this action after Insurer only paid for some of Insured's defense. Insurer counterclaimed seeking a declaratory judgment of absolution from policy coverage. During discovery, both parties moved to compel responses. A magistrate judge denied Insurer's request for information exchanged between Insured and its lawyers and then stayed discovery until it ruled on cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court then granted summary judgment for Insurer. The First Circuit held (1) the district court erred in granting summary judgment for Insurer, and Insured was entitled to summary judgment on the duty to defend; (2) on the reasonableness of the defense, the case is remanded for further proceedings; and (3) the district court correctly granted Insurer's motion to compel. View "Lionbridge Technologies, LLC v. Valley Forge Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's decision granting summary judgment to Defendants, Norman Sylvester and the Town of Bourne, Massachusetts and dismissing Plaintiff's lawsuit alleging that the discipline he faced as a firefighter violated his constitutional rights, holding that the district court did not err.In his complaint, Plaintiff claimed that he refused to sit for a "promotional" photograph in violation of his religious beliefs and that he was disciplined as a result of his refusal. Plaintiff brought this complaint against Sylvester, in his role as Fire Chief of the Bourne Fire Department, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, for violation of his rights under the Free Exercise Clause, and against the Town and Sylvester under the Massachusetts Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch,. 149, 148. The district court granted summary judgment to Sylvester on qualified immunity grounds on the section 1983 claim and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claim. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly concluded that Sylvester did not violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights, as required by the first prong of the qualified immunity analysis; and (2) there was no abuse of discretion in the district court's decision declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claim. View "Swartz v. Sylvester" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated Defendant's convictions for nine counts of wire fraud and six counts of aggravated identity theft for his participation in an alleged health insurance fraud scheme, holding that the verdict form that was submitted to the jury violated Defendant's federal constitutional right to a jury trial, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the district court invaded the jury's over fact-finding by overemphasizing certain of the government's evidence in a manner that was contrary to Appellant's interests, in violation of Appellant's Sixth Amendment right; and (2) there was a reasonable possibility that the constitutional violation at issue influenced the jury in reaching its verdicts in this case, and therefore, the verdicts could not stand, and remand was required. View "United States v. Moffett" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's requested credit for accepting responsibility for the two offenses of conviction because he had offered to plead guilty to those offenses and later declined to contest the offenses at trial, holding that the district court did not err.Appellant was convicted of two counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. At sentencing, Appellant requested a two-level reduction in offense level of acceptance of responsibility. The district court denied the request and sentenced Appellant to 180 months' imprisonment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Appellant credit for acceptance of responsibility. View "United States v. Gauthier" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant's complaint asserting that New Hampshire's criminal defamation statute was unconstitutionally vague in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and violated the First Amendment by criminalizing defamatory speech, holding that Appellant's allegations did not assert viable constitutional claims.At issue was N.H. Rev. Stat. 644:11(I), which provides that a person is guilty of a misdemeanor if he "purposely communicates to any person, orally or in writing, any information he knows to be false and knows will tend to expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule." Appellant was twice charged under the statute. Appellant later brought this complaint. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Garrison v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 64 (1964), precluded Appellant's First Amendment attack on section 644:11; and (2) the New Hampshire statute was not unconstitutionally vague. View "Frese v. Formella" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) that denied Petitioner's motion to reopen and terminate his removal proceedings but granted the petition and vacated the BIA's ruling as to Petitioner's motion to reopen and rescind an in absentia removal order against him, holding that Petitioner received the requisite notice.In his motion to reopen to terminate his removal proceedings Petitioner argued that the immigration court lacked jurisdiction over his removal proceedings and in his motion in the alternative to reopen and rescind his removal order in absentia he argued that he did not receive proper notice in accordance with 8 U.S.C. 1229(a). The First Circuit rejected Petitioner's first argument but agreed with his second, holding that the BIA did not permissibly construe the term "notice" in concluding that Petitioner received the requisite notice to be ordered removed in absentia for failing to appear at his removal proceedings. View "Laparra-Deleon v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss this action for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, holding that Plaintiffs did not plausibly allege defamation under principles of the First Amendment and that there was otherwise no error.Dana Cheng and Epoch Group sued Dan Neumann and Maine People's Alliance in Maine federal court alleging defamation based on statements in an article written by Neumann and published by Maine People's Alliance entitled "Maine GOP hosts speaker present at Jan. 6 Capitol assault." The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and New York's anti-SLAPP statute. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the challenged statements were non-actionable opinions and that Plaintiffs' remaining challenges were waived. View "Cheng v. Neumann" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals arising from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Triangle Cayman Asset Company and Oriental Bank in a foreclosure action brought by Triangle against Appellants, who brought counterclaims against Triangle and brought in Oriental as a third party defendant, the First Circuit held that remand was required for further proceedings.While the procedural history of this case was complex, the First Circuit held, ultimately, that (1) several aspects of the appeals here as to Triangle were moot and required dismissal; (2) the district court did not err in dismissing the breach of contract and fraud counterclaims against Triangle; (3) the district court did not err in entering summary judgment in favor of Oriental; and (4) as to appeal number three, in which Appellants challenged the district court's judgments entered on January 3, 2020, the judgments were void. View "Triangle Cayman Asset Co. v. LG & AC, Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The First Circuit granted in part Petitioner's petition for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirming the denial of Petitioner's application for withholding of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and for protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), holding that the BIA erred in rejecting Petitioner's social group claim.An immigration judge denied Petitioner's application for withholding of removal and ordered him removed. The BIA dismissed Petitioner's appeal, finding that Petitioner had not established eligibility for withholding of removal. The First Circuit granted in part Petitioner's petition for review and vacated in part the decision of the BIA, holding (1) the BIA's decision rejecting Petitioner's social group claim was in error, and remand was required for the BIA to consider whether Petitioner's proposed social group satisfied the requirements for constituting a particular social group under the INA to which Petitioner belonged; and (2) Petitioner was not entitled to relief on his remaining claims of error. View "Chavez v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit granted Petitioner's petition for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirming the denial of Petitioner's application for deferral of removal to Honduras under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), holding that the BIA erred in its review of the decision of the immigration judge (IJ).The IJ denied deferral of removal to Honduras, concluding that Petitioner was not likely to be tortured by, or with the consent or acquiescence of, the Honduran government. The BIA found no error in the IJ's determination. The First Circuit reversed, holding the the BIA erred when it (1) applied the incorrect standard of review to uphold the IJ's denial of CAT relief as to Honduras; (2) improperly failed to address Petitioner's argument that he would likely be tortured by or at the instigation of Honduran officials; and (3) failed meaningfully to address Petitioner's argument that MS-13 members may act under color of law. View "H.H. v. Garland" on Justia Law