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

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction for production of child pornography, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress a video on his cellphone under the private search doctrine. When Defendant's wife was looking through pictures on Defendant's cellphone she discovered a video of the couple's daughter masturbating Defendant. The wife brought the cellphone to law enforcement authorities and directed their attention to the video. Defendant was subsequently indicted on a charge of production of child pornography. Defendant moved to suppress the video and his ensuing confession, arguing that the officers violated the Fourth Amendment by accessing the video without a warrant and prior to obtaining his consent. The district court denied the motion to suppress. Defendant was subsequently convicted and sentenced to a 360-month term of immurement. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) under the circumstances, the officers initially could not be said to have conducted a "search" of Defendant's cellphone, and two reexaminations of the video fell within the protections of the private search doctrine; and (2) there was no procedural error at Defendant's sentencing, and the sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Rivera-Morales" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Petitioner's successive federal habeas petition, holding that the sentencing judge did not rely on Petitioner's career-offender designation in setting Petitioner's term of imprisonment. In 1998, pursuant to a plea agreement, Petitioner was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison for drug dealing. The above-Guidelines sentence reflected Petitioner's role in two uncharged violent crimes. In 2018, Petitioner filed his successive federal habeas petition claiming that his status as a career offender under the Sentencing Guidelines impacted his sentence. Basing his argument on intervening Supreme Court caselaw holding the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) unconstitutional, Petitioner claimed that the new precedent on the ACCA also invalidated the Guidelines classification and requested resentencing to a lesser term of imprisonment. The habeas court denied the petition for habeas relief for failure to show actual prejudice. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the habeas court did not commit clear error that Petitioner had not shown a reasonable probability that his sentence would have been different absent the career-offender designation. View "Bartolomeo v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court ruling against Paraflon Investments, Ltd. on its state-law misrepresentation claims against Fullbridge, Inc. and its principals, Peter Olson and Candice Olson, holding that there was no clear error in the district court's determinations. Fullbridge sought investments from Paraflon regarding a project involving the production of online training courses. After its investment deteriorated, Paraflon brought suit against Fullbridge and the Olsons in federal district court, alleging federal securities fraud claims and common law claims for, inter alia, negligent misrepresentation,and fraudulent misrepresentation. After the case was transferred to the District of Massachusetts the court ruled against Paraflon, finding that Fullbridge did not knowingly or intentionally make a false statement. Paraflon appealed, challenging the district court's disposition of the state-law misrepresentation claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) there was no clear error in the district court's determination that Fullbridge had a good faith belief that it had received a lucrative award from a third party related to the project; and (2) there was no clear error in the court's determination that Fullbridge's good-faith belief was objectively reasonable based on its experience with the third-party and what it knew at the time of Paraflon's investment. View "Paraflon Investments, Ltd. v. Fullbridge, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions for three Hobbs Act robberies, conspiring to commit a Racketeer Influenced an Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) violation, and other offenses but vacated the district court's sentence and remanded for the limited purpose of reducing Defendant's sentence for the Hobbs Act and RICO counts, holding that the district court exceeded the statutory maximum for these offenses. Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the district court erred in providing a medical care instruction to the jury, but the error was harmless in light of the overwhelming evidence of Defendant's guilt; (2) as to Defendant's remaining challenges to his convictions, the district court did not plainly err or abuse its discretion; but (3) Defendant's 360-month sentence for the Hobbs Act and RICO counts exceeded the statutory maximum of 240 months for these offenses, and therefore, the case is remanded for resentencing for these counts. View "United States v. Lopez-Soto" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit vacated the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denying Petitioner's motion to reopen sua sponte his immigration proceedings, holding that the BIA departed from his settled course of adjudication and that remand was required consistent with this opinion. Petitioner argued that the BIA clearly erred when it determined that he was not entitled to relief from deportation under section 237(a)(2)(A)(vi) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(vi) (the Pardon Waiver Clause). In making its determination, the BIA concluded that a pardon issued by the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles is "not effective for purposes of establishing entitlement to" a waiver of deportation. The First Circuit held (1) this Court has jurisdiction to review colorable legal and constitutional challenges to denials of motions to reopen sua sponte; and (2) the BIA departed from its settled course of adjudication by deeming a pardon from Connecticut insufficient under the Pardon Waiver Clause. View "Thompson v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions of securities and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) there was sufficient evidence to sustain Defendant's convictions and that, to the extent that the jury instructions may have been overbroad, any error was harmless; (2) this Court need not address whether the wire fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. 1343, applies extraterritorially because Defendant was convicted under a proper domestic application of the statute; and (3) the district court correctly determined that it lacked the authority to order the government to lodge Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties requests with the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to seek evidence that may have been favorable to Defendant's defense. View "United States v. McLellan" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court finding that Plaintiff was disabled as defined under 20 C.F.R. 404.1520 and awarding her benefits, holding that there was very strong evidence of Plaintiff's disability, without any contrary evidence, to justify an award of benefits. At age thirty-four, Plaintiff filed applications for Social Security Disability Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. The Commissioner of Social Security denied Plaintiff's applications. In an independent assessment of her claim, an ALJ agreed with the Commissioner's decision, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined under the Social Security Act. A federal magistrate judge found that substantial evidence did not support the ALJ's denial of benefits and recommended reversing the Commissioner's decision and remanding the case for further development of the facts. The district court agreed with the magistrate judge's findings but bypassed the need for further fact-finding and awarded benefits. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was overwhelming evidence to support a finding of disability and an award of benefits and that a remand for further proceedings was unnecessary. View "Sacilowski v. Saul" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirming the immigration judge's decision denying Petitioner's claims for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) and ordering Petitioner removed, holding that Petitioner's arguments lacked merit. In finding that Petitioner did not meet his burden to show eligibility for any of the grounds for relief he sought the immigration judge (IJ) concluded that Petitioner was not credible for several reasons. The BIA affirmed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the IJ's adverse credibility determination was supported by substantial evidence; (2) the introduction of law enforcement gang database records did not violate Petitioner's due process rights; and (3) even if the BIA erred in applying the wrong legal standard in its analysis of Petitioner's CAT claim, any such error would be harmless. View "Diaz Ortiz v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiff's age discrimination and Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) claims, holding that Plaintiff's OWBPA-compliant waiver and release were knowing and voluntary under federal common law. Plaintiff, a former Winchendon police officer, decided to resign with a pension after the Defendants determined that he had made several threats against his former girlfriend. Plaintiff resigned instead of facing termination and the possibility of losing his pension and being criminally charged. Plaintiff signed a separation agreement agreeing to waive and release any claims he had against Defendants up and through signing the agreement. Plaintiff later brought a complaint alleging age discrimination, retaliation, and defamation, alleging that the waiver and release in his separation agreement violated the OWBPA and were thus invalid. The district court granted summary judgment on the age discrimination and OWBPA claims for Defendants, and a jury found for Defendants on the retaliation and defamation claims. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment, holding (1) the waiver and release did not violate the OWBPA and were knowing and voluntary; and (2) Defendant's argument that the district court abused its discretion in withdrawing an exhibit at trial was meritless. View "Geoffroy v. Town of Winchendon" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiff's claim under the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621-634, holding that Defendant put forward a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment. Plaintiff was let go from his position after a new, consolidated position went to another employee and because Plaintiff's performance ratings had declined over time. Plaintiff brought an age discrimination claim under the ADEA and under analogous Puerto Rico law. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss the Puerto Rico law claims and granted summary judgment for Defendants on the ADEA claim. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff did not put forth evidence that sufficed to create a genuine issue of disputed material fact as to whether Defendant's proffered reason for selecting the other employee over him for the new, consolidated position was a pretext for age discrimination. View "Zabala-de Jesus v. Sanofi Aventis PR, Inc." on Justia Law