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

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The First Circuit affirmed the sentence imposed by the district court in connection with Defendant's plea of guilty to a single count charging him with drug distribution in violation of 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), holding that the sentence was supportable when viewed as an upward variance. Relying on a finding that a death resulted from the offense of conviction in this case, the district court imposed an above-the-range term of imprisonment. The court justified the sentence both as an upward departure and an upward variance. On appeal, Defendant challenged his sixty-month sentence both procedurally and substantively. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) any error in invoking a departure guideline was harmless where the district court would have imposed exactly the same sentence by means of a variance; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion by considering in its decision to impose an upward variance the fact that an individual died after using the fentanyl-laced substance knowingly sold to him by Defendant; and (3) the sentence was not outside the universe of reasonable sentencing outcomes and therefore was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Heindenstrom" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's order dismissing Plaintiff's disability discrimination and failure to accommodate claims on summary judgment, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in partially striking Plaintiff's affidavit submitted in support of his opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment and that Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination or a claim for failure to accommodate. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not clearly abuse its discretion in striking Plaintiff's inconsistent statements in his affidavit; and (2) the district court properly granted summary judgment because Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination and that Plaintiff's failure to accommodate claims failed on the merits. View "Flaherty v. Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions and dismissed without prejudice Defendant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on her allegations of error. Defendant was convicted of twelve counts of making a materially false statement to a federal agency. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that she received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's convictions were supported by sufficient evidence; (2) Defendant was not denied her federal constitutional right to be present at any stage of the criminal proceeding; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in providing a so-called "nullification instruction" to the jury; (4) Defendant waived a duplicity challenge to certain counts; and (5) the record was not sufficiently developed to permit appellate consideration of Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim, holding that Plaintiff's claims were not entitled to judicial review. Plaintiff, in his capacity as trustee for the F2 Liquidating Trust, filed a complaint against the SEC asserting two claims under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq. The district court dismissed the case, determining (1) the right to judicial review of the SEC order at issue had been waived as part of a settlement between the SEC and F-Squared Investments, Inc., a former investment advisory firm; and (2) in any event, the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Congress vested the courts of appeals with exclusive jurisdiction over challenges to SEC orders. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court correctly decided that the complaint failed to state a claim inasmuch as F-Squared waived judicial review by any court. View "Jalbert v. U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence of 240 months' imprisonment imposed in connection with his guilty plea to one count of possession of child pornography and one count of accessing child pornography with intent to view, holding that the sentence was neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable. The district court sentenced Defendant to the statutory maximum sentence on each count, to be served concurrently. The First Circuit affirmed the sentence, holding (1) the district court did not err in applying enhancements given for a pattern of activity involving the sexual abuse of minors and for obstruction of justice; (2) the acceptance of responsibility reduction was properly denied; and (3) the district court's imposition of the statutory maximum sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Coffin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence imposed in connection with his guilty plea and conviction on charges of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud, holding that the sentence was neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable. Defendant was convicted on charges of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. The district court sentenced Defendant to thirty-six months of imprisonment and four years of supervised release. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not commit procedural errors in calculating Defendant's Guidelines sentencing range; and (2) Defendant's challenge to the substantive reasonableness of her sentence was unavailing. View "United States v. Jimenez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this case alleging negligent design, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of Defendants on the ground that Plaintiff failed to establish the applicable standard of care, a breach of duty, and that the accident giving rise to this action was foreseeable to Defendants, holding that judgment was properly granted for Defendants. When a vehicle was driven into another vehicle parked outside a building, the parked vehicle crashed into the building's open terrace, injuring several individuals sitting within the terrace, including Plaintiff, Plaintiff sued the owner of the building, his heirs, and his insurer, arguing that the terrace was negligently designed. The district court entered judgment for the defense. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to show damage through fault or negligence of Defendants. View "Aponte-Bermudez v. Colon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of drug trafficking charges, including conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, and Defendant's sentence of 136 months in prison, holding that no reversible error occurred in the proceedings below. Pursuant to a search warrant, federal agents searched Defendant's apartment and found a stolen gun, more than $30,000 in cash, more than a kilo of heroin, and other narcotics and drug paraphernalia. Defendant pleaded guilty to several drug trafficking charges. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the trial judge did not err by (1) denying Defendant's motion to suppress the evidence from his apartment; (2) denying Defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea; (3) deciding not to appoint new counsel and to let Defendant handle his sentencing pro se; and (4) failing to set a lower guideline sentencing range. View "United States v. Gonzalez-Arias" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the motions to suppress filed by Defendants Cuwan Merritt and Michael Artis, the district court's ruling admitting co-conspirator statements under Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(2)(E) and 403 and United States v. Petrozziello, 548 F.2d 20 (1st Cir. 1977), and Defendants' convictions of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, holding that Defendants were not entitled to relief. In denying Defendants' motions to suppress drugs found on each Defendant the trial court found that police had probable cause to stop an automobile in which Defendants were known to be traveling with two confidential informants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendants failed to show that the police lacked probable cause to arrest them before a vehicle stop; and (2) the district court properly admitted the out-of-court statements made by a co-conspirator. View "United States v. Merritt" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion to suppress his booking fingerprints as the fruit of what he argued was an unlawful arrest, holding that because the fingerprints were obtained for routine booking purposes there was no basis in the record for suppression of the fingerprint evidence. During a law enforcement scheme targeting a stolen identity refund fraud scheme, Defendant was administratively arrested for unlawful presence in the United States. Defendant was fingerprinted during a routine booking and later charged with multiple counts related to his involvement in the scheme. Defendant moved to suppress his booking fingerprints. The district court denied the motion, concluding that Defendant was arrested without probable cause but that the fingerprint evidence was admissible under the doctrine of inevitable discovery. The First Circuit affirmed, albeit on different grounds, holding that where the fingerprints were not obtained for any purpose other than routine booking the evidence could not be suppressed under the exclusionary rule. View "United States v. Cruz-Mercedes" on Justia Law