In just forty-five words, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is a “blueprint for personal freedom and the hallmark of an open society.” Critically, the First Amendment protects citizens from governmental interference with these foundational rights and prevents state actors—such as public colleges and universities—from hindering the exercise of these rights. In contrast, the First Amendment does not generally apply to students at private colleges.
In Susan Monaghan v. Worldpay US, Inc., the Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court’s grant of summary judgment in a Title VII retaliation complaint. This decision clarifies the requirements needed for successful Title VII retaliation claims.
In Wiggins v. Warrant Averett, the Alabama Supreme Court addressed whether third-party beneficiaries of a contract are subject to binding arbitration clauses in those contracts. This decision provides needed clarity for Alabama companies on the scope of binding arbitration clauses used in contracts with customers, vendors, and employees. Because Wiggins is a 5-4 decision in which two justices concurred specially, companies and their counsel should monitor future decisions regarding this issue.
In Alabama State Conference of the NAACP v. State of Alabama, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed a private citizen’s ability to sue a state in federal court. Generally, suits against a state by its own citizens are prohibited under the Eleventh Amendment, but there are exceptions to this general rule. In this case, the appeals court found that the Voting Rights Act gives private citizens a right of action against states. The court agreed with its sister circuits which had already ruled on this issue, concluding it is “difficult to conceive of any reasonable interpretation . . . that does not involve abrogation of the state’s immunity.”
If a prisoner’s claim requires dismissal under the “three-strikes provision” but is also frivolous or unmeritorious, must the court dismiss the claim without prejudice or may it opt to dismiss the claim on the merits with prejudice instead? This question was presented to the Eleventh Circuit in White v. Lemma. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that “though a court must procedurally dismiss without prejudice the claim of a prisoner who has struck out under the three-strikes provision and failed to pay the filing fee, the court may also consider the merits to dismiss the case with prejudice instead.”
In Lewis v. Governor of Alabama, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed a city-versus-state conflict over minimum wage in Alabama. This debate over minimum wage is a topical one, both in the state and across the country, and proponents on both sides of the issue followed the case closely. However, rather than entering the minimum wage debate and addressing the issue on its merits, the court dismissed the case for a lack of standing and left the door open for continued discussion.
Legal scholarship on the blockchain has largely focused on how the law might respond to the challenges it raises or may one day raise. Some scholars have grappled with how cryptocurrency might complicate the administration of wills, for example. Others have focused on fears that the blockchain will be used to evade the power of the legal system. The literature is only beginning to investigate a more interesting question: how the blockchain might serve the preexisting demands of the law.
In a case of first impression, Boatman v. Berreto, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether a civilly committed person could utilize the prison mailbox rule. The original mailbox rule, stemming from contract law, is the principle that filing or service of a document occurs on the date of mailing. Similarly, the Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(c)(1), sometimes called the prison mailbox rule, allows an inmate’s notice of appeal to be considered timely if it was “deposited in the institution’s internal mail system on or before the last day for filing.” In the Eleventh Circuit, a pro se inmate’s notice of appeal is presumed submitted on the day he signed it, absent contrary evidence.
In United States v. Perez, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that Defendant-Appellant Roberto Arturo Perez’s conduct while robbing two banks did not constitute threats of death, vacating Perez’s sentence and remanding to the District Court for the Southern District of Florida for resentencing. This case had no bearing on Perez’s guilt, as he pled guilty to both charges. Following his guilty plea, Perez was assigned a combined adjusted offense level of twenty-three in his Pre-Sentence Investigation Report which included a two-level enhancement for making threats of death. Based on this offense level and criminal history category, Perez’s sentencing guideline range was forty-six to fifty-seven months in prison. Perez appealed, arguing that the district court erred in applying the two-level threat-of-death enhancement during his sentencing. On appeal, the court ultimately agreed with Perez that his conduct would not have generated a fear of death in a reasonable person; therefore, the appeals court remanded the case to the district court for resentencing.