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Meredith Smith Taylor*
In Collier v. Harland Clarke Corp., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed a claim brought by a sixty-one-year-old terminated employee against his employer alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the “ADEA”), and Alabama privacy law. Although the Eleventh Circuit expressed sympathy for Collier in his termination, the court held the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the employer because there were no genuine issues of material fact for any of Collier’s claims. Collier is significant in the employment discrimination context because it reaffirms the notion that in order to survive summary judgment, a plaintiff must provide enough evidence to establish a prima facie case of discrimination and an employer’s discriminatory intent beyond mere speculation.
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In Williams v. Aguirre, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed whether qualified and state immunity applied to a malicious prosecution claim brought by an arrestee. An individual alleged he was maliciously prosecuted for attempted murder of a police officer after the police officer shot him. Aguirre answers questions on the availability of both qualified and state-agent immunity to police officers. In deciding this case, the Eleventh Circuit considered constitutional and state law to determine that the officers were not entitled to either form of immunity and that the district court did not err in denying the officers’ motion for summary judgment.
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In McKenny v. United States, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed a question of first impression: whether the taxpayers’ settlement with their accounting firm, whose negligence allegedly led to a $2 million overpayment in federal taxes to the government, constitutes taxable income. The court also discussed whether the corresponding litigation fees and the difference between the settlements with the law firm and the IRS are deductible. Taxpayers are likely to see McKenny as the baseline for determining the business or personal nature of litigation expenses as well as the deductibility of a settlement with the IRS.
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In In re Guillen, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed whether a party is required to demonstrate that they experienced some change in circumstances in order to modify a confirmed Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan under 11 U.S.C. § 1329. The ruling answered a question of first impression for the Eleventh Circuit that has divided some of its sister circuits. The First, Fifth, and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeals do not require a threshold showing of any change in circumstances in order to modify a confirmed bankruptcy plan, while the Fourth Circuit does require such a showing. The Eleventh Circuit ultimately determined that a change in circumstances is not required to modify a plan, and thereby concurred with the First, Fifth, and Seventh Circuits.
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In Stryker v. City of Homewood, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed a conflict involving alleged excessive use of force by the police. In recent months, use of force by the police has been a hotly debated topic, creating fervor that has grown, in some cases, to a call to abolish the police. In Stryker, the Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the police. While this decision does not create any altering legal precedent, it is worth considering in light of the tumultuous debate which is currently surrounding the police.
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In Mickell v. Bell, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit revived former NFL player Darren Mickell’s claim for denial of disability benefits. Reversing the District Court’s ruling, the Eleventh Circuit held that the NFL Retirement Board abused its discretion in denying disability benefits by failing to consider two key components: medical records and reports from his treating physicians and the cumulative effect of his impairments. Mickell v. Bell serves as a guidepost for disability benefit plan administrators in the Eleventh Circuit.
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In Champions Retreat Golf Founders, LLC v. Commissioner, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed whether a taxpayer qualified for a charitable deduction for a donation of a conservation easement that encompassed a private golf course as well as undeveloped land. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the Tax Court’s decision to uphold the Commissioner of Internal Revenue’s denial of the charitable deduction, “[b]ecause the [Internal Revenue] Code does not disqualify an easement just because it includes a golf course . . . . Owners of golf courses and other similarly developed commercial properties likely see Champions as a new tax-break opportunity. The Eleventh Circuit’s finding that Champions’ easement property satisfied the meaning of a relatively natural habitat, despite the use of chemicals, artificial drainage, and introduction of nonnative species, provides a baseline of the extent and type of property modifications that can exist within the limits of the Code.
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Congratulations to Copy Editor Taylor Johnson, and Junior Editors Mitchell Brisbon, Kaylee Rose, and Dale Turley for making this year’s National Moot Court Team!
In the SAAD Moot Court Competition, the National Team’s tryouts, Taylor was named Best Oral Advocate and Best Appellate Brief. Both Mitchell and Kaylee were also finalists in the competition.
Great work everyone!
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Congratulations to Research Editor Trent Testa, and Junior Editors Kate Belyayeva and Meredith Buckner for making Cumberland’s 2020-2021 National Trial Team!
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Congratulations to Junior Editors Allison Lowery and Emma Goodloe for making Cumberland’s 2020-2021 National Negotiation Team!
Both were finalists in the Henry C. Strickland Negotiation Competition and Allison was named Best Advocate.