11th Circuit Court of Appeals

picture showing people submitting voter ballots

Greater Birmingham Ministries v. Secretary of State for the State of Alabama: Eleventh Circuit Finds Alabama Voter Identification Law Constitutional

Kaylee Rose*

Photo Credit: https://perma.cc/VSU6-3J93

In Greater Birmingham Ministries v. Secretary of State for the State of Alabama, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed the constitutionality of an Alabama law that governs “‘one of the most fundamental rights of our citizens: the right to vote.’” The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling that Alabama’s 2011 Photo Voter Identification Law is constitutional and not racially discriminatory. Circuit Judge Elizabeth L. Branch, writing for the majority, found that “[t]he burden of providing a photo ID pursuant to Ala. Code § 17-9-30 in order to vote is a minimal burden on Alabama’s voters—especially when Alabama accepts so many different forms of photo ID and makes acquiring one simple and free for voters who lack a valid ID but wish to obtain one.”

Clipart of robbery happening.

United States v. Perez: Eleventh Circuit Distinguishes Threats of Death from Threats of Harm During Robberies

Gabe Tucker*

Photo Credit: https://www.istockphoto.com/illustrations/bank-robbery?sort=mostpopular&mediatype=illustration&phrase=bank%20robbery

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.

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The inside of a prison

Daker v. Jackson: Three Strikes and Breathing Space: Does the PLRA Violate a Prisoners Rights to Access the Courts, Breathing Space, and Equal Protection?

Trent Testa*

Photo Credit: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/57085/whats-difference-between-prison-and-jail

In Daker v. Jackson, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the district court to dismiss Waseem Daker’s complaint, determining that Daker had at least three strikes under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) and that Daker’s challenge to the constitutionality of § 1915(g) failed. In support of his first claim, Daker alleged that the seven dismissals used by the district court in determining his three strike status were errors. Second, Daker challenged the “three-strike” provision’s constitutionality, asserting that it violates the First Amendment’s “breathing space” principle because it does not provide a margin of error and punishes pro se litigants for honest mistakes. The court addressed both claims in turn.

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Wire fraud

UNITED STATES V. WATERS: “SCHEME TO DECEIVE” AND “SCHEME TO DEFRAUD” DISTINCTION REITERATED

Caroline McLeroy*

Photo Credit: https://www.cbamarillo.com/wirefraud

In wire fraud cases, courts are often faced with the question of when is “a lie [] just a lie” and when is it a federal crime? The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit examined this question in United States v. Waters, highlighting the importance of the distinction between a “scheme to deceive” and a “scheme to defraud” and how to properly explain that distinction, particularly concerning jury instructions.

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Cruise ship sailing the waters.

Cruise Ships Responsible for Warning and Protecting Their Passengers: K.T. v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD.

Avery Burns*

Photo Credit: httpscruisefever.netroyal-caribbean-cruise-ship-receiving-new-features

In K.T. v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD., the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the district court and held that the plaintiff, K.T., stated plausible negligence claims against the cruise ship. First, the crew members’ alleged failure to prevent K.T.’s rape and sexual assault constituted a plausible negligence claim. This negligence included allowing adult male passengers to purchase alcoholic beverages for K.T. Second, Royal Caribbean’s failure to warn K.T. and other passengers about the possibility of sexual assault on the cruise ship constituted a plausible negligence claim.

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LEWIS V. CITY OF UNION CITY: “SIMILARLY SITUATED” DEFINITION CLARIFIED word cloud

LEWIS V. CITY OF UNION CITY: “SIMILARLY SITUATED” DEFINITION CLARIFIED

Sarah Rawls

In an employment intentional discrimination case, “[j]ust how ‘similarly situated’ must a plaintiff and her comparator(s) be?” The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit clarified the proper standard for comparator evidence in Lewis v. City of Union City. Specifically, the court endorsed a test asking whether comparators are “similarly situated in all material respects,” thereby abandoning the previously accepted “nearly identical” and “same or similar” tests.

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Praying hands resting on a book.

Williamson v. Brevard County

William Burkett*

In Williamson v. Brevard County, the Eleventh Circuit held that the commissioners of Brevard County unconstitutionally exercised their unfettered discretion to select opening invocation speakers based on religion. In addition, the court clarified requirements for cities that wish to open city council meetings or legislative sessions with sectarian prayer.

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Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals seal.

Doe v. Valencia College

Sarah Baldwin*

Photo Credit: https://wlflegalpulse.com/2015/10/01/eleventh-circuit-has-opportunity-in-u-s-v-clay-to-reshape-prosecutors-courts-approach-on-criminal-intent/

On September 13, 2018, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that the district court did not err in holding that Valencia College did not violate Jeffery Koeppel’s statutory or constitutional rights when it suspended him for his conduct towards another student.  During the summer of 2014 Koeppel and a female student, whom the court referred to as Jane Roe, were assigned to be biology lab partners at Valencia College, a public university in Florida.  As the semester went on, Koeppel began to contact Roe outside of class and eventually told her he was attracted to her.  Roe told Koeppel she was not interested and she was already in a relationship.  Roe and Koeppel finished the summer semester with no further issues.

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Chalk board writing of "abortion."

ALABAMA BAN ON DILATION AND EVACUATION ABORTIONS DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Mollie Beth Amick*

Photo Credit: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/sandeep-prasad/canadas-abortion-myth_b_8198478.html

In West Alabama Women’s Center v. Williamson, the Eleventh Circuit struck down a recent Alabama statute that banned dilation and evacuation abortions, holding that the law represented an unconstitutional restriction on a woman’s right to an abortion.

The plaintiff clinics filed suit on behalf of their present and future patients, claiming the Act was unconstitutional on its face. The Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, passed in 2016, made it unlawful for a medical practitioner to “purposely perform or attempt to perform a dismemberment abortion and thereby kill an unborn child unless necessary to prevent serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother.” Put more simply, the Act would require medical practitioners to end the life of a fetus before dismembering that fetus. Violation of this prohibition would be “punishable by up to two years imprisonment and fines of $10,000.”

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