Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

by
Nikolla and two codefendants were charged in connection with the extortion of restaurant proprietors and other businesses in and around Astoria, Queens in 2012-2013. A third superseding indictment specifically charged the defendants with threatening physical violence. Nikolla pleaded guilty to two counts of Hobbs Act extortion conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a), one count of threatening physical violence in furtherance of an extortion plan, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a), and one count of brandishing a firearm during and in relation to, or in furtherance of, a “crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). Nikolla was sentenced principally to 216 months; the “brandishing” count increased the mandatory penalty from five years to seven years of imprisonment. The Second Circuit affirmed, rejecting Nikolla’s challenge to his section 924(c) conviction. The predicate offense for that conviction — Hobbs Act threat of violence in furtherance of extortion under 18 U.S.C. 1951(a) — does qualify as a “crime of violence” under the Elements Clause of section 924(c). The court noted that Nikolla conceded in the district court that this offense constituted a “crime of violence” under section 924(c). View "United States v. Nikolla" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in a wage-and-hour practices and policies action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the New York Labor Law, the New York Business General Business Law, and 26 U.S.C. 7434. The district court treated defendants' opposition to plaintiffs' motion for conditional collective certification as a cross‐motion for summary judgment as to plaintiffs, and as a motion to dismiss without prejudice as to putative opt-in plaintiffs. The court held that plaintiffs had reason to recognize the motion could be converted into one for summary judgment and that the district court appropriately applied Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(B), dismissing the complaint based on plaintiffs' two prior voluntary dismissals in New York State court and in the Eastern District of New York. The court considered plaintiffs' remaining arguments and found them to be without merit. View "Lin v. Shanghai City Corp." on Justia Law

by
Defendant's prior convictions for attempted assault in the second degree under N.Y. Penal Law 120.05(2) and federal narcotics conspiracy under 21 U.S.C. 846 constitute predicate offenses for purposes of the career offender sentencing enhancement under USSG 4B1.1. The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence, holding that the district court's application of the career offender sentencing enhancement was appropriate. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that the New York conviction constituted a predicate "crime of violence" and that the federal conviction constituted a predicate "controlled substances offense." View "United States v. Tabb" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Plaintiff appealed the district court's summary judgment award in favor of his former employer in an action alleging claims of discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), impairment and retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At issue on appeal was plaintiff's ADA claim. The Second Circuit joined its sister circuits in holding that the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 did not alter or erode its well‐settled understanding that the inability to perform a single, particular job does not constitute a substantial limitation in the major life activity of working. In this case, because plaintiff did not attempt to show that his work-induced impairment substantially limited his ability to work in a class or broad range of jobs, the court held that no reasonable factfinder could conclude that plaintiff has a "disability" within the meaning of the ADA. View "Woolf v. Strada" on Justia Law

by
The denial of a motion to file a habeas petition under a pseudonym is immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine. The Second Circuit affirmed the magistrate judge's denial of defendant's motion to file a habeas petition through the use of a pseudonym. The court joined several of its sister circuits in holding that such denials were appealable under the collateral order doctrine. In this case, the district court's decision conclusively determined the issue of whether defendant could proceed under a pseudonym; the issue was completely separate from the merits of his 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion; and it will be effectively unreviewable on appeal from final judgment on his section 2255 motion. On the merits, the court held that the magistrate judge considered the proper legal principles governing the motion, including a presumption in favor of public access to court proceedings and records, and the exceptions to that presumption. The court held that the district court properly held that the magistrate judge's order did not rest on an error of law or a clearly erroneous factual finding; the conclusion was within the range of permissible decisions; the circumstances identified by defendant were insufficient to support an exception; and there was no error, clear or otherwise, in the magistrate judge's decision. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in affirming the denial of the motion. View "United States v. Pilcher" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's revocation of defendant's term of supervised release after finding by a preponderance of the evidence that he had violated the conditions of his supervised release by committing a state crime. The court held that the exclusionary rule does not apply in revocation of federal supervised release proceedings. The court explained that the deterrent effects of the exclusionary rule are significantly outweighed by the costs involved in applying the rule in this context. The court also held that defendant's remaining argument, that the district court erred in refusing to give him access to grand jury minutes, was without merit because he impermissibly seeks to attack his underlying conviction. View "United States v. Hightower" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's 70-month sentence for tax offenses. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying his post‐trial request for a competency hearing based chiefly on his adherence to the Sovereign Citizen movement. The court held that the record supported the district court's conclusion that defendant's words and actions reflected his anti‐government political views and legal theories rather than an inability to understand the proceedings against him. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in deciding to give no weight to the report of defendant's expert, because the report was based on insufficient facts and data, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the expert employed unreliable principles and methods. Finally, even if the court were to conclude that the district court improperly relied on another expert's testimony without explicitly ruling on its admissibility or reliability under Federal Rule of Evidence 702, the error would be harmless. View "United States v. DiMartino" on Justia Law

by
When a district court concludes that a proposed settlement in a Fair Labor Standards Act case is unreasonable in whole or in part, it cannot simply rewrite the agreement, but it must instead reject the agreement or provide the parties an opportunity to revise. The Second Circuit vacated the district court's approval of a settlement agreement in an FLSA case where the district court modified the agreement by increasing the portion of the settlement funds to be paid to plaintiff while reducing attorneysʹ fees and costs to be paid to his counsel. The court held that the district court abused its discretion in rewriting the settlement agreement by modifying the allotment of the settlement funds. Furthermore, the district court erred in concluding that the maximum fee percentage that plaintiff's counsel may retain in an FLSA suit is generally limited to 33% of the total settlement amount. Therefore, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Fisher v. SD Protection Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA) does not prevent employers from requesting reasonable documentation to assure themselves that employees' absences are legitimate. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of MTA's motion for summary judgment and dismissal of plaintiff's claims for failure to establish a prima facie case of retaliation under the FRSA. Plaintiff, a locomotive engineer, alleged that MTA was liable for disciplinary action against him when he failed to report to work while under the influence of a prescribed narcotic. The court held that there was no reason to conclude that the FRSA precludes employers from implementing standard policies reasonably designed to verify employees' appropriate use of medical leave. In this case, plaintiff failed to demonstrate that his absences, when unaccompanied by SLA-28 forms, were protected activity, as directly required by element (i), and indirectly by (ii) and (iv). View "Lockhart v. MTA Long Island Railroad" on Justia Law

by
A district court is not required to complete a written statement of reasons form for a sentence upon violation of supervised release because neither the Judicial Conference nor the Sentencing Commission has issued a form for that purpose. The Second Circuit held that defendant's sentence was not procedurally unreasonable where the district court articulated its reasons for imposing the above-Guidelines sentence, focusing on defendant's possession and use of a firearm. The court also held that defendant's sentence was not substantively unreasonable where the district court acknowledged the various mitigating factors, and the two-year sentence did not shock the conscience or constitute a manifest injustice. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law