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

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The Second Circuit granted 1-800 Contacts' petitions for review of the FTC's final order finding that agreements between 1-800 Contacts and various competitors to, among other things, refrain from bidding on "keyword" search terms for internet advertisements, violate Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act).The court held that, although trademark settlement agreements are not immune from antitrust scrutiny, the FTC (1) improperly considered the agreements to be "inherently suspect" and (2) incorrectly concluded that the challenged agreements are a violation of the FTC Act under the "rule of reason." In this case, where the restrictions that arise are born of typical trademark settlement agreements, the court cannot overlook the challenged agreements' procompetitive goal of promoting trademark policy. In light of the strong procompetitive justification of protecting 1-800 Contacts' trademarks, the court concluded that the challenged agreements merely regulate and perhaps thereby promote competition. Therefore, the court stated that they do not constitute a violation of the Sherman Act and thus an asserted violation of the FTC Act fails of necessity. Accordingly, the court vacated the FTC's final order and remanded to the Commission with orders to dismiss the administrative complaint. View "1-800-Contacts, Inc. v. Federal Trade Comission" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a petition for habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted by a jury in state court of first degree manslaughter. The court concluded that the admission of the autopsy report at petitioner's trial through a surrogate witness was an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent. See Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 40 (2004); Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. 305 (2009); and Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 564 U.S. 647 (2011). Furthermore, the unreasonably erroneous admission of the autopsy report was not harmless where the report was the strongest evidence in the State's case and was not cumulative of other inculpatory evidence connecting petitioner to the victim's death. View "Garlick v. Lee" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, four Black firefighters who suffer from a skin condition that causes pain and sometimes scarring when they shave their facial hair, filed suit alleging that the FDNY discriminated against them in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and various other laws. Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from the FDNY's refusal to offer them a medical accommodation to the department's grooming policy. The policy requires firefighters to be clean shaven in the areas where an oxygen mask or "respirator" seals against their skin.The Second Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs on their ADA claim, holding that the OSHA regulation, 29 C.F.R. 1910.134(g)(1)(i)(A), unambiguously prohibits plaintiffs' proposed accommodation and that a binding federal regulation presents a complete defense to an ADA failure-to-accommodate claim. Furthermore, plaintiffs waived the issue of alternative accommodation because they failed to raise it until their reply brief on appeal. The court also concluded that plaintiffs' Title VII disparate impact claim mirrors their ADA claim and meets a similar fate. The court explained that, although plaintiffs have made a prima facie case, the FDNY has conclusively rebutted that case by showing that complying with the respiratory-protection standard is a business necessity. Just as in the ADA context, the court concluded that Title VII cannot be used to require employers to depart from binding federal regulations. Nor can the court agree with plaintiffs that the FDNY's failure to consistently enforce the respiratory-protection standard means that complying with the regulation is not a business necessity. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Bey v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint (SAC), seeking (A) to hold the bank liable as a principal under the Antiterrorism Act of 1990 (ATA) for providing banking services to Hizbollah, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization alleged to have injured plaintiffs in a series of terroristic rocket attacks in Israel in July and August 2006; and (B) to hold the bank liable as a coconspirator or aider and abettor of Hizbollah under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The district court granted defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).The Second Circuit concluded that plaintiffs having abandoned their ATA terrorism and JASTA conspiracy claims, and thus the court addressed only their JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims. In regard to the JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims, the court found merit in plaintiffs' contentions that the district court did not correctly apply the analytical framework set out in Halberstam v. Welch, 705 F.2d 472 6 (D.C. Cir. 1983), specified by Congress as the proper legal framework for assessing such claims. The Halberstam requirements for a claim of aiding and abetting are (1) that the person whom the defendant aided must have performed a wrongful act that caused injury, (2) that the defendant must have been "generally aware of his role as part of an overall illegal or tortious activity at the time that he provide[d] the assistance," and (3) "the defendant must [have] knowingly and substantially assist[ed] the principal violation."The court concluded that the district court erred in its findings as to the plausibility of, and the permissible inferences that could be drawn from, SAC allegations of the bank's knowledge that the customers it was assisting were affiliated with Hizbollah and that it was aiding Hizbollah's terrorist activities. The court explained that the plausibility of the allegations as to LCB's knowledge of Hizbollah's terrorist activities and of the customers' affiliation with Hizbollah is sufficient to permit the inference that LCB was at least generally aware that through its money-laundering banking services to the customers, LCB was playing a role in Hizbollah's terrorist activities. Furthermore, the SAC adequately pleaded that LCB knowingly gave the customers assistance that both aided Hizbollah and was qualitatively and quantitatively substantial. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of the JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims and remanded for further proceedings. View "Kaplan v. Lebanese Canadian Bank" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed from so much of the district court's judgment that orders him, jointly and severally with his codefendants Orel, to pay plaintiffs, suppliers of perishable goods, a total of $606,664.87, including principal amounts totaling $473,268.82, plus interest and attorneys' fees, because Orel failed to pay plaintiffs for goods purchased, and because of the dissipation of the statutory trust imposed on Orel's assets for the benefit of unpaid suppliers, in violation of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA). The district court granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment holding defendant liable on the ground that he was a person in control of the trust assets.The Second Circuit concluded that partial summary judgment was appropriate with respect to $40,000 of PACA trust assets that were placed in defendant's personal bank account, but that whether he had the necessary degree of control over other assets could not be resolved as a matter of law. In this case, defendant was neither an owner nor an officer of Orel. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment in part and remanded for trial on the issue of defendant's control over other Orel assets. View "S. Katzman Produce Inc. v. Yadid" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Swiss law enforcement officers seized more than a thousand pieces of ancient art owned by the plaintiffs as part of an ongoing investigation into the illegal trafficking of cultural property. The plaintiffs sued the Swiss government entities and instrumentalities in the Southern District of New York, alleging that the seizure was arbitrary and made without probable cause. The district court dismissed the cases, holding that it lacked jurisdiction over the defendants under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3).The Second Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that jurisdiction was proper under the statute’s “expropriation exception,” which applies in cases involving property taken by a foreign state in violation of international law. A routine law enforcement seizure does not ordinarily constitute a taking at all, let alone a taking in violation of international law, because it falls within a state’s traditional police powers. Although there are a handful of narrow exceptions to that general rule, such as when the seizure is not rationally related to a public purpose and is a pretextual attempt to nationalize property without compensation, or (has continued for an unreasonable amount of time, none of those exceptions applies here. View "Beierwaltes v. L'Office Fédérale de la Culture de la Confederation Suisse" on Justia Law

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Soliman entered a California Subway sandwich shop. An employee showed her an in-store, hard-copy advertisement, on which Subway offered to send special offers if she texted a keyword. Soliman sent a text message to Subway. Subway began sending her, via text message, hyperlinks to electronic coupons. Soliman alleges that she later requested by text that Subway stop sending her messages, but her request was ignored. She filed suit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Subway moved to compel arbitration, arguing that a contract was formed because the in-store advertisement, from which Soliman got the keyword and shortcode, included a reference to terms and conditions, including an arbitration requirement, located on Subway’s website and provided the URL.The Second Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion to compel arbitration. Under California law, Soliman was not bound by the arbitration provision because Subway did not provide reasonably conspicuous notice that she was agreeing to the terms on the website. Because of barriers relating to the design and content of the print advertisement, and the accessibility and language of the website itself, the terms and conditions were not reasonably conspicuous under the totality of the circumstances; a reasonable consumer would not realize she was being bound to such terms by sending a text message to Subway in order to receive promotional offers. View "Soliman v. Subway Franchisee Advert. Fund Trust, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought review of the BIA's final order finding that petitioner was removable as a non-citizen convicted of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude based on its determination that New York petit larceny constitutes such a crime.The Second Circuit certified the following question to the New York State Court of Appeals: Does an intent to "appropriate" property under New York Penal Law 155.00(4)(b) require an intent to deprive the owner of his or her property either permanently or under circumstances where the owner's property rights are substantially eroded? View "Ferreiras Veloz v. Garland" on Justia Law

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In Avila v. Riexinger & Associates, LLC, 817 F.3d 72, 76 (2d Cir. 2016), the Second Circuit held that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e, requires "debt collectors, when they notify consumers of their account balance, to disclose that the balance may increase due to interest and fees."In this case, the Second Circuit held that Avila's disclosure requirement does not apply to collection notices that extend offers to settle outstanding debt. The court explained that such collection notices do not present the risk that a debtor might pay the listed balance only to find herself still owing more. Furthermore, payment of an amount that the collector indicates will fully satisfy a debt excludes the possibility of further debt to pay. Therefore, the court concluded that a settlement offer need not enumerate the consequences of failing to meet its deadline or rejecting it outright so long as it clearly and accurately informs a debtor that payment of a specified sum by a specified date will satisfy the debt. Applying these principles here, the court held that Forster & Garbus's notice to plaintiff did not violate section 1692e because it extended a settlement offer that, if accepted through payment of the specified amount(s) by the specified date(s), would have cleared plaintiff's account. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Cortez v. Forster & Garbus, LLP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
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The Second Circuit followed the logical course charted by longstanding precedent to reach two conclusions with respect to 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(2): first, the "agent" of a federally funded organization need not have control over the federal funds, and the agent need not work in a specific program within the organization that uses those federal dollars; and second, the "business" of a federally funded organization need not be commercial in nature.The court affirmed Defendants Dawkins and Code's conviction for conspiracy to commit bribery in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371 and 666(a)(2), as well as Dawkins's conviction of substantive bribery in violation of section 666(a)(2). Defendants' convictions stemmed from their involvement in a scheme to bribe basketball coaches at NCAA Division I universities in exchange for the coaches' agreement to steer their student-athletes toward Dawkins's sports management company after leaving college and becoming professional basketball players.In this case, the court concluded that the superseding indictment properly alleged a violation of section 666(a)(2); the Government proved a violation of section 666(a)(2) where section 666(a)(2) does not require a nexus between the "agent" of a federally funded organization and the federal funds the organization receives, and the bribes paid by defendants to the university basketball coaches in exchange for influence exerted over student-athletes were "in connection" with a university's "business;" the statute is constitutional as applied to defendants; the district court did not abuse its discretion when making the challenged evidentiary rulings; and the district court made no reversible errors in providing the challenged jury instructions. View "United States v. Dawkins" on Justia Law