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

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The Second Circuit denied petitions for review of the BIA's decisions affirming the IJ's order of removal and denial of Petitioner Graham's motion to reopen. The court concluded that petitioners' narcotics convictions under Connecticut General Statute 21a-277(a) are controlled substance or aggravated felony drug trafficking offenses under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The court also concluded that its jurisdictional holding in Banegas Gomez v. Barr, 922 F.3d 101 (2d Cir. 2019), that a notice to appear that omits the hearing date and time is nonetheless sufficient to vest jurisdiction in the immigration courts, survives the Supreme Court's ruling in Niz-Chavez v. Garland, 141 S. Ct. 1474 (2021). View "Chery v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Falun Gong practitioners, filed suit claiming that defendants harassed them in violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994 (FACEA). On interlocutory appeal, the Second Circuit concluded that "a place of religious worship" means anywhere that religious adherents collectively recognize or religious leadership designates as a space primarily to gather for or hold religious worship activities. In this case, the sidewalk tables plaintiffs used for their protests do not qualify because the undisputed record shows that plaintiffs and their fellow practitioners treated the tables primarily as a base for protesting the Chinese Communist Party's alleged abuses against Falun Gong, rather than for religious worship. Furthermore, because plaintiff's 18 U.S.C. 248(a)(2) claim fails on this statutory ground, the court did not reach the constitutional issues. The court reversed the district court's partial grant of summary judgment to plaintiffs and its denial of summary judgment to defendants, remanding for further proceedings. View "Zhang Jingrong v. Chinese Anti-Cult World Alliance Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1974, when Sarkees was 19, he worked for Goodyear for seven months. Sarkees believed he was exposed to the chemical ortho-toluidine (OT). He took chemical samples and unloaded railroad tank cars, the majority of which contained OT, he drove a forklift to load Nailax2 (made with OT), and he manually cleaned Nailax reactors and packaged Nailax. While conducting many of these tasks, Sarkees recognized the smell of OT and experienced chemicals splashing on his skin. He often cleaned the inside of Nailax reactors, wearing “the same contaminated coveralls for the entire work shift.” Sarkees approximated that he cleaned the filters “more than 80 times,” inhaling a “strong chemical smell” and fumes without a respirator. A 2014 Department of Health and Human Services report states, “Epidemiological studies have demonstrated a causal relationship between exposure to o-toluidine and urinary-bladder cancer in humans.” Beginning in 1998, Sarkees participated in a bladder cancer screening program offered by Goodyear to former employees. In 2016, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer.The district court dismissed his suit for negligence and strict products liability, after excluding expert testimony that OT was the specific cause of his cancer. The Second Circuit vacated. In excluding the expert’s opinion, the district court improperly relied on a state court evidence ruling instead of the applicable federal evidence rule. The evidence is admissible under Federal Rule 702 and “Daubert.” View "Sarkees v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Co." on Justia Law

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Specht, employed as a New York City fire marshal, alleged that after he refused to file a false report concerning the circumstances of a fire he was investigating and publicly discussed misconduct on the part of his supervisors, he was the subject of retaliation. The fire had resulted in serious damage to a building where a motion picture was being filmed and the death of a firefighter. Sprecht had reported a tentative conclusion that the fire was caused by the movie crew. He was reassigned after he refused to comply with instructions to report a faulty boiler as the cause. Specht sued, alleging First Amendment retaliation, 42 U.S.C. 1983, and other claims. The district court dismissed the suit.The Second Circuit reversed in part Specht alleged a First Amendment retaliation claim but failed to state a New York State Civil Service Law claim or intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. Sprecht’s report to the Department of Investigation, his meeting with the District Attorney’s office, and his communications with local press touched on matters of public concern. Specht’s refusal to file a false report and his complaints to outside agencies constituted speech as a citizen, rather than only as a public employee. View "Specht v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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The Plaintiff States filed suit alleging that the $10,000 cap on the federal income tax deduction for money paid in state and local taxes (SALT), enacted as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, violates the United States Constitution.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and denial of the States' cross-motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that the States had standing and that their claims were not barred by the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA). However, the court rejected the States' contention that the SALT deduction is constitutionally required by the text of Article I, Section 8 and the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution, and thus the SALT deduction cap effectively eliminates a constitutionally mandated deduction for taxpayers. Rather, the court concluded that the Constitution itself does not limit Congress's authority to impose a cap. In this case, the States' arguments mimic those that the Supreme Court rejected in South Carolina v. Baker, 485 U.S. 505, 515–27 9 (1988). In Baker, the Court held that Congress had the power to tax interest earned on state-issued bonds even though it had not previously done so. The court also concluded that the SALT deduction cap is not coercive in violation of the Tenth Amendment or the principle of equal sovereignty. View "New York v. Yellen" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit held that, for Copyright Act purposes, the screenwriter Victor Miller was an independent contractor of the film production company Manny, Inc., in 1979, when Miller wrote the screenplay for the landmark horror film Friday the 13th, released in 1980. Manny argues primarily that Miller's membership in the Writers' Guild of America, East, Inc. (WGA), and Manny's participation in the producers' collective bargaining agreement with the WGA in the same period establish that Miller was Manny's employee for Copyright Act purposes.The court concluded that copyright law, not labor law, controls the "work for hire" determination here. The court explained that because the definition of "employee" under copyright law is grounded in the common law of agency and the Reid framework and serves different purposes than do the labor law concepts regarding employment relationships, there is no sound basis for using labor law to override copyright law goals. Furthermore, there was no error in the district court's refusal to treat Miller's WGA membership as a separate Reid factor. The court applied the Reid factors and concluded that Miller was an independent contractor when he wrote the screenplay and is therefore entitled to authorship rights. The court also concluded that the notice of termination that Miller gave under section 203 of the Copyright Act is effective as to Manny and its successors. The court found that the Companies' remaining arguments did not provide a basis for reversal and thus affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Miller. View "Horror Inc. v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion to remand to state court and grant of defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court concluded that a properly served defendant cannot cure a failure to timely consent to removal by opposing a motion for remand when the opposition is filed after the thirty-day statutory period for removal lapsed. The court explained that, even if it were to assume that Covidien LP eventually consented to removal when it opposed the motion for remand, that consent, which came seventeen days after the thirty-day statutory period for removal lapsed, may not undo or fix the timeliness problem. Nor is the court free to create an exception to the statute's mandatory language requiring timely consent. In this case, the court found remand appropriate and vacated the district court's dismissal of the complaint. View "Taylor v. Medtronic, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Second Circuit held that a report evaluating the Indian Health Service's management and administration is not a "medical quality assurance record" under 25 U.S.C. 1675, and thus not exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This case arose from plaintiffs' request of a report from Indian Health Services under FOIA, and the Department's subsequent denial of the FOIA request pursuant to section 1675. The court found the Department's remaining arguments to be without merit and affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to plaintiffs. View "The New York Times Co. v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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Datalink and its president appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Government on its claim to collect back wages on behalf of a native of Iceland and former Datalink employee. The back wages were owing to the employee under federal law governing the H-1B visa program. On appeal, defendants contend that the Government may not use the procedures of the Fair Debt Collection Procedures Act (FDCPA) to collect the unpaid wages.The Second Circuit reversed the district court's judgment, holding that the Government may not rely on the FDCPA to collect back wages on the employee's behalf. The court agreed with defendants that an administrative award of back wages is not an amount "owing to the United States" under the FDCPA, and overruled NLRB v. E.D.P. Medical Computer Systems, Inc., 6 F.3d 951 (2d Cir. 1993), as wrongly decided and inconsistent with the ordinary meaning of the FDCPA. View "United States v. Bedi" on Justia Law

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Landlords challenged Part A of New York’s residential eviction moratorium statute, the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 (CEEFPA), and attempted to challenge the new residential eviction moratorium, (Subpart C(A) 2021), enacted in Sept. 2021, after several provisions of the old moratorium statute expired. The Supreme Court enjoined enforcement of Part A 2020 on August 12, 2021, based on due process defects.The Landlords argued that Subpart C(A) 2021 did not remedy the defect but is merely a continuation of the previous statute. State officials sought dismissal of the appeal as moot, arguing that the challenged provisions of the old statute have expired, Subpart C(A) 2021 does remedy the defect identified by the Supreme Court, and any challenge to the 2021 provisions must be brought in a new lawsuit.The Second Circuit concluded that the due process claims are moot, dismissed them, and remanded the case. With the appeal remanded, the court concluded it lacked jurisdiction to enjoin enforcement of Subpart C(A) 2021. The “mootness is attributable to a change in the legal framework,” so the Landlords “may wish to amend their complaint so as to demonstrate that the repealed statute retains some continuing force or to attack the newly enacted legislation.” View "Chrysafis v. Marks" on Justia Law