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

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York and the district court's permanent injunction enjoining the County from foreclosing on the Cayuga Indian Nation's real property for nonpayment of taxes. The court agreed with the district court that tribal sovereign immunity from suit bars the County from pursuing tax enforcement actions under Article 11 of the New York Real Property Tax Law against the Cayuga Indian Nation. The court explained that the County's foreclosure proceedings are not permitted by the traditional common law exception to sovereign immunity that covers certain actions related to immovable property. In this case, the foreclosure actions fall outside the purview of the common law version of the immovable-property exception. The court also rejected the County's reading of City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, 544 U.S. 197 (2005), as abrogating a tribe's immunity from suit. View "Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Seneca County" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the government defendants in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) action brought by plaintiff, seeking documents related to the revocation of his visa.The court held that the contested documents were properly withheld under FOIA Exemption 3, and specifically INA 222(f), because they pertain to the issuance and refusal of a visa. Furthermore, officials properly invoked Exemption 3 to withhold revocation documents as they are related to visa issuances and refusals. Finally, plaintiff failed to meet his burden of demonstrating that the records are needed by a court "in the interest of the ends of justice," and the discretionary release of records under 8 U.S.C. 1202(f)(1) provides no basis for disclosure in this FOIA action. For the reasons set forth in a separate summary order addressing FOIA Exemption 5 filed simultaneously with this opinion, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Spadaro v. United States Customs and Border Protection" on Justia Law

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A jury found that defendant had, through his actions in two distinct schemes, breached his fiduciary duty to Yukos, YHIL, Foundation 1, and Foundation 2 (collectively, the "Yukos Group"), as well as Mark Fleischman, as Trustee of the 2015 Security Trust, as successor in interest to the 2014 Security Trust. In this case, neither the Yukos Group nor Fleischman had sought compensatory damages for defendant's alleged breaches, and the jury declined to award them any disgorgement of defendant's compensation pursuant to New York's faithless servant doctrine. Therefore, the district court awarded the Yukos Group entities and Fleischman each $1 in nominal damages (for a total of $5).The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to David Godfrey, its non-imposition sanctions, and its decision to instruct the jury as it did regarding the standard for disgorgement of a faithless servant's compensation. However, the court concluded that Foundation 1 and Foundation 2 failed to prove breach of fiduciary duty claims against defendant. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's denial of defendant's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law as to them. View "Yukos Capital S.A.R.L. v. Feldman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Securities Law
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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's grant of defendant's motion for a new trial under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33, following defendant's conviction for conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud. The court clarified that the preponderates heavily standard requires that the district court determine whether all the evidence at trial, taken as a whole, preponderated heavily against the verdict. It does not, however, permit the district court to elect its own theory of the case and view the evidence through that lens. The court held that the weight of the evidence at trial did not preponderate heavily against the jury's verdict, and thus the district court abused its discretion in vacating the judgment and granting a new trial. The court reinstated the conviction and remanded to the district court for sentencing. View "United States v. Archer" on Justia Law

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President Trump filed suit against the District Attorney of the County of New York, alleging that a grand jury subpoena issued on August 29, 2019 by the District Attorney to Mazars USA, LLP, the President's accounting firm, is overbroad and was issued in bad faith. The subpoena directed Mazars to produce financial documents—including tax returns—relating to the President, the Trump Organization, and affiliated entities, dating back to 2011. The district court granted the District Attorney's motion to dismiss the second amended complaint based on failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).The Second Circuit affirmed, finding that the claim of overbreadth is not plausibly alleged for two interrelated reasons. First, the court concluded that the President's bare assertion that the scope of the grand jury's investigation is limited only to certain payments made by Michael Cohen in 2016 amounts to nothing more than implausible speculation. Second, the court concluded that, without the benefit of this linchpin assumption, all other allegations of overbreadth—based on the types of documents sought, the types of entities covered, and the time period covered by the subpoena, as well as the subpoena's near identity to a prior Congressional subpoena—fall short of meeting the plausibility standard. Finally, the court concluded that the President's allegations of bad faith fail to raise a plausible inference that the subpoena was issued out of malice or intent to harass. The court considered the President's remaining contentions on appeal and found no basis for reversal. The court ordered an interim stay of enforcement of the subpoena under the terms agreed to by the parties. View "Trump v. Vance" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a New York inmate, filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit alleging that all employees of the DOCCS violated his constitutional rights under the First and Eighth Amendments when they sexually assaulted him and retaliated against him for filing grievances. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants in part based on its conclusion that plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).The Second Circuit held that where, as here, an inmate follows the steps prescribed by the DOCCS Inmate Grievance Procedure but prison officials do not respond to the inmate's final appeal within the time allotted under the regulations, he has exhausted administrative remedies under the PLRA. The court held that plaintiff raised a triable issue of fact as to his retaliation claim against Defendant Hoffman but not as to his retaliation claim against Defendant Iarusso. The court also held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Dahlke where plaintiff alleged facts sufficient to survive summary judgment as to whether his rights were violated during Dahlke's pat and frisk. The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hayes v. Dahkle" on Justia Law

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The Libertarian Party of Connecticut and two of its affiliated candidates filed suit alleging that the State violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by requiring candidates for office to collect signatures from electors before appearing on the general election ballot. The district court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction on the ground that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a clear or substantial likelihood of success on the merits.Applying the Anderson-Burdick framework, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and concluded that Connecticut's laws do not impose a severe burden on plaintiffs' rights and the State's interest in requiring candidates for office to demonstrate some support before appearing on the ballot justified those laws. The district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Connecticut's laws impose only a reasonable, nondiscriminatory burden. In this case, the petitioning period ran for 218 days and the evidence demonstrates that petitioning was possible even under the challenging conditions in the State of Connecticut. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the State has the undoubted right to require candidates to make a preliminary showing of substantial support in order to qualify for a place on the ballot, and the signature requirements are an appropriate means of vindicating the State's interest. View "Libertarian Party of Connecticut v. Lamont" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of accepting bribes and three counts of tax evasion in connection with a bribery scheme that he and others perpetrated while he was an employee of Con Edison. On appeal, defendant argued that the district court erred in its restitution order by incorrectly determining that his bribery conduct was "an offense against property" under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA) and incorrectly calculating the loss to Con Edison caused by the scheme.The Second Circuit rejected defendant's argument that the MVRA does not support the restitution order to Con Edison. As urged by the government, however, the court vacated the restitution order insofar as it covers investigative costs incurred by Con Edison and remanded to the district court to allow that court to address the effect of Lagos v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 1684 (2018), on its calculation of the restitution amount. View "United States v. Razzouk" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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This appeal stems from a contract dispute between PepsiCo and one of its independent Peruvian bottlers, CEPSA. After PepsiCo terminated its contract with CEPSA, CEPSA filed suit in district court alleging, inter alia, breach of contract claims based on wrongful termination and PepsiCo's alleged failure to protect CEPSA's rights as the exclusive bottler and distributor of PepsiCo products in specified areas of Peru.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of PepsiCo and held that the contract was terminable at will and that PepsiCo had no affirmative duty under the contract to protect CEPSA against the alleged harm to its exclusive rights. In this case, the court applied the New York common law of contracts, looked within the four corners of the contract, and concluded that the Exclusive Bottler Appointment (EBA) was terminable at will and that PepsiCo had no duty to police or prevent transshipment. The court considered CEPSA's remaining arguments on appeal and concluded that they are without merit. View "Compania Embotelladora Del Pacifico, S.A. v. Pepsi Cola Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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Absent updated guidance from the Sentencing Commission, the First Step Act freed district courts to consider any potentially extraordinary and compelling reasons that a defendant might raise for compassionate release.The Second Circuit vacated the district court's denial of compassionate release to defendant and remanded for further proceedings. In this case, the district court erroneously concluded that, despite the First Step Act's changes to compassionate release, the previously enacted USSG 1B1.13, Application Note 1(D) remained good law and limited the applicable circumstances the court could consider, without input from the Bureau of Prisons, to matters of poor health, old age, and family care needs. Rather, the court held that Application Note 1(D) does not apply to compassionate release motions brought directly to the district court by a defendant under the First Step Act. View "United States v. Zullo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law