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

Articles Posted in Military Law
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Plaintiffs, the estates of crew members and pilots of a civilian flight that crashed into a mountain near Kabul Afghanistan International Airport, filed suit alleging state-law wrongful death claims against Midwest, the U.S. military contractor providing air traffic control services at the airport. Plaintiffs allege that an air traffic controller's negligent instructions to the pilot caused the fatal crash. The district court granted summary judgment to Midwest, holding that the estates' claims were preempted by the combatant activities exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act and, alternatively, that the contractor neither had a duty to provide "terrain separation" for the flight nor proximately caused the accident.With respect to the jurisdictional challenge, the Second Circuit applied de novo review and concluded that the district court correctly determined that this case could be removed to federal court under the federal officer removal statute. However, as to the challenge to the grant of summary judgment to Midwest, the court applied de novo review, construing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiffs and drawing all reasonable inferences in their favor, and concluded that plaintiffs' claims are not preempted and that there remain genuine disputes of material fact regarding Midwest's liability for the fatal crash. The court explained that Midwest, acting through the local air traffic controller, owed a duty of care to Flight 662, and plaintiffs have produced sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude that this duty was breached and that such breach proximately caused the fatal crash. Finally, the court concluded that the parties' remaining arguments on appeal are without merit. The court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Badilla v. Midwest Air Traffic Control Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of the government's motion to dismiss and, in the alternative, for summary judgment, on plaintiff's claims that the cadet separation procedures of the United States Military Academy at West Point fail to provide due process and that plaintiff's separation proceedings violated West Point's own regulations in a manner that substantially prejudiced him.The Second Circuit affirmed, concluding that West Point's cadet separation procedures satisfy due process and that the intra military immunity doctrine, which bars judicial interference in discretionary military personnel decisions, renders plaintiff's regulatory claims nonjusticiable. The court explained that plaintiff was not substantially prejudiced by any purported regulatory deviation and the court may not circumvent the doctrine to engage in a fact-specific inquiry as to whether military personnel properly applied the military's own evidentiary standard. View "Doolen v. Wormuth" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for failure to register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). Defendant was convicted of raping another member of his platoon in violation of Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and, after he was discharged from military service, he was designated as a Level Two sex offender.The court held that 34 U.S.C. 20911(5)(A)(iv)'s delegation to the Secretary of Defense to designate which military offenses constitute "sex offenses" under the statute does not violate the non-delegation doctrine. The court also held that the Secretary of Defense did not violate the Administrative Procedure Act in designating military offenses as sex offenses under SORNA. View "United States v. Mingo" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a legal permanent resident, sought review of an agency order of removal based on a finding that he committed an "aggravated felony" within the meaning of 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(G). Under section 1101(a)(43)(G), to establish an aggravated felony, the government must show by clear and convincing evidence that a noncitizen committed a "theft offense" that resulted in a term of imprisonment of "at least one year." Petitioner was a member of the U.S. Army when he pleaded guilty to four violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), one of which was larceny of military property. Under the military's customary practice of unitary sentencing at the time, the military judge issued a general sentence that imposed a punishment for all four of petitioner's convictions for 30 months' confinement.The Second Circuit held that, under the military's traditional unitary sentencing scheme, a military judgment in which a single sentence of confinement is imposed in connection with multiple counts of conviction may not be presumed to be equivalent to equal, full‐term, concurrent sentences as to each count of conviction. Because the government has not carried its burden, the court granted the petition for review and remanded for further proceedings. View "Persad v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Army took photographs of detainees at military detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq after September 11, 2001. The ACLU sought records related to the treatment of detainees with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted to the Department of Defense (DoD) and filed suit in 2004, after receiving no response. The district court ordered the government to produce or identify all responsive documents and ordered the release of the photographs with redactions, rejecting arguments that the photographs could be withheld under three FOIA exemptions. A third party released the photographs without authorization. During the pendency of an appeal, the government identified additional photographs potentially responsive to the FOIA request and attempted to withhold them under the same three exemptions. The district court again rejected these arguments. The Second Circuit reversed, in favor of DoD. The Protected National Security Documents Act of 2009 (PNSDA), 123 Stat. 2142, permits the government to withhold disclosure of any photograph “taken during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, through January 22, 2009.” Regardless of whether PNSDA is an exemption under FOIA, the Secretary of Defense’s certification, following an extensive, multi-step review process including recommendations of several senior U.S. military commanders, and the information provided by the DoD, satisfied PNSDA. View "American Civil Liberties Union v. United States Department of Defense" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, eight male, "out-of-status" aliens who were arrested on immigration charges and detained following the September 11th attacks, filed a putative class action asserting various claims arising out of the discriminatory and punitive treatment they suffered while confined at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) or the Passaic County Jail (Passaic). The district court granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion to dismiss. The court concluded that: (1) the MDC plaintiffs have plausibly alleged a substantive due process claim against the DOJ defendants, against Hasty with regard to both official and unofficial conditions, and against Sherman with regard to official conditions only, and these defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity on this claim; (2) the MDC plaintiffs have plausibly alleged an equal protection claim against the DOJ defendants, Hasty, and Sherman, and these defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity on this claim; (3) the free exercise claim is dismissed as to all defendants; (4) the MDC plaintiffs have plausibly alleged their Fourth Amendment strip search claim against Hasty and Sherman, and these defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity on this claim; (5) the MDC plaintiffs have plausibly alleged the Section 1985(3) conspiracy claim against the DOJ defendants, Hasty, and Sherman, and these defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity on this claim; and (6) the MDC plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged any claims against Zenk.  The court affirmed the dismissal of the claims brought by the Passaic plaintiffs. View "Turkmen v. Hasty, et al." on Justia Law

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CCR seeks disclosure of certain videos and photographs of a high-profile Guantanamo Bay detainee, Mohammed al-Qahtani (the so called "20th hijacker" in the September 11, 2001 attacks), under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552. The court held that the government has met its burden of establishing that these images are exempt from disclosure under FOIA Exemption 1, which authorizes non-disclosure of records that are properly authorized by Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of "national defense or foreign policy." The court found that the declarations submitted by the government establish with adequate specificity that release of images depicting the detainee could logically and plausibly harm national security because these images are uniquely susceptible to use by anti-American extremists as propaganda to incite violence against United States interests domestically and abroad. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants. View "Center for Constitutional Rights v. CIA" on Justia Law

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In 1995, Sheikh Abdel Rahman was convicted of soliciting the murder of Egyptian President Mubarak while he was visiting New York; attacking American military installations; conspiring to murder President Mubarak; conspiring in the successful 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center; conspiring to bomb other New York structures; and conspiring to commit sedition. His conviction was affirmed in 1999. Stewart was a member of his legal team and agreed to "Special Administrative Measures." Despite those obligations, Stewart smuggled messages to and from the incarcerated Sheikh, mostly relating to continuance of a ceasefire that an Egyptian militant group had declared on violent efforts to overthrow the Egyptian government. Stewart was convicted of conspiring to defraud the U.S., 18 U.S.C. 371; providing and concealing material support to a conspiracy to kill and kidnap persons in a foreign country, 18 U.S.C. 2339A and 18 U.S.C. 2; conspiracy to provide and conceal such support, 18 U.S.C. 371; and making false statements, 18 U.S.C. 1001. The Second Circuit affirmed but remanded for resentencing. On remand, he court determined that the Guidelines sentence was 360 months, which was also the statutory maximum, and imposed a sentence of 120 months. The Second Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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The Government appealed from the district court's judgment requiring the Government to disclose, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, information redacted from two memoranda prepared by the OLC. The Government contended that the redactions were justified under FOIA because the information pertained to a highly classified, active intelligence method. The court concluded that the Government could withhold this information under FOIA Exemption 1. Plaintiffs challenged the judgment insofar as it sustained the Government's withholding of certain records relating to the use of waterboarding and a photograph of a high-value detainee in custody. The court agreed with the district court that the materials at issue were exempt from disclosure. The district court erred, however, in requiring the Government to disclose the classified information redacted from the two memoranda. View "American Civil Liberties Union v. Dept. of Justice" on Justia Law

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Claimant appealed from a judgment of the district court ordering the forfeiture to plaintiff United States, pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 401(a), of certain communication-jamming devices, to wit, the defendant-in-rem Jammers, owned by claimant and a company of which he was the majority shareholder and CEO. On appeal, claimant contended that the district court erred in dismissing his claim, arguing principally that the stipulation he signed was void on the grounds that it was signed under duress and without consideration. The court held that, as a matter of New York law, no consideration for claimant's agreement to the release was needed; and thus, if consideration was absent, its absence did not make the stipulation invalid. The court also held that claimant's assertions did not meet any part of the test of duress. The court further held that the district court correctly granted the government's motion to strike or for summary judgment on the ground of claimant's lack of Article III standing. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed.