Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries
United States v. Calk
A jury convicted Defendant of one count of financial institution bribery in violation of Section 215(a)(2) and one count of conspiracy to commit financial institution bribery. The district court sentenced Defendant to a term of 366 days’ imprisonment, followed by two years’ supervised release, and imposed a $1.25 million fine. On appeal, Defendant raiseed four challenges. First, Defendant challenged (a) what constitutes “corrupt” conduct under Section 215(a); (b) what constitutes a “thing of value” under Section 215(a); and (c) how to determine the monetary value of a “thing of value” under Section 215(a), all elements of the crime. Second, Defendant argued that there is insufficient evidence in the record to uphold his convictions. Third, Defendant argued that the district court’s jury instructions were erroneous. Fourth, Defendant claimed that the district court failed to exclude prejudicial testimony that the prosecution allegedly procured through the improper use of a grand jury subpoena. The Second Circuit affirmed and concluded that Defendant’s challenges are without merit. First the court explained that “corrupt” conduct describes actions motivated by an improper purpose, even if such actions (a) did not entail a breach of duty, and (b) were motivated in part by a neutral or proper purpose, as well as by an improper purpose. Second, that a “thing of value” may cover subjectively valuable intangibles, such as political assistance, including endorsements, guidance, and referrals. Third, that the “thing of value” may be measured by its value to the parties, by the value of what it is exchanged for, or by its market value. View "United States v. Calk" on Justia Law
United States ex rel. Weiner et al. v. Siemens AG et al.
The False Claims Act (“FCA”), 31 U.S.C. Sections 3729–32, provides that when a private person brings an action under the FCA on behalf of the federal government, the “complaint shall be filed in camera, shall remain under seal for at least 60 days, and shall not be served on the defendant until the court so orders.” Alleging violations of the FCA, Relator Clifford Weiner brought a complaint in district court, which the district court dismissed for untimely service of process. Relator argued that because the district court never expressly ordered him to serve Defendants in accordance with Section 3730, the clock for service of process never began to run, and dismissal for untimely service was improper. The Second Circuit agreed with Relator and vacated. The court explained that Defendants have not identified an error of law or an erroneous factual finding embedded in the district court’s decision denying Rule 41(b) dismissal. Nor have they shown that the district court’s conclusion fell outside of the range of permissible decisions. Specifically, as the district court noted, Relator was not given express notice that his delays could result in dismissal, and the court had not devoted substantial resources to the action. View "United States ex rel. Weiner et al. v. Siemens AG et al." on Justia Law
In re: Nine West LBO Sec. Litig.
Plaintiffs-appellants Marc Kirschner, as the Litigation Trustee for the Nine West Litigation Trust representing unsecured creditors, and Wilmington Savings Fund, FSB, as successor Indenture Trustee for various notes issued by Nine West (together, the "Trustees"), brought seventeen actions in different states against Jones Group's former directors and officers for unjust enrichment and against its former public shareholders for fraudulent conveyance. Both the public shareholders and the directors and officers moved to dismiss the claims against them, arguing that payments made to them in connection with the merger are shielded by the Bankruptcy Code's Section 546(e) safe harbor. The district court granted both motions to dismiss, holding that the payments were shielded by the safe harbor. Plaintiffs appealed. The Second Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. The court explained that Congress enacted Section 546(e) safe harbor to promote finality and certainty for investors by limiting the circumstances under which securities transactions could be unwound by, for example, a successful fraudulent conveyance action. The court wrote that to further expand the scope of Section 546(e) and Section 101(22)(A) and immunize transactions in which a bank took only purely ministerial action, made no payments, and had no discretion would not further Congress's purpose. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment to the extent it dismissed the Payroll Transfer claims. View "In re: Nine West LBO Sec. Litig." on Justia Law
Kravitz v. Purcell
Plaintiff, who was formerly incarcerated at Downstate Correctional Facility, brought claims under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 against the officers for violating his First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. Plaintiff named as defendants additional corrections officers. He alleged that the officers violated his First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion by preventing him from observing the Jewish holiday of Shavuot on two consecutive evenings. The district court granted summary judgment to the officers because (1) some named officers were not personally involved in the alleged violation on the first night of Shavuot, and (2) Plaintiff’s observance of the second night of the holiday was only shortened, not denied entirely, which did not rise to the level of a “substantial burden” on his religious beliefs. The Second Circuit vacated in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the district court. The court wrote that the district court erred in holding that Plaintiff could not prevail on his claim because he did not make the threshold showing of a “substantial burden” on his religious beliefs. Such a showing is not required. Rather, because Plaintiff has shown a burden on his sincere religious beliefs, he has established a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. The court vacated the judgment insofar as the district court granted summary judgment because of a purported “substantial burden” requirement, and affirmed the judgment insofar as the district court granted summary judgment to those officers for whom there was no evidence of personal involvement. View "Kravitz v. Purcell" on Justia Law
In re: Décor Holdings, Inc., et al.
Plaintiff, in his capacity as Litigation Administrator of the post-confirmation estates (the “Litigation Administrator”) of Post-Confirmation Debtor Décor Holdings, Inc. (“Décor Holdings”), appeals the district court’s order, vacating the bankruptcy court’s entry of default judgment against Defendant Sumec Textile Company Limited (“Sumec”) and remanding the case for further proceedings. The district court’s order re-opened an adversary proceeding that the Litigation Administrator initiated against Sumec to avoid preferential payments of $694,048.84 that Décor Holdings and its affiliated debtors (collectively, the “debtors”) made to Sumec in the ninety-day period before it filed for bankruptcy. The Second Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The court explained that notwithstanding the Litigation Administrator’s practical concerns regarding his ability to effectuate service on Sumec and ultimately collect on any judgment, the court sees no basis to apply the collateral order doctrine to hear an appeal challenging the vacatur of a default judgment which can be reviewed, if necessary, upon the entry of a final judgment in the adversary proceeding. Further, the court explained that this is not a situation where the only remaining questions involve relief and enforcement of the holding; rather, the adversary proceeding is at its infancy, with issues of service of process and the actual merits of the action (assuming service is effectuated) still to be resolved on remand. Thus, the dicta in Stone regarding the general rules of appealability has no application to the circumstances in this appeal. View "In re: Décor Holdings, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Gomez v. United States
Petitioner appealed from the denial of his successive Section 2255 motion challenging his conviction and accompanying sentence for using or carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c). In his motion, Petitioner argued that his 924(c) conviction was invalid in light of United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019). The district court denied the motion because it determined that Petitioner’s Section 924(c) conviction rested on the valid predicate crime of murder. The district court further held that its Pinkerton instruction—which permits a jury to convict a defendant of a substantive offense committed by his co-conspirators—did not undermine the validity of the Section 924(c) predicate. The Second Circuit affirmed, concluding that intentional murder under New York law, even when the conviction is based on a Pinkerton theory of liability, qualifies as a crime of violence within the meaning of Section 924(c). Under a Pinkerton theory, the defendant is convicted of the substantive offense—not of conspiring to commit the offense—so he has committed a crime of violence if the substantive offense is a crime of violence. Because Pinkerton does not transform a substantive offense into a conspiracy offense, it does not implicate Davis. View "Gomez v. United States" on Justia Law
Jones et al. v. Goodrich Pump & Engine Control Systems, Inc. et al.
After two United States Army pilots tragically perished in a helicopter crash, their surviving family members sued various companies responsible for the making of the helicopter. The family members alleged that manufacturing and/or defective operating instructions and warnings caused the pilots’ deaths. The companies countered that the family members’ asserted state law claims were barred by a number of preemption doctrines. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the companies, finding that there was implied field preemption under the Federal Aviation Act (the “FAAct” or “Act”). The Second Circuit vacated. The court explained that it believes that field preemption is always a matter of congressional intent, and Congress’s removal of military aircraft from the FAAct’s reach indicates that it did not wish to include them in the FAAct’s preempted field. Rather, Congress intended for the Department of Defense (“DoD”) to have autonomy over its own aircraft. While it is possible that the family members’ claims may be barred by the military contractor defense, another preemption doctrine, see generally Boyle v. United Techs. Corp., 487 U.S. 500 (1988)—this determination requires a fact-intensive analysis to be handled by the district court in the first instance. Further, the court wrote that aside from any issues of preemption by the military contractor defense, the family members offered sufficient evidence under Georgia law for their strict liability manufacturing defect claim to survive summary judgment. View "Jones et al. v. Goodrich Pump & Engine Control Systems, Inc. et al." on Justia Law
Rosa v. Doe
Plaintiff brought an action alleging that he received constitutionally inadequate medical care as an inmate in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction. But before the district court could proceed with his case, Plaintiff, like all civil litigants in federal court, was required to pay a filing fee of $402. Plaintiff believed he could not pay the fee while also paying for the necessities of life. So, he moved for leave to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 23 U.S.C. Section 1915, which would allow Plaintiff to bring his suit without having to prepay the full filing fee. The Second Circuit denied Plaintiff’s motion, finding that the prison provided Plaintiff’s necessities of life. Plaintiff moved for reconsideration, and the district court again denied his motion. On reconsideration, the district court found that Plaintiff had the resources to pay for both the necessities of life and the filing fee but had instead chosen to prioritize contributions to his family members for their necessities. Plaintiff argued that both conclusions are the result of legal error. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded for consideration of the rest of Section 1915’s requirements. The court concluded that Plaintiff demonstrated that he lacks the resources to pay the costs of the lawsuit and for his own necessities of life and those of his dependents. The court explained that Plaintiff would not be immediately destitute if required to pay the $402 filing fee; he has nonetheless established that he cannot pay the costs associated with this suit and still provide the necessities of life for himself and his dependents. View "Rosa v. Doe" on Justia Law
Wiggins v. Griffin, et al.
Plaintiff a practicing Baptist, was incarcerated in the Green Haven Correctional Facility from 2002 until 2018. After prison officials failed to update the Protestant services “call-out list,” Wiggins was excluded from all religious services for over five months. He sued Green Haven officials Thomas Griffin, M. Kopp, D. Howard, and Dr. G. Jebamani under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, alleging that they violated his constitutional rights. The district court granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, reasoning that (1) Defendants did not substantially burden Plaintiff’s free exercise of religion, (2) Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity, and (3) if there were a constitutional violation, Kopp was not personally involved in it. The Second Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. First, the court concluded that Defendants’ failure to update the Protestant services call-out list, which prevented Plaintiff from attending worship services for over five months, substantially burdened his religious exercise. Second, because disputed issues of material fact remain, qualified immunity cannot shield Defendants from liability at this juncture. Third, Plaintiff sufficiently alleged Kopp’s personal involvement in a First Amendment violation by pleading that Kopp took no action even after she was informed that Plaintiff’s rights were being infringed. Finally, the court held that a Section 1983 free exercise claim requires a plaintiff to demonstrate the defendant’s deliberate indifference to the plaintiff’s rights. View "Wiggins v. Griffin, et al." on Justia Law
Krasner v. Cedar Realty Trust, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a putative shareholder class action complaint in New York State Supreme Court, alleging Maryland state law claims on behalf of himself and all similarly situated preferred stockholders of Cedar Realty Trust, Inc. (“Cedar”), a New York-based corporation incorporated in Maryland, following its August 2022 merger with Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trusts, Inc. (“Wheeler”) (collectively, “Defendants”). The complaint alleged Cedar and its leadership breached fiduciary duties owed to, and a contract with, shareholders such as Plaintiff and that Wheeler both aided and abetted the breach and tortiously interfered with the relevant contract. The Defendants collectively removed the case, invoking federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), but the district court remanded the case to state court after Krasner argued that an exception to CAFA jurisdiction applied to his claims. The Second Circuit dismissed Defendants’ appeal and concluded that the “securities-related” exception applies. The court explained that here, the securities created a relationship between Cedar and Plaintiff that gave rise to fiduciary duties on the part of Cedar and the potential for additional claims against those parties who aid and abet Cedar’s breach of those duties. Thus, the aiding and abetting claim—and by the same logic, the tortious interference with contract claim—“seek enforcement of a right that arises from an appropriate instrument.” As such, the securities-related exception applies, and the district court properly remanded the case to state court. View "Krasner v. Cedar Realty Trust, Inc." on Justia Law