USA v. Ferris
Opinion Date: October 25, 2022
Judge: Carl E. Stewart
Areas of Law: Criminal Law
Defendant appealed his conviction under Section 912, claiming that the district court erred in adopting the Government’s jury instructions. Defendant also appealed his sentence, arguing that the district court erred in applying the cross-reference provision in U.S.S.G. Section 2J1.4(c)(1).
The Fifth Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction under Section 912, but vacated the district court’s application of U.S.S.G. Section 2J1.4(c)(1) and remanded for resentencing. The court held that that the jury instruction was satisfactory, but the facts do not support the application of the cross-reference provision to the drug-trafficking sentencing guidelines. The court explained that the record fully support’s Defendant’s conviction under Section 912. (1) Defendant intentionally and falsely pretended to be an FBI agent doing fieldwork in Texas; (2) he completed numerous overt acts consistent with his FBI agent impersonation; and (3) he completed the impersonation and overt acts with the “intent to deceive to act differently than he would have acted absent the deception.” Thus, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant’s desired jury instruction or reversibly misstate an element of his offense in its adoption of the Government’s.
However, the record fails to support the Government’s argument that Defendant attempted to traffic fentanyl. For the Government to prevail on its theory that Defendant’s false impersonation was done in the facilitation of violating Section 841(a), it must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant had the requisite state of mind to be guilty of that offense.
Louisiana Supreme Court Opinions
Louisiana v. Pilcher
Opinion Date: October 21, 2022
Judge: Jefferson D. Hughes, III
Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Energy, Oil & Gas Law, Environmental Law, Real Estate & Property Law
In an issue of first impression for the Louisiana Supreme Court, was what prescriptive period, if any, was applicable to a citizen suit for injunctive relief pursuant to LSA-R.S. 30:16 suit. Justin Tureau instituted a citizen suit pursuant to LSA-R.S. 30:16, alleging that defendants drilled and operated numerous oil and gas wells on his property, or on adjacent property, as well as constructed and used unlined earthen pits. Specifically, Tureau alleged that said unlined pits were either never closed, or were not closed in conformance with environmental rules and regulations, including Statewide Order 29-B, L.A.C. 43:XIX.101, et seq, which, among other things, requires the registration and closure of existing unlined oilfield pits, as well as the remediation of various enumerated contaminants in the soil to certain minimum standards. The Supreme Court held that a LSA-R.S. 30:16 citizen suit was not subject to liberative prescription. The Court further found that, insofar as the petition alleges that defendants violated conservation laws, rules, regulations, or orders, the allegations were sufficient to defeat an exception of no cause of action. The Court therefore affirmed the appeals court ruling, which overruled defendants’ exceptions of prescription, overruled the exceptions of no cause of action, and remanded this case for further proceedings.
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US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Opinions
Jones v. Admin of the Tulane Educ
Opinion Date: October 11, 2022
Judge: Edith Brown Clement
Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Class Action, Contracts, Education Law, Personal Injury
Two former students of Tulane University, on behalf of a putative class of current and former students, sued the University for failing to provide a partial refund of tuition and fees after Tulane switched from in-person instruction with access to on-campus services to online, off-campus instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court agreed with Tulane that the student's complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim.
The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court concluded that the claim is not barred as a claim of educational malpractice because the Students do not challenge the quality of the education received but the product received. Second, the court rejected Tulane’s argument that the breach-of-contract claim is foreclosed by an express agreement between the parties because the agreement at issue plausibly does not govern refunds in this circumstance. And third, the court concluded that Plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that Tulane breached an express contract promising in-person instruction and on-campus facilities because Plaintiffs fail to point to any explicit language evidencing that promise. But the court held that Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged implied-in-fact promises for in-person instruction and on-campus facilities. Moreover, the court found that the Students’ alternative claim for unjust enrichment may proceed at this early stage. Finally, genuine disputes of material fact regarding whether Plaintiffs saw and agreed to the A&DS preclude reliance on the agreement at this stage. Thus, Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged a claim of conversion.
Guenther v. BP Retr Accumulation
Opinion Date: October 7, 2022
Judge: Per Curiam
Areas of Law: Class Action, Constitutional Law, ERISA, Labor & Employment Law
BP Corporation North America Inc. (“BP America”) a Defendant-Appellee in this action, acquired Standard Oil of Ohio (“Sohio). BP America converted the Sohio Plan into a new plan called the BP America Retirement Plan (the “ARP”). The ARP was also a defined benefit plan that retained the formula used by the Sohio Plan to calculate its members’ pension distributions. BP America converted the ARP into the BP Retirement Accumulation Plan (the “RAP,” the conversion from the ARP to the RAP as the “Conversion,” and the date of the Conversion as the “Conversion Date”), the other Defendant-Appellee in this action. Plaintiffs-Appellees, two Sohio Legacy Employees, (the “Guenther Plaintiffs”) filed a class action complaint against the RAP and BP America.
Four years after the Guenther Plaintiffs filed their original complaint, Movant-Appellant, along with 276 other individuals (the “Press Plaintiffs”) moved to intervene in the Guenther Action “for the purpose of objecting” to the magistrate judge’s recommendation. Press Plaintiffs contend that the certified class in the Guenther Action inadequately represents their interests, and therefore, they have a right to intervene in this case.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling denying the intervention. The court held that the Press Plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that their interests diverge from those of the Guenther Plaintiffs in any meaningful way. Further, the Press Plaintiffs did not identify a unique interest of their own, they are unable to specify how a determination in the Guenther Action could have a future detrimental preclusive effect. The court wrote it is satisfied that the Press Plaintiffs will be adequately represented.
US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Opinions
Adv Indicator v. Acadia Ins
Opinion Date: October 3, 2022
Judge: Per Curiam
Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Contracts
Appellant Advanced Indicator and Manufacturing, Inc. claims its building was damaged by Hurricane Harvey’s winds. Advanced’s insurer, Acadia Insurance Company, determined that the damage to the building was caused by poor maintenance and routine wear and tear. When Acadia denied Advanced’s claim, Advanced sued. Advanced filed a motion to remand the case to state court
The district court granted Acadia’s motion and granted summary judgment on Advanced’s extra-contractual claims. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of the motion to remand, reversed the grant of summary judgment on Advanced’s claims, and remanded the matter to the district court.
The court explained that Advanced’s argument is unavailing because it fails to consider Flagg’s command that “the district court must examine the plaintiff’s possibility of recovery against that defendant at the time of removal.” At the time of removal, then, it would have been proper for the district court to find that “there is no possibility of recovery by [Advanced] against an in-state defendant.” Accordingly, the differences between Sections 542A.006(b) and 542.006(c) are not material as long as the insurer elects to accept liability for the agent before removal. The court held that summary judgment was not warranted on Advanced’s breach of contract claim given the evidence Advanced has put forth. This conclusion requires the reversal of the district court’s dismissal of Advanced’s other claims.
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