November 16th, 2022
USA v. Davis
Opinion Date: November 15, 2022
Judge: Stuart Kyle Duncan
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, White Collar Crime
Defendant was convicted of numerous wire fraud and money-laundering charges arising from a fraudulent scheme to cause the Department of Veterans Affairs to pay over $71 million in GI-Bill funding to his trade school. Defendant raised several challenges to his convictions and his sentence.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed in nearly all respects, except that it vacated the forfeiture order and remanded it for further proceedings. The court held that Defendant fails to show the evidence was insufficient to allow a rational jury to convict him on the money-laundering counts. Further, the court concluded that conclude that the indictment was not faulty and the district court did not err in declining to order a bill of particulars.
Moreover, the court explained that illegally provided services that could have “hypothetically” been provided in a “legal manner”—like Defendant’s operation of the school—implicate the second definition of proceeds under Section 981(a)(2)(B), under which a defendant may deduct “the direct costs incurred in providing the goods or services.” The focus of any Section 981(a)(2) analysis is the underlying criminal conduct, not the crime itself.
That subsection further provides that Defendant “shall have the burden of proof with respect to the issue of direct costs” and also that those costs “shall not include any part of the overhead expenses of the entity providing the goods and services, or any part of the income taxes paid by the entity.” Therefore the court remanded for determining whether Defendant can prove any offset under the terms of Section 981(a)(2)(B).
November 11th, 2022
Louisiana Supreme Court Opinions
Louisiana v. Gleason
Opinion Date: November 10, 2022
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
Defendant Kenneth Gleason was convicted for the first-degree murder of Donald Smart, for which he received a life sentence. After giving notice he intended to appeal, Gleason died in prison. The court of appeal dismissed the appeal, vacated the conviction, and remanded the matter to the trial court with instructions to dismiss the indictment. The State appealed, arguing the Louisiana Supreme Court should overrule precedent adopting the abatement ab initio doctrine. To this, the Supreme Court concurred, finding that “[t]o abate a conviction would be as to say there has been no crime and there is no victim. Accordingly, we abandon the doctrine and hold that when a defendant dies during the pendency of an appeal, the appeal shall be dismissed and the trial court shall enter a notation in the record that the conviction removed the defendant’s presumption of innocence but was neither affirmed nor reversed on appeal due to the defendant’s death.”
November 09th, 2022
US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Opinions
Golden Glow v. City of Columbus, MS
Opinion Date: November 8, 2022
Judge: Edith H. Jones
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law
Golden Glow Tanning Salon filed a civil rights suit against the City of Columbus, which shut down its business for seven weeks at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The district court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment. Subsequent experience strongly suggests that draconian shutdowns were debatable measures from a cost-benefit standpoint, in that they inflicted enormous economic damage without necessarily “slowing the spread” of Covid-19. Golden Glow contends that the City Ordinance created an arbitrary distinction between tanning salons and liquor stores that bore no rational relationship to public health given the salon’s ability to operate safely and without customer contact
The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court wrote that the proffered reason is not arbitrary. Further, this conclusion is not altered by Golden Glow’s contention that it could have maintained a safer environment than could liquor stores. Under rational basis review, overinclusive and underinclusive classifications are permissible, as is some resulting inequality. Further, here, the closure of the salon constitutes a deprivation of some economically productive uses (i.e., the uses forbidden by the Ordinance’s Section 2). Nothing in the record supports the conclusion that the City Ordinance rendered the entire property “valueless.” The district court was correct to find that there had been no per se taking.
November 01st, 2022
Byrd v. Cornelius
Opinion Date: October 31, 2022
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Education Law, Government & Administrative Law
Appellants, two police officers, arrested Plaintiff, a student, at a school basketball game. The district court denied summary judgment based on qualified immunity, finding a dispute of material fact regarding the events surrounding Plaintiff's arrest. The officers filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the district court’s decision.
The Fifth Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The issues raised by Plaintiff create factual disputes that meet the required threshold to overcome Appellant's qualified immunity defense at this stage.
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