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Week 26 (2019)

Week of June 24, 2019 through June 28, 2019

United States v. Furlow (King 06/27/19): Bryshun Furlow appealed the District Court’s use of enhanced sentencing guidelines which classified him as an armed career criminal and a career offender, specifically whether his prior arson conviction was a qualifying predicate. The Court ultimately decided that Furlow “ha[d] not established plain error in the district court’s ruling that the Georgia first-degree arson convictions constitute[d] a predicate for the ACCA and the career offender provision.” Full Opinion.

United States v. Murillo (Thacker 06/24/19): Longtime permanent resident, who came to the U.S. with his parents when he was seven years old, pled guilty, on advice of his counsel, to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Appellant moved to vacate his conviction due to ineffective assistance of counsel, in violation of the Sixth Amendment, since his attorney had advised him that deportation was merely a possibility if he pled guilty to the offense and the district court did not correct her mistake. The Court reversed and remanded the case based on a reasonable probability that, had Murillo known the consequences of his guilty plea, he would opted for a jury trial. Full Opinion.

United States v. Bernard (Gregory 06/24/19): Appellant, who was found guilty of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, challenged the District Court’s denial of his pretrial motion to suppress physical evidence and statements made during a routine traffic stop under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The Court upheld the denial since the District Court found the arresting officer’s testimony that Appellant appeared to be driving erratically credible as well as that the traffic stop lasted a reasonable amount of time, and thus was not in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Court likewise found no Fifth Amendment violation despite the fact that the officer failed to Mirandize the Appellant. Full Opinion.

United States v. Vanderhorst (Wynn 06/25/19): In this appeal, Defendant Vanderhost appealed the denial of his Rule 36 motion to correct his Pre-Sentencing Report which mischaracterized one of his previous drug offenses and which he asserts caused the District Court to sentence him as a career offender. The Court held that the error did not constitute a basis for Defendant to obtain resentencing under Rule 36 since the three other convictions alone would have been enough to sentence him as a career offender. Full Opinion.

Highlight Case

Dominion Energy, Inc. v. City of Warren Police and Fire Retirement Sys.

Decided: June 28, 2019

Argued: March 19, 2019

This consolidated appeal resulted from appeals by Dominion Energy, Inc., and its subsidiary Sedona Corp. from orders remanding their respective putative class action lawsuits to the South Carolina state courts. Plaintiffs and Respondents, City of Warren Police and Fire Retirement System and the Metzler Asset Management GmbH, initiated class action suits against the appellants in connection with a merger between Dominion and a company in which the Respondents were shareholders, SCANA. Respondents claimed in two class action suits that Appellants breached their fiduciary duty in negotiating the merger by acceding to unfair terms, unfavorable to the shareholders.

The Court granted the petitions for permission to appeal and reverse since it found the suits had been properly removed to the District Court in accordance with the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, which was enacted to promote fairness in interstate class actions of national importance by expanding diversity jurisdiction. 

Neither Respondents Warren nor Metzler disputed the contention that the Class Action Fairness Act requirements for federal subject matter jurisdiction were satisfied. Instead, they both maintained that the class action claims were subject to one of CAFA’s three exceptions to removal, as specified in 28 U.S.C. § 1453(d). This required the Court to consider the “unsettled question of whether a claim for aiding and abetting the breach of a fiduciary duty falls within one or more of CAFA’s removal exceptions.”

The Court ultimately found that it did not. The remand orders were accordingly reversed for three reasons. First, the Court was not satisfied that the aiding and abetting claims fell within the statutory language of any of the removal exceptions. Second, the Court stated that it must apply CAFA’s grant of federal jurisdiction broadly and exceptions narrowly. Last, the aiding and abetting claims were entangled in two interstate and nationally-important class actions, which Congress, in enacting CAFA, intended to be litigated in the federal courts. 

Full Opinion

Tabitha Davidson