Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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Daewoo filed suit against AMT, seeking an order compelling AMT to arbitrate an attachment of pig iron, invoking both maritime attachment and the Louisiana non-resident attachment statute, La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 3542. After the district court's grant of Daewoo's attachment, TKM attached the same pig iron in Louisiana state court and intervened in the federal suit. The district court agreed with TKM and vacated Daewoo's attachment. The Fifth Circuit vacated, holding that Section 3502 allowed Daewoo to seek a Section 3542 attachment before commencing its confirmation proceeding, Daewoo followed Section 3502's requirements, and thus Daewoo's attachment was valid. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Stemcor USA Inc. v. Cia Siderurgica do Para Cosipar" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the City and its officers under 42 U.S.C.1983, federal maritime law, and state law, alleging that defendants seized his sailboat and destroyed it without justification and without notice. The district court dismissed plaintiff's claims. The court concluded that the district court should not have placed a “heightened pleading” burden on plaintiff for his section 1983 claims. The court also concluded that the district court erred to the extent that it dismissed the federal constitutional claims in Counts I, II, and V, and the maritime claims in Counts III and IV, based on the contents of the incident reports. On remand, the court instructed the district court to assess the sufficiency of the procedural due process, search and seizure, and takings claims without reliance on the disputed portions of the incident reports. The court further instructed that the district court should assume that the sailboat was not derelict, and that plaintiff was never given adequate notice that it was derelict and subject to removal and destruction. The court further concluded that the district court erred with respect to the procedural due process claim in Count I and the Fourth Amendment claim in Count II. In this case, all plaintiff needed to do to establish municipal liability was allege a policy, practice, or custom of the City which caused the seizure and destruction of his sailboat, which he did. Further, defendants cannot point to any post-Leatherman v. Tarrant Cnty. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit Supreme Court or circuit cases - and the court has not been able to locate any - holding that a complaint asserting a section 1983 municipal liability claim must, as a Rule 8(a) pleading matter, always specifically identify the municipality’s final policymaker by name. Finally, plaintiff also sufficiently stated a claim for an unconstitutional seizure under the Fourth Amendment. However, the court agreed with the district court that plaintiff failed to state a substantive due process claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Hoefling, Jr. v. City of Miami" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were two Yemeni-born Muslim seamen who were United States citizens. Their civil rights action concerned a tanker ship owned by the United States Maritime Administration but operated by a private company under a contract. The first seaman alleged that the human resources director of the companying operating the ship ordered that he be fired because of his national origin. The second seaman alleged that he was not hired to work aboard the ship because of his religion and national origin. Both plaintiffs named the human resources director as a defendant but not the United States. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that because Plaintiffs’ claims both involved a contract for employment or potential employment aboard a public vessel of the United States and had a sufficient maritime connection, they were required to bring those claims against the United States. View "Ali v. Rogers" on Justia Law

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A drug interdiction in Caribbean waters by the United States Coast Guard ended with the arrest and indictment of multiple defendants, including Appellant. The Coast Guard determined that the vessel was "without nationality" and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA). Appellant was convicted of possession with the intent to distribute more than 1140 pounds of cocaine and heroin while on board a vessel in violation of the MDLEA. On appeal, Appellant argued that Congress lacked the authority under the Piracies and Felonies Clause to criminalize drug trafficking on board a vessel in international waters under the MDLEA without requiring a nexus between the conduct and the United States. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that any jurisdictional error under the MDLEA related to Appellant's conviction did not constitute plain error in this case. View "United States v. Nueci-Pena" on Justia Law

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Seaman filed this action to recover maintenance and cure and compensatory and punitive damages from his former employer (Employer), claiming that he suffered PTSD and depression as a result of being gang-raped by uniformed Korean police officers while he was on shore leave from Employer's ship docked in Korea. The jury awarded Seaman $20,000,000 in compensatory damages and $5,000,000 in punitive damages. The circuit court granted Employer's motion for partial summary judgment precluding Seaman's denial of maintenance and cure, set aside the punitive damages award, and remitted the compensatory damages award to $2,000,000. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial on all issues relating to the seaworthiness and Jones Act claims regarding Employer's actions after Seaman returned to the ship, and Seaman's claim for maintenance and cure benefits, holding (1) the circuit court erred by not ordering a new trial after concluding that the maintenance and cure claim for compensatory and punitive damages should not have been submitted to the jury; and (2) the circuit court erred in refusing the instruction proffered by Employer quoting the circuit court's pre-trial ruling on the Jones Act and seaworthiness claims, and the refusal was not harmless. View "Hale v. Maersk Line Ltd." on Justia Law

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Nicole Walker and Bart Hyde pled guilty to conspiring to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine. Defendants appealed their respective sentences, arguing that the district court clearly erred in calculating the drug quantity attributable to each of them. Hyde also argued that the district court erred in imposing an obstruction of justice enhancement and failed to reduce Hyde's sentence for acceptance of responsibility. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not rely on unreliable evidence or apply an overly broad definition of conspiracy; (2) the district court did not clearly err in determining Defendants distributed "ice" as defined in the Sentencing Guidelines; (3) the district court did not err in applying an obstruction of justice enhancement based on the court's determination that Defendant intentionally gave false testimony; and (4) the district court did not err in denying a reduction for acceptance of responsibility. View "United States v. Walker" on Justia Law

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The city filed a complaint in admiralty against defendant, a vessel, claiming that defendant committed the maritime tort of trespass because it remained at the city marina after the city explicitly revoked its consent, and seeking to foreclose its maritime lien for necessaries (unpaid dockage provided to defendant by the city). Claimant, owner of the vessel, appealed from the district court's entry of an order of summary judgment and an order of final judgment for the city in an in rem proceeding against defendant. The court held that the district court did not err in concluding that it had federal admiralty jurisdiction over defendant where defendant was a "vessel" for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction; the district court's factual findings regarding the amount claimant owed under the city's maritime lien for necessaries were not clearly erroneous; the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to the city on claimant's affirmative defense of retaliation; the district court correctly concluded that the city was not estopped from bringing its action in admiralty against defendant; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to apply collateral estoppel because the issues at stake were significantly different from those in dispute in the state court proceeding. Accordingly, the district court's orders were affirmed.View "City of Riviera Beach v. Lozman" on Justia Law