Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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Plaintiff, a marine salvor, filed this action in rem against the Blacksheep, seeking a salvage award for services he provided to the yacht. The district court entered judgment against plaintiff, finding that he failed to show that his services were necessary to the rescue of the Blacksheep. The court concluded, however, that a claim for a salvage award does not require such a showing. In this case, the district court's findings and some facts from the record could support the conclusion that plaintiff's action contributed to saving the Blacksheep where he deployed his high-capacity dewatering pump; dove below the ship where he successfully pushed the propeller shaft twelve inches closer to its intended position; and applied packing material to prevent further flooding. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Girard v. M/V "Blacksheep"" on Justia Law

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Defendants Wilchcombe, Rolle, and Beauplaint appealed their convictions for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute and possessing with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana while on board a vessel subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Rolle also appeals his conviction for failing to obey a lawful order to heave to his vessel of which he was the master, operator, and person in charge. The court rejected Wilchcombe’s and Rolle’s arguments that the court's interpretation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA), 46 U.S.C. 70503(a) and (b), and 70506(a), violates due process; the statement of no objection (SNO) in this case was sufficient to inform the United States that the Bahamian Government consented to the United States’ exercise of jurisdiction over Rolle’s vessel; while the evidence presented at trial suggests that the Coast Guard may have incorrectly informed the Bahamian Government about the registration documents provided by Rolle to the Coast Guard, there are multiple reasons why this inconsistency does not lead the court to fault the district court’s decision to exercise jurisdiction over defendants; the evidence is sufficient to sustain Wilchcombe’s convictions for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute and possessing with intent to distribute under the MDLEA; the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to grant a mistrial as to Beauplant and Rolle; the district court properly denied Beauplant's motion to dismiss; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by permitting a DEA agent to testify regarding Beauplant's prior 2010 arrest. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Wilchcombe" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a United States citizen, worked as the lead trumpeter on a passenger Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The ship is a Bahamian flagged vessel with a home port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Royal Caribbean, the operator of the vessel, is a Liberian corporation with its principal place of business in Florida. After plaintiff became ill while working for Royal Caribbean, he filed suit alleging unseaworthiness, negligence, negligence under the Jones Act, maintenance and cure, and seaman’s wages and penalties. Royal Caribbean moved to compel arbitration, and the district court granted the motion. This appeal presents an issue of first impression: whether a seaman’s work in international waters on a cruise ship that calls on foreign ports constitutes “performance . . . abroad” under the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, 9 U.S.C. 202. The Convention makes enforceable an arbitration agreement between United States citizens if their contractual relationship “envisages performance . . . abroad.” The court affirmed the order compelling arbitration of the dispute because a seaman works abroad when traveling in international waters to or from a foreign state. View "Alberts v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the County after he suffered injuries while aboard a vessel traveling in the Coral Park Canal, a drainage canal in the County. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. At issue is whether a canal is navigable for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. 1333, if an artificial obstruction prevents vessels from using the canal to conduct interstate commerce. Because the Coral Park Canal cannot support interstate commerce, the court concluded that it cannot satisfy the location requirement of admiralty jurisdiction. The court concluded that extending jurisdiction to waters incapable of commercial activity serves no purpose of admiralty jurisdiction. Therefore, the court agreed with the district court that plaintiff's injuries did not occur on navigable waters for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction because an artificial obstruction prevents vessels from traveling from the Coral Park Canal to places outside of Florida. View "Tundidor v. Miami-Dade County" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to distribute cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, in violation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA), 46 U.S.C. 70503(a)(1), 70506(b). The court rejected the government's contention that it should review only for plain error where the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law that the court reviews de novo even when it is raised for the first time on appeal. In this case, the district court did not expressly make any factual findings with respect to its jurisdiction. In the plea agreement, defendant does not admit to facts that give rise to jurisdiction. The agreement does not state, for example, that defendant and his coconspirators failed to “make a claim of nationality” upon request when United States officials apprehended them. Instead, it asserts that defendant was on a vessel subject to the United States’ jurisdiction. The court concluded that a limited remand is the proper course of action in this case. Therefore, the court remanded the case to the district court for the limited purpose of determining whether subject matter jurisdiction exists. View "United States v. Gonzalez Iguaran" 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