Friday, May 13, 2016

Kittle-Aikeley v. Claycomb

Opinion handed down December 7, 2015; corrected December 9, 2015; vacated February 18, 2016.
In 2011, Linn State Technical College enacted a mandatory drug test policy.[1]  The purpose of the policy was to ensure a safe and healthy environment for students and faculty frequently engaged in the handling and operation of heavy machinery, as well as deterring drug use of students preparing to enter highly regulated, safety-sensitive fields.[2]  After surviving a facial Fourth Amendment challenge, the drug test policy was challenged on an as-applied basis.[3]  The trial court held the policy constitutional, but only as applied to educational programs involving a particularly high safety risk, which then required the trial court to determine which technical programs fell into such a category.[4]
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the trial court, determining that a program-by-program analysis was unnecessary, and held that the drug-test policy is constitutional as applied to all Linn State students.[5]  Ruling under the premise that drug use and the operation of any machinery is a recipe for harm, the court determined that Linn State’s interests in providing a safe atmosphere trumped the students’ privacy interests against being tested for drugs.[6]
Recently, the Eighth Circuit granted a motion for rehearing en banc, vacating this opinion, and momentarily leaving this issue of the law in limbo.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Harris v. Mortgage Professionals

Opinion handed down March 23, 2015
        The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri granted summary judgment to Hartford Insurance and Mortgage Professionals, Inc. (“MPI”), rejecting a ten-year statute of limitations in favor of a three-year statute of limitations in a suit to collect on mortgage broker bonds.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision and remanded.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Greater Missouri Medical Pro-Care Providers, Inc. v. Perez

Opinion handed down December 14, 2015
        In 2005, Alena Gay Arat, a therapist from the Philippines, was hired by Greater Missouri Medical Pro-Care Providers, Inc. (“GMM”) to work as a therapist in the United States via the H-1B program for temporary workers.[1]  In 2006, Arat filed a complaint alleging GMM violated H-1B program statutory and regulatory requirements.[2]  An investigator for the Department of Labor (“DOL”) investigated the allegations set forth in the complaint, as well as GMM, to determine whether it had generally complied with the H-1B statutory and regulatory requirements.[3]
        Based on evidence from the DOL’s investigation, the Secretary of Labor held that GMM violated H-1B statutory and regulatory requirements and ordered that GMM pay back wages to a number of employees.[4]  GMM requested and was granted a hearing before a DOL administrative law judge (“ALJ”).[5]  The ALJ upheld the Secretary’s finding and GMM appealed.[6]  The Secretary’s finding was affirmed by the DOL administrative review board (“ARB”) and the district court and subsequently appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.[7]  The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision, finding that the Secretary did not have the authority to investigate whether GMM had generally complied with the H-1B statutory and regulatory requirements based on the allegations made in a single “aggrieved party” complaint.[8] 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

In re Hardy

Opinion handed down June 2, 2015
When filing Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, Pepper Hardy sought exemption of her tax refund from the Additional Child Tax Credit (“ACTC”) as a public assistance benefit.[1]  The bankruptcy trustee objected to Hardy’s requested exception, arguing that the ACTC was not a public assistance benefit because the legislative purpose behind the credit and the credit for households of up to $110,000 modified gross income contradicted Hardy’s characterization of the benefit.[2]  The bankruptcy court sustained the trustee’s objection and denied the exception of the ACTC from Hardy’s bankruptcy estate, noting the ACTC did not benefit only “needy” families and did not qualify as a public assistance benefit.[3]  Hardy appealed the bankruptcy court’s decision, but the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (“BAP”) affirmed the court’s decision.  Hardy appealed the BAP’s decision, and the Eighth Circuit reversed the bankruptcy court’s decision, concluding that amendments to ACTC exhibited a legislative intent to provide public assistance to low-income families and should thus be exempted.[4]
I.  Facts and Holding
In 2012, Pepper Hardy filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and stated on her Schedule B that she planned on receiving a 2012 tax refund.[5]  On her Schedule C, Hardy claimed most of this tax refund was exempted from her bankruptcy estate.[6]  Specifically, Hardy noted that $2000 of the refund was attributed to her Child Tax Credit (“CTC”).[7]  Hardy contended that a portion of the CTC contained a refundable ACTC, which was exempted as a “public assistance benefit” because the credit only benefitted low-income families.[8]  However, the BAP rejected this argument, citing Hardy’s failure to present evidence demonstrating this exclusively low-income benefit.[9]  Further, the BAP noted that it was feasible for a “relatively affluent family” to benefit from the ACTC, and the minimum income threshold prevented many needy families from benefitting at all from the credit.[10]  Hardy appealed the BAP’s decision to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the existence of any public assistance benefit in the ACTC should qualify the credit for a public assistance benefit exemption.[11]  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the bankruptcy court’s decision and held that the credit qualified for exemption because several amendments to the ACTC suggested a legislative intent to benefit low-income families.[12] 

Monday, May 9, 2016

United States v. Haire

Opinion handed down November 23, 2015
        Government agents overheard George Lee on a wiretapped phone arranging for the shipment of cocaine and marijuana from Houston to St. Louis.[1]  Lee was later heard communicating with a drug supplier regarding the transportation of large sums of money from St. Louis to Houston.[2]  Subsequently, Carmen Haire was spotted boarding a train in St. Louis with a destination of Houston.[3]  He was stopped by a Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) agent and subsequently arrested.[4]  Large sums of money were found on him; he was transporting this money for Lee.[5]  Lee was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana, conspiracy to launder the proceeds of drug trafficking, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.[6]  Haire was convicted of conspiracy to launder the proceeds of drug trafficking.[7]  Both men appealed.[8]  One of Lee’s arguments presented on appeal was that insufficient foundation was laid for the wiretap recordings, such that they were inadmissible.[9]  This summary will focus on that issue.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Smith v. ConocoPhillips Pipe Line Co.

Opinion handed down September 15, 2015
        Smith, the named plaintiff in a putative class action, sued ConocoPhillips Pipe Line Co. (“Conoco”) for a petroleum leak seeking injunctive relief and damages resulting therefrom.[1]  Conoco removed to federal court, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri denied Conoco’s motion to disqualify the class’s experts, granting Smith’s motion to certify the class.  Conoco appealed both decisions.[2]  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ultimately ruled the class did not meet the commonality requirement under Missouri law.[3]