Wins For the Little Guys in United States Supreme Court, Eleventh Circuit, and Florida Supreme Court
The stars must be aligned just right, because for the first time in a long time, the US Supreme Court, Eleventh Circuit, and Florida Supreme Court all recently issued opinions favorable to criminal defendants. It’s like a hat trick for criminal defense and criminal appeals lawyers!
In Millbroook v. United States, 11-10362, Millbrook, a federal prisoner in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, filed an action against the United States after he was sexually assaulted and verbally threatened while in custody. Although the District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the United States, and the Third Circuit affirmed, the United States Supreme Court reversed, and held that Millbrook’s lawsuit was not barred by the “law enforcement proviso” of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). In so holding, the Court relied on the plain text of the section and determined that Congress intended immunity determinations to be based on a federal officer’s legal authority, not on a particular exercise of that authority. See Millbrook, 11-20362, slip op., pg. 6. Based on the plain text of the statute, the Court rejected the Government’s argument that an officer’s intentional tort must occur in the course of executing a search seizing evidence, or making an arrest in order to expose the Government to liability. See id.
In United States v. Hinds, No. 11-16048, Hinds was convicted of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base (crack cocaine). On direct appeal, the Eleventh Circuit agreed with Hinds that his sentence should be vacated because the amount attributed to him was too speculative. On remand, the District Court failed to give Hinds the benefit of the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), so Hinds appealed, and won again. In holding that Hinds should have been given the benefit of the FSA, the Court noted, in footnote 2, that the Government conceded that Hinds should have been given the benefit of the FSA when he appeared on remand. Too bad Hinds had to appeal twice to get the benefit of the FSA.
Finally, in State v. Larry Phillips, No SC11-411, the Florida Supreme Court found that Phillips, who had been committed under the Jimmy Ryce Act, was eligible for immediate release because the State waited to file its commitment petition after Phillips’ criminal sentence had expired.