Category Archives: First Circuit

Statute of Limitations for Underpayment of TDI Benefits

In a claim of underpayment of long-term disability benefits, the statute of limitations accrues at the time the underpayment is made known to the participant when (s)he receives his first miscalculated benefit award and not with each monthly benefit payment made, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this month in Riley v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 2014 WL 814742 (1st Cir. Mar. 4, 2014).

In 2012, plaintiff Robert Riley filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. , against defendant Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. (“MetLife”), arguing that MetLife had been underpaying his monthly benefits since its 2005 denial of his assertion that he was entitled to a larger payment calculation under his long-term disability insurance plan. The district court granted MetLife’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Riley’s suit was barred by the six-year statute of limitations. See Riley v. Metro. Life Ins. Co. , ___ F. Supp. 2d ___, 2013 WL 5009618 (D. Mass. Sept. 11, 2013). We affirm, rejecting Riley’s argument that this long-term disability plan must be analogized to an installment payment plan so as to alter the accrual date of his claim. In doing so, we join three other circuits. We also reject his claim that the plan documents here create a different accrual rule for him based on a principle of “symmetry” and reject his equitable arguments.

Read the full opinion here.

First Circuit Nominee Makes SCOTUS Farm Team List

The New Yorker examines the list of potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Their includes a nominee to the First Circuit Court of Appeals: David Barron.

David Barron, age forty-six, nominated to the First Circuit. Barron served as acting assistant attorney general during the first two years of the Obama Administration and is now a professor at Harvard Law School. His clerkships were with Stephen Reinhardt (a liberal favorite on the Ninth Circuit) and Justice John Paul Stevens; he has many fans in the White House, though the appointment of a white male would offer few political benefits. Barron’s nomination to the First Circuit has been approved by the Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote, and he has apparently been promised a vote in the full Senate before the mid-term elections. The invocation of the nuclear option—confirmation via a simple majority rather than the three-fifths vote formerly required to overcome a filibuster—should guarantee his appointment, which is obligatory if he is to be a Supreme Court nominee down the line.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has also been mentioned as a potential nominee to the highest Court in the land.

Rhode Island Justice pens First Circuit Opinion on Transgender Prisoner Rights

In a ruling applauded by transgender advocates, the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that transgender inmates have a constitutional right to access transition-related care, including gender-confirming surgeries

Here is a link to the opinion in Kosilek v. Spencer. The opinion was written by the Rhode Island Justice on the Court, Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson.

The case involved, Michelle Kosilek, a transgender woman currently serving a life sentence for murder of Cheryl McCaul. The Advocate has reaction from the LGBT community:

“The Appeals Court affirmed that the District Court properly found that Michelle Kosilek needed this lifesaving medical care,” said Jenifer Levi, director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders’ Transgender Rights Project, in a statement Friday. “If she needed treatment for cancer or heart disease, this case would never have wound up in court. If we are to call ourselves a civilized society, there is a baseline of care that has to be provided to all prisoners, including prisoners who are transgender.”

“Today’s decision affirms the increasing consensus among the courts that transgender-related healthcare is just healthcare and that people behind bars, including transgender people, have a constitutional right to healthcare,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Decisions about treating serious healthcare decisions like sex reassignment surgery need to be made by doctors and patients, not prison authorities.”

The Court concluded as follows:

We are assuredly mindful of the difficult tasks faced by prison officials every day. But as the Supreme Court has cautioned, while sensitivity and deference to these tasks is warranted, “[c]ourts nevertheless must not shrink from their obligation to ‘enforce the constitutional rights of all ‘persons,’ including prisoners.'” Brown v. Plata, 131 S. Ct. 1910, 1928 (2011) (quoting Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 321 (1972) (per curiam)). And receiving medically necessary treatment is one of those rights, even if that treatment strikes some as odd or unorthodox.

Here the trial judge had the opportunity to preside over two lawsuits involving the same players and similar allegations, to hear evidence in this case over the course of a twenty-eight day trial, to question witnesses, to assess credibility, to review a large volume of exhibits, and, in general, to live with this case for twelve years (twenty years if you count Kosilek I). The judge was well-placed to make the factual findings he made, and there is certainly evidentiary support for those findings. Those findings — that Kosilek has a serious medical need for the surgery, and that the DOC refuses to meet that need for pretextual reasons unsupported by legitimate penological considerations — mean that the DOC has violated Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment rights. The court did not err in granting Kosilek the injunctive relief she sought.

1st Circuit Rules on GPS and Warrants

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in United States v. Sparks, et al., contemplated the recent SCOTUS ruling in US v. Jones before ruling that evidence obtained as a result of a warrantless placement of a global positioning system device on a car could be admitted at trial.

Via RI Lawyers Weekly:

The defendants argued that, under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in United States v. Jones, the federal agents’ use of the GPS tracker was a Fourth Amendment “search” that required a warrant.

The 1st Circuit, however, found the evidence admissible pursuant to the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule articulated by the Supreme Court in the 2011 case of Davis v. United States.

Davis’s good-faith exception is not a license for law enforcement to forge ahead with new investigative methods in the face of uncertainty as to their constitutionality,” Judge Norman H. Stahl wrote for the unanimous court. “The good-faith exception is, however, properly applied in cases like this one (or Davis itself), where new developments in the law have upended the settled rules on which the police relied.”

First Circuit rules that recovering addict entitled to Disability benefits

In Colby v. Union Security Insurance Company & Management Company for Merrimack Anesthesia Associates Long Term Disability Plan, et al., the First Circuit Court of Appeals created a circuit-split in ruling that a recovering addict can get LTD benefits.

The Court held that “a risk of relapse into substance dependence — like a risk of relapse into cardiac distress or a risk of relapse into orthopedic complications — can swell to so significant a level as to constitute a current disability.”

The opinion, written by Judge Bruce M. Selya, is available here.

President Obama Re-nominates 33 for Federal Judgeships

In the face of unprecedented obstruction, today, President Obama re-nominated thirty-three individuals who he previously nominated for federal judgeships in the 112th Congress.

“Today, I am re-nominating thirty-three highly qualified candidates for the federal bench, including many who could have and should have been confirmed before the Senate adjourned,” said President Obama.  “Several have been awaiting a vote for more than six months, even though they all enjoy bipartisan support.  I continue to be grateful for their willingness to serve and remain confident that they will apply the law with the utmost impartiality and integrity.  I urge the Senate to consider and confirm these nominees without delay, so all Americans can have equal and timely access to justice.”

CIRCUIT COURT NOMINEES

  • Judge Robert E. Bacharach:  Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
  • Caitlin Halligan: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • William J. Kayatta, Jr.:  Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
  • Jill A. Pryor:  Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
  • Judge Patty Shwartz:  Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
  • Srikanth Srinivasan: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • Richard Gary Taranto:  Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

DISTRICT COURT NOMINEES

  • Judge Elissa F. Cadish: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Nevada
  • Valerie E. Caproni: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
  • Judge Sheri Polster Chappell:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida
  • Pamela Ki Mai Chen:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
  • Judge Brian J. Davis: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida
  • Shelly Deckert Dick:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana
  • Jennifer A. Dorsey:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Nevada
  • Katherine Polk Failla:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
  • Kenneth John Gonzales:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico
  • Andrew Patrick Gordon:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Nevada
  • Ketanji Brown Jackson:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
  • Rosemary Márquez:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Arizona
  • Judge Michael J. McShane:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Oregon
  • Raymond P. Moore: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Colorado
  • Judge Troy L. Nunley: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California
  • Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Central District of California
  • William H. Orrick, III: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California
  • Judge Nitza I. Quiñones AlejandroNominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Judge Nelson Stephen Román:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
  • Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Judge William L. Thomas:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
  • Judge Analisa Torres:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
  • Derrick Kahala Watson:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii

COURT OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE NOMINEES

  • Mark A. Barnett: Nominee for the United States Court of International Trade
  • Claire R. Kelly: Nominee for the United States Court of International Trade

The Blunt versus the Cigar

In USA v. Timothy Brown, the First Circuit recently distinguished between a “marijuana blunt” and a “cigar” in the context of a police officer having “reasonable suspicion” to approach the car.

Rhode Island’s own, Justice O. Rogeriee Thompson, wrote the 29-page opinion:

…Brown argues that the reported observation of an individual smoking a “blunt marijuana cigarette,” absent any evidence of the detection of odor or other suspicious activity, and evaluated in conjunction with (1) the testimony of an officer that visual observation is insufficient to distinguish between a tobacco filled blunt and a marijuana filled blunt and (2) the absence of any observations of smoking or suspicious activity by Dineen and Waters, is insufficient to justify the stop.

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