Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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In August 2018, Surety posted a $100,000 bond for Lee's release from the San Mateo Jail. On September 13, Lee failed to appear at a scheduled preliminary hearing. The court issued a bench warrant and ordered the bail forfeited. On September 21, the clerk of the court mailed a “Notice of Order Forfeiting Bail” to Surety. On March 25, 2019, Surety moved to vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bail. Supporting exhibits indicated that Lee was in custody in Alameda County on federal charges and that the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office had been notified of that detention. Surety argued that the court was required to vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bail under Penal Code 1305(c)(3) because Lee had been surrendered by the bail agent to local law enforcement agencies; if the district attorney were to choose not to extradite, exoneration of bail was required under section 1305(f); and if the district attorney were to place a hold on Lee, the court should exonerate bail under section 1305(i) and (c)(3). As alternative relief, Surety requested tolling urging that Lee was disabled from appearing in court. The District Attorney elected to extradite Lee.The trial court denied Surety’s motions. The court of appeal ordered the trial court to exonerate the bond, noting that it failed to timely enter summary judgment and now lacks jurisdiction to enforce the forfeiture. View "People v. Bankers Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant's cause of action for unjust enrichment against the State, holding that the district court correctly dismissed the matter as an unlawful collateral attack on Appellant's criminal conviction.Appellant pleaded guilty to speeding in a construction zone. Appellant later filed a lawsuit challenging the authority of Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) officers to issue traffic citations and contesting the payments the State collected from fines resulting from convictions on unauthorized IDOT-issued citations. The district court held (1) the IDOT officers, at the time, lacked authority to stop Defendant's vehicle; and (2) Appellant's unjust enrichment claim was an improper collateral attack on his conviction, warranting dismissal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly concluded that Appellant's unjust enrichment claim was an improper collateral attack on his speeding ticket conviction. View "Rilea v. State" on Justia Law

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Respondent Karl Baker and his business partner sought investors for a company called Aviara Capital Partners, LLC. According to promotional materials that Baker provided to potential investors, investment money would be used to purchase distressed banks that were being shut down and were under the control of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”). In conjunction with the purchase of the distressed banks, Aviara would operate a “distressed assets fund” to purchase the assets of such banks. Aviara would then acquire additional banks under a business plan by which Aviara and its investors would collectively own eighty percent of the banks, while bank management, directors, advisors, and employees would own the other twenty percent. In the course of soliciting potential investors, Baker spoke, independently, with the purported victims in this case, Donna and Lyal Taylor, Dr. Alan Ng, and Stanley Douglas. The alleged victims’ investments did not work out as they claim to have been promised, and a grand jury subsequently indicted Baker on, among other charges, four counts of securities fraud, and three counts of theft. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the admission of a deputy securities commissioner’s expert testimony that Baker’s misstatements and omissions were material was reversible error. Because: (1) in presenting such opinions, the deputy commissioner also opined that certain disputed facts were true; (2) such testimony involved weighing the evidence and making credibility determinations, which were matters solely within the jury’s province; and (3) the error in admitting such testimony was not harmless, the Supreme Court agreed with the court of appeals that the admission of this testimony was reversible error. View "Colorado v. Baker" on Justia Law

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Shaun Lawrence met D.B. at a casino, where she worked as a cashier. During their conversations, Lawrence told D.B. that he ran several successful businesses and that he was looking for people to work for him and for investors to help grow a private investigations business called Advert Investigations (“Advert”). The parties eventually signed two “Investment and Business Agreement,” which provided that D.B. would invest cash money in exchange for an ownership interest in Advert. At no time prior to D.B.’s investments did Lawrence tell her that he would use the money to pay for personal and gambling expenses. Nor did he ever advise her that he had outstanding civil judgments against him totaling over $100,000. D.B. filed a complaint with the State Division of Securities, which subsequently referred the case to the district attorney’s office for prosecution. The State then charged Lawrence with two counts of securities fraud, and one count of theft. The jury ultimately convicted Lawrence as charged, and Lawrence appealed. In his appeal, he contended, among other things, that (1) the evidence did not establish that the transaction at issue involved a security (namely, an investment contract); (2) Colorado Securities Commissioner Rome’s expert testimony usurped the jury’s role as factfinder because the Commissioner was improperly permitted to opine on the ultimate factual issues in this case; and (3) Lawrence was entitled to the ameliorative benefit of the amendments to the theft statute and, as a result, he could only stand convicted of a class 1 misdemeanor because that was the lowest degree of theft that the jury’s verdict supported. The Colorado Supreme Court concurred with the appellate court’s determination that: (1) the agreement at issue here was an investment contract, and therefore a security; (2) Commissioner’s testimony was admissible, and any error by the trial court in admitting that testimony was harmless; and (3) the trial court erred in instructing the jury as to the value of the property taken. View "Lawrence v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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The underlying class action alleged that the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) unlawfully denied hearing-impaired inmates “the assistance they need to communicate effectively and participate in IDOC programs and services.” A 2018 Settlement required IDOC to screen inmates for hearing problems, refer inmates in need to a licensed audiologist for a more thorough audiological evaluation, maintain records of inmates’ evaluations, and provide inmates with care according to the results of their evaluations. For about a year after the court approved the Settlement, IDOC incorrectly referred about 700 inmates to licensed hearing instrument dispensers (LHIDs)—hearing-aid salesmen—instead of audiologists for evaluations. IDOC discontinued the practice in July 2019, based on an out-of-court agreement.In 2020, Plaintiffs moved to enforce the Settlement arguing that IDOC is not ensuring that the audiological evaluations are completed within a reasonable time period and sought attorney fees for the investigation and resolution of the LHID violations. The district court concluded that IDOC was in substantial non-compliance with the Settlement through the LHID violations,, ordered IDOC to pay about $54,000 in attorney fees, and held that the Settlement requires IDOC to ensure the audiological evaluations are completed within a reasonable timeframe, which it defined as 90 days after a referral. The Seventh Circuit affirmed with respect to attorneys’ fees. The district court incorrectly determined that IDOC was obligated to ensure that its inmates receive audiological evaluations within a set timeframe; the Settlement contains no such requirement. View "Holmes v. Godinez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss four additional arson charges as breach of his plea agreement with the State as to second-degree arson, holding that the State remained bound by its plea agreement under the circumstances of this case.The plea agreement provided that Defendant would plead guilty to second-degree arson, that Defendant would cooperate in an interview regarding other suspicious fires, and that the State would not bring charges regarding the other fires. Defendant pled guilty. Thereafter, the State decided not to hold the interview and advised Defendant that he would be charged with other arsons. The State gave Defendant an opportunity to withdraw from the plea agreement, but Defendant declined to withdraw. The State brought four additional arson charges, and Defendant moved to dismiss them as breach of the plea agreement. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the State could not unilaterally withdraw from the plea agreement by declining to conduct the interview; and (2) Defendant did not ratify the State's modification of the plea agreement by refusing the State's offer of rescission. View "State v. Beres" on Justia Law

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Perez‐Gonzalez pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for his role in a gang‐related killing and agreed to cooperate. His plea agreement stated: Any deviation from that truthful [testimony against a co-defendant] will be grounds for the [state] at [its] sole discretion–to withdraw its agreement to delete reference to a firearm as well as to withdraw its agreement to vacate the 15‐year add‐on. In such event, the defendant would then be required to serve the terms of the initial agreement. It makes no reference to refusal to testify. More than one year later, as the trial of a co‐defendant approached, Perez‐Gonzalez declined to testify. He was convicted of contempt of court, resulting in an additional 10‐year sentence. After exhausting his state court remedies, Perez‐Gonzalez sought habeas corpus relief, asserting the state breached the plea agreement by requesting the contempt sanction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief, rejecting an argument that the plea agreement immunized Perez-Gonzalez from contempt proceedings. Although he presented a reasonable interpretation of the agreement, he has not proved that the state appellate court’s alternative interpretation was unreasonable; the agreement contained no express or implied promise that the state would not bring contempt charges. Perez‐Gonzalez must do more than provide an alternative reading of the plea agreement. View "Perez-Gonzalez v. Lashbrook" on Justia Law

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Third-party defendant Dr. George Likakis was charged with aggravated arson and insurance fraud after a fire destroyed a building he owned (the Property). Plaintiff RSI Bank held a first-priority mortgage on the Property, and defendant/third-party plaintiff The Providence Mutual Fire Insurance Company (Providence) issued a commercial liability policy that covered the Property. Following the fire, Likakis and RSI Bank submitted insurance claims. Providence denied both sets of claims. Providence’s denial of coverage prompted the filing of two actions in the Law Division: (1) filed by Likakis against Providence; and (2) an action gave rise to this appeal: RSI Bank’s claims against Providence for breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, violations of the Consumer Fraud Act, and bad faith. Providence filed a third-party complaint against Likakis, alleging claims for indemnification. Both civil lawsuits were pending when criminal proceedings commenced against Likakis. Likakis was indicted; Providence did not object to Likakis’ admission to the PTI program, provided he paid restitution, committed to protect/compensate Providence from all claims that might be brought by RSI, and dismissal of Likakis’ suit against Providence. With Likakis’s consent - but no assessment of his ability to pay - the court also imposed the three conditions that Providence had requested. During his PTI term, Likakis paid Providence the specific restitution amount and dismissed with prejudice his lawsuit. Likakis did not make any payment related to the separate indemnification provision. With the prosecutor’s consent, the PTI court terminated Likakis’s PTI supervision and dismissed his indictment. RSI Bank and Providence settled their coverage dispute. Providence agreed to pay RSI Bank to settle all of the bank’s claims based on the insurance policy and moved for summary judgment against Likakis based on the provision of the PTI agreement. The court held that the indemnification provision of the PTI agreement was enforceable against Likakis and ordered Likakis to pay Providence the portion of the settlement funds Providence attributed to fire damage, less the amount Likakis had paid during his PTI supervisory period. Likakis appealed, and an Appellate Division panel affirmed. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed, finding an open-ended agreement to indemnify the victim of the participant’s alleged offense for unspecified future losses was not an appropriate condition of PTI. Moreover, a restitution condition of PTI was inadmissible as evidence in a subsequent civil proceeding against the PTI participant. The indemnification provision of the PTI agreement at issue should have played no role in this civil litigation. View "RSI Bank v. The Providence Mutual Fire Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Singaporean shipping company, entered into shipping contracts with an Indian mining company. The Indian company breached those contracts. Plaintiff believes that American businesses that were the largest stockholders in the Indian company engaged in racketeering activity to divest the Indian company of assets to thwart its attempts to recover damages for the breach. Plaintiff filed suit under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1964(c). While the case was pending, the Supreme Court decided RJR Nabisco v. European Community, holding that “[a] private RICO plaintiff … must allege and prove a domestic injury to its business or property.” The district court granted the American defendants judgment on the RICO claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Plaintiff’s claimed injury—harm to its ability to collect on its judgment and other claims—was economic; economic injuries are felt at a corporation’s principal place of business, and Plaintiff’s principal place of business is in Singapore. The court noted that the district court allowed a maritime fraudulent transfer claim to go forward. View "Armada (Singapore) PTE Ltd. v. Amcol International Corp." on Justia Law

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Indiana law allows a judgment-creditor to garnish a cash bail bond the judgment-debtor posted in an unrelated criminal matter.Here, Plaintiff obtained a default judgment against Defendant in the superior court. While the judgment remained unsatisfied, Defendant was arrested in an unrelated criminal matter and posted a cash bond with the county clerk. Plaintiff attempted to garnish the cash bail bond, but the trial clerk, who was named as a garnishee-defendant in the civil case, released it to Defendant’s attorney. Plaintiff sought to hold the clerk liable. The trial court determined that the bond was not subject to garnishment and ruled against Plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the clerk who holds the bond in a criminal case is an eligible garnishee-defendant in the civil case where the judgment was entered, and the bond is subject to the garnishment lien filed there; (2) the judgment-creditor may not recover on the bond until the criminal court releases it; and (3) in the instant case, the clerk was liable on the bond because she distributed its proceeds before the civil court determined Plaintiff’s right to them. View "Garner v. Kempf" on Justia Law