Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The issue in this case was created by a 2016 amendment of the look-back period in Ky. Rev. Stat. 189A.010, Kentucky’s principal driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) statute. The amendment increased the look-back period from five years to ten years. In separate prosecutions, Defendants were charged with DUI, fourth offense, for offenses that occurred after the newly-amended version of section 189A.010 became effective. Both defendants had prior convictions for DUI offenses beyond the five-year look-back period of the former law but within the ten-year look-back period of the current law. The circuit court concluded that the convictions exceeding the former five-year look-back period could not be used to elevate the current DUI charges to DUI, fourth offense because doing so would violate contractual rights established in Defendants’ plea agreements. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred by excluding Defendants’ 2009 and 2011 offenses from use as enhancing prior DUI convictions because (1) plea agreement contract principles do not bar application of the new rules; and (2) the alternative grounds relied upon by Defendants for affirming the trial court’s decision were unavailing. View "Commonwealth v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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From 2006-2012 Packerland deceived at least one of its customers about the protein content of its Whey Protein Concentrate. Land O’Lakes purchased Packerland’s protein concentrate for use in making foods for calves and other young animals. Buyers infer protein levels from measuring nitrogen: a seller can add another nitrogen-rich substance to produce higher scores. The Ratajczaks, who owned Packerland, started adding urea to its protein concentrate. in 2006. Land O’Lakes suspected that the concentrate was high in nonprotein nitrogen but could not learn why; the Ratajczaks made excuses that Land O’Lakes accepted. The Ratajczaks sold Packerland in 2012. The new owner kept them as employees; they kept adding urea until the buyer learned what the truth. The Ratajczaks lost their jobs and settled for about $10 million before the buyer filed a complaint. Land O’Lakes stopped buying Packerland’s product and asserted claims of breach of contract, fraud, and violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Packerland’s insurers refused to defend or indemnify it or the Ratajczaks; the Ratajczaks’ personal insurer refused to indemnify them for their settlement with Packerland’s buyer. The district court dismissed Land O’Lakes’s suit and ruled in favor of the insurers. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Land O’Lakes’ claim to treble damages under RICO and state-law and the Ratajczaks’ claims that Packerland’s insurers and their own insurers had to defend and indemnify them. View "Land O'Lakes, Inc. v. Ratajczak" on Justia Law

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The weekend before Defendant’s trial, Defendant and the State entered into a plea agreement. Before Defendant entered his plea, however, the State rescinded its offer because Defendant’s alleged victim disapproved of the agreement. At Defendant’s request, the court granted a continuance and rescheduled the jury trial. Defendant subsequently filed a motion to enforce the plea agreement, asserting that he had detrimentally relied on the State’s offer. The district court rejected the motion, and Defendant sought interlocutory review. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order denying enforcement of the plea agreement, holding (1) the State may withdraw from a plea bargain agreement at any time prior to the actual entry of a defendant’s guilty plea or other action by a defendant constituting detrimental reliance on the agreement; and (2) Defendant did not perform under the terms of the plea agreement before the State rescinded its offer and failed to show that he detrimentally relied on the State’s offer. View "State v. Francis" on Justia Law

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FC Surety posted $150,000 bail to secure Ventura‘s release from custody in San Francisco. On September 15, 2014, when Ventura failed to appear, the court issued a bench warrant and declared the bond forfeited, stating FC‘s obligation to pay the bond would become absolute on April 10, 2015. On March 12, FC‘s agent discovered Ventura was in custody in Contra Costa County and tried to surrender the San Francisco warrant and have Ventura held. The Contra Costa County Sheriff found no active warrants, although the agent had verification from the San Francisco Sheriff. On April 3, the bail agent moved to vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bond, arguing that failure to enter the warrant into the National Crime Information Center was an error that required exoneration of liability on the bond under Penal Code 980(b). The court denied the motion because the bench warrant remained outstanding. The agent then, unsuccessfully, orally requested to extend the time to secure Ventura‘s appearance. On August 19, the court issued summary judgment of bail forfeiture. The court of appeal reversed in favor of FC. FC‘s motion was timely and supported by good cause; under Penal Code 1305(c)(3) a court “shall vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bail” if, outside the county where the case is located, the defendant is surrendered to custody by the bail or is arrested in the underlying case. View "P.eople v. Financial Casualty & Surety" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with larceny in the third degree as an accessory and conspiracy to commit larceny in the third degree. Defendant moved to dismiss the charges on the basis of the State’s prior entry of a nolle prosequi on the same charges. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The appellate court reversed on the ground that the entry of a nolle on those charges and nolles on charges in three other cases was part of an agreement between the State and Defendant contemplating a global disposition supported by consideration. Therefore, the appellate court concluded that Defendant’s prosecution in the present proceeding was barred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the agreement was ambiguous as to the parties’ intent and therefore must be construed in Defendant’s favor as a global disposition. View "State v. Kallberg" on Justia Law

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Petitioner pled guilty to theft in exchange for the State’s recommendation that she receive no executed jail time. The district court did not follow the State’s recommendation and instead imposed a sentence of thirty days’ incarceration. Petitioner filed a de novo appeal to the circuit court and entered a plea of not guilty. The State subsequently offered a new plea agreement whereby, in exchange for Petitioner’s guilty plea, the State would recommend Petitioner receive thirty days’ incarceration. Petitioner filed a motion to enforce the plea agreement in the circuit court, contending that the state violated the terms of the district court plea agreement by altering its sentencing recommendation. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that on de novo appeal, the district court plea agreement was no longer enforceable. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court plea agreement did not extend to the de novo circuit court proceeding. View "Hartman v. State" on Justia Law

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Appellant was indicted in three separate criminal cases for his involvement in various drug-related crimes. The parties eventually negotiated a plea deal that resolved the three criminal cases. The plea agreement memorialized a joint sentencing recommendation and contained a provision in which Appellant waived his right to appeal. After he was sentenced, Appellant appealed, arguing that the district court should have accepted the plea agreement’s guideline calculations. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal, holding Appellant’s appeal was barred by the appeal waiver, that the agreement’s sentence recommendation provision was not ambiguous, and that there was no breach of the plea agreement. View "United States v. Betancourt-Perez" on Justia Law

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Patricia Cornwell, a well-known crime novelist, and her spouse filed suit against their former business managers Anchin Block & Anchin and the company’s principal, Evan Snapper, alleging New York state law claims of negligent performance of professional services, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs on all three claims and awarded Plaintiffs $51 million in damages. Thereafter, the district court vacated the jury’s decision, ruling that it had incorrectly instructed the jury and that Defendants’ statements to the Department of Justice (DOJ) were protected by a qualified privilege and therefore should not have been considered by the jury. The First Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) the district court correctly found that it incorrectly instructed the jury on New York’s statute of limitations for a breach of fiduciary duty claim; and (2) the district court erred in entering judgment as a matter of law for Defendants on the DOJ issue. Remanded for a new trial. View "Cornwell Ent., Inc. v. Anchin, Block & Anchin, LLP" on Justia Law

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Moreno was arraigned for felony domestic violence and false imprisonment. The court issued a domestic violence protective order and set bail. Bankers issued a bail bond of $50,000 to secure Moreno‟s release. Moreno appeared at two hearings. On February 22, Moreno appeared for a plea hearing. The prosecutor announced that she was filing an amended complaint, adding misdemeanor counts of violating a protective order and aggravated trespass, and sought an increase to the bail amount. After an unreported bench conference, the court did not increase bail and set the preliminary examination for April 5. Moreno did not appear; the court ordered the bail forfeited. The court subsequently granted Bankers‟s request to extend the appearance period by 180 days to April 2013. In April 2013, Bankers moved to vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bond, arguing that the court had materially increased its risk when it permitted Moreno to remain free after the amended complaint was filed. The court noted that the bond stated that it applied to “duly authorized amendments” and entered judgment on the bond. The court of appeal affirmed. Although the amendment to the complaint was not duly authorized, it did not materially increase the risk and did not require the court to vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bond. View "People v. Bankers Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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In 2010, Bail Bonds and Hamza jointly and severally secured a $75,000 appearance bond on behalf of Mohammed-Ali, an Ethiopian national (Hamza’s cousin), charged with smuggling a controlled substance, (khat), into the U.S., 18 U.S.C. 545. One condition of the sureties’ obligation was that Mohammed-Ali “comply with all conditions of release imposed by this court,” which included that he wear a GPS ankle bracelet. But 15 months later—at Mohammed-Ali’s request and without objection from the government—the court entered an order allowing him to remove the ankle bracelet. Neither counsel nor the court provided the sureties with notice of the motion or of the order. Mohammed-Ali fled to Ethiopia. The government sought judgment against the sureties. The district court granted the government summary judgment, reasoning that Bonds had constructive notice of the motion because it could have accessed the docket for Mohammed-Ali’s case, using the court’s electronic-filing system. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The risk the sureties agreed to accept was that Mohammed-Ali might flee notwithstanding his conditions of release, which included the ankle bracelet. That risk included the possibility that Mohammed-Ali might saw off bracelet and then flee. What the sureties did not accept was that the court would remove the bracelet for him. The purported “notice” was inadequate. View "United States v. Mohammed-Ali" on Justia Law