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The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, protecting the secrecy of federal grand jury proceedings, permit limited disclosure of grand jury materials. Courts have differed on the standard of need grand jury witnesses must show to access prior testimony transcripts. In In re Grand Jury, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit considered whether a strong showing of particularized need standard should apply to grand jury witnesses seeking access to, not copies of, prior testimony transcripts. The First Circuit, following a United States District Court for the District of Columbia decision, established a less demanding particularized need requirement for grand jury witnesses seeking only access and not a copy of prior testimony transcripts.
In May 2008, the government subpoenaed the appellant, a non-target witness, to testify before a Massachusetts federal grand jury. Responding to the appellant’s indication that he would assert his constitutional right against self-incrimination, the government granted him use immunity under 18 U.S.C. §§ 6002 & 6003, requiring the appellant to testify. Appearing before the grand jury in June 2008, the appellant testified for approximately three hours and fifteen minutes on “highly technical and ancient subject matter.” Three assistant U.S. attorneys questioned the appellant, sometimes repetitively, and the prosecutors warned him on several occasions not to testify falsely. The government did not complete the examination, and ordered the appellant to return to complete his testimony. . .
Although Congress may, as a general matter, extensively regulate interstate commerce, the federal government’s authority to legislate in areas of traditional state concern is limited. Courts, spurred by a renewed interest in federalism, have begun scrutinizing federal criminal laws that regulate noncommercial intrastate behavior by means of de minimus jurisdictional elements—statutory provisions that purport to ensure legislation’s constitutionality by limiting its applicability to conduct involving items that have previously traveled in interstate commerce. In United States v. Alderman, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in a case of first impression, considered whether 18 U.S.C. § 931 constitutionally prohibits a felon from possessing body armor where the sole link to commerce is the body armor’s prior interstate movement. The court deemed § 931’s jurisdictional element sufficient to render the statute an appropriate exercise of congressional power under the Commerce Clause. . .
A trustee holds legal title to property for the benefit of another, and consequently has the power to bring actions at law against third parties who harm the trust property. These legal actions are restricted by the statute of limitations applicable to tort or contract matters. The trustee is also personally liable in equity to the beneficiary for any internal breaches of fiduciary duty, such as a breach of the duty of loyalty. Equitable actions by beneficiaries against trustees have typically been subject to the doctrine of laches, which requires the beneficiary to bring suit within a reasonable time after gaining actual knowledge of the trustee’s breach. In O’Connor v. Redstone, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts considered whether a successor trustee’s knowledge of a predecessor trustee’s breach of fiduciary duty is sufficient to begin running the statute of limitations against beneficiaries who have no actual knowledge of such breaches. In a departure from common-law principles pertaining to the separation of legal and equitable claims, the court held that the statute of limitations runs against the beneficiary when the successor trustee knows of the predecessor’s breach. . .
Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of a disability with respect to most aspects of employment, including the provision of fringe benefits. In order to have standing to bring suit under Title I of the ADA (Title I), a plaintiff must be a “qualified individual” with a disability. In McKnight v. General Motors Corp., the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit considered, in light of the United States Supreme Court’s holding in Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., whether disabled former employees have standing to bring suit under Title I “against their former employers for discrimination with respect to the payment of post-employment fringe benefits.” The Sixth Circuit held that Title I unambiguously excludes former disabled employees and denied standing to the plaintiffs. . .
Congress enacted the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 1966 to allow private citizens wide access to government information protected by federal agencies. In an effort to enable greater public access to government documents, Congress amended FOIA in 1974 to include a provision awarding attorneys’ fees to any individual who substantially prevails in an action requesting agency information. In Davy v. Central Intelligence Agency, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia considered whether an author who publishes a book based, in part, on information obtained from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in partial satisfaction of his request under FOIA is entitled to attorneys’ fees. The majority awarded the author attorneys’ fees because he substantially prevailed in the earlier litigation, his interest in the information sought served a public benefit, he was not motivated entirely by commercial interests, and the CIA did not present a reasonable basis to deny disclosure of the information. . .
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides a criminal defendant with the right to a trial by an impartial jury. If a jury convicts a criminal defendant, the United States Sentencing Guidelines (Sentencing Guidelines) provide guidance to federal judges for determining sentence length. In United States v. White, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit considered whether a district court violates the Sixth Amendment when it uses conduct of which the jury acquitted the defendant to enhance the defendant’s sentence. The court, in a 9-6 opinion, held that the district court did not violate the defendant’s right to a jury trial by basing sentencing enhancements on acquitted conduct. . .
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an alien is subject to deportation if convicted of any aggravated felony. A state misdemeanor drug offense is an aggravated felony if that offense would constitute a felony had it been charged under the Federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA). The recidivist provision of the CSA extends the maximum allowable imprisonment for an alien who commits a second drug possession offense to two years, thus rendering the alien a felon under the CSA. In Alsol v. Mukasey, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit considered whether a second state drug possession conviction constitutes a felony under the CSA because it could have been prosecuted as a recidivist offense. The Second Circuit held that a second possession offense is not automatically a recidivist offense and therefore not an aggravated felony subject to immigration consequences. . .
The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right of the people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The United States Supreme Court created the exclusionary rule, which requires suppression of evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment when the potential to deter future police misconduct outweighs societal costs of excluding the evidence. In Herring v. United States, the Court considered whether to employ the exclusionary rule to suppress contraband found during a search incident to arrest by an officer who reasonably relied on an assurance of an outstanding warrant because of the negligent bookkeeping error by another law enforcement agency. In a five-to four decision, a majority of the Court held that the exclusionary rule would not have a sufficient deterrent effect on isolated incidences of negligent bookkeeping, and therefore affirmed the district court’s decision to decline application of the exclusionary rule. . .
The prosecution usually must prove a criminal defendant had the necessary mens rea, or culpable mental state, generally defined by the legislature in criminal statutes, to convict him or her of a crime. Title 18, section 1028A(a)(1) of the United States Code, the aggravated identity theft statute, provides for an additional two-year term of imprisonment if “during and in relation to” certain enumerated felonies the perpetrator “knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person.” In United States v. Godin, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit considered whether the “knowingly” mens rea requirement of section 1028A(a)(1) extends to “of another person,” or if it is limited to “transfers, possesses, [and] uses.” The First Circuit held that the mens rea requirement extends to “of another person,” thus requiring that the government prove that the defendant knew the means of identification used during an enumerated felony belonged to another person. . . .
Federal common law governs claims arising out of employee benefit plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit created an approach for interpreting the ambiguous word “accident” in ERISA-governed plans in Wickman v. Northwestern National Insurance Co. In Stamp v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., the First Circuit used the Wickman framework to address, for the first time, whether the administrator of an ERISA-governed plan could reasonably conclude that the death of an insured party who was killed in a single-car accident when driving drunk was not accidental for purposes of his life insurance policies. The First Circuit reviewed the administrator’s decision under an arbitrary and capricious standard and upheld the decision as both reasonable and supported by the evidence on the record. . . .