At the Circuit Level—8th Circuit Panel Hears Arguments

8th Circuit Judges
Judges Steven M. Colloton, Lavenski R. Smith
and Raymond W. Gruender
During the week of Nov. 14-18, an 8th Circuit panel comprised of Judge Lavenski Smith (AR), Judge Steven Colloton (IA) and Judge Raymond Gruender (MO) sat in Kansas City to hear arguments in a variety of cases appealed from not only the District Courts, but also from a Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Tax Court and the Department of Health and Human Services Departmental Appeals Board.  Issues included drug manufacturing, conspiracy and distribution, sentencing, trademark infringement and civil rights.  The judges heard arguments on the following noteworthy cases out of the Western District.

The first case, which was covered most visibly in local media, involved a shoe store employee, Jessica Cockram, who had been trained to enter a fictitious telephone number in the cash register when processing a transaction if she was busy.  Unbeknownst to Cockram, another employee had entered a racial slur in the database connected to that fictitious phone number.  When Cockram printed the receipt, the racial slur appeared on the receipt and the customer complained.  The employer terminated Cockram and issued a written statement.  Cockram sued the employer alleging defamation and false light invasion of privacy, among other things.  The District Court dismissed the invasion of privacy claim, stating Missouri did not recognize such a claim, and granted the employer summary judgment on the defamation claim.

In another Missouri case, police received information that Kody Williams was dealing drugs from an address in Lee’s Summit, they verified information contained in the tip, including that the house had been rented by Williams’ girlfriend and that Williams had given the address to police and parole officers as his current residence.  Officers did a trash-pull from the house and found mail addressed to the girlfriend, materials from the Missouri prison system and two pieces of a plastic bag with cocaine residue.  Based on information from the trash-pull and the informant, a search warrant was obtained for the premises.  Two weapons were seized (but no drugs), and Williams was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.  After Williams’ motion to suppress was denied, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced.  Williams argued that the District Court erred in finding the trash-pull valid without an evidentiary hearing.

And, third, a labor union entered into a collective bargaining agreement with a company which then closed.  The owner of that company continued doing business under different names. The union sent grievances to each entity.  The grievances were ignored by the owner. The Joint Adjustment Board (JAB) heard the grievance and no one from any of the entities appeared.  JAB issued an award finding that the original company was the alter ego of a subsequent company, and ordered the owner to submit to an audit.  The union filed suit to enforce the arbitration award and the district court entered judgment, enforcing the award against the owner.  The owner appealed arguing the district court erred in enforcing the agreement against him when neither grievance was against him; he did not waive challenges to the arbitration; and he was not a party to the underlying collective bargaining agreement.


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