Judge James P. Jones Opinions April Review

April 19, 2011

James Renwick Manship, Sr. (Plaintiff) v. Paul H. Thomson, ET AL. (Defendant)

Judge James P. Jones dismissed James Renwick Manship, Sr.’s proposed demand that Jeffrey Franklin Washington receive a new jury trial.

Manship believed that the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act was violated during the first trial of Washington, an inmate at the Greenville Correctional Facility in Jarratt, Virginia for the murder of Mr. Carlos Marshall.

Manship is part of the “God County Foundation,” serving as “Chaplain” of the “Amos 5:15 Project- an organization to “remodel your courts into true halls of justice”. He claims he is an authorized advocate for Washingotn and that he is the next friend of the daughter of Carlos Marshall. Manship also believes that the law enforcement and the Virginia court system wrongly convicted Washington for the death of Carlos Marshall. This is the second time he has attempted to file a suit against the Virginia court system, in which his first case was dismissed because of a lack of supporting evidence.

Manship is attempting to defend Washington because he believes he was wrongly convicted. He wants to assist Marshall’s daughter who wishes to bring her father’s true murderer to justice.

Any person has the right to present his own claims in court, but one may not litigate on another person’s behalf except for a few extreme exceptions. Manship claims that he is legally allowed to file this claim because of the Virginia’s Uniform Power of Attorney Act, or “next friend” theory. However, a power of attorney does not give him the power to act as an attorney, and he cannot act as an attorney unless he is defending himself. To bring suit under the “next friend” theory to defend the daughter of the murder victim, that “next friend” needs to be proven unable to litigate her own case because of the situation of mental incapacity, or another disability. For instance, most of these cases are for parents defending their minor children.

Manship followed the law in applying his paperwork, but failed to state a claim on which relief may be granted. There was no reason why the daughter of the murder victim, Carlos Marshall, could not litigate her own case. His claim was dismissed for little evidence against the Virginia court system, and he did not qualify as authority on her behalf.

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/OPINIONS/JONES/5-11CV00030.PDF 

April 19, 2011

Ronnie L. Edwards (Plaintiff) v. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security(Defendant)

Ronnie L. Edwards was allowed reconsideration to his case involving the Commissioner of Social Security denying him Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Social Security Income (SSI) Benefits. His claims were well-received.

Edwards presented the following evidence to support his argument:

In September 2006, he filed for Social Security benefits relating to his arthritic degenerating discs, heart problems, carpal tunnel, and numbness in his right leg. Edwards received a video hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), in which his request was denied. 

His troubles began after suffering from a workplace injury to his back on Dec. 17, 2001. He was referred to a physical and medicative treatment center, but his pain persisted into 2002. Edwards was introduced to Orthopedist Brenda McKinney, who became his main care physician for chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, and medication treatment. On a number of occassions, McKinney cleared Edwards from work.

In 2004, Edwards’ condition worsened. He was directed to Orthopedist C.S. Whitman. Whitman diagnosed Edwards with chronic back pain with degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine caused by possible facet pain generators. He recommended that Edwards limit his work to three shifts a week, with a day off inbetween each shift. Because he was not able to fulfill a full-time work schedule, however, Edwards was fired. 

He began treatment for depression in 2005, in which he complained of pain and anxiety symptoms that persisted into 2007. This caused him to seek treatment from both Elizabeth Hubbard and Louis Perrot. Hubbard prescribed him a panic disorder medication. Louis Perrot, on the other hand, reviewed Edwards’ medical records and found no severe mental impairment. He also noted that Edwards was not restricted to his daily living and social functioning, with the exception of mild difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistance, or pace. Despite Perrot’s findings, Physician Donald Williams reported that Edwards continued to have pain that significantly impacted his ability to work in 2007.

Finally, in 2008, Whitman performed a functional capacity evaluation on Edwards, only to discover permanent limitations to his lower back of sitting for a maximum of thirty minutes. He was also only able to lift a maximum of twenty-five pounds, carry a maximum of twenty pounds, and was not able to repetitively bend, stop, or lift.

After reviewing Edwards’ medical history, the ALJ found that Edwards suffered from the following severe impairments: lumbar strain with degenerative disc disease and degenerative joint disease, neuropathy of lower extremities, and headaches. Edwards was found to perform a limited range of work in occupations that existed in significant numbers in the economy. His claims of depression and anxiety were found to have caused only minimal limitations to his ability to perform basic mental work activities.  On another note, the ALJ observed that he was close to the old age category in March 2008. Therefore, benefits were granted to him after March 1, 2008, but his claims were denied for the period of August 17, 2004 to March 1, 2008. Ultimately, the ALJ found that he was not disabled under the Act.

In response, Edwards challenged the ALJ’s ruling for benefits during that period. He argued that the decision was not supported by significant evidence. Specifically, he reasoned that the ALJ did not properly consider the additional effects of his impairments, and that the ALJ correlated little attention to his main treatment sources. Edwards also asserted that his severe mental impairment was supported by evidence.

Judge James P. Jones studied his claims. He recognized that the Commissioner determines benefits based on five consecutive evaluations: (1) the client has worked during the period of disabillity (2) has a severe impairment (3) has a condition that equals the severity of a listed impairment in Act (4) could return to past relevant work, and (5) if not, whether he could perform other work present in the national economy. Should any of the evaluations show that Edwards is not disabled, the inquiry will be dismissed.

Judge Jones found that the ALJ relied on evidence that was not sufficient enough to support the decision. One such example is using his “fairly normal” daily activites as a reference to his overall health. His activities of daily living do not implicate his ability to work under certain conditions. 

He awknowledged that Edwards had approached all avenues of therapy, pain management, and regular follow-up appointments with his treatings sources for recovery. Edwards had also fully complied with given recommendations of his providers. Not to mention, Edwards had a loyal work history and attempted to continue working despite his disability. Dr. Whitman and McKinney deserved more credibility for their assessments of Edwards’ conditions than what the ALJ granted.

It was not necessary to review his mental impairment claims, as evidence provided by Edwards already demonstrated that he had a disability by physical impairments during the time period denoted. Judge Jones settled that the DIB and SSI benefits were indeed appropriate, and the Commissioner’s request for Summary Judgment was denied.

Judge Jones will be entering a final judgment to calculate payments of benefits entitled to Edwards.

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/OPINIONS/JONES/1-10CV00032.PDF

April 18. 2011

James M. Stanley (Plaintiff) v. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security (Defendant)

Judge James P. Jones of the Western District of Virginia supported the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security to deny James M. Stanley Social Security benefits.

In the case, Stanley applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income due to high blood pressure, depression, obesity, hypertension, and dyslexia in May 2006. Coupled with limited education, he claimed that this negatively impacted his impairments. He has received special education up to the seventh grade, but is unable to read or write. On a similar note, he worked on an automobile assembly line in the past, but has not since returned to work.

This is the second time Stanley has applied for benefits since July 2004, in which his claims were denied by the Commissioner of Social Security, and finally, by an Administratice Law Judge (ALJ). The Social Security Appeals Council also denied his request for a reconsideration.

As of a result, Stanley took his case to Judge Jones. He presented the following evidence to support his claims: 

From September 2004 through February 2007, James A. Bell treated Stanley for physical and mental impairments. Dr. Bell noted that his conditions would make it impossible for him to work. He prescribed him medications for his hypertension, gastrointestinal reflux disease, and depression.

At the same time, Stanley received outpatient mental health care from Robert S. Spangler at the Scott County Mental Health Center. Spangler tested Stanley’s IQ in 2005, in which he was placed at a verbal IQ level of 74, a performance IQ score of 85, a full scale IQ score of 77, and he tested positive for borderline retardation. In a medical assessment, he was also found to be seriously disadvantaged in work-related environments.

In 2007, Dr. Spangler diagnosed Stanley with major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, low borderline intelligence, functional illiteracy, marginal education and math skills and personality disorder. He also found that Stanley was not able to handle work-related stress well, and that he was unable to manage benefits to the best of his interests. Dr. James M. Turnball confirmed Spangler’s findings in his own assessments of Stanley.

Psychologist E. Hugh Tenison, on the other hand, reviewed Stanley’s records in 2007. He found that Stanley only had mild restrictions to daily life, and concluded that Stanley could meet the basic mental demands of work despite his limitations.

The ALJ asserted that Stanley had severe impairments of hypertension, obesity, depressive disorder, and borderline intellectual functioning, but none of these conditions met a listed impairment under the Act. A similar case to Stanley’s also held that someone of his limited abilities could perform as an assembler, sorter, laundry worker, non-farm animal care, street vendor, attendant, or dishwasher. There are over 83,000 jobs in this market available to Stanley. Thus, the ALJ found that Stanley was able to perform work and was not entitled to such claims for Social Security benefits.

Stanley believed that the ALJ did not reference significant evidence, as his impairments are equal to mental retardation under the Act. He also argued that the ALJ flawed in its assessment of his daily functioning. In his appeal, he focused on his mental condition.

Judge James P. Jones determined that in order for Stanley’s claims to qualify for relief, it was necessary for him to show that he is unable to do work, or engage in any other kind of profitable work experience in the economy. A diagnosis alone would not be proof sufficient enough to meet the requirements of a medical condition under the Act.

There are strict qualifications under the Security Act for benefits, in which the applicant must pass all steps in a five-point evaluation, he must demonstrate a full scale IQ of 60 through 70, and a physical or mental impairment imposing additional limitations.

Much of the ALJ’s final decision relied on Stanley’s IQ scores, as Stanley never fell below 70. Another important factor for dissmissing Stanley’s request was that his claims of disabilities were not supported by documentation. The ALJ also presented evidence that Stanley’s limitations were not restrictive compared to prior assessments results. This was supported by B. Wayne Lanthorn’s studies on Stanley. Stanley may, indeed, suffer from physical and mental impairments, but he is able to perform moderate work.

On that note, the findings do not meet the criteria for a disability. Stanley’s case was immediately suspended upon further consideration because it did not meet one of the five points of criteria the Commissioner looks at when deciding who’s applicable.

Judge Jones determined that the Commissioner’s decision to deny Stanley of disabilities should be upheld.

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/OPINIONS/JONES/2-09CV00069.PDF

April 18, 2011

Jeannie M. Marshall (Plaintiff) v. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security (Defendant) 

The Commissioner of Social Security denied Jeannie M. Marshall’s motion for Social Security benefits. Marshall challenged his decision and was denied additionally by a magistrate judge on the basis of factual evidence. Judge James P. Jones favored the judgment.  

At 31 years old, Marshall was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. She is still able to work and function in the national and local economy, and has not objected to this evidence, either.

Records show that Marshall is not suffering from mental retardation. She is able to take care of her mentally disabled husband and her needs at home. She also received her driver’s license, completed up to the 8th grade in school, and tested to have a full-scale IQ of 79.

Nonetheless, Marshall is only able to perform simple work, so a magistrate judge remanded the case for furthur consideration.

In return, Marshall was awarded simple work guidelines, in which she would receive minimal contact with the public, coworkers and supervisors at work in observation of her conditions. Supplemental benefits were not awarded.

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/OPINIONS/JONES/2-10CV00019.PDF

April 18, 2011

United States (Plaintiff) v. Jose Santiago (Defendant)

Judge James P. Jones denied inmate Jose Santiago’s motion to clear his sentence on the basis of claims of court error and ineffective assistance.

On February 22, 2007, a grand jury charged Yayah Talib, James Dawson, Catherine Marie Flading, and Jose Santiago with the possession and intent to distribute heroin in a prison. Talib, Dawson and Santiago were inmates at the United States Penitentiary in Lee County, in which Flading smuggled heroin into the prison for them to distribute.

Flading and Dawson immediately pleaded guilty. Talib, however, trialed with a standby cousel, or an attorney, who was appointed to assist as needed. Because Santiago felt as though this would put him at a disadvantage because his case would most likely be associated with Talib’s, he motioned to separate his hearing. His inquiry was denied, and he was found guilty on two counts of crime charges, possession and distribution. Santiago was imprisoned for 262 months after pleading not guilty.

In response to his sentence, he requested that the decision be reconsidered by the United States Court of Appeals. He believed that he was entitled to relief on grounds that (1) counsel did not remove his case after it was presumed that he would be correlated with Talib’s case, (2) counsel neglected to acquire a forensic voice expert to testify that the voice heard on the recorded telephone conversations was not his, (3) the court faltered in using only one witness to compare and confirm that the voice on the tape was Santiago’s, (4) counsel did not challenge the integrity of the converted audio tapes to digital recordings, and (5) finally, the court failed to separate Santiago’s case from Talib’s case.

Judge Jones investigated the request for an appeal, and found that Satiago lacked supporting evidence. In order for him to have acquired relief, he needed cause for assumed correlation with Talib’s case, as well as proof that a mistake in counsel action would have been reason for a different outcome. If Santiago demonstrated that counsel’s actions violated the his constitutional right to effective assistance, his case would be continued.

Nonetheless, Judge Jones found that claims three and five were barred from review for absense of cause of prejudice. Santiago did not present any specific evidence that Talib’s trial increased the likelihood of his conviction, nor did he demonstrate that he was, indeed, innocent. He also failed to show that separating hearings would have resulted in any different outcome.

At Lee County’s Penetritiary, all telephone conversations are recorded, in which recordings of Dawson, Talib and Santiago were all connected to Flading. They indicated secret langauge codings, in which business was conducted.

Bryant Kilgore, a prison investigator testified against the phone calls. He confirmed that Santiago’s voice was the one on the tapes, and that a prisoner was also connected to Santiago’s telephone access codes.

In one such tape, Satiago ordered a woman named Iris Rivera to hide drugs inside a stuffed animal in coded language. When the stuffed animal was retrieved inside a package sent to Sonya Iris Melendez in New York, it contained a stuffed elephant with heroin secreted in its tail.

Santiago contested against these tapes, arguing that a “spectrograph” should have been used to compare the coice on the tapes with his own. He did not, however, demonstrate that the test would have resulted in a different outcome. He also argued that the recordings of the telephone conversations had been altered when they were transferred from to a CD for digital recording. He said that he heard his own voice at the trial, but could not recall ever saying those things. Kilgore testified that he merely transferred the digital recordings from the prison’s equipment to a CD for use at trial. Again, this goes back to ineffective counsel assistance, in which Santiago alleges that if he had known before trial that the tapes would be admitted against him, he would have asked for a voice analysis.

Another piece of significant evidence that Santiago was not innocent was Dawson sent nearly identical items in a package to Santiago’s to Iris.

In conclusion, Judge Jones denied Santiago’s motion for a separate trial. 

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/OPINIONS/JONES/2-07CR00003.PDF

April 14, 2011

Patsy Edmonds Smith (Plaintiff) v. City of Galax (Defendant)

Judge James P. Jones ordered that Patsy Edmonds Smith’s requests for motion against the City of Galax be both granted and denied. His conclusion was reasoned upon the following arguments:

After nearly 19 years of employment, Smith was asked to leave her job as a dispatcher from the Galax, Virginia Police Department on April 7, 2008. She believed that her termination as an employer was based on her gender and age. 

In defense, the Police Department countered her claims under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure. This would leave out the details of the case for later, in which the actual law would be accentuated over Smith’s allegations. The motion was granted. Smith, however, was allowed to re-file a complaint against the City of Galax on the basis that she could present factual evidence.

She did just so.  

After tens years of valuable employment at the Galax Police Department, Smith endured a challenging divorce with her ex-husband. The changes in her personal life crippled her work ethic, in which the department reported that she would smoke outside the office building, she was not readily available to pick up extra shifts, and failed to follow vacation and sick leave procedures. Smith argued that this triggered the disapproval by her fellow employees, including Chief Rick Clark, who treated her “differently”.  

In 2002, Smith was suspended from work for 15 days and was ordered to seek psychological counceling after her ex-husband asked police that Smith not enter their former home without his presence. No filings were documented.  

Finally, in March 2008, Smith asserted that she was granted vacation time to care for her sick sister. When she returned to work, she was surprised to receive a termination letter written by Chief Clark. The only explanation that he could provide was the incident in 2002 involving her ex-husband. 

Smith was immediately replaced by a younger female dispatcher from outside the department. She felt convinced that her termination was motivated by Chief Clark’s desire to hire this younger woman. But because Smith’s replacement was female as well, and her position at the office was not subjected for another six years after her divorce, her claims for sex discrimination were dismissed. 

Smith failed to reference any direct evidence, but instead showed that the employer’s actions were motivated by discriminatory intent through indirect circumstantial evidence. 

Smith mentioned that a former officer’s wife told her that Chief Clark questioned her husband’s retirement plans, and than fired him shortly after he heard that he had no plans. Chief Clark told him he would be terminated if he did not file for retirement. This proved an intent of discrimination by Chief Clark.  

In this manner, Smith’s claim for sex discrimination was denied, however, her claim for age discrimination was continued.

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/OPINIONS/JONES/1-10CV00064MOTDISMISS.PDF

April 11, 2011
 
United States of America (Plaintiff) v. Francis David Sherman (Defendant)

After failing to comply with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), Francis David Sherman’s motion to dismiss charges by the United States of America was denied.

Sherman was convicted as a sex offender in the states of Illinois and Missouri after committing rape and sexual assault in 1981 and 1998. He was required to register as a sex offender under Virginia and Federal Law when he moved to Virginia in 2008.

Every 90 days, Sherman followed through with the Virginia Code, in which he updated information and provided his address from initial registration. His next reporting date was due April 8, 2009.

In March of 2009, however, Sherman left Virginia. He stole an automobile and credit card with his girlfriend from her mother. They reappeared in Casper, Whyoming, and then hitchhiked into Canada. He was arrested in Carberry, Manitoba in September of 2010.

Sherman composed three arguments against his convictions: (1) he believed that he was not obligated to notify Virginia authorities of his intention to relocate to Canada, because SORNA does not practice jurisdiction over United States citizens in foreign countries. (2) He contended that relocating was not a criminal offense, and that he was only reponsibile for notifying authorities in his new residency. (3) Sherman claimed that SORNA was unconstitutional.

Withal, the court found that it is a criminal offense to neglect to register as a sex offender, in which the consequences could run as high as up to ten years in prison. The offender also must register and inform authorities if certain information is changed, such as an address.

Sherman also lived in Wyoming for an extended period of time, where he was temporarily employed. Regardless of his foreign jurisdiction argument, this information indicated that he was not following correct procedures. 

In disputing the constitutionality of SORNA, Sherman claimed that the Attorney General’s ability to apply guidelines and regulations on offenders convicted before the enactment date was unconstitutional, because it created new penalties not known at the time the sex offender committed his offenses. Even so, such authority has been found acceptable, as long as Congress does not intervene on SORNA rules. 

Sherman also found SORNA’s registration requirements to be punitive in effect. In a previous Supreme Court case, however, the court decided that the expectations were nonpunitive for safety reasons on preventing future sex crimes.

For these reasons, Sherman’s arguments failed.

 
March 28, 2011

Buchanan County, Etc. (Plaintiff) v. Equitable Production Company, et al. (Defendants)

After considerable review, Judge James P. Jones of the Western District of Virginia denied Buchanan County’s request to move their case against Equitable Production Company (EPC) to the state court. He reasoned that legal judgment involving state tax law is a fair gesture in federal courts.

In the initial case, Buchanan County claimed that EPC, an electric power company, made false calculations in taxes charged to the county. The county filed against EPC for a review, as well as compensation from taxes owed from previous years. EPC removed the case to the circuit court.

Buchanan County argued that a circuit court hearing was “improper,” and responded by motioning to advance the case to state court in conformity to the Tax Injunction Act.

Under the Tax Injunction Act, the power of a federal court to hear and try a case is surrendered to the state court. This would allow for the desired relief sought by the county.

Nonetheless, Buchanan County did not account for the act’s rejection to hear action sought by taxpayers to stop procedures. The county also failed to reference similar cases in which the trial was removed to the state court. In fact, the same argument was dismissed in other cases.

One example is a case in Jefferson County, in which the court held that the Tax Injunction Act does not bar jurisdiction in federal courts. The only exceptional circumstance to this case, as with all similar cases, would be when a difficult question or matter is raised. In this way, federal review would not be an appropriate approach.  

In Buchanan County versus EPC, a hearing in the circuit court is deemed acceptable and not necessary to be tried in a state court.

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/getopinion.asp

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About ohollywould

In the words of the first computer programmer's language, "Hello World!" My name is Holly Collins. I'm from the east coast representing the nation's capital in Washington, D.C. Currently, I'm a student at Radford University studying Broadcast Journalism and minoring in Art. I guess you can say I'm emotional or overly dramatic, but I have so many questions unanswered and a lot to be curious about. Please feel free to join me on my quest for understanding. "My life is ridiculous, humiliating, confusing, deceitful, dramatic, unpredictable, typical; to sum it all up, my life is AMAZING"
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