Justia U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Following a generally favorable result in the district court, Motel 6 appealed, arguing that the district court erred interpreting the Lanham Act’s anticounterfeiting penalties not to reach the use of the Motel 6 mark without permission and in failing to award prejudgment interest to Motel 6. The Third Circuit vacated as to those issues. The lower court interpreted the Lanham Act too narrowly and contrary to the weight of persuasive authority concerning treble damages under 15 U.S.C. 1117(b). On remand the court must determine whether “extenuating circumstances” exist such that treble damages would not be appropriate. While the court was not required to award prejudgment interest once it found the case exceptional for purposes of attorney’s fees and costs under Section 1117(a), it may do so after reconsidering the counterfeiting issue. View "Motel 6 Operating LP v. HI Hotel Group LLC" on Justia Law

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Papp alleged that his late wife suffered secondary “take home” asbestos exposure while washing the work clothes of her first husband, Keck. Keck had several jobs that exposed him to asbestos. Papp sued multiple companies in New Jersey. In a deposition, he indicated that the landing gear Keck sandblasted was for a C-47 military cargo plane, built by Boeing’s predecessor. Boeing removed the case, citing the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1). Boeing asserted that it was entitled to government contractor immunity because the C-47 was produced for, and under the specific supervision of, the U.S. military and that the supervision extended to labels and warnings for all parts of the aircraft, including those parts laden with the asbestos to which Keck would later be exposed. The district court remanded, reasoning that Boeing, as a contractor and not a federal officer, had a “special burden” to demonstrate “that a federal officer or agency directly prohibited Boeing from issuing, or otherwise providing, warnings as to the risks associated with exposure to asbestos contained in products on which third-parties … worked or otherwise provided services.” The Third Circuit reversed, holding that the statute extends to contractors who possess a colorable federal defense and that Boeing made a sufficient showing of such a defense. View "Papp v. Fore-Kast Sales Co Inc" on Justia Law

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In 2009, two groups of Pennsylvania hospital employees claimed they were not properly compensated for work performed during meal breaks. They sought to bring a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 216(b). The actions were conditionally certified and “opt-in” notices were sent to potential plaintiffs. More than 3,000 individuals joined one collective action and more than 800 opted in to the other. The parties conducted collective action related discovery for nearly two years. Both judges subsequently decertified the collective actions, reasoning that the opt-in plaintiffs were not similarly situated to the named plaintiffs. Their job duties varied significantly; those duties were “highly relevant in terms of how, why and whether the employees were compensated properly for missed or interrupted meal breaks.” More than 300 different individuals supervised the plaintiffs and had individual authority to implement policies. The named plaintiffs successfully moved to voluntarily dismiss their claims with prejudice (FRCP 41(a)). The Third Circuit rejected an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The same law firm then filed new claims against the same defendants, with new named plaintiffs, which were dismissed based on issue preclusion. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that only plaintiffs who had accepted an offer of judgment had been dismissed with prejudice. When the other opt-in plaintiffs were dismissed without prejudice, they did not suffer an adverse judgment on the merits of any claim. View "Halle v. West Penn Allegheny Health System, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2008, Camden implemented a “directed patrols” policy, requiring police officers to engage with city residents even though the residents are not suspected of any wrongdoing. The program consisted of “a structured 15-20 minute deployment into a targeted area to accomplish a specific patrol or crime reduction function.” Officers are to obtain personal information from the individuals they interact with, if the individuals agree to provide it. During these encounters, officers should “approach community members" and "inquire about criminal activity or quality of life issues.” According to the city, directed patrols in Camden were not new. “[T]he difference ... was that directed patrols would be tracked and recorded. The Fraternal Order of Police sued, claiming Camden had imposed an unlawful quota on arrests or citations because officers on supplemental patrol were expected to conduct a minimum of 27 directed patrols per shift and officers on regular patrol were expected to perform a minimum of 18; failure to comply is cause for disciplinary action, in violation of N.J.S.A. 40A:14-181.2. Individual officers alleged retaliation. The court granted defendants summary judgment, finding the anti-quota statute inapplicable to the policy. The Third Circuit affirmed with respect to the anti-quota law and First Amendment retaliation, but reversed as to whistleblower-retaliation. View "Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1 v. City of Camden" on Justia Law

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In 2010, EFIH borrowed $4 billion at a 10% interest rate, issuing notes secured by its assets; the Indenture states that EFIH may redeem the notes for the principal amount plus a “make-whole premium” and accrued, unpaid interest. It contains an acceleration provision that makes “all outstanding Notes . . . due and payable immediately” if EFIH files for bankruptcy. Interest rates dropped. Refinancing outside of bankruptcy would have required EFIH to pay the make-whole premium. EFIH disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission a “proposal [whereby] . . . EFIH would file for bankruptcy and refinance the notes without paying any make-whole amount.” EFIH later filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions, seeking leave to borrow funds to pay off the notes and to offer a settlement to note-holders who agreed to waive the make-whole. The Trustee sought a declaration that refinancing would trigger the make-whole premium and that it could rescind the acceleration without violating the automatic stay. The Bankruptcy Court granted EFIH’s motion to refinance. EFIH paid off the notes and refinanced at a much lower interest rate; the make-whole would have been approximately $431 million. The Bankruptcy Court and district court concluded that no make-whole premium was due and that the noteholders could not rescind acceleration. The Third Circuit reversed. The premium, meant to give the lenders the interest yield they expect, does not fall away because the full principal amount becomes due and the noteholders are barred from rescinding acceleration of debt. View "In re: Energy Future Holdings Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2011, in response to a severe budget crisis, the Government of the Virgin Islands enacted the Virgin Islands Economic Stability Act (VIESA), which reduced most government employees’ salaries by 8%. Many government employees were covered by collective bargaining agreements that set forth detailed salary and benefit schedules. Their unions sued, alleging that the VIESA salary reductions constituted an impermissible impairment of the collective bargaining agreements, in violation of the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution. The district court, after a bench trial, held that VIESA did not violate the Contract Clause. The Third Circuit reversed, first holding that the issue is not moot, although VIESA has expired. The court’s determination will have a preclusive effect in pending arbitration between the unions and the government, concerning wages not paid in the interim. VIESA’s substantial impairment of the collective bargaining agreements was not reasonable in light of the fact that the government knew of its precarious financial condition when it agreed to the contracts. View "United Steel Paper and Forestry Rubber Manufacturing Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union AFL- CIO- CLC v. Government of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law

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Baptiste, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in 1972. In 1978, Baptiste was convicted of atrocious assault and battery in New Jersey and was sentenced to a suspended 12-month term of imprisonment. In 2009, Baptiste was convicted of second-degree aggravated assault, N.J. Stat. 2C:12-1b(1): “A person is guilty of aggravated assault if he . . . [a]ttempts to cause serious bodily injury to another, or causes such injury purposely or knowingly or under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life recklessly causes such injury.” The Board of Immigration Appeals ordered his removal as an alien convicted of an “aggravated felony,” 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), defined as a “crime of violence,” 18 U.S.C. 16; and two crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMTs) under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii). Analyzing the statute under the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision, Johnson v. United States, which invalidated the “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), as unconstitutionally vague, the Third Circuit concluded that the section 16(b) definition of a crime of violence is unconstitutionally vague, so that Baptiste was not convicted of an aggravated felony. The court held that Baptiste is nonetheless removable based on the two CIMTs. Baptiste may apply for relief from removal that was previously unavailable to him as an alien convicted of an aggravated felony. View "Baptiste v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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Detectives spotted Henderson, with a firearm, on school property. After he was arrested, Henderson pled guilty to possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) and 924(e)(1). Henderson’s Presentence Investigation Report revealed that Henderson had at least three qualifying convictions for serious drug offenses within the meaning of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e). Henderson objected to the classification of two of his prior convictions as serious drug offenses. The district court disagreed, referencing charging instruments and other pertinent documents, to find that Henderson had separate convictions under 35 Pa. Stat 780-113(a)(30), for possession with intent to deliver cocaine in 2002; possession with intent to deliver cocaine in 2004; and possession with intent to deliver heroin in 2009. Henderson was sentenced to the mandatory minimum prison term of 15 years. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding that the Pennsylvania statute is “divisible” and subject to the modified categorical approach in light of the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Mathis v. United States, and that the district court properly used the modified categorical approach to determine that Henderson had three qualifying predicate offenses under ACCA. View "United States v. Henderson" on Justia Law
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Company A was incorporated in Florida in 2008. Doe was its president and “sole proprietor,” but a November 2008 document purports to memorialize Doe’s sale of all shares of Company A to Company B for $10,000. Numerous filings and tax documents suggested that Doe maintained control and ownership of Company A after the transfer. Multiple individuals have sued Doe and his businesses in state courts around the country based on Doe’s business practices. Doe and the companies became the subjects of a federal grand jury. The government obtained access to Doe’s email. Doe filed an interlocutory appeal to prevent its disclosure. While the appeal was pending, the district court granted permission to present the email to the grand jury, finding that although the email was protected by the work product privilege, the crime-fraud exception to that doctrine applied; in 2016, the grand jury returned a 17-count indictment, charging conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. The Seventh Circuit dismissed the interlocutory appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The damage of disclosure has already been done. Should a jury convict the defendants, they will have another, equally adequate opportunity to claim privilege. View "In re: Grand Jury Matter #3" on Justia Law

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Elonis’s wife left their home with their children. Elonis had trouble at work, leaving early and crying at his desk. Morrissey, an employee Elonis supervised, claimed sexual harassment. Elonis posted on Facebook a photograph, showing Elonis in costume holding a knife to Morrissey’s neck, captioned “I wish.” Elonis was fired. Days later, Elonis began posting statements about “sinister plans for all my friends,” and, concerning his wife, “smothered your ass … dumped your body” that their son “should dress up as matricide” and “I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying.” Following issuance of a protective order, Elonis posted statements concerning shooting at his wife’s house, using explosives, and “I’m checking out and making a name for myself.” After being visited by federal agents, he posted statements about blowing up SWAT members. Elonis was convicted of transmitting in interstate commerce communications containing a threat to injure another, 18 U.S.C. 875(c). The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that he did not subjectively intend his Facebook posts to be threatening. The Supreme Court reversed, finding the jury instruction regarding Elonis’s mental state insufficient. On remand, the Third Circuit again affirmed Elonis’s conviction, finding the error harmless. The evidence overwhelmingly shows that Elonis posted the messages with either the purpose of threatening his ex-wife, or with knowledge that she would interpret the posts as threats. No rational juror could conclude otherwise. View "United States v. Elonis" on Justia Law