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

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Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield provides health insurance products and services to approximately 3.7 million members. Two laptop computers, containing sensitive personal information about members, were stolen from Horizon. Four plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of themselves and other Horizon customers whose personal information was stored on those laptops, alleging willful and negligent violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681, and numerous violations of state law. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of Article III standing. According to the court, none of the plaintiffs had claimed a cognizable injury because, although their personal information had been stolen, none of them had adequately alleged that the information was actually used to their detriment. The Third Circuit vacated. In light of the congressional decision to create a remedy for the unauthorized transfer of personal information, a violation of FCRA gives rise to an injury sufficient for Article III standing purposes. Even without evidence that the plaintiffs’ information was in fact used improperly, the alleged disclosure of their personal information created a de facto injury. View "In re: Horizon Healthcare Inc. Data Breach Litigation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs used ocean common carriers to transport vehicles between foreign countries and the United States. Direct purchaser plaintiffs made arrangements with and received vehicles directly from the carriers, while indirect purchaser plaintiffs obtained the benefit of the carrier services by ultimately receiving vehicles transported from abroad. In 2012, law enforcement raided the offices of Defendants, ocean common carriers, in connection with antitrust investigations. Several Defendants pleaded pleaded guilty to antitrust violations based on price-fixing, allocating customers, and rigging bids for vehicle carrier services. Plaintiffs filed suit, alleging that Defendants entered into agreements to fix prices and reduce capacity in violation of federal antitrust laws and state laws. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal of the case. Defendants allegedly engaged in acts prohibited by the Shipping Act of 1984, 46 U.S.C. 40101, which both precludes private plaintiffs from seeking relief under the federal antitrust laws for such conduct and preempts the state law claims under circumstances like those at issue. The Act responds to “the need to foster a regulatory environment in which U.S.-flag liner operators are not placed at a competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis their foreign-flag competitors.” The Federal Maritime Commission has regulatory authority displacing private suits. View "In re: Vehicle Carrier Services Antitrust Litigations" on Justia Law

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Park, a citizen of South Korea, was ordered removed in 2009, in part for submitting fraudulent documents in support of his visa application. He claims that he subsequently became eligible for a “section 212(i)” waiver of inadmissibility. Because of the passage of time, the Board of Immigration Appeals could only reopen his removal proceedings through 8 C.F.R. 1003.2(a), the “sua sponte” reopening provision. The BIA employs that provision only in extraordinary circumstances; its discretion is broad. Park argued that the BIA has consistently reopened sua sponte for aliens who have become eligible for relief from removal after their cases have ended, thus establishing a “settled course of adjudication” that it is now bound to follow. The Third Circuit dismissed Park’s petition for lack of jurisdiction. Park neither showed nor established a reasonable inference that the BIA has constrained its discretion in a way that would allow judicial review of its decision denying sua sponte reopening. View "Park v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law
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Beginning in 2008, PGW, which manufactures auto glass, engaged in reductions in force (RIFs). Individual directors had broad discretion in selecting whom to terminate. PGW did not: train directors, employ written guidelines, conduct disparate-impact analysis, nor document why any particular employee was terminated. Plaintiffs, terminated in a March 2009 RIF, were each over 50 years old. After filing charges with the EEOC, plaintiffs brought an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) collective action, asserting disparate treatment, disparate impact, and retaliation. The district court ruled that ADEA subgroups are cognizable, and conditionally certified a collective action of terminated employees who were at least 50 years old. After the case was transferred, another district judge concluded that the action should be decertified because the opt-in plaintiffs’ claims were factually dissimilar from those of the named plaintiffs. The court also excluded: statistical evidence in favor of plaintiffs’ disparate-impact claim; an expert opinion on “reasonable” human-resources RIF practices; and testimony concerning age-related implicit-bias studies. The court granted held that the 50-and-older disparate-impact claim was not cognizable under the ADEA and granted summary judgment as to plaintiffs’ disparate-treatment claims. The Third Circuit vacated in part. The ADEA prohibits disparate impacts based on age, not 40-and-older identity. A rule that disallowed subgroups would ignore genuine statistical disparities that could otherwise be actionable under the plain text of the statute. The court vacated the exclusion of testimony by plaintiffs’ statistics expert and remanded for Daubert proceedings. View "Karlo v. Pittsburgh Glass Works LLC" on Justia Law

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Coleman was tried with others for his involvement in a 1989 gang-related shooting in a restaurant. The trial included 76 prosecution witnesses, only one of whom testified as to Coleman’s involvement. Coleman was convicted of first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy, and possession of an instrument of a crime, but acquitted of violating the Pennsylvania Corrupt Organizations Act (PCOA). Two years after Coleman’s convictions became final, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held (Besch) that PCOA did not apply to an individual’s participation in a wholly illegitimate enterprise. Under Besch. Coleman could not have been charged with a PCOA violation because the gang was wholly illegitimate. Coleman failed to raise Besch when he twice, unsuccessfully, sought state post-conviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. In 2014, Coleman sought federal habeas relief, arguing that he was denied due process because the evidence introduced against his codefendants was unfairly imputed to him. He asserted that his claim should be considered under the fundamental miscarriage of justice exception to the time limit imposed by the AntiTerrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and principles of equitable tolling. The district court dismissed. The Third Circuit affirmed. Coleman cannot satisfy the actual innocence requirement of the fundamental miscarriage of justice exception to AEDPA View "Coleman v. Superintendent Greene SCI" on Justia Law
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In 1996, Gardner and others were convicted of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, conspiracy to commit murder, murder in aid of racketeering, carjacking resulting in death, and using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death. Gardner was sentenced to concurrent terms of life imprisonment on each count and 120 months on Count 4. The Fourth Circuit affirmed on direct appeal and, later, denial of his petition under 28 U.S.C. 2255, asserting ineffective assistance of counsel. In 2014, Gardner sought habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241, citing the Supreme Court’s intervening “Alleyne” holding that “[a]ny fact that, by law, increases the [mandatory minimum] penalty for a crime is an ‘element’ that must be submitted to the jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt.” The district court dismissed, finding that Gardner’s claims should have been raised in a section 2255 motion in the court that sentenced him. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting section 2241’s limited scope. Alleyne simply extended the logic of Apprendi to mandatory minimums for criminal sentences; neither makes previously criminal conduct noncriminal. Because section 2255 is not inadequate or ineffective to raise an Apprendi argument, it is not inadequate or ineffective to raise an Alleyne argument. View "Gardner v. Warden Lewisburg USP" on Justia Law

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Mateo-Medina, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, was deported in 2012 after serving five months for unlawfully obtaining a U.S. passport. Shortly after his deportation, his common-law wife, Rasuk, a U.S. citizen with whom Mateo-Medina had lived for 15 years, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Rasuk had two adult sons from a prior marriage, both drug addicts. One lived with the couple; the couple was raising the young child (Angel) of her other son. When Mateo-Medina learned of the diagnosis, he returned to the U.S. to care for Rasuk, who died in 2014. Mateo-Medina became Angel’s sole caretaker. Rasuk’s son reported Mateo-Medina to immigration authorities. He pled guilty to reentry after removal, 8 U.S.C. 1326(a); (b)(2). Mateo-Medina’s PSR calculated a sentence of eight-to-14 months’ imprisonment. Mateo-Medina had a 2000 DUI conviction, the 2012 fraudulent passport conviction, and six arrests that did not lead to conviction. The PSR did not contain any information about the conduct underlying those arrests. The court departed downward one level; the prosecutor and the defense argued for a sentence of time served (six months), the lower end of the Guidelines range. The court sentenced Mateo-Medina to 12 months plus one day. The Third Circuit vacated the sentence, finding that the court mischaracterized Mateo-Medina’s criminal history in a way that affected his sentence. View "United States v. Mateo-Medina" on Justia Law

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Maliandi alleges that she began working for Montclair State University (MSU) in 2007 and took medical leave for breast cancer treatment in 2013. Despite having complied with all policies and procedures for taking such leave, Maliandi allegedly was denied her original position when she returned and instead was offered an inferior position, which she declined. She was subsequently terminated. Maliandi then filed suit against MSU, citing the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. 2601 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J. Stat. 10:5-1 to -49. The district court denied a motion dismiss, determining that MSU is not the state’s alter ego for purpose of Eleventh Amendment immunity. The Third Circuit reversed, applying a balancing test to the “close case” and concluding that MSU is an arm of the state. While the funding factor counsels against immunity the status under state law and autonomy factors weigh in favor of extending MSU immunity from suit. In analyzing the funding factor, the court considered the state’s legal obligation to pay a money judgment entered against MSU; alternative sources of funding from which MSU could pay such judgments; and specific statutory provisions that immunize the state from liability for money judgments. View "Maliandi v. Montclair State University" on Justia Law

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Pleasant Valley High School wrestling coach Getz allegedly assaulted team member C.M. and discriminated against C.M.’s sister, A.M. based on her gender. Plaintiffs alleged that during practice, C.M. was forced to wrestle a larger student, who threw him through the doors into the hallway and punched him. After Getz prodded C.M. to keep wrestling, an altercation ensued, in which Getz lifted C.M. up and “smash[ed] his head and back into the wall.” C.M., A.M., and their mother sued. The School Defendants asserted that discovery showed that Plaintiffs made numerous false statements in the complaint and amended complaint, and their claims lacked merit and that Plaintiffs’ Rule 56.1 statement contained false statements. The district court denied Defendants’ Rule 11 motions as “meritless,” noting that these Rule 11 motions tax judicial resources and emphasizing that the truth of the allegations in a case of this sort is revealed through discovery and addressed at summary judgment or trial, not via motions for sanctions. On interlocutory appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed. The district court appropriately exercised its wide discretion in concluding the motions lacked merit, and were counterproductive as they relied upon factual discrepancies that did not show the claims were patently frivolous. View "Moeck v. Pleasant Valley School District" on Justia Law

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Rivas, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, was admitted to the U.S. as a legal permanent resident when he was two years old. In 2013, he was convicted of the purchase of PCP, and sentenced to 18 months’ probation. DHS initiated removal under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B)(i) for being convicted of two state law violations relating to a controlled substance. Rivas petitioned under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), arguing that his attorney failed to advise him of the possible immigration consequences of conviction and advised him not to appeal. Rivas’s counsel testified that he advised Rivas of the immigration consequences and that he “probably would have advised” an appeal was “not a winnable case.” The court denied the PCRA petition, vacated the guilty verdicts and placed Rivas on three years' probation under a deferred adjudication agreement. Rivas was required to “stipulate to all of the Commonwealth’s evidence.” The Commonwealth agreed to withdraw the charges if Rivas successfully completed his pretrial probation. Rivas unsuccessfully moved to terminate his removal proceedings. The IJ stated that “probably the only reason for the conviction vacatur” was to “avoid the [i]mmigration consequences.” The BIA agreed, adding that the order still was a “conviction” because Rivas stipulated to the evidence and had his liberty restrained. The Third Circuit granted his petition for review, stating that the Notice of Removal did not specify participation in a deferred adjudication program as a basis for removal. View "Rodriguez v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law
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