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

Articles Posted in Juvenile Law

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J.B., age 12, got into a fight and brandished a homemade knife over a neighborhood girl, stating that could kill her. A parent called the state police. J.B. admitted to threatening to break a girl’s arms and to holding the knife. J.B.’s father was told that charges of terroristic threats and summary harassment would be filed. Three weeks later, a juvenile allegation was filed. J.B. was transported to the Lancaster County Youth Intervention Center, processed, and subjected to a strip search pursuant to LYIC policy to look for signs of “injuries, markings, skin conditions, signs of abuse, or further contraband.” J.B. stood behind a curtain so that only the officer conducting the search could observe him, removed his pants and underwear for approximately 90 seconds, and was asked to bend over, spread his buttocks, and cough. J.B. was detained for three days. He ultimately entered into a consent decree with an opportunity to have his record expunged. In his suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for false arrest, unreasonable search and seizure, false imprisonment, and violations of due process, the Third Circuit concluded that defendants were entitled to partial summary judgment. The Supreme Court holding in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, that all arrestees committed to general population of a detention center may be subject to a close visual inspection while undressed, applies to juvenile offenders admitted to general population in a juvenile detention center. View "J. B. v. Fassnacht" on Justia Law

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In 2014 the Third Circuit decided King v. Governor of the State of New Jersey, rejecting a challenge brought by licensed counselors to the constitutionality of Assembly Bill A3371, a statute banning the provision of “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE) counseling to minors. A similar challenge was filed by a 15-year-old minor seeking to undergo SOCE counseling and by his parents. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal. Having decided, in King, that the statute did not violate the First Amendment rights of those wishing to “speak” the message of SOCE, the court concluded that the statute does not violate the rights of those who wish to receive that message. The court also rejected a parental rights claim. The fundamental rights of parents do not include the right to choose a specific type of provider for a specific medical or mental health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed harmful. View "Doe v. Governor of New Jersey" on Justia Law

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In 2001, the Bryan family’s adopted son, J.O., repeatedly raped and molested his younger foster brother, K.B., in the room the boys shared. After weeks of abuse, K.B. told his foster parents, who contacted the Erie County Office of Children and Youth (ECOCY), which had facilitated J.O.’s adoption, and had J.O. removed from their home. The Bryans blamed ECOCY for K.B.’s ordeal, claiming that ECOCY employees concealed J.O.’s history of violent behavior and sexual misconduct. The Bryans sued ECOCY and seven employees under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on a theory that permits recovery from state actors when “the state’s own actions create the very danger that causes the plaintiff’s injury.” During trial, the parties agreed to a high-low settlement. Regardless of the verdict, the Bryan family was to receive at least $900,000 and defendants were to pay no more than $2.7 million. The jury returned an $8.6 million verdict; the defendants tendered $2.7 million. The Bryans claimed breach of the settlement agreement’s confidentiality clause, rendering the deal unenforceable. The district court concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to decide whether to enforce those terms or the verdict. The Third Circuit remanded. The case was not dismissed, nor was the verdict satisfied. A district court’s jurisdiction does not terminate at the moment jury deliberations do. View "Bryan v. Erie Cnty. Office of Children & Youth" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Governor Christie signed AB A3371 into law, providing: A person who is licensed to provide professional counseling ... shall not engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a person under 18 years of age. Plaintiffs provide licensed counseling to minor clients seeking to reduce or eliminate same-sex attractions and include providers of religious-perspective counseling. Plaintiffs describe their efforts as “talk therapy,” involving only verbal communication about potential “root causes” of homosexual behavior, such as childhood sexual trauma or a distant relationship with the same-sex parent, with discussion of “traditional, gender-appropriate behaviors and characteristics” and how the client can foster and develop those behaviors and characteristics. They challenged the law as a violation of their rights to free speech and free exercise of religion and asserted claims on behalf of their minor clients. The district court rejected the First Amendment claims and held that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring claims on behalf of their minor clients. The Third Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the statute is a regulation of professional speech that passes intermediate scrutiny. A3371 does not violate plaintiffs’ right to free exercise of religion, as it is a neutral and generally applicable law that is rationally related to a legitimate government interest. View "King v. Governor of NJ" on Justia Law

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In 2010 the Supreme Court held, in Miller v. Alabama, that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments. Three individuals, each serving a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole for offenses committed as juveniles, sought authorization to file successive habeas corpus petitions under 28 U.S.C. 2254 and 2255 to raise Miller claims. The parties agreed that Miller states a new rule of constitutional law, but Pennsylvania (the state in which two petitioners were convicted) argued that Miller was not retroactive; the federal prosecutor claimed that Miller was retroactive but that the other petitioner’s sentence satisfied the new Miller rule. The Third Circuit found that the petitioners had made a prima facie showing that Miller is retroactive and authorized successive habeas petitions. View "In re: Grant" on Justia Law

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Brittany and Emily Morrow were subjected to threats and physical assaults by Anderson, a fellow student at Blackhawk High School. After Anderson physically attacked Brittany in the lunch room, the school suspended both girls. Brittany’s mother reported Anderson to the police at the recommendation of administration. Anderson was charged with simple assault, terroristic threats, and harassment. Anderson continued to bully Brittany and Emily. A state court placed Anderson on probation and ordered her to have no contact with Brittany. Five months later, Anderson was adjudicated delinquent and was again given a “no contact” order, which was provided to the school. Anderson subsequently boarded Brittany’s school bus and threatened Brittany, even though that bus did not service Anderson’s home. School officials told the Morrows that they could not guarantee their daughters’ safety and advised the Morrows to consider another school. The Morrows filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violation of their substantive due process rights. The district court dismissed, reasoning that the school did not have a “special relationship” with students that would create a constitutional duty to protect them from other students and that the Morrows’ injury was not the result of any affirmative action by the defendants, under the “state-created danger” doctrine. The Third Circuit affirmed. View "Morrow v. Balaski" on Justia Law

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In 1996 mother reported to police that, during a visit to her father’s apartment, their 12-year-old (Linda) alleged that father made sexual advances. Mother obtained an order of protection after he twice failed to appear. The county agency classified father as an “indicated” child abuse perpetrator on Pennsylvania’s child abuse registry. Father was charged with indecent exposure and endangering a child’s welfare. He pled guilty to harassment; the remaining charges were dismissed. In subsequent years, Linda denied the incident. Mother and father resumed living together and were allowed, by the agency, to have related children in their home. After mother obtained custody of their grandchild, the agency removed all children from the home, based on father’s listing. By the time father attempted to appeal in 2007, the agency had destroyed its 1996 records. The listing was expunged in 2010. The district court rejected claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding that the agency’s position with respect to the listing did not “shock the conscience” and that there was no showing of a deliberate decision to deprive the plaintiff of due process nor evidence that the agency employs a policy or has a custom of conducting desultory investigations. View "Mulholland v. Cnty. of Berks" on Justia Law

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Daughter, born in June 2004, suffered medical problems that stunted her growth. In October 2005, Mother took Daughter to Dr. Lindblad, who diagnosed failure to thrive. She was treated inpatient for six days and gained 50 grams per day, a gain normal for a child of Daughter’s age and condition. After returning to Mother’s care, Daughter gained only four grams per day. Lindblad again prescribed inpatient treatment and, in April 2006, concluded that Daughter’s condition was psychosocial; he feared that Daughter was neglected and noted concern about Munchausen by proxy. He spoke to a child welfare caseworker, who was already investigating the situation. A judge ordered Daughter removed to her father’s home, with Mother to have only supervised visitation. Caseworkers thought it unnecessary to hold the hearing that Pennsylvania law would require were Daughter taken into state custody. Mother received no explanation of how to arrange for a hearing. After Daughter was removed, discrepancies in her recorded weights were discovered. Mother’s habeas petition, filed 40 days after removal, was rejected. Mother and father later agreed to share custody. The district court rejected Mother’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit. The Third Circuit reversed and remanded for trial on procedural due process claims. View "B. S. v. Somerset Cnty." on Justia Law