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Karns and Parker (Plaintiffs), evangelical Christian ministers, were preaching and carrying signs on the railway platform at NJ Transit's Princeton Junction Station. Parker had previously been informed that a permit was required to engage in noncommercial speech on NJ Transit property. Neither had a permit. NJ Transit Officers had been instructed that if they observed an individual engaging in non-commercial speech without a permit, an officer should explain the permitting rules and take “appropriate enforcement action” if the individual, aware of the requirement, continues to engage in non-commercial expression. In response to a dispatch call, officers approached Plaintiffs and informed them of the requirement. Parker responded that he had been preaching at the station for years without any permit. The officers then asked for identification. Parker produced an expired college identification card. Karns refused to provide identification. The officers arrested Plaintiffs for obstruction and defiant trespass. Karns was acquitted. Parker’s defiant trespass conviction was reversed. Plaintiffs filed complaints, alleging violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. NJ Transit is an arm of the state, entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity for itself and the officers in their official capacities. The officers, as individuals. were entitled to qualified immunity on claims of selective enforcement and retaliation, and had probable cause to believe that Plaintiffs were engaged in criminal trespass. View "Karns v. Shanahan" on Justia Law

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In 2006, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board awarded a slot machine license to PEDP for a $50 million fee. The Board eventually revoked the license when PEDP failed to meet requirements. PEDP unsuccessfully appealed from the revocation in state courts. PEDP then filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition and brought an adversary action against the Commonwealth alleging that the revocation was a fraudulent transfer under 11 U.S.C. 544 and 548 and under Pennsylvania law. Citing the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the Bankruptcy Court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over the fraudulent transfer claims because state courts had upheld the revocation. The district court affirmed. The Third Circuit reversed. State and federal courts can address the similar question of property interests; the Bankruptcy Court would not need to review the Commonwealth Court’s decision to reach a conclusion; the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not bar the court from finding that there was a fraudulent transfer. The Trustee is not “complaining of an injury caused by the state-court judgment and seeking review and rejection of that judgment.” An award of damages for the revocation is not the functional equivalent of reinstating the license. The court did not express an opinion on the merits of the claim or on the possibility of issue preclusion. View "Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners, LP v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy, Gaming Law

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Crystallex, a Canadian gold producer, owned the rights to Venezuela's Las Cristinas gold reserve. In 2011, Venezuela nationalized its gold mines and expropriated Crystallex’s rights. Crystallex initiated arbitration before the World Bank, claiming that Venezuela had violated a bilateral investment treaty with Canada. Venezuela was the sole defendant. The arbitrators found that Venezuela had breached the treaty and awarded Crystallex $1.202 billion. The district court confirmed the award (Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1). Venezuela owns 100% of Petróleos de Venezuela, (PDVSA). PDVSA is allegedly Venezuela’s alter ego, a “national oil company through which Venezuela implements government policies.” PDVSA owns 100% of PDVH, which owns 100% of CITGO Holding, which owns 100% of CITGO Petroleum (Delaware corporations). Crystallex sued PDVH in Delaware, alleging that PDVH had violated the Delaware Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act’s (DUFTA) prohibition against fraudulent transfers. The complaint alleged Venezuela orchestrated a series of debt offerings and asset transfers among PDVSA, PDVH, CITGO Holding, and CITGO Petroleum so that $2.8 billion in “dividends” ended up with PDVSA (Venezuela) outside the U.S. and could not be reached by Venezuela’s creditors. The court denied PDVH’s motion to dismiss, concluding that there had been a transfer “by a debtor.” The Third Circuit reversed, stating that it did not condone the debtor’s actions but that a transfer by a non-debtor (PDVH) cannot be a “fraudulent transfer” under DUFTA. View "Crystallex International Corp v. Petroleos de Venezuela SA" on Justia Law

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DiFiore, working for CSL since 2008, became concerned about CSL marketing drugs for off-label uses not approved by the FDA and including off-label use in sales forecasts. DiFiore expressed her concerns to her supervisors and alleges that as a consequence of that protected conduct, she suffered adverse employment actions: a warning letter, after which CSL hired an employment coach to help DiFiore develop her leadership skills; a mid-year performance review with “needing improvement” evaluations in several areas; a second warning letter regarding her nonpayment of her company credit card; her deteriorating relationships with supervisors and management; and her removal from a committee and certain meetings. In May 2012, DiFiore was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan, requiring improvement within 45 days. Within a week, DiFiore resigned. DiFiore sued, claiming unlawful discharge under Pennsylvania law and retaliation in violation of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3730(h). The district court granted summary judgment on the wrongful discharge claim and held that DiFiore could not rely upon constructive discharge as an adverse action in her FCA claim. The judge instructed the jury that the FCA retaliation provision required that protected activity be the “but-for” cause of adverse actions. The jury found in favor of CSL. The Third Circuit affirmed. An employee’s protected activity must be the “but for” cause of adverse actions to support a claim of retaliation under the FCA. View "DiFiore v. CSL Behring LLC" on Justia Law

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Panico, a New Jersey resident, incurred substantial debt on an MBNA credit card, which qualifie as “debt” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692a(5). MBNA assigned the rights to the debt to PRA, a debt collector. PRA’s collection efforts failed. In 2014, more than three but fewer than six years after the cause of action accrued, PRA sued. New Jersey’s statute of limitations barred collection ofsuch debts after six years; Delaware’s statute proscribed collection of such debts after three years. The credit agreement provided for application of “the laws of ... Delaware, without regard to its conflict of laws principles, and by any applicable federal laws.” PRA agreed to a stipulated dismissal. In 2015, Panico filed a putative class action under the FDCPA, arguing that PRA had sought to collect on a time-barred debt. The district court granted PRA summary judgment, finding that a Delaware tolling statute prevented the Delaware statute of limitations from running as to a party residing outside that state during the credit relationship, default, collections attempts, and ensuing litigation. The Third Circuit reversed. Delaware’s tolling statute has been interpreted as abrogating its statute of limitations only as to defendants not otherwise subject to service of process; it was not intended to export the state’s tolling statute into out-of-state forums and to substantially limit the application of the Delaware statute of limitations. View "Panico v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

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Private indirect purchasers of prescription Flonase filed a class action, alleging that GSK had filed sham petitions with the FDA to delay the introduction of generic Flonase and force them to pay more for Flonase than they would have if the generic version were available. Those plaintiffs moved for final approval of settlement after the court certified the class and approved the notice to settlement class members. Louisiana, an indirect Flonase purchaser, qualified as a potential class member but did not receive the notice; it only received a Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) Notice, for “the appropriate State official of each State in which a class member resides,” 28 U.S.C. 1715(b) The settlement “permanently enjoined” all members of the settlement class, including Louisiana, from bringing released claims against GSK, even in state court. In an ancillary suit, GSK moved to enforce the settlement against the Louisiana Attorney General. The Third Circuit affirmed denial of the request, finding that under the Eleventh Amendment “a State retains the autonomy to choose ‘not merely whether it may be sued, but where it may be sued.'" Although some of Louisiana’s claims fall within the settlement, the state did not waive its sovereign immunity. Receipt of the CAFA Notice was insufficient to unequivocally demonstrate that the state was aware that it was a class member and voluntarily chose to have its claims resolved. View "In re: Flonase Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Super Bowl XLVIII was held at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium. Finkelman alleges that the NFL has a policy of withholding 99% of Super Bowl tickets from the general public; 75% of the withheld tickets are split among NFL teams and 25% of tickets are for companies, broadcast networks, media sponsors, the host committee, and other “league insiders.” The 1% of tickets for public purchase are sold through a lottery system. A person has to enter by the deadline, be selected as a winner, and choose to actually purchase a ticket. Finkelman purchased tickets on the secondary market for $2,000 per ticket, although these tickets had a face value of $800 each. He did not enter the lottery to seek tickets offered at face value but filed a putative class action under New Jersey’s Ticket Law, N.J. Stat. 56:8-35.1: It shall be an unlawful practice for a person, who has access to tickets to an event prior to the tickets’ release for sale to the general public, to withhold those tickets from sale to the general public in an amount exceeding 5% of all available seating. The Third Circuit concluded that Finkelman had standing based on the plausible economic facts he pleaded, but deferred action on the merits pending decision by the Supreme Court of New Jersey on a pending petition for certification of questions of state law. View "Finkelman v. National Football League" on Justia Law

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Fallon was terminated by his employer, Mercy Catholic Medical Center, because he refused to be inoculated against flu. He opposed the vaccine because he believed that it might do more harm than good. Mercy required its employees to receive the vaccine unless they qualified for a medical or religious exemption. Fallon sought the exemption on religious grounds. Mercy ruled that he did not qualify and terminated him when he continued to refuse the vaccine. Fallon sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, arguing that his termination constituted religious discrimination. The district court dismissed his case with prejudice because his beliefs, while sincere and strongly held, were not religious in nature. The court considered the full text of an essay that was partially quoted in Fallon’s complaint but not submitted in full until Mercy attached it to a reply brief with its motion to dismiss. The Third Circuit affirmed. Fallon’s beliefs do not occupy a place in his life similar to that occupied by a more traditional faith. His objection to vaccination is therefore not religious and not protected by Title VII. The court rejected Fallon’s argument that only the portions of the essay, which were quoted in the complaint, should have been considered. View "Fallon v. Mercy Catholic Medical Center" on Justia Law

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In 2012, minor political parties challenged Pennsylvania’s election laws under the First and Fourteenth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. 1983. Minor parties gather a considerable number of signatures to place candidates on the ballot; the validity of those signatures can be challenged. A successful challenge may result in an award of costs (which may be considerable). The threat of these high costs has deterred some candidates. The court held that the statutes were, in combination, unconstitutional as applied to the parties, and ultimately adopted the Commonwealth’s proposal, based on a pending Pennsylvania General Assembly bill, that minor party candidates be placed on the ballot if they gather two and one-half times as many signatures as major party candidates must gather for the office of Governor, at least 5,000 signatures must be gathered with at least 250 from at least 10 of the 67 counties. For other statewide offices, the bill required 1,250-2,500 signatures with at least 250 from at least five counties. The court did not find any facts, nor explain its decision. The Third Circuit vacated, finding the record inadequate to support the signature gathering requirement. The appropriate inquiry is concerned with the extent to which a challenged regulation actually burdens constitutional rights and is “fact-intensive.” The court can impose the county-based signature-gathering requirements if it concludes that the requirements would have no appreciable impact on voting rights. View "Constitution Party of Pennsylvania v. Cortes" on Justia Law

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Harrisburg Officer Simmons, conducting undercover surveillance, heard a dispatch about gunshots east of his location, describing two potential suspects in dark-colored hooded sweatshirts, walking west. Minutes later, Simmons observed two men in dark-colored hooded sweatshirts walking west. Graves had a “pronounced, labored” gait and tense arms, suggesting that “he may have concealed something heavy.” Simmons yelled “Police,” handcuffed Graves, and conducted a pat-down search, during which he felt “multiple small hard objects” in Graves’ front pockets. The objects felt like crack cocaine but were packets of Depakote and one bullet. Graves admitted that he had a loaded pistol in his boot. Graves was charged with possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, 18 U.S.C. 922(k); 924(a)(1)(B) and unlawful possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2); 924(e). After denial of his motion to suppress, Graves pled guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm. The court treated Graves as a career offender, finding that his two convictions for North Carolina common law robbery were the categorical equivalent of the enumerated crime of robbery, U.S.S.G. 2K2.1. The Third Circuit affirmed. Simmons had reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was underway and did not exceed the bounds of a valid protective frisk. Under the Guidelines, generic federal robbery is defined as in the majority of state robbery statutes, without the requirement of more than de minimis force; North Carolina common law robbery and generic federal robbery contain the same elements. View "United States v. Graves" on Justia Law