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

by
PDX is a last-mile shipper of wholesale auto parts in New Jersey and other states. Depending on the volume and timing of its customers’ shipping needs, PDX hires “independent owner-operators” on an “as-needed” basis. PDX long classified these drivers as independent contractors. In 2012, after completing an audit of PDX for 2006-2009, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development determined that PDX had misclassified its drivers, finding they were employees, not independent contractors. The Department reached the same conclusion in two subsequent audits and sought payment of unemployment compensation taxesPDX filed suit, contending New Jersey’s statutory scheme for classifying workers was preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 and was unconstitutional under the Interstate Commerce Clause. An action before the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law (OAL) was stayed at PDX’s request. SLS, also a last-mile shipper, was audited by the Department and was allowed to intervene in the lawsuit. The Department’s audit against SLS remains pending.The trial court dismissed the entire case as barred by the Younger abstention doctrine. The Third Circuit held that the trial court correctly dismissed PDX, but erred in dismissing SLS. PDX’s OAL action is an ongoing judicial proceeding in which New Jersey has a strong interest and PDX may raise any constitutional claims while SLS is not subject to an ongoing state judicial proceeding. View "PDX North Inc v. Commissioner New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development" on Justia Law

by
In 2013, the status of Grijalva-Martinez, a citizen of Guatemala, was adjusted from asylee to lawful permanent resident. In 2016, he was convicted, under New Jersey law, of criminal sexual contact and of endangering the welfare of children. The government charged him as removable as an alien convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT), an aggravated felony, and a crime of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment. Grijalva-Martinez applied for withholding of removal and Convention Against Torture (CAT) protection, asserting that he feared violence at the hands of gang members, including his former stepfather.The IJ sustained the removability charges, finding that Grijalva-Martinez’s conviction for criminal sexual contact was both a CIMT under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(i) and an aggravated felony under section 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii) and that he was ineligible for withholding of removal because he was convicted for criminal sexual contact, a particularly serious crime (8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(3)(B)(ii)) and ineligible for CAT relief because he had not established that he would be subject to torture if removed. The BIA and the Third Circuit upheld the decision, rejecting arguments that the IJ and BIA erred in concluding that criminal sexual contact is an aggravated felony, erred in concluding that the conviction is for a particularly serious crime, and failed to apply the proper legal framework to the CAT claim. View "Grijalva-Martinez v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
by
On December 24, 1982, Philadelphia police officers found Allen lying in his blood between cars. The police found no other physical evidence relating to Allen's death. Howell was arrested. At the preliminary hearing, Parnell testified that on the night of the murder, he saw Howell pull out a gun, shoot Allen, and take his watch and wallet. Parnell did not testify at trial. Hearst and Jones testified to hearing the shot, running to the scene, and seeing a man with a gun running away. Hearst identified Howell; Jones described his clothing. Workman testified that he had been smoking marijuana with Parnell and Howell when Howell spotted Allen, said “I’m going to get him,” confronted Allen, and shot him. On cross-examination, Workman admitted he had lied in his original statement. Williams testified that the next morning, Howell visited her, told her that he had shot someone, and he showed her the gun and Allen's ring.Williams, Hearst, and Jones later recanted; Parnell confessed to Allen’s murder. Howell claimed actual innocence. The district court ruled that the recantations were categorically unreliable and not an appropriate basis for habeas relief. The Third Circuit vacated the dismissal of Howell’s petition. Although recantations are generally looked upon with suspicion, they are not subject to a categorical rejection; these recantations cast significant doubt on Howell’s conviction, particularly when considered together with Parnell’s confession. Although the hurdle for actual-innocence relief on an otherwise time-barred habeas claim is high, it is possible that Howell can clear it. View "Howell v. Superintendent Albion SCI" on Justia Law

by
Melvin pleaded guilty to possession and transfer of a machine gun, being a felon in possession of a firearm, engaging in an illegal firearms business, and conspiracy. Melvin began his three-year term of supervised release in 2017. With 15 months of supervised release yet to be completed, Melvin sought early termination under 18 U.S.C. 3583(e), arguing “his post-offense conduct and successful completion of well over one year of supervised release” rendered any additional period of supervised release “superfluous to afford adequate deterrence … or to serve the public good.” He “has worked steadily, continued and strengthened his relationships with his children and new wife, and impressed his Probation Officer.”The Third Circuit vacated the denial of the motion; the district court abused its discretion in requiring Melvin to show that changed or extraordinary circumstances warrant relief. Under 18 U.S.C. 3583(e), a sentencing court may terminate supervised release before its expiration after considering the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors. The district court considered the section 3553(a) factors, Melvin’s conduct, and the interest of justice in reaching its conclusion that early termination was unwarranted but went on to require a showing of extraordinary or new circumstances. The court noted that the district court would likely act within the bounds of its discretion if it reached the same result on remand. View "United States v. Melvin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
Doe I was certified committable in 2011 after he became depressed and had an emergency evaluation. Doe II was certified committable in 1996 after he threatened to harm himself. Both commitment certification records were recorded in the Pennsylvania Instant Check System and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System databases. As a result, they were prohibited from purchasing firearms when they later attempted to do so. They allege that the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act (PUFA) section 6105(c)(4) is facially unconstitutional because it deprives all those who are committed under the Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act (MHPA) section 302, of their Second Amendment rights without procedural due process.The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment rejecting the claims. While those committed under MHPA 302 have a protected liberty interest in the right to bear arms, PUFA section 6105(c)(4) provides sufficient procedural protections before depriving them of their Second Amendment rights. Finding “no reason to second-guess the adequacy of Pennsylvania’s requirement under MHPA 302 that a physician determine that one is a danger to himself or others as a result of mental illness and is ‘severely mentally disabled . . . and in need of immediate treatment,’” the court reasoned that once a person has been involuntarily committed, that person joins the class of those historically without Second Amendment rights. The court also noted available post-commitment remedies. View "John Doe 1 v. Governor of Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

by
Larios, an El Salvadoran national, entered the country without inspection in 1986. In 1998, Larios, allegedly thinking he was being robbed, pulled out a knife and caused the person to flee. Larios pleaded guilty to “threaten[ing] to commit any crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize another . . . or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror,” N.J. Stat. 2C:12-3(a). In removal proceedings, he sought cancellation of removal, 8 U.S.C. 1229b(b)(1), a discretionary form of relief unavailable to those who have “been convicted of an offense under section 1182(a)(2),” including “a crime involving moral turpitude” (CIMT).Larios argued that his crime could not qualify as a CIMT because, under the categorical approach, the elements of a state statute must define an offense not broader than the federal statute, while “the least culpable conduct necessary to sustain a conviction under the [New Jersey] statute,” a threat to commit “simple assault,” did not meet the criteria to qualify as “turpitudinous.” The Third Circuit held the statute was divisible and remanded. On remand, however, the IJ declined to apply the modified categorical approach. The BIA affirmed. After a second remand, the BIA again rejected Larios’s application.The Third Circuit granted Larios's third petition, stating that under the modified categorical approach, Larios’s crime of conviction has a minimum mental state of recklessness but lacks any statutory aggravating factors, so the least culpable conduct is a reckless threat to commit a violent property crime, which is not turpitudinous. View "Larios v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

by
Ezaki, a Japanese confectionery company, makes and sells “Pocky,” thin, stick-shaped cookies that are partly coated with chocolate or flavored cream. The end of each is left partly uncoated to serve as a handle. In 1978, Ezaki started selling Pocky in the U.S. and began registering U.S. trademarks and patents. It has two Pocky product configurations registered as trade dresses and has a patent for a “Stick Shaped Snack and Method for Producing the Same.” In 1983, the Lotte confectionery company started making Pepero stick-shaped cookies partly coated in chocolate or flavored cream. Pepero “looks remarkably like Pocky.”In 1993-1995, Ezaki sent letters, notifying Lotte of its registered trade dress and asking it to cease and desist. Ezaki took no further action until 2015, when it sued, alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition, under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114, 1125(a)(1)(A). Under New Jersey law, it alleged trademark infringement and unfair competition. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Lotte, holding that because Pocky’s product configuration is functional, it is not protected as trade dress. Trade dress is limited to features that identify a product’s source. Patent law protects useful inventions, but trademark law does not. View "Ezaki Gliko Kabushiki Kaisha v. Lotte International America Corp." on Justia Law

by
While working for Vanguard, Capps fraudulently caused funds from dormant accounts to be mailed to co-conspirators, one of whom then wrote checks conveying back to him some of the proceeds. Capps received at least two checks, one for $555,200 and another for $29,750, and did not report the income on his federal tax returns. Capps pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1349, money laundering, sections 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) and 2, and filing a false tax return, 26 U.S.C. 7206(1). At sentencing, he did not raise any objections to the PSR and the court adopted its calculation of the applicable guidelines range (63-78 months), including two separate 2-level adjustments based on abuse of trust and gross receipts. The court sentenced Capps to 48 months’ imprisonment and ordered Capps to pay $2,137,580.81 in restitution.The Third Circuit vacated, finding that the district court plainly erred in applying the abuse of trust adjustment. As to the application of the gross receipts adjustment, the court reasoned that, while the district court did not plainly err in deciding the adjustment could be applicable, it is not clear on this record whether Capps met the threshold for the adjustment to actually apply. View "United States v. Capps" on Justia Law

by
Palisade sought to build a 150-bed for-profit assisted living facility, which would provide supportive services to memory care patients 0n a 4.96-acre parcel located partially in the city and partially in the borough. The city opposes its construction because the property is in a “one-family residence” zoning district. Palisade argued that the zoning ordinance discriminated on its face against individuals with disabilities by not permitting assisted living facilities as of right in the single-family district and by explicitly allowing them in only one zoning district. The district court granted Palisade a preliminary injunction.The Third Circuit vacated. The zoning ordinance, by failing to include “assisted living facilities” among its permitted uses in the single-family district, but explicitly allowing them in a different district, does not facially discriminate against the disabled in violation of the Fair Housing Amendments Act, 42 U.S.C. 3604. Failure to permit a land use as of right is not tantamount to an express prohibition. There is no indication that disabled status, rather than the building size or the commercial character of the development, is the dispositive trait, singled out for different treatment. The court noted that Palisade did not seek a variance. View "431 East Palisade Avenue Real Estate LLC v. City of Englewood" on Justia Law

by
Mirambeaux, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in 1999. In 2008, Mirambeaux pled guilty to the distribution of a controlled dangerous substance. In 2018, he was charged as removable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B)(i), for that conviction, and under 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), as an aggravated felon. Mirambeaux applied for withholding of removal but declined to seek protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Mirambeaux argued that he fears returning to the Dominican Republic, citing the murders of three friends over the last 10 years. He was not able to identify a specific person or group he feared, and referenced “[c]rime in general.” Mirambeaux sought a continuance to gather support documents. The IJ denied the motion, stating “he’s been detained for several months now. . . The Court does not see good cause why those documents have not been obtained.” The IJ concluded that Mirambeaux’s aggravated felony conviction left him statutorily ineligible for asylum, for withholding of removal, and under CAT, noting that Mirambeaux could not specify who harmed his friends or why, nor was he able to establish that the government would not be able to protect him. The BIA affirmed. The Third Circuit dismissed a petition for review for lack of jurisdiction. Mirambeaux failed to state a colorable constitutional claim or question of law within the meaning of 8 U.S.C. 1252(a)(2)(C)-(D). View "Mirambeaux v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law