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Firefighters alleged that they suffered hearing losses caused by the loud noise emitted by a manufacturer’s fire sirens. A perfunctory investigation conducted by the manufacturer during discovery revealed the firefighters’ lawsuit to be clearly time-barred, and also revealed that one firefighter had not even suffered hearing loss attributable to noise exposure. Eventually, Plaintiffs requested the district court to dismiss the case with prejudice (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2)). In doing so, the court awarded attorneys’ fees and costs in favor of the manufacturer, making an explicit reference to plaintiffs’ counsel’s practice of repeatedly suing the fire siren manufacturer in jurisdictions throughout the country in a virtually identical fashion. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although attorneys’ fees and costs are typically not awarded when a matter is voluntarily dismissed with prejudice, such an award is appropriate when exceptional circumstances exist. Exceptional circumstances include a litigant’s failure to perform a meaningful pre-suit investigation, as well as a repeated practice of bringing meritless claims and then dismissing them with prejudice after both the opposing party and the judicial system have incurred substantial costs. Such exceptional circumstances are present in this case. View "Carroll v. E One Inc." on Justia Law

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The district court refused to enjoin the School District from allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with the students’ gender identities rather than the sex they were determined to have at birth. The District required students claiming to be transgender to meet with licensed counselors. There are several multi-user bathrooms; each has individual stalls. Several single-user restrooms are available to all. "Cisgender" students claimed the policy violated their constitutional rights of bodily privacy; Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681; and tort law. The Third Circuit affirmed. Under the circumstances, the presence of transgender students in the locker and restrooms is no more offensive to privacy interests than the presence of the other students who are not transgender. The constitutional right to privacy must be weighed against important competing governmental interests; transgender students face extraordinary social, psychological, and medical risks. The District had a compelling interest in shielding them from discrimination. Nothing suggests that cisgender students who voluntarily elect to use single-user facilities face the same extraordinary consequences as transgender students would if they were forced to use them. The cisgender students were claiming a broad right of personal privacy in a space that is just not that private. The mere presence of a transgender individual in a bathroom or locker room would not be highly offensive to a reasonable person. View "Doe v. Boyertown Area School District" on Justia Law

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Mothers and children fled violence perpetrated by gangs in Honduras and El Salvador and were apprehended near the U.S. border. They were moved to a Pennsylvania detention center. Immigration officers determined that they were inadmissible. They were ordered expeditiously removed, 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1), and unsuccessfully requested asylum. They sought habeas relief, claiming that Asylum Officers and IJs violated their constitutional and statutory rights in conducting the “credible fear” interviews. The Third Circuit initially affirmed the dismissal of the claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that, while the Suspension Clause of the Constitution would allow an aggrieved party with sufficient ties to the U.S. to challenge that lack of jurisdiction, the petitioners’ relationship to the U.S. amounted only to presence for a few hours before their apprehension. The children were subsequently accorded Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status—a classification intended to safeguard abused, abandoned, or neglected alien children who are able to meet rigorous eligibility requirements. The Third Circuit then reversed the dismissal, noting that protections afforded to SIJ children include eligibility for application of adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent residents, exemption from various grounds of inadmissibility, and procedural protections to ensure their status is not revoked without good cause. The jurisdiction-stripping provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act is an unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus as applied to SIJ designees seeking judicial review of expedited removal orders. View "Osorio-Martinez v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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In 1998, Ramos threw a brick at a child, who then required medical treatment; Ramos pled guilty to aggravated assault. In 1999, Ramos was apprehended with heroin and convicted of manufacturing, delivering, or possessing with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance, and knowingly possessing a controlled substance. In 2001, Ramos broke into a store and stole furniture; he pled guilty to burglary. In 2008, Philadelphia police observed Ramos selling crack cocaine out of a truck, arrested Ramos, and recovered a loaded handgun from the vehicle. Ramos pled guilty, stipulating that he was a career offender. The court concluded that Ramos had three predicate drug or violent felony convictions under the Armed Career Criminal Act and was subject to a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence. Factoring in Ramos’s acceptance of responsibility, the court determined that Ramos’s Guidelines range was 248-295 months’ imprisonment. The court sentenced Ramos to 180 months of imprisonment. In 2016, Ramos sought post-conviction relief (28 U.S.C. 2255), arguing that, under the Supreme Court’s “Johnson” decision his burglary conviction was no longer a career offender predicate. The Third Circuit applied the modified categorical approach to Pennsylvania’s divisible aggravated assault statute and held that Ramos’s conviction for second-degree aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, 18 Pa. C.S. 2702(a)(4), is categorically a crime of violence. View "United States v. Ramos" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Third Circuit affirmed Welsans’s conviction for distribution and possession of child pornography (18 U.S.C. 2252). The court rejected an argument that his due process right to a fair trial was violated because the prosecution informed the jury, through evidence and argument, that his pornography files included deeply abhorrent videos and images of bestiality, bondage, and acts of violence against very young children. While the challenged evidence was inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 403 and the prosecutor’s closing argument improperly appealed to the passions of the jury, the misconduct did not so infect Welshans’s trial with unfairness as to violate due process. The evidence against Welshans was overwhelming; there was no dispute that his computers contained child pornography; Welshans was the sole user of the computers; he installed and used a file-sharing network, which was used to distribute child pornography; Welshans used the Internet account from which the child pornography was distributed. Welshans nonetheless claimed, based solely on his credibility, that he did not know that there was child pornography on his computers. The court remanded for resentencing. Welshans’s attempt to put files in the computer’s recycling bin when he knew the police were coming did not merit the application of the obstruction of justice enhancement. View "United States v. Welshans" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Third Circuit affirmed Welsans’s conviction for distribution and possession of child pornography (18 U.S.C. 2252). The court rejected an argument that his due process right to a fair trial was violated because the prosecution informed the jury, through evidence and argument, that his pornography files included deeply abhorrent videos and images of bestiality, bondage, and acts of violence against very young children. While the challenged evidence was inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 403 and the prosecutor’s closing argument improperly appealed to the passions of the jury, the misconduct did not so infect Welshans’s trial with unfairness as to violate due process. The evidence against Welshans was overwhelming; there was no dispute that his computers contained child pornography; Welshans was the sole user of the computers; he installed and used a file-sharing network, which was used to distribute child pornography; Welshans used the Internet account from which the child pornography was distributed. Welshans nonetheless claimed, based solely on his credibility, that he did not know that there was child pornography on his computers. The court remanded for resentencing. Welshans’s attempt to put files in the computer’s recycling bin when he knew the police were coming did not merit the application of the obstruction of justice enhancement. View "United States v. Welshans" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Gillispie, an RN, worked for the Medical Center, addressing possible medical errors. In October 2012, a pregnant patient, “E.R.,” went to the Center’s emergency room complaining of pain and vaginal bleeding. After examining E.R., Center personnel discharged her, telling her to “[g]o directly to Uniontown Hospital” to see a gynecologist. The Center had no gynecologist on staff. Center personnel did not transport E.R. Two days later, Cowie, the Center’s CEO, held a meeting to investigate whether E.R.’s discharge violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), 42 U.S.C. 1395dd, or triggered reporting requirements. Gillispie contends that she insisted at two meetings that EMTALA required a report, but Cowie instructed the attendees not to report. Pennsylvania Department of Health representatives subsequently investigated a complaint regarding another patient, L.S.; Gillispie stated that Cowie had falsely told L.S.’s family that nurses had been disciplined for L.S.’s treatment. Cowie terminated Gillispie’s employment. Gillispie later reported the Center’s discharge of E.R., then filed suit under EMTALA’s whistleblower protection provision. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Gillispie did not give anyone at the Center any information about E.R.’s discharge that they were not already aware of, so she did not make a report and did not engage in activity protected by EMTALA’s whistleblower provision. Gillispie’s complaint with respect to L.S. have a statutory remedy, so she may not also allege a public policy-based wrongful discharge claim. View "Gillispie v. Regionalcare Hospital Partners, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ricks, a former inmate at a Pennsylvania State Corrections facility, alleged that during a routine morning pat-down, Corrections Officer Keil rubbed his erect penis against Ricks’ buttocks through both men’s clothing. When Ricks stepped away and verbally protested to Keil’s supervisor, Lieutenant Shover, Ricks alleges that Shover “slammed” Ricks against the wall, causing injuries to his face, head, neck, and back. The district court dismissed his 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint, stating that “a small number of incidents in which a prisoner is verbally harassed, touched, and pressed against without his consent do not amount” to an Eighth Amendment violation. The Third Circuit reversed. A single incident of sexual abuse can constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment if the incident was objectively sufficiently intolerable and cruel, capable of causing harm, and the official had a culpable state of mind rather than a legitimate penological purpose. Although his sexual abuse claim as to Shover under a participation or failure-to-intervene theory was properly dismissed, Ricks’ excessive force claim stands on a different footing and should have been permitted to survive the motion to dismiss. View "Ricks v. Shover" on Justia Law

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An unidentified 911 caller reported that a man had been electrocuted near Valley Forge Park and “may have been scrapping.” Officers found a deceased man next to an electrical box. At the restaurant from which the call originated, an officer spoke with a security guard who said a white male driving a small Ford pickup truck had recently used the phone. The identifying information was broadcast. Approximately four minutes later and four blocks away, an officer spotted a vehicle matching the description—driven by Kalb—and stopped it. Kalb admitted placing the call. He was taken to the Upper Merion Township police station and admitted to driving his friend to the scrapping location. Kalb was indicted for destruction of property on U.S. land, 18 U.S.C. 1363 and aiding and abetting, 18 U.S.C. 2. The court granted Kalb’s motion to suppress on October 21, then held a conference call and scheduled a status conference for November 29. During that call, the government “sought leave to review the transcript of the suppression hearing before proceeding.” On November 29, the government filed a motion to reconsider the suppression order. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the motion as untimely. A motion for reconsideration, filed after the statutory appeal period elapsed but considered on the merits, does not keep the appeal period from expiring; 18 U.S.C. 3731 imposes a 30-day jurisdictional filing requirement, which can be stopped only by a timely-filed motion for reconsideration. View "United States v. Kalb" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Essex County Correctional Facility Officer Shaw was covering the women’s unit alone overnight. Some women, including E.S., “flashed” him with their buttocks. Shaw responded with sexual comments and spoke over an intercom connected to E.S.'s shared cell, stating that he was “going to come in there.” Around 3:00 a.m. Shaw entered the cell and raped E.S. Her cellmate remained asleep. E.S. told a male inmate (via hand signals), her mother and her attorney. The male inmate reported the incident. E.S. then formally reported the assault. She was examined and was found to have semen on her cervix. The government’s expert testified that the DNA mixture was “approximately 28.9 million times more likely in the African American population” that E.S. and Shaw were the sources than if E.S. and a “randomly selected unrelated individual” were the sources. Shaw is African American. Electronic records of the cell doors established that E.S.’s cell door was opened at 2:43:41 a.m. and closed at 2:50:39 a.m. Only Shaw was logged onto the computer that opened the door. Shaw denied the accusations, stated that he left the unit on his break during the time at issue, and testified that inmates were known to be engaging in sex in the gym. Convicted of deprivation of civil rights through aggravated sexual abuse, 18 U.S.C. 242, and obstruction of justice, 18 U.S.C. 1512(b)(3), Shaw was sentenced to 25 years’ incarceration. The Third Circuit affirmed, upholding jury instructions and rejecting a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. View "United States v. Shaw" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law