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Relator claimed (False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733) that C&D manufactured and shipped 349 defective batteries to the U.S. government for use in intercontinental ballistic missile launch controls. The matter settled for $1.7 million, about six percent of the amount demanded in a Second Amended Complaint, entitling Relator to reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. The parties were unable to agree on attorneys’ fees. The district court concluded that both parties’ counsel were uncooperative and did not act in good faith. Relator eventually increased his fee demand to $3,278,115.99, “almost $1 million more than the fees [he] sought a year ago and almost twice the dollar amount of the settlement [he] reached.” Relator used hourly rates that he “extrapolated” from actual Community Legal Services rates, which were higher than those that he originally used to calculate his demand. The court reduced Relator’s recoverable attorney hours for depositions, document review, summary judgment motions, a motion for reconsideration, Daubert motions, and travel time expenses, and applied a 10 percent reduction for lack of success on the merits. The parties agreed that for the purposes of the fee award, the court could use $1,794,427.27 for fees and $164,585.49 for costs. The Third Circuit remanded for consideration of “fees on fees” but otherwise affirmed. View "Palmer v. C & D Technologies, Inc" on Justia Law

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In 1995, a Pennsylvania jury found Abdul-Salaam guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, and conspiracy. After a one-day penalty phase hearing in which Abdul-Salaam’s counsel presented three mitigation witnesses, the jury sentenced Abdul-Salaam to death. Abdul-Salaam, after exhausting his state remedies, filed a federal petition for habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. 2254, challenging his sentence, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to investigate adequately and to present sufficient mitigation evidence at sentencing. The Third Circuit reversed the denial of relief. Trial counsel could not have had a strategic reason not to investigate Abdul-Salaam’s background, school, and juvenile records, to acquire a mental health evaluation, or to interview more family members about his childhood abuse and poverty, counsel’s performance was deficient. There is a reasonable probability that the un-presented evidence would have caused at least one juror to vote for a sentence of life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. Abdul-Salaam has met the prejudice prong of the ineffective assistance of counsel inquiry. View "Abdul-Salaam v. Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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After a confrontational screening at Philadelphia International Airport in 2006, during which police were called, Pellegrino asserted intentional tort claims against TSA screeners. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the government generally enjoys sovereign immunity for intentional torts committed by federal employees, subject to the “law enforcement proviso” exception, which waives immunity for a subset of intentional torts committed by employees who qualify as “investigative or law enforcement officers,” 28 U.S.C. 2680(h). The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Pellegrino’s suit, holding that TSA screeners are not “investigative or law enforcement officers” under the law enforcement proviso. They “typically are not law enforcement officers and do not act as such.” The court noted that the head of the TSA, the Under Secretary of Transportation for Security, has specific authority to designate employees to serve as “law enforcement officer[s]” 49 U.S.C. 114(p)(1). An employee so designated may carry a firearm, make arrests, and seek and execute warrants for arrest or seizure of evidence. Screening locations are staffed by both screening officers and law enforcement officers. View "Pellegrino v. United States Transportation Security Administration" on Justia Law

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In 2017, New Jersey replaced its system of pretrial release, which had long relied on monetary bail, based on a finding that the system resulted in the release of defendants who could afford to pay for their release, even if they posed a substantial risk of flight or danger to others, and the detention of poorer defendants who presented minimal risk and were accused of less serious crimes. Following a constitutional amendment, the New Jersey Criminal Justice Reform Act, 3 N.J. Stat. 2A:162–15, created a new framework that prioritizes the use of non-monetary conditions of release over monetary bail. The Reform Act establishes a multi-step process the court must follow when deciding to release or detain an eligible defendant after considering multiple factors. Plaintiffs challenged the Act as a violation of the Eighth Amendment, the Due Process Clause, and the Fourth Amendment, seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the state “from taking any actions to enforce statutory provisions [of the Act] . . . that allow imposition of severe restrictions on the pre-trial liberty of presumptively innocent criminal defendants without offering the option of monetary bail.” The Third Circuit affirmed the district court, finding that there is no federal constitutional right to deposit money or obtain a corporate surety bond to ensure a criminal defendant’s future appearance in court as an equal alternative to non-monetary conditions of pretrial release. View "Holland v. Rosen" on Justia Law

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Walsh, a New Jersey citizen, filed a putative class action in New Jersey Superior Court, alleging that class members purchased home security equipment and monitoring service from defendants and signed contracts that defendants prepared which contained illegal provisions relating to fees due on cancellation. Walsh cited New Jersey consumer protection laws. Defenders, an Indiana corporation, removed the case invoking Class Action Fairness Act diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2), (d)(2)(A), (d)(5)(B). Walsh sought remand, arguing that ADT’s presence in the case triggered CAFA’s local controversy exception under which a district court must decline jurisdiction if the controversy is uniquely connected to the state in which the plaintiff originally filed: ADT is a citizen of New Jersey; ADT’s conduct forms a significant basis for the claims asserted; and Walsh sought significant relief from ADT. The court agreed that ADT, though a Delaware LLC, had New Jersey citizenship, but denied the motion, stating that ADT “appears to have no actual interest in the outcome” because it had transferred its liabilities. On reconsideration, the court reversed, citing evidence that ADT entered into the subject contracts with 35.3% of the putative class, and created the challenged standardized provisions. The Third Circuit affirmed remand of the case. ADT has an interest in the litigation; the court correctly took into account its citizenship. Because of ADT’s role concerning the allegedly illegal provisions, and because over a third of the class members entered into contracts directly with ADT, ADT’s conduct forms a significant basis for the claims. View "Walsh v. Defenders, Inc." on Justia Law

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Devon, a Pennsylvania corporation, sells computer products; Bennett and DiRocco, a married couple, jointly own 100 percent of Devon’s shares as tenants by the entirety. In 2010, Devon obtained a contract from Dell. Devon contracted with Clientron, a Taiwanese company, to manufacture Dell's computers. Clientron shipped them directly to Dell; Dell paid Devon. Devon stopped paying Clientron entirely in 2012, owing over $6 million. Dell terminated its relationship with Devon, paying Devon $2 million, none of which reached Clientron. Pursuant to their contract, Clientron requested arbitration in Taiwan; arbitrators awarded Clientron $6.5 million. Clientron then sued Devon, Bennett, and DiRocco in Pennsylvania to enforce the award and seeking $14.3 million in damages for fraud and breach of contract. Clientron alleged that Devon was the alter ego of the couple. During discovery, the defendants continually failed to meet their obligations under the Federal Rules. The court entered sanctions, and instructed the jury that it was permitted, but not required, to make an adverse inference due to Devon' discovery conduct; the instruction did not reference Bennett or DiRocco. The jury found Devon liable for breach of contract and awarded Clientron an additional $737,018 in damages but rejected Clientron’s fraud claim and declined to pierce Devon’s corporate veil. Post-trial, the court pierced the veil to reach Bennett but not DiRocco, holding Bennett personally liable for the $737,018 damages award and the $44,320 monetary sanction earlier imposed on Devon; it did not make Bennett personally liable for the Taiwanese arbitration award. Devon is insolvent The Third Circuit vacated; the court committed legal error in piercing Devon’s veil to reach only Bennett and in holding Bennett personally liable for only part of the judgment. View "Clientron Corp. v. Devon IT Inc" on Justia Law

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"Immediate relatives” of U.S. Citizens can enter the United States without regard to numerical limitations on immigration. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, 120 Stat. 587 (AWA) amended the statute so that a citizen “who has been convicted of a specified offense against a minor” may not file any petition on behalf of such relatives “unless the Secretary of Homeland Security, in the Secretary’s sole and unreviewable discretion, determines that the citizen poses no risk to the alien.” The definition of a “specified offense against a minor,” includes “[c]riminal sexual conduct involving a minor, or the use of the Internet to facilitate or attempt such conduct.” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) memos state that “a petitioner who has been convicted of a specified offense against a minor must submit evidence of rehabilitation and any other relevant evidence that clearly demonstrates, beyond any reasonable doubt," that he poses no risk and that “approval recommendations should be rare.” In 2004, Bakran, a U.S. citizen, was convicted of aggravated indecent assault and unlawful contact with a minor. In 2012, Bakran married an adult Indian national and sought lawful permanent resident status for her. USCIS denied his application citing AWA. Bakran claimed violations of the Constitution and Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. 701. The Third Circuit held that the protocols Bakran challenged simply guide the Secretary’s determination; courts lack jurisdiction to review them. The AWA does not infringe Bakran’s marriage right but deprives him of an immigration benefit to which he has no constitutional right. The Act is aimed at providing prospective protection and is not impermissibly retroactive. View "Bakran v. Secretary, United States Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

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Wayne Land and Mineral Group, wanting to obtain natural gas by fracking reserves, sought a declaratory judgment that an interstate compact does not give the Delaware River Basin Commission authority to review Wayne’s proposal. The district court dismissed the case after determining that Wayne’s proposed activities constituted a “project” subject to the Commission’s oversight, according to the Compact's unambiguous terms. The Third Circuit vacated, concluding that the meaning of the word “project” is ambiguous. The court remanded the case for fact-finding on the intent of the Compact's drafters. The Compact defines “project” as “any work, service or activity which is separately planned, financed, or identified by the [C]ommission, or any separate facility undertaken or to be undertaken within a specified area, for the conservation, utilization, control, development or management of water resources which can be established and utilized independently or as an addition to an existing facility, and can be considered as a separate entity for purposes of evaluation” and requires approval for any project having a substantial effect on the water resources of the Basin. In 2009 the Commission imposed a moratorium on fracking. View "Wayne Land and Mineral Group LLC v. Delaware River Basin Commission" on Justia Law

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S.E.R.L., a native of Honduras, fled to the U.S. in 2014 and unsuccessfully sought asylum and statutory withholding of removal based on membership in a proposed particular social group “immediate family members of Honduran women unable to leave a domestic relationship.” She fears persecution by Angel, who abducted, raped, and continues to stalk S.E.R.L.’s daughter, who has already been granted asylum. Orellana, S.E.R.L.’s stepfather, has repeatedly abused S.E.R.L.’s mother. An immigration judge found S.E.R.L. credible but concluded that S.E.R.L. had not met her burden to establish eligibility for relief. The IJ reasoned that Angel had targeted S.E.R.L.’s daughter, not her and that “her stepfather never physically harmed her.” The IJ stated that any harm she suffered was not on account of a protected ground; her proposed group “lack[ed] the requisite level of particularity and social distinction” under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42). The BIA dismissed an appeal. The Third Circuit denied a petition for review, citing the BIA’s three-part test for proving the existence of a cognizable particular social group, which requires applicants to establish that the group [at issue] is composed of members who share a common immutable characteristic, defined with particularity, and socially distinct within the society in question. That interpretation is entitled to Chevron deference. Substantial evidence supports the BIA’s determination that S.E.R.L. has not met its requirements. View "S.E.R.L. v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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Minarski, the part-time secretary to Yadlosky, Director of Susquehanna County’s Department of Veterans Affairs, claims that Yadlosky made unwanted sexual advances toward her for years. The two worked separately from other employees. Minarski never reported this conduct because her young daughter had cancer and she depended on the income. Minarski later learned that on two prior occasions, the Chief County Clerk became aware of Yadlosky’s inappropriate behavior toward other women and reprimanded him. A County Commissioner was aware of one incident. After both incidents, there was no further action nor was any notation placed in Yadlosky’s personnel file. Minarsky also learned that other women had similar encounters with Yadlosky. The County terminated Yadlosky when the persistent nature of his behavior toward Minarsky was revealed. Minarsky sought to hold Yadlosky liable for sexual harassment, and her former employer, Susquehanna County, vicariously liable. The County raised the Faragher-Ellerth affirmative defense. In granting the County summary judgment, the district court held that the elements of this defense had been proven as a matter of law. The Third Circuit vacated, holding that, in this case, the availability of the defense regarding both elements--whether the County took reasonable care to detect and eliminate the harassment and whether Minarsky acted reasonably in not availing herself of the County’s anti-harassment safeguards--should be decided by a jury. View "Minarsky v. Susquehanna County" on Justia Law