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In 1999, the Titus & McConomy law firm dissolved and, apparently, abandoned its commercial lease. Titus joined the Schnader firm, which deposited Titus’s wages into a bank account he owned jointly with his wife. The landlord sued the former Titus & McConomy partners and secured a multimillion-dollar judgment, then brought a fraudulent-transfer action in Pennsylvania state court against Mr. and Mrs. Titus. This triggered an involuntary bankruptcy. After two Bankruptcy Court trials and two appeals, the Third Circuit concluded that the Tituses are liable for a fraudulent transfer. When the wages of an insolvent spouse are deposited into a couple’s entireties account, both spouses are fraudulent transferees. The bankruptcy trustee waived any challenge to the method used to calculate their liability but the Third Circuit clarified how future courts should measure liability when faced with an entireties account into which deposits consist of both (fraudulent) wages and (non-fraudulent) other sources, and from which cash is spent on both (permissible) household necessities and (impermissible) other expenditures. Until now, a trustee had to show that wage deposits were impermissibly spent on non-necessary expenditures, even though wage and nonwage deposits had become commingled in the account. Rather than expect a trustee to trace the untraceable, future courts should generally presume that wage deposits were spent on non-necessary expenditures in proportion to the overall share of wages in the account as a whole. View "In re: Titus" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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The U Visa, created under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, 114 Stat. 1464, grants temporary legal status to victims of specified crimes who have cooperated or are likely to cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of those crimes. After three years of holding a U Visa, an alien may apply for permanent resident status (8 U.S.C. 1255(m)(1)). Carmen entered the U.S. in 2005, became a lawful permanent resident under the “U Visa” statute because she was a rape victim, then sought permanent resident status for her son, Dario, under 8 U.S.C. 1255(m)(3), which empowers the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant that status to certain family members, including a “child,” of an immigrant in Carmen’s situation. While that application was pending, Dario reached the age of 21, which made him ineligible under a DHS regulation that implements section 1255(m)(3). The Third Circuit upheld the denial of the application. Section 1255(m)(3) unambiguously requires DHS to assess the familial relationship required under that statute as it exists when DHS decides the application, even though this means a child can “age out” of eligibility while an application is pending. The DHS regulation adheres to this unambiguous meaning of the statute. View "Aybar v. Secretary United States Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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The 2011 Virgin Islands Economic Stability Act (VIESA) sought to reduce government spending by reducing payroll while continuing to provide necessary public services. VIESA offered some of the government’s most expensive employees (with at least 30 years of credited service) $10,000 to chose to retire within three months. Those declining to retire had to contribute an additional 3% of their salary to the Government Employees Retirement System starting at the end of those three months. Two members of the System with over 30 years of credited service who chose not to retire claimed that the 3% charge violated federal and territorial laws protecting workers over the age of 40 from discrimination based on their age. The Third Circuit found the provision valid because it did not target employees because of their age under the Supreme Court’s 1993 decision in Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggin; its focus on credited years of service entitles the government to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)’s reasonable-factor-other-than-age defense. The Third Circuit concluded that the Virgin Islands Supreme Court would deem the provision consistent with existing territorial anti-discrimination statutes. View "Bryan v. Government of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law

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Philadelphia has received funds under the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program every year since the program’s 2006 inception in 2006. The Justice Department notified the city that it was withholding its FY2017 award because the city was not in compliance with three newly implemented conditions that required greater coordination with federal officials on matters of immigration enforcement. The city filed suit and was awarded summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed the order to the extent that it enjoins enforcement of the challenged conditions against the city and vacated the order to the extent it imposed a requirement that the federal government obtain a judicial warrant before seeking custody of aliens in city custody.. Where, as here, the Executive Branch claims authority not granted to it in the Constitution, it “literally has no power to act … unless and until Congress confers power upon it.” Congress did not grant the Attorney General this authority and the Challenged Conditions were unlawfully imposed. The Byrne statute itself provides no such authority and the conditions are not authorized by 34 U.S.C. 10102, the provision establishing the “Duties and Functions of Assistant Attorney General.” View "City of Philadelphia v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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When McKinney was granted tenure in 1974, his employment was governed by University Policies that provide that tenured faculty can be terminated only “for cause” and provide yearly salary raises for faculty who perform satisfactorily or meritoriously. Any salary increase for “maintenance” or merit becomes part of the base contract salary. No explicit provisions govern salary decreases; the Policy provides procedures to address complaints about salary decisions and requires that a faculty member “judged unsatisfactory” be informed of specific reasons related to teaching ability, achievements in research and scholarship, and service. In McKinney’s 2010 and 2011 reviews, Dean Keeler expressed concern about declining enrollment in McKinney’s classes, poor student evaluations, and a stagnant research agenda, but granted standard 2.0% and 1.5% maintenance increases. In 2012, McKinney ranked last among the Grad School faculty and was rated “less than satisfactory.” McKinney’s salary was increased by 0.5%. He was told that if his performance did not improve, he could receive a salary reduction. McKinney again ranked last in the 2013 review. Dean Keeler reduced his salary by 20%. McKinney sued, alleging that the University unconstitutionally deprived him of his property interest in his base salary. Reversing the district court, the Third Circuit concluded that he had no such property interest. The Policy language is not sufficient to give McKinney a “legitimate expectation” in the continuance of his base salary. The appeal provisions and the three-tiered rating structure indicate that salaries are subject to “possible annual adjustments,” and that McKinney had no more than a “unilateral expectation of receiving [his] full salary,” View "McKinney v. University of Pittsburgh" on Justia Law

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Dessouki was born in France in 1982. His parents never married; they separately immigrated to the U.S. Though they entered on temporary visas, his mother became a lawful permanent resident and his father a U.S. citizen. Dessouki remained on parole status. In 2003, Dessouki was convicted of drug-related felonies. The government sought to remove him but failed to prove that Dessouki was an alien. An IJ terminated his removal proceedings. A few years later, the government reopened the proceedings. A different IJ rejected Dessouki’s claim that he was a citizen. Dessouki, removed to France, returned to the U.S. and pleaded guilty to re-entry after deportation. Dessouki continued to claim citizenship. He unsuccessfully asked an IJ to reopen his removal proceedings. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed and denied a motion to reconsider. Dessouki then sought a declaration that he is entitled to “derived” citizenship through his father under 8 U.S.C. 1503(a). The district court dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Third Circuit concluded that it must decide the issue and dismissed an appeal. Dessouki does not satisfy any of the statutory alternatives for derivative citizenship that existed at the time: his mother was never naturalized; both parents are alive; and there was no legal separation of his parents. View "Dessouki v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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Patterson, an African-American male and a longtime Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) employee, arrived at an Eddystone, Pennsylvania PLCB-run store to inquire about the store’s operating condition. Patterson identified himself to the assistant manager as a PLCB maintenance worker and asked whether the store’s electricity and plumbing were in working order or if the store might otherwise need repairs. The assistant manager became “very rude.” Patterson exited the store, entered his state-owned van, reported the assistant manager to his foreman over the phone, then drove toward another PLCB store in Newtown Square. En route, Patterson was stopped by the police and questioned about “robbing” the Eddystone store. An officer informed Patterson that the Eddystone assistant manager had called to report a “black guy” in a “state van” who was trying to “rob her store.” Patterson sued the PLCB, alleging race discrimination and violations of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed, finding that the PLCB was entitled to Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. The Third Circuit affirmed, employing a three-factor test to determine PLCB’s sovereign immunity status: whether the payment of the judgment would come from the state; what status the entity has under state law; and what degree of autonomy the entity has. View "Patterson v. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board" on Justia Law

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Garner asked Saber to be the getaway driver for a bank robbery. Saber, a government informant, set up his phone to send the conversation to the voicemail of FBI Agent Reed. Reed and Saber later recorded several calls with Garner, who instructed Saber to surveil the bank and that Marshall would be involved. On the day of the planned robbery, the FBI arrested Garner in Saber’s car. The FBI found on Garner’s person 17 packets of crack cocaine and, in Saber’s car, a backpack not present before Garner entered, containing ski masks, a loaded gun, gloves, two-way radios, and ammunition. Garner was convicted of conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. 371, attempted bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. 2113(a), and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and aiding and abetting that crime, 18 U.S.C. 2 & 924(c)(1) and was sentenced to 101 months’ imprisonment. Marshall, who was not charged with attempted bank robbery, was acquitted. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument the evidence was insufficient to establish either conspiracy or an attempt to commit armed bank robbery because the chief prosecution witness was not credible. A defendant may commit an attempt even where he stops short of “the last act necessary” for the actual commission of the crime. View "United States v. Garner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In 2016, Chapman pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine. After several continuances, the district court set a date for Chapman’s sentencing hearing. On the scheduled date, Chapman immediately informed the court that he was never told of the hearing due to his counsel’s error and had been unable to notify his family of his sentencing. He requested a continuance so that his family could be present and provide letters of support. The district court acknowledged that defense counsel’s error caused Chapman’s lack of notice but denied the request, stating that proceeding with the sentencing as scheduled would not impact his substantive rights. The Third Circuit vacated the sentence. The ruling constituted an abuse of discretion because it interfered with Chapman’s right to allocution as codified in the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(i)(4)(A), which allows a defendant to present any information that could persuade a court to impose a lesser sentence. View "United States v. Chapman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Daniels entered a guilty plea to one count of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) and 924(e). He had at least three previous convictions under the Pennsylvania drug statute, 35 Pa. Stat. 780-113(a)(30), for possession with intent to deliver cocaine. Daniels reserved his right to challenge the government’s allegation that he was an armed career criminal under 18 U.S.C. 924(e), which triggered a 15-year mandatory minimum. Without his armed career criminal designation, his Guidelines range would have been 92 to 115 months. The Third Circuit affirmed his 180-month sentence. Section 924(e)(2)(A)(ii)’s definition of a “serious drug offense” encompasses attempts (as defined under federal law) to manufacture, distribute, or possess with intent to manufacture or distribute a controlled substance and the scope of attempt and accomplice liability under Pennsylvania law is coextensive with the meaning of those terms under federal law. View "United States v. Daniels" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law