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

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Hepp hosts FOX 29’s Good Day Philadelphia. In 2018, Hepp was told by coworkers that her photograph was making its way around the internet. The image depicts Hepp in a convenience store, smiling, and was taken without Hepp’s knowledge or consent. She never authorized the image to be used in online advertisements. Hepp alleged each use violated her right of publicity under Pennsylvania law. A dating app advertisement featuring the picture appeared on Facebook. A Reddit thread linked to an Imgur post of the photo. Hepp sued, citing 42 PA. CONS. STAT. 8316, and common law. The district court dismissed Hepp’s case, holding that the companies were entitled to immunity under the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which bars many claims against internet service providers, 47 U.S.C. 230(c). The Third Circuit reversed, citing an exclusion in 230(e)(2) limitation for “any law pertaining to intellectual property.” Hepp’s claims are encompassed within the intellectual property exclusion. View "Hepp v. Facebook" on Justia Law

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At initial hearings, New Jersey's Parole Board may consult any information it deems relevant, including an inmate’s criminal history. At successive parole hearings, the Board could not consider old information, including the inmate's criminal history. The 1997 Amendments to the Parole Act eliminated that prohibition and instructed the Board to prepare an “objective risk assessment” before every parole hearing, incorporating old information, including an inmate’s “educational and employment history” and “family and marital history,” and other factors. When Holmes was on parole in the 1970s, he killed two acquaintances, murdered a 69-year-old, and wounded a police officer. Sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, Holmes remains behind bars 48 years later. At his initial parole hearing in 2001, the Board refused to release Holmes. After a 2012, hearing, the Board issued a detailed written statement that probed Holmes’s past parole violations, highlighted the homicides, and scrutinized the shootout that preceded his arrest. The statement noted his unblemished disciplinary record since his initial parole hearing. Without specifying the weight placed on each factor, the Board rejected Holmes’s request for release.Holmes challenged the decision on ex post facto grounds. The Third Circuit vacated the dismissal of his petition. For many prisoners, the rules present little risk to their parole prospects. For Holmes, the change plausibly produced a significant risk of prolonging his time behind bars. View "Holmes v. Christie" on Justia Law

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Born in Yemen in 1986, Ghanem was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in 2003. In 2009, Ghanem returned to Yemen to get married and settled with his wife in Sana’a. Pro-democracy uprisings, the Arab Spring, soon swept the region. Ghanem joined the reformers, participating in peaceful protests. Ghanem was warned that he was a potential political target given his open opposition to the Shia militants. Houthi rebels arrived at his home “with guns drawn” and removed his family. Ghanem was kidnapped, and brutally tortured for two weeks, followed by two weeks in the intensive care unit of a hospital. Ghanem attempted in vain to bring his torturers to justice. When his captors learned that he brought charges, they began to look for him, threatening to kill him., Ghanem fled but his abusers pursued him. While Ghanem was seeking refuge in Asia, the Houthis gained control of the government and obtained a judgment against him in absentia, sentencing him to 10 years' imprisonment.Ghanem was detained after he attempted to enter the U.S. under the mistaken impression that he still possessed a valid immigrant visa, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1). Appearing pro se at a removal hearing, Ghanem sought asylum and withholding of removal on the basis of past persecution for political opinion and protection from removal under the Convention Against Torture. The Third Circuit vacated the denial of relief. The evidence indicated a nexus between the persecution Ghanem suffered and a protected ground. The BIA erroneously treated Ghanem’s familial relation to his persecutors as disqualifying. Ghanem would be unable to escape “gross, flagrant [and] mass violations of human rights” with the government’s acquiescence if returned to Yemen. View "Ghanem v. Attorney General of the United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Scott was sentenced for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. His PSR included a career offender enhancement under U.S.S.G. 2K2.1(a)(2), which applies if a defendant “committed any part of the instant offense subsequent to sustaining at least two felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense.” Scott had a 2019 conviction for possession of a firearm by a felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), and a 2019 conviction for Hobbs Act robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951(b)(1) and for using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c), resulting in an advisory guideline range of 84–105 months’ imprisonment. Neither Scott nor the government challenged the enhancement or any of the PSR’s calculations The court sentenced Scott to 90 months’ imprisonment consecutive to an existing sentence.The Third Circuit vacated the sentence. Hobbs Act robbery is not a “crime of violence” under the career offender provision, U.S.S.G. 4B1.2(a). The court applied the “oft-bedeviling categorical approach” and compared the statutory offense with the definition of “crime of violence” found in the Guidelines to conclude that Hobbs Act robbery sweeps more broadly than the career offender guideline. The court noted the consensus of the Courts of Appeals. View "United States v. Scott" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In 1969, Beasley founded a band, “The Ebonys,” one of many bands that created the “Philadelphia Sound.” The Ebonys achieved some commercial success in the 1970s but never reached the notoriety of similar artists such as The O’Jays. Beasley alleges that The Ebonys have performed continuously. Howard joined the band in the mid-1990s. Beasley obtained a New Jersey state service mark for THE EBONYS in 1997. Beasley and his bandmates performed with Howard for several years before parting ways. Each artist claimed the Ebonys name. In 2012, Howard registered THE EBONYS with the Patent & Trademark Office (PTO). Beasley alleges that Howard’s registration has interfered with his business; he has not been able to register a band website that uses “the Ebonys” in its domain name, Howard has kept concert venues from booking Beasley’s performances, Howard has tried to collect royalties from Beasley’s recordings, and Howard has claimed to be the Ebonys’s true founder. Beasley filed unsuccessful petitions with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) to cancel the mark, contending that Howard defrauded the PTO. The district court relied on claim preclusion to dismiss Beasley’s subsequent complaint. The Third Circuit remanded for a determination of the scope of Beasley’s claims. Trademark cancellation proceedings before TTAB do not have claim preclusive effect against federal trademark infringement lawsuits. TTAB’s limited jurisdiction does not allow trademark owners to pursue infringement actions or the full scope of infringement remedies. The court affirmed the dismissal of any claim that Howard defrauded the PTO. View "Beasley v. Howard" on Justia Law

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Stinson and Jarmon each ran drug trafficking conspiracies out of a North Philadelphia public housing complex/ at various times, 2010-2015. The complex included about 500 apartment units and two playgrounds. During a joint investigation among local police, the FBI, and the DEA, government agents put up pole cameras, established wiretaps, used confidential informants to make controlled drug purchases, pulled trash, analyzed pen registers, and—after Stinson’s arrest and incarceration in 2012— listened to recordings of Stinson’s phone conversations while he was in prison. After the investigation ended in 2017, Stinson and 12 others were charged with conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of crack cocaine and related crimes. Separately, Jarmon and 12 others were charged with similar crimes. Most of their co-defendants pleaded guilty and some cooperated.Stinson and Jarmon proceeded to separate trials and were convicted of the conspiracy charges and most of the related charges. Each was sentenced to 360 months’ imprisonment. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to evidentiary rulings, the sufficiency of the evidence with respect to drug quantities, and the sentences. Stinson and Jarmon had no reasonable expectation of privacy in their phone calls. View "United States v. Jarmon" on Justia Law

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Grace operated a Montana asbestos facility, 1963-1990. Facing thousands of asbestos-related suits, Grace filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Its reorganization plan provided for a several-billion-dollar asbestos personal-injury trust to compensate existing and future claimants. All asbestos-related personal injury claims were to be channeled through the trust (“Grace Injunction,” 11 U.S.C. 524(g)(4)). CNA provided Grace's general liability, workers’ compensation, employers’ liability, and umbrella insurance policies, 1973-1996 and had the right to inspect the operation and to make loss-control recommendations. After 26 years of litigation regarding the scope of CNA’s coverage of Grace’s asbestos liabilities, a settlement agreement ensured that CNA would be protected by Grace’s channeling injunction. CNA agreed to contribute $84 million to the trust.The “Montana Plaintiffs,” who worked at the Libby mine and now suffer from asbestos disease, sued in state court, asserting negligence against CNA based on a duty to protect and warn the workers, arising from the provision of “industrial hygiene services,” and inspections. The Bankruptcy Court initially concluded that the claims were barred by the Grace Injunction but on remand granted the Montana Plaintiffs summary judgment.The Third Circuit vacated. Section 524(g) channeling injunction protections do not extend to all claims brought against third parties. To conform with the statute, these claims must be “directed against a third party who is identifiable from the terms of such injunction”; the third party must be “alleged to be directly or indirectly liable for the conduct of, claims against, or demands on the debtor”; and “such alleged liability” must arise “by reason of” one of four statutory relationships, including the provision of insurance to the debtor. The Bankruptcy Court erred in anlyzing the “derivative liability” and “statutory relationship” requirements. While the claims meet the derivative liability requirement, it is unclear whether they meet the statutory relationship requirement. View "In re: WR Grace & Co" on Justia Law

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Icker, a part-time uniformed police officer, twice pulled over a woman who was driving alone at night and detained her, claiming that she appeared intoxicated or that he could smell marijuana. Icker handcuffed each woman and searched her car, claiming to find incriminating evidence. The women had criminal histories. He advised each that charges could put them in violation of their supervision or bond. Icker indicated that he wanted oral sex and transported each victim in his police cruiser to a location where the woman performed oral sex on him. Icker also groped or harassed three other women, using his authority as a police officer. Icker pleaded guilty to two counts of depriving the victims of their civil right to bodily integrity, 18 U.S.C. 242. The plea agreement recommended 144 months' imprisonment and included several conditions of supervised release but did not refer to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 34 U.S.C. 20901. Icker waived his right to appeal.The Third Circuit vacated the imposition of a condition of supervised release that required Icker to register as a sex offender under SORNA “as directed by the probation officer, the Bureau of Prisons, or any state sex offender registration agency.” Convictions under section 242 are not SORNA “sex offenses.” Icker was not given notice of any potential SORNA requirements in signing his appellate waiver. Any attempted delegation of Icker’s status as a “sex offender” to a third party was an improper delegation of Article III powers. View "United States v. Icker" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit denied a petition for review challenging the BIA's ruling that petitioner's conviction for aggravated identity theft in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1028A(a)(1) is a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT), thus making him removable pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii). The court applied the modified categorical approach and concluded that petitioner pleaded guilty to violating section 1028A with the predicate felony of bank fraud, an undeniable CIMT. The court explained that that, by itself, is sufficient to support the BIA's ruling that petitioner's 1028A(a)(1) conviction constituted a CIMT because it requires fraudulent intent. Because this conviction is petitioner's second CIMT, the court concluded that the BIA did not err in concluding that he is removable under section 1227 (a)(2)(A)(ii). View "Sasay v. Attorney General of the United States" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit affirmed the district court's application of a sentencing enhancement for possession of a dangerous weapon under USSG 2D1.1(b)(1). The court concluded, in United States v. Drozdowski, 313 F.3d 819, 823 (3d Cir. 2002), that spatial proximity of guns to drugs is not necessary to establish a connection between firearms to a drug offense under USSG 2D1.1(b)(1). Although the connection is so tenuous as to place it on the outer edge of the sentencing enhancement, the court concluded that defendant has not carried his burden of proving that the connection was clearly improbable, which is the test applied.In this case, defendant had a small arsenal of weapons and ammunition in the same house where law enforcement observed him agreeing to provide several pounds of meth. Furthermore, he has neither credibly rebutted any of the Government's evidence nor offered any plausible alternative explanation for why he possessed the weapons. Therefore, the court cannot say that the connection between the guns and the drugs was clearly improbable. View "United States v. Denmark" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law