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Former Howmedica Sales Representatives, all California natives, signed employment agreements with confidentiality, non-compete, and forum-selection clauses, designating New Jersey (or Michigan) as the forum for any litigation arising out of the agreements. After clashes with Howmedica, the Sales Representatives resigned and became independent contractors representing Howmedica’s competitor, DePuy. Some of Howmedica’s customers, previously assigned to the Sales Representatives, followed them. Howmedica suspected that the Sales Representatives and DePuy conspired to convert those customers before the Sales Representatives’ resignations. Howmedica filed suit in New Jersey, joining DePuy’s regional distributor, Golden State as a “necessary party.” The defendants successfully moved to transfer the case to California under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a), which, for “the convenience of parties and witnesses” and “in the interest of justice,” allows transfer to a district where the case “might have been brought.” The Third Circuit directed the district court to transfer claims against only the two corporate defendants who did not agree to any forum-selection clause. Where contracting parties have specified the forum in which they will litigate disputes arising from their contract, federal courts must honor the forum-selection clause “[i]n all but the most unusual cases.” In this case, all defendants sought transfer to one district; some, but not all, defendants are parties to forum-selection clauses. View "In re: Howmedica Osteonics Corp" on Justia Law

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PPL hired McNelis as a Nuclear Security Officer in 2009. McNelis had unrestricted access to PPL’s plant, carried a firearm, and was authorized to use deadly force. In 2012, McNelis experienced personal and mental health problems. McNelis was paranoid and had problems with alcohol and bath salts—a synthetic drug that affects the central nervous system. McNelis’s wife moved herself and the children out of the family home. Police received an anonymous 911 call that resulted in a lockdown at his children’s school. McNelis had a three-day stay in an inpatient treatment unit. Pursuant to NRC regulations, McNelis’s unrestricted access was “placed on hold” pending medical clearance. A third-party psychologist interviewed McNelis and performed testing required by PPL policy and NRC regulations and reported that McNelis was not fit for duty. PPL revoked McNelis’s unescorted access authorization and terminated his employment. After his appeal was denied, McNelis sued, claiming his termination violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district court held that McNelis was fired because he lacked a legally mandated job requirement: the unrestricted security access authorization that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires for armed guards. The Third Circuit affirmed. PPL followed NRC regulation procedures; “[w]hen Congress enacted the ADA, it recognized that federal safety rules would limit application of the ADA as a matter of law.” View "McNelis v. Pennsylvania Power & Light Co" on Justia Law

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Martin pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1); (b)(1)(B)(iii). The parties agreed that Martin’s advisory Guidelines range was 70-87 months’ imprisonment and that a sentence of 87 months was appropriate. According to the Probation Office, Martin’s Guidelines range was 188-235 months’ because Martin was a career offender. At sentencing, the district court stated that Martin was a career offender, noting crimes of aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and fleeing a police officer. After considering the 18 U.S.C. 3553 factors, the Court sentenced Martin to 87 months’ imprisonment. Martin did not appeal. In 2014, the Sentencing Commission promulgated Guidelines Amendment 782, retroactively reducing the base offense for many drug quantities, including the drug quantity associated with Martin’s offense. Martin sought a reduction of sentence under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2), citing Amendment 782. The district court found him ineligible for relief because his Guidelines range was based on his status as a career offender rather than the drug quantity. The Third Circuit affirmed. Martin’s status as a career offender meant that he was not eligible for a reduced sentence. View "United States v. Martin" on Justia Law

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Defendants were tried together and convicted of several racketeering-related offenses in connection with a loan sharking and illegal gambling operation in Philadelphia. The district court entered preliminary orders of forfeiture making both men jointly and severally liable for more than $5 million of the proceeds from the criminal operation. During the pendency of their appeal, the Supreme Court issued its 2017 "Honeycutt" opinion, reviewing one of the forfeiture statutes at issue in the defendants’ case, 21 U.S.C. 853, and holding that joint and several liability is unauthorized. In light of that holding, the Third Circuit remanded for reconsideration of the forfeiture orders, but otherwise affirmed. The court rejected an argument that the district court violated the Sixth Amendment by applying a “dangerous weapons” sentencing enhancement based on the defendants’ use of an axe to make threats. Defendants argued that the use of the axe constitutes acquitted conduct because it was one of the acts that formed the basis of Count 26, of which they were found not guilty. The court also rejected challenges to the sentencing calculations associated with the RICO conspiracy. View "United States v. Gjeli" on Justia Law

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As unclaimed property has become Delaware’s third-largest source of revenue, companies have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Delaware’s escheat regime. Plains All American Pipeline attacked the constitutionality of several provisions of the Delaware Escheats Law, which provides that a holder of “property presumed abandoned” must file a yearly report with the State Escheator in which it provides information about the property and its possible owner (Del. Code tit. 12, sects. 1142, 1143) and Delaware’s demand that it submit to an abandoned property audit. Because Plains brought suit before Delaware assessed liability based on its audit or sought a subpoena to make its audit-related document requests enforceable, the district court dismissed the suit, finding that the claims were unripe except for an equal protection claim that it dismissed for failure to state a claim. The Third Circuit reversed in part, finding an as-applied, procedural due process claim ripe, but otherwise affirmed. To establish a due process violation, all Plains must show is that it was required to submit a dispute to a self-interested party. No further factual development is needed to address the merits of the claim. View "Plains All American Pipeline LLP v. Cook" on Justia Law

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The district court denied a motion to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) filed by Millhouse, a Lewisburg prisoner. The court identified five strikes under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. 1915(g), and found that Millhouse failed to establish that he was under imminent danger of serious physical injury. The statute limits IFP status: In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment in a civil action or proceeding under this section if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger. The Third Circuit vacated. For purposes of this appeal, Millhouse has only one strike. The court must look to the date the notice of appeal is filed, not the date on which the court rules, in assessing whether a particular dismissal counts as a strike and a dismissal without prejudice for failure to state a claim does not rise to the level of a strike. View "Millhouse v. Heath" on Justia Law

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Ferriero was chairman of the Bergen County Democratic Organization (BCDO) from 1998 until he resigned in 2009. Ferriero took payments from a vendor (C3) that provided emergency notification systems for local governments in exchange for recommending to officials that their towns hire the firm. Ferriero’s corporation executed a contract, described as an “agreement . . . to provide governmental relations consulting services required in connection with marketing of a product known as C3 and any other related products or services.” The municipalities that bought the product were unaware that Ferriero stood to benefit financially. The Third Circuit affirmed Ferriero’s convictions, a forfeiture order, and sentence based on violations of the Travel Act, 18 U.S.C. 1952, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c), and the federal wire fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. 1343. The evidence was sufficient to prove New Jersey bribery as a predicate act for his Travel Act and RICO convictions. There was sufficient evidence for a rational juror to conclude Ferriero participated in the conduct of the BCDO’s affairs by means of a pattern of bribery and to conclude that failure to disclose Ferriero’s C3 interest amounted to a materially false or fraudulent misrepresentation. View "United States v. Ferriero" on Justia Law

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The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 124 Stat. 119, requires employer-provided health insurance plans to cover various preventative services, including FDA-approved contraceptives, at no cost to participating employees. The “Contraceptive Mandate” includes a limited exemption for houses of worship and their integrated auxiliaries. Religious non-profit and for-profit employers may receive an accommodation whereby they opt out of providing contraceptive coverage, with the government then arranging for their employees to receive the coverage through third parties at no cost to, and with no participation of, the objecting employers. An anti-abortion group argued that, under the Equal Protection Clause, if a religious organization may be exempted from the Contraceptive Mandate, then non-religious entities with an identical stance on contraceptives must also be exempted. Employees of the group argued that the Contraceptive Mandate violated the Church Amendment, 42 U.S.C. 300a–7(d), and that maintaining a health insurance plan that covers contraceptives through their employer violates their religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb to 2000bb-4. The Third Circuit affirmed rejection of those claims. The Contraceptive Mandate does not exempt a secular anti-abortion group with no religious affiliation and an employee’s religious beliefs are not substantially burdened by the law’s requirement that his employer’s insurance plan cover contraceptives. View "Real Alternatives Inc v. Secretary Department of Health" on Justia Law

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While serving a state prison sentence in 2006, Chapman wrote a letter, intercepted by prison staff, threatening to kill President Bush. In an interview with Secret Service agents, Chapman admitted that he wanted to kill the President and made additional threats. He pled guilty to threatening the President, 18 U.S.C. 871(a). and was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment. In 2007, Chapman mailed a letter to a federal judge, including threats against the judge and other court staff. Chapman was sentenced to an additional 48 months imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. 876(c). Chapman was released from custody in 2014. He violated the terms of his supervised release and received a sentence of 11 months’ imprisonment. While serving that sentence, Chapman mailed a letter with threats against the federal prosecutor who handled Chapman’s revocation proceedings and the probation officer involved with Chapman’s case. He pled guilty under 18 U.S.C. 876(c) and was sentenced to 70 months, at the low end of the U.S.S.G. range. The Third Circuit affirmed application of the career offender enhancement to his sentence calculation, rejecting an argument that his convictions pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 876(c) did not qualify as crimes of violence. That section proscribes mailing a communication containing a threat to injure a person. View "United States v. Chapman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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When Eclipse, a jet aircraft manufacturer, declared bankruptcy in November 2008, it reached an agreement to sell the company to its largest shareholder, ETIRC, which would have allowed Eclipse to continue its operations. The sale required significant funding from VEB, a state-owned Russian Bank. The funding never materialized. For a month, Eclipse waited for the deal to go through with almost daily assurances that the funding was imminent. Delays were attributed to Prime Minister Putin needing “to think about it.” Eventually, Eclipse was forced to cease operations and notify its workers that a prior furlough had been converted into a layoff. Eclipse’s employees filed a class action complaint as an adversary proceeding in the Bankruptcy Court alleging that Eclipse’s failure to give them 60 days’ notice before the layoff violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, 29 U.S.C. 2101-2109, and asserting that Eclipse could invoke neither the Act’s “faltering company” exception nor its “unforeseeable business circumstances” exception. The Bankruptcy Court rejected the employees’ claims on summary judgment, holding that the “unforeseeable business circumstances” exception barred WARN Act liability. The district court and Third Circuit affirmed. Eclipse demonstrated that its closing was not probable until the day that it occurred. View "In re: AE Liquidation, Inc." on Justia Law