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

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Schneider, a longtime Hay employee, was elevated to CEO in 2001. Hay terminated Schneider in 2003 for “good cause.” Schneider sued in the Labor Court of Germany and in the Netherlands. The Dutch courts found that under Dutch law there had been no valid resolution approving Schneider’s termination. In 2012, the German trial court dismissed Schneider’s claims. The German Higher Regional Court reversed in part in 2014, giving preclusive effect to the Dutch court’s findings concerning Schneider’s contract. The Hay entities were required to pay Schneider over $13 million. In 2004, Hay filed suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging nine causes of action with varying degrees of overlap with the German litigation. After the German proceedings became final, the district court lifted a stay and granted Schneider summary judgment, holding that Hay’s claims were precluded by the German judgment, assuming that the relevant inquiry was whether Hay could have brought its claims as counterclaims in the German litigation. The Third Circuit reversed in part. Under Pennsylvania preclusion law, the correct question is whether Hay was required to bring its claims as counterclaims in the German litigation. Under German law, Hay was not required to plead these claims as counterclaims in the German litigation. Since Hay’s contract assignment claim seeks to functionally undo the German litigation, however, the court affirmed summary judgment on that claim. View "Hay Group Management Inc v. Schneider" on Justia Law

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Santos, a native of the Dominican Republic, became a lawful permanent U.S. resident in 2006. In 2017, he pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana with intent to deliver. If that crime is the “aggravated felony,” “illicit trafficking in a controlled substance” he is removable, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). Santos was taken to the Pike County Correctional Facility, 8 U.S.C. 1226(c). In 2018, an IJ ordered Santos removed. While awaiting the BIA’s decision on remand from the Third Circuit, Santos filed this federal habeas petition, arguing that the Due Process Clause guarantees a bond hearing to an alien detained under section 1226(c) once his detention becomes “unreasonable.” The district court denied relief, finding no evidence that the government had “improperly or unreasonably delayed the regular course of proceedings, or that [it] ha[d] detained him for any purpose other than the resolution of his removal proceedings.” The BIA then held that Santos’s conviction was not an aggravated felony and remanded for a hearing on his application for cancellation of removal. The IJ denied that application, leaving Santos in prison (then more than 30 months). The Third Circuit reversed; his detention has become unreasonable and Santos has a due process right to a bond hearing, at which the government must justify his continued detention by clear and convincing evidence. View "Santos v. Warden Pike County Correctional Facility" on Justia Law

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The Council handles contracts for over 200 New Jersey municipalities, police departments, and school districts. Mid-American sells bulk road salt. The Council's members estimated their salt needs for the 2016-17 winter. The Council issued a comprehensive bid package, anticipating the need for 115,000 tons of rock salt. MidAmerican won the contract, which stated: There is no obligation to purchase [the estimated] quantity. As required by the contract, Mid-American obtained a performance bond costing $93,016; imported $4,800,000 worth of salt from Morocco; and paid $31,250 per month to store the salt and another $58,962.26 to cover it. Mid-American incurred at least another $220,000 in finance costs and additional transportation costs. Council members purchased less than five percent of the estimated tonnage. Mid-American claims “several” Council members purchased salt from MidAmerican’s competitors, who lowered their prices after MidAmerican won the contract. Mid-American sued the Council and 49 of its members, alleging breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and bad faith under UCC Article 2. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. No valid requirements contract existed here because the contract was illusory. These sophisticated parties were capable of entering into precisely the contract they desired. Neither the Council nor its members ever promised to purchase from Mid-American all the salt they required View "Mid-American Salt LLC v. Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Harris pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to distribute five grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base and stipulated to the quantity he possessed—33.6 grams. In 2019, Harris sought a reduction of his 210-month sentence under section 404 of the First Step Act of 2018, 132 Stat. 5222. The district court assumed that Harris was eligible but denied relief, stating that “neither the statutory penalties nor the advisory guidelines range would be affected if [he] were sentenced today given the stipulated drug quantity.” Jackson was convicted in 2004 of the same crime. His indictment charged him with possession with the intent to distribute approximately 48 grams of crack. The jury convicted Jackson of possessing five grams or more, without any specific finding that he possessed 48 grams. In 2019, Jackson moved under section 404 for a reduction of his 300-month sentence. The district court denied relief, determining that he was ineligible. The Third Circuit vacated as to Harris and reversed as to Jackson. Section 404 eligibility turns on a defendant’s statute of conviction, not on his possession of a certain quantity of drugs. Although Harris and Jackson each possessed more than 28 grams of crack, Harris pleaded guilty to and Jackson was convicted of possession of five grams or more; both can seek discretionary reductions of their sentences. View "United States v. Jackson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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A mortgage conveys an interest in real property as security. Lenders often require borrowers to maintain hazard insurance that protects the property. If the borrower fails to maintain adequate coverage, the lender may buy the insurance and force the borrower to cover the cost (force-placed coverage). States generally require insurers to file their rates with an administrative agency and may not charge rates other than the filed rates. The filed-rate is unassailable in judicial proceedings even if the insurance company defrauded an administrative agency to obtain approval of the rate. Borrowers alleged that their lender, Nationstar, colluded with an insurance company, Great American, and an insurance agent, Willis. Great American allegedly inflated the filed rate filed so it and Willis could return a portion of the profits to Nationstar to induce Nationstar’s continued business. The borrowers paid the filed rate but claimed that the practice violated their mortgages, New Jersey law concerning unjust enrichment, the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and tortious interference with business relationships; the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act; the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. 1601–1665; and RICO, 18 U.S.C. 1961–1968. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Once an insurance rate is filed with the appropriate regulatory body, courts have no ability to effectively reduce it by awarding damages for alleged overcharges: the filed-rate doctrine prevents courts from deciding whether the rate is unreasonable or fraudulently inflated. View "Leo v. Nationstar Mortgage LLC of Delaware" on Justia Law

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B.L., as an MAHS freshman, was on the junior varsity cheerleading squad. The next year, she was again placed on JV. An incoming freshman made the varsity team. B.L took a photo of herself and her friend with their middle fingers raised and posted it to her Snapchat story that was visible to about 250 “friends.” The caption stated: “Fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.” A teammate took a screenshot and sent it to a cheerleading coach. Another coach stated that: “Several students” had approached her, “visibly upset” about the snaps. The coaches decided B.L.’s snap violated team and school rules, which required cheerleaders to “have respect for [their] school, coaches, . . . [and] other cheerleaders”; avoid “foul language and inappropriate gestures”; and refrain from sharing “negative information regarding cheerleading, cheerleaders, or coaches . . . on the internet.” The coaches removed B.L. from the team. School authorities upheld the decision. B.L. filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in B.L.’s favor. B.L. did not waive her speech rights by agreeing to the team’s rules; her suspension from the team implicated the First Amendment even though extracurricular participation is merely a privilege. B.L.’s snap was off-campus speech and had not caused any actual or foreseeable substantial disruption of the school environment. View "B.L. v. Mahanoy Area School District" on Justia Law

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Some public-sector employees join their local unions; others do not. If a collective-bargaining agreement contains an “agency-fee” provision, both union members and nonmembers must pay a portion of union dues. A Pennsylvania statute authorizes such a “fair share fee” arrangement, 71 Pa. Stat. 575(b). Nonmembers pay only the amount spent on the union’s collective-bargaining activities and do not subsidize political activity. In 2018, the Supreme Court decided Janus v. AFSCME, holding that forcing nonmembers to pay agency fees violates the First Amendment, striking down an Illinois statute. Janus said nothing about Pennsylvania law but its holding was clear. Public-school teachers who had to pay agency fees under Pennsylvania law sued, seeking a declaration that the agency-fee provisions in their collective-bargaining agreements, and the Pennsylvania statutes authorizing them, were unconstitutional. When the Supreme Court issued its Janus decision, the Pennsylvania State Education Association instructed public schools to stop deducting agency fees from teachers’ paychecks and set up refund procedures. Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and its Attorney General notified public-sector employers that they could no longer collect agency fees. The district court dismissed, noting the change in the law and the unions’ compliance with it. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding the case moot. The teachers no longer face any harm. Just because a statute may be unconstitutional does not mean that a federal court may declare it so; without any real dispute over the statute’s scope or enforceability. View "Hartnett v. Pennsylvania State Education Association" on Justia Law

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In a purported class action, egg purchasers claimed that egg producers conspired to inflate prices by early slaughtering of hens and similar supply-reducing steps; creation of an animal welfare certification program that was actually designed to reduce the egg supply; and coordinated exports of eggs, all as part of a single overarching conspiracy that was anti-competitive per se and unlawful under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. The defendants countered that the court should look at each alleged stratagem of the conspiracy separately and determine whether to apply the per se standard for antitrust liability or the more commonly-applied rule of reason. In summary judgment briefing, the parties focused on the Certification Program, which the court evaluated under the rule of reason. The case proceeded to trial with all three stratagems being evaluated under that standard. Following the jury’s verdict, the court entered judgment for the defendants. The Third Circuit affirmed. Courts can consider the different components of an alleged conspiracy separately when determining which mode of antitrust analysis to apply. The Certification Program was not an express horizontal agreement to reduce the supply of eggs, much less to fix prices and it is not clear that the Program would “have manifestly anticompetitive effects and lack any redeeming virtue.” It was properly analyzed under the rule of reason. View "In re: Processed Egg Products Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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In 2009, D. was delivered at Sharon Hospital by Dr. Gallagher and sustained an injury, allegedly causing her shoulder and arm permanent damage. In 2010-2011, preparing to file D.’s malpractice case, counsel requested records from Sharon and Gallagher, limited temporally to the delivery. Counsel believed that Gallagher was privately employed. Sharon was private; Gallagher was listed on the Sharon website. Counsel did not discover that Gallagher was employed by Primary Health, a “deemed” federal entity eligible for Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b), malpractice coverage. D.'s mother had been Gallagher's patient for 10 years and had visited the Primary office. In contracting Gallagher, counsel used the Primary office street address. Gallagher’s responses included the words “Primary Health.” The lawsuit was filed in 2016; Pennsylvania law tolls a minor plaintiff’s action until she turns 18. The government removed the suit to federal court and substituted the government for Gallagher. The district court dismissed the suit against the government for failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the FTCA. The case against Sharon returned to state court. After exhausting administrative remedies, counsel refiled the FTCA suit. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit as untimely, rejecting a claim that D. was entitled to equitable tolling of the limitations period because counsel had no reason to know that Gallagher was a deemed federal employee or that further inquiry was required. D. failed to show that she diligently pursued her rights and that extraordinary circumstances prevented her from timely filing. View "D.J.S.-W. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Golubitsky, as a Virgin Islands Criminal Justice Act (CJA) panelist, was appointed counsel for Bellille, an indigent defendant in a multi-defendant RICO prosecution. Golubitsky unsuccessfully moved to withdraw, arguing that he was no longer a CJA panelist, having moved to an in-house counsel role, and was contractually barred from the representation. Weeks later, Golubitsky purportedly started an of-counsel relationship at the DiRuzzo law firm and filed an emergency motion to withdraw as Bellille’s counsel, arguing that DiRuzzo represented Ayala, who was likely to testify against Bellille, which created a conflict of interest. Golubitsky and DiRuzzo explained that Golubitsky was “on [the firm’s] system,” could bill using the firm’s software, and was added to DiRuzzo’s malpractice insurance. Golubitsky worked full-time as in-house counsel while working part-time for DiRuzzo’s Florida firm, litigating four matters together. They had no involvement in the other’s work related to Bellille’s case nor had they shared any information about the case. The court denied Golubitsky’s motion and ordered DiRuzzo and Golubitsky to wall off the latter’s representation of Bellille from DiRuzzo’s representation of Ayala. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded, noting many “factual gaps,” surrounding the relationship between DiRuzzo and Golubitsky and why the relationship was established. The situation cannot be both ways. Either the of-counsel relationship was not genuine and there was no basis for imposing a screen or there was a true of-counsel relationship and a screen alone could not cure the conflict. View "United States v. Bellille" on Justia Law