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Adams Outdoor Advertising sought a permit to install a billboard near an interchange on U.S. Route 22 in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation denied the permit because Pennsylvania law prohibits “off-premise” billboards within 500 feet of a highway interchange. Adams challenged the provision as too vague and under the First Amendment because there is no time limit for PennDOT’s decisions on applications. The district court ruled in Adams’ favor on the time-limit claim and entered an injunction barring the enforcement of the permit requirement until PennDOT establishes reasonable time limits on its permit decisions. The court dismissed Adams’ vagueness challenge and First Amendment scrutiny challenge. The Third Circuit agreed that the permit requirement violates the First Amendment because it lacks a reasonable time limit for permit determinations and that the Interchange Prohibition communicates clearly what it prohibits and is not vague. The court reversed in part. While the Interchange Prohibition is not subject to strict scrutiny, the record is insufficient to establish the required reasoning for the prohibition. View "Adams Outdoor Advertising Ltd v. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandated that women’s health insurance include coverage for preventive health care. The Health Resources and Services Administration issued guidelines that indicated that preventative health care includes contraceptive care. Nonprofit religious entity employers could invoke "the Accommodation," which permits employers to send a self-certification form to their insurance issuers to exclude contraceptive coverage from the group health plan while providing payments for contraceptive services for plan participants and beneficiaries, separate from the group health plan, without the imposition of cost sharing, premium, fee, or other charge on plan participants or beneficiaries or on the eligible organization or its plan. Following Supreme Court decisions concerning ACA, the Accommodation was extended to for-profit entities that are not publicly traded, are majority-owned by a relatively small number of individuals, and that object to providing contraceptive coverage based on the owners’ religious beliefs. The district court entered a preliminary injunction, prohibiting the rule’s enforcement nationwide. The Third Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the agencies did not follow the APA and that the regulations are not authorized under the ACA or required by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Sates will face unredressable financial consequences from subsidizing contraceptive services, providing funds for medical care associated with unintended pregnancies, and absorbing medical expenses arising from decreased use of contraceptives for other health conditions. The current Accommodation does not substantially burden employers’ religious exercise and its extension is not necessary to protect a legally-cognizable interest. The public interest favors minimizing harm to third-parties by ensuring that women who may lose ACA-guaranteed contraceptive coverage. View "Pennsylvania v. President of the United States" on Justia Law

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Tilija was active in the Nepali Congress Party (NCP), the political rival of the Maoists. While campaigning for the NCP, Maoists attacked him, throwing stones at his face, resulting in stitches. Maoists told Tilija’s father that they planned to kill Tilija. Discharged from the hospital, Tilija stayed at a hotel instead of going home, then moved four hours away. Maoists called him three times, stating that they would kill him when they found him. Tilija moved to Kathmandu. Maoists called and again threatened him. Tilija stopped using his cell phone. According to Tilija, the police did not investigate crimes committed by Maoists. Tilija left Nepal. In the U.S., charged removable (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(7)(i)(I)), Tilija sought asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. The IJ denied relief, finding that Tilija was credible, adequately corroborated his claim, and was targeted for his political opinion but that the harm did not rise to the level of persecution and that Tilija did not establish that the government was unable or unwilling to protect him. Before the BIA, Tilija presented new, previously unavailable, evidence that after his merits hearing his wife was assaulted and raped because of his political activities and NCP affiliation. Tilija’s wife submitted medical records and corroborating letters. The BIA upheld the denial of relief. The Third Circuit remanded, holding, as a matter of law, that the new evidence established a prima facie asylum claim. View "Tilija v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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Married criminal defendants, Hall and Blunt, were convicted of engaging in a scheme to collect unemployment compensation benefits from federal and state agencies by using the identities of military service people. They had been appointed separate defense counsel at the onset of their case, each of whom engaged in extensive motion practice at every stage of the trial proceedings. They sought to be re-tried separately so that they may each have an opportunity to present their cases without any unwarranted constraints. The Third Circuit reversed the denial of their motions for severance. The court noted that Blunt’s testimony resulted in “clear” prejudice against Hall, “both from an emotional and evidentiary standpoint.” Blunt clearly was compelled to waive her privilege and testify in her own defense at trial. She stated in her initial motion for severance that she was being made to choose between preserving her spousal privilege and providing exculpatory testimony on her own behalf. View "United States v. Blunt" on Justia Law

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A lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and a citizen of Zimbabwe, Nkomo was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1342; 1349, an “aggravated felony,” which made Nkomo removable and ineligible for most relief. About a month after she was sentenced to time served for that offense, the government initiated removal proceedings. The Board of Immigration Appeals found Nkomo ineligible for withholding because her wire fraud conviction was for a “particularly serious crime,” 8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(3)(B)(ii). Denying Convention Against Torture protection, the Board found that Nkomo had not shown a probability she would be tortured by or with the acquiescence of the government of Zimbabwe. The Third Circuit rejected her petition for review, first distinguishing the Supreme Court's 2018 "Pereira" decision and holding that the failure of the notice to appear to specify the time and place of Nkomo’s initial removal hearing did not deprive the immigration judge of jurisdiction over the removal proceedings. Nkomo appeared and participated in, her removal hearing. Nkomo’s argument would invalidate scores of removal orders and grants of relief without requiring the alien to allege she lacked sufficient notice of her hearing. The court rejected her claim for withholding of removal and noted that it lacked jurisdiction over the CAT claim. View "Nkomo v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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Police officers kicked down doors of a Camden, New Jersey residence. Hours earlier, Forrest had finished work for a contractor across the street. He went to the residence to speak with acquaintances and was inside, waiting for a cab. According to Forrest, the officers beat threatened him, then took Forrest to the hospital. In the police report, Officer Parry wrote that he had observed Forrest engaging in a hand-to-hand drug transaction, that Forrest initiated the physical altercation with officers, and that Forrest was in possession of 49 bags of a controlled substance. Forrest filed an Internal Affairs complaint in July 2008 but had no response. Forrest pleaded guilty to possession with intent and served 18 months. He was released when Parry admitted that he had falsified the police report. Three officers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deprive individuals of their civil rights, disrupting over 200 criminal cases. Forrest’s suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, 1985 was among 89 lawsuits against Camden. Forrest opted out of a global settlement. The district court unilaterally divided Forrest’s municipal liability claim into three theories: failure to supervise through Internal Affairs, failure to supervise, and failure to train. The court associated certain evidence to only the first theory, granted Camden summary judgment on the failure to supervise and train theories, excluded evidence that was material to the remaining theory, and “effectively awarded summary judgment on the state law negligent supervision claim.” The jury instructions confused the relevant law. The Third Circuit vacated. The artificial line, drawn by the district court, between what were ostensibly theories with largely overlapping evidence resulted in erroneous rulings as to what was relevant, and instructions as to what law the jury was to apply. View "Forrest v. Parry" on Justia Law

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Payano, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, came to the U.S. legally at age 12. In 1998, at age 18, he pleaded guilty to first-degree possession of a controlled substance. In 2001, after completing his sentence, he was removed. Payano illegally reentered the U.S. in 2012. During a 2017 Pennsylvania traffic stop, the trooper found a kilogram of cocaine hidden in Payano's vehicle. Payano was charged with illegal reentry and possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. The district court agreed that the drugs were the fruit of an unconstitutional search. The government dismissed the drug charge. Payano pleaded guilty to illegal reentry. Because Payano’s 1998 conviction was for drug possession, not drug distribution, it was a felony under federal law, not an aggravated felony. Payano’s plea was under 8 U.S.C. 1326(b)(1), which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. The PSR calculated the Guidelines range as 24-30 months’ imprisonment and correctly listed the statutory maximum, but cited 1326(b)(2) (illegal reentry following an aggravated felony with a 20-year maximum). The government sought an upward variance because Payano had been “convicted of an aggravated felony" and had the court “correct” the PSR to reflect that Payano had pleaded guilty to “aggravated reentry.” Payano’s counsel agreed. The court imposed a four-year sentence. The Third Circuit vacated, agreeing that there was error but declining to extend the “Molina-Martinez“ presumption of prejudice because a mistaken understanding about the applicable statutory range, without more, has far less bearing on the actual sentence than a Guidelines-calculation error. The error did affect Payano’s substantial rights and without correction would seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings. View "United States v. Payano" on Justia Law

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GN and Plantronics manufacture telephone headsets, selling the headsets to customers through distributors. Under the voluntary Plantronics-Only Distributor (POD) program, distributors receive incentives such as favorable credit terms, rebates, and website support in exchange for not purchasing headsets directly from other manufacturers and not marketing competitors’ products on resellers’ websites. GN sent Plantronics a demand letter and filed suit in 2012, alleging that Plantronics’ POD program constituted monopolization. Plantronics issued a litigation hold to relevant employees, provided training sessions to ensure compliance, and sent quarterly reminders requiring acknowledgment of compliance. Plantronics’ Senior Vice President of Sales, Houston, nonetheless instructed employees to delete emails that referenced Plantronics’ competitive practices or its competitors. In 2014, Plantronics’ Associate General Counsel learned of Houston’s conduct, instituted a litigation hold on Houston’s assistant, and requested back-up tapes of Houston’s email account. Plantronics engaged its discovery vendor and a leading forensics expert to try to recover Houston’s emails. Some were recovered. The spoliation, however, continued. Plantronics did not complete its recovery efforts and destroyed the back-up tapes. During depositions, Plantronics executives were evasive. GN moved for a default liability judgment in light of the spoliation. The district court found that Plantronics acted in “bad faith” with an “intent to deprive GN” but denied the motion and issued a permissive adverse inference instruction to the jury, fined Plantronics three million dollars, and ordered it to pay GN’s spoliation-related fees. GN subsequently unsuccessfully sought to present evidence of spoliation. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plantronics. The Third Circuit reversed in part and remanded for a new trial, after upholding the denial of the motion for default judgment. The court committed reversible error when it excluded GN’s expert testimony on the scope of Plantronics’ spoliation. View "GN Netcom Inc. v. Plantronics Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1993, three men broke into the Connor home. Connor and Ezekiel returned during the break-in; Ezekiel was shot and killed. The intruders fled. Roach was arrested and charged with first-degree murder under Virgin Islands law and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution under federal law. He testified that he did not commit the crime and did not know a possible co-conspirator, Simon. Roach was convicted. Simon was later arrested. The Virgin Islands charged him with burglary, conspiracy, and first-degree premeditated murder. One week before trial, it moved to amend to charge felony-murder, robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery. Simon’s attorney unsuccessfully objected. Two days before trial, the court again permitted an amendment. At trial, the government presented Roach as its key witness. Roach indicated that Simon orchestrated the burglary and shot Ezekiel. The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a stipulation to vacate and reduce Roach’s conviction to second-degree murder. The Third Circuit remanded the denial of Simon’s habeas petition. The Superior Court abused its discretion in declining to conduct an evidentiary hearing to address Simon’s claim that the government violated its Brady obligations by failing to disclose a prior agreement with Roach. The Appellate Division erred in dismissing Simon’s claim that his trial counsel was ineffective without remanding for an evidentiary hearing. Simon presented facts that, if true, tend to show his counsel had a conflict of interest by representing a co-conspirator at the time of his trial. View "Simon v. Government of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law

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Beginning in 2001, Ford received complaints from F-Series vehicle purchasers, relating to the fuel tanks. The problems were clustered in certain regions. Ford suspected that unique qualities in regional fuel supplies, particularly excessive concentrations of biodiesel, were causing delamination. In 2007, Ford released an improved tank coating. Ford’s warranty claims decreased, but some reports of delamination persisted. By 2010, Ford believed that the cause was not biodiesel but was acids found in fuel samples from service stations near a dealer that encountered numerous delamination complaints. Coba purchased two 2006 F-350 dump trucks for his landscaping business. By 2009, both trucks exhibited delamination. Ford's dealership replaced the tanks and filters in both trucks at no cost to Coba. Coba continued to have the same problems, even after the warranties expired. Coba filed a class-action, asserting breach of Ford’s New Vehicle Limited Warranty (NVLW), violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (NJCFA), and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Ford. The denial of class certification did not divest the district court of jurisdiction, although jurisdiction was predicated on the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d).The NVLW, which covered defects in “materials or workmanship” did not extend to design defects, such as alleged by Coba, which also negated his breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing claims. The evidence of Ford’s knowledge of the alleged defect did not create a triable NJCFA issue. View "Coba v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law