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Hildebrand was hired by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office in 2005, after 15 years as an undercover Pittsburgh detective. He performed satisfactorily and without incident for four years. In 2009, he was assigned a new supervisor. From that time until his 2011 termination, Hildebrand alleges he was subject to several forms of age-based discrimination. In 2013, Hildebrand sued the DA’s Office for age discrimination under 29 U.S.C. 621 and constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that the office had an established practice of targeting older detectives to force them out of their jobs. After appeals, Hildebrand’s remaining claim stagnated for three years until 2018, after the death of Hildebrand’s former supervisor, a key witness. The delay was caused by clerical error. The district court then dismissed for failure to prosecute (FRCP 41(b)). The Third Circuit vacated and remanded, finding that the district court failed to properly consider the “Poulis” factors. There was no evidence that Hildebrand was personally responsible for the delay; Hildebrand’s conduct was not delinquent at any other point. There is no evidence that the delay was part of any bad-faith tactic. While prejudice to the DA’s Office bears substantial weight in favor of dismissal, it is not dispositive of the appropriateness of imposing the harshest sanction; evidentiary or other sanctions may have been sufficient. View "Hildebrand v. Allegheny" on Justia Law

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In 2017, the League of Women Voters and Pennsylvania Democratic voters filed a state court lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s 2011 congressional districting map. They alleged that Republican lawmakers drew the map to entrench Republican power in Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation and disadvantage Democratic voters and that the Republican redistricting plan violated the Pennsylvania Constitution by burdening and disfavoring Democratic voters’ rights to free expression and association and by intentionally discriminating against Democratic voters. Five months later, State Senate President Pro Tempore Scarnati, a Republican lawmaker who sponsored the 2011 redistricting plan, removed the matter to federal court, contending federal jurisdiction existed because of a newly scheduled congressional election. The federal district court remanded the matter to state court, where the suit has since concluded with a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. Citing 28 U.S.C. 1447(c), the federal court directed Senator Scarnati personally to pay $29,360 to plaintiffs for costs and fees incurred in the removal and remand proceedings. The Third Circuit ruled in favor of Scarnati, citing the Supreme Court’s directive that courts carefully adhere to the distinction between personal and official capacity suits, The court upheld a finding that the removal lacked an objectively reasonable basis. View "League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v. Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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Curto wanted to swim with her family after work. Lusardi wanted to swim with his wife, who had disabilities after a series of strokes and needed pool therapy to recover. They lived at A Country Place; its Condominium Association had adopted rules segregating use of the communal pool by sex. By 2016 over two-thirds of all swimming hours throughout the week were sex-segregated. After they were fined for violating this policy, Curto and the Lusardis sued, alleging violations of the federal Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601, and New Jersey state law. The district court granted the Association summary judgment, stating “the gender- segregated schedule applies to men and women equally.” The Third Circuit reversed, finding that the pool schedule discriminates against women in violation of the FHA. Although the schedule provided roughly the same amount of time for men and women, women had few time slots outside conventional work hours. The court declined to address whether sex- segregated swimming hours necessarily violate the FHA, or whether a sufficiently limited and more even-handed schedule might be justifiable. View "Curto v. Country Place Condominium Association, Inc." on Justia Law

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A reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer informed Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services in March 2018 that two of its agencies would not work with same-sex couples as foster parents. Human Services considered such a policy a violation of the city’s anti-discrimination laws. When the agencies confirmed that, because of their religious views on marriage, they would not work with gay couples, Human Services ceased referring foster children to them. One agency, Catholic Social Services (CSS), sued, claiming that the city violated its rights under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise, Establishment, and Free Speech Clauses, and under Pennsylvania’s Religious Freedom Protection Act. CSS will only certify foster parents who are either married or single; it will not certify cohabitating unmarried couples, and it considers all same-sex couples to be unmarried. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of CSS’s request for preliminary injunctive relief. Philadelphia’s nondiscrimination policy is a neutral, generally applicable law, and the religious views of CSS do not entitle it to an exception from that policy. CSS failed to make a persuasive showing that the city targeted it for its religious beliefs, or is motivated by ill will against its religion, rather than sincere opposition to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. View "Fulton v. Philadelphia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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Liem, a citizen of Indonesia, is ethnically Chinese and a Seventh Day Adventist Christian. In Indonesia, Liem witnessed and experienced persecution based on belonging to these groups. In 1999, he obtained a six-month visa for vacationing in the U.S.. He stayed beyond its expiration, obtained employment, married, and fathered two American-born children. He is active at First Indonesian Seventh-Day Adventist Church. In 2003, Liem applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. The IJ denied his asylum application as untimely but granted withholding of removal. The BIA vacated, stating Liem failed to establish a clear probability that he would be persecuted if returned to Indonesia. Liem moved to stay his removal and reopen the proceedings, referencing a continued pattern of anti-Chinese harassment and.a pattern of anti-Christian persecution. The BIA denied the motion, citing State Department findings of a decrease in discrimination against Chinese Christians in Indonesia. In 2018, ICE agents arrested Liem. Liem filed another motion to reopen, claiming that, since his 2003 merits hearing, conditions for Chinese Christians had materially deteriorated and that international agencies have reported that hatred and Islamic extremism directed at Indonesian Christians is rising, and the Indonesian government is unwilling to act for fear of reprisals from far-right Islamist groups. He noted the implementation of Sharia law in part of the country. The Third Circuit vacated the denial of his motion, finding that the BIA did not meaningfully consider the evidence and arguments nor explain its conclusions. View "Liem v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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Cabrera, born in the Dominican Republic in 1979, was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in 1988. Two years later, he was adopted by a natural born U.S. citizen, Attenborough. Had he been Attenborough’s biological child, 8 U.S.C. 1409, would have provided him a pathway to automatic derivative citizenship. As an adopted child, the statute does not apply to him and his road to citizenship is more difficult. In 2014, Cabrera pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin and was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment. Upon his release, Cabrera was served with notice of removal proceedings based on conviction of an aggravated felony, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), and conviction of a controlled substance offense, section 1227(a)(2)(B)(i). Cabrera argued, on constitutional grounds, that he was entitled to derivative citizenship through his adoptive father and could not be removed. The Immigration Judge held that he lacked jurisdiction to hear the constitutional claim and ordered Cabrera removed. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed. The Third Circuit denied a petition for review, rejecting Cabrera’s argument disparate treatment between adopted and biological children violates the guarantee of equal protection under the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. View "Cabrera v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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Over seven years, Dr. Greenspan referred more than 100,000 blood tests to Biodiagnostic Laboratory, which made more than $3 million off these tests. In exchange, the Lab gave Greenspan and his associates more than $200,000 in cash, gifts, and other benefits. A jury convicted Greenspan of accepting kickbacks, 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7(b)(1)(A); using interstate facilities with the intent to commit commercial bribery, 18 U.S.C. 1952(a)(1), (3); honest-services wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, 1346; and conspiracy to do all of those things. The Third Circuit affirmed, characterizing the evidence of his guilt as overwhelming. The district court erred in instructing the jury that Greenspan had to “demonstrate” the prerequisites for an advice-of-counsel defense; in excluding as hearsay some of his testimony about that legal advice; in asking only Greenspan’s counsel, not Greenspan personally, whether he wished to speak at sentencing; and in limiting the scope of the defense to five particular agreements rather than all eight, but all of those errors were harmless. The court properly excluded evidence that the blood tests were medically necessary. That evidence was only marginally relevant and risked misleading the jury. View "United States v. Greenspan" on Justia Law

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In the mid-1980s, merchant mariners filed thousands of lawsuits in the Northern District of Ohio against shipowners, asserting that the mariners had been injured due to exposure to asbestos onboard ships. The District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ultimately presided over a nationwide asbestos products multidistrict litigation (MDL) and dismissed claims against numerous defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction. In a third appeal, the Third Circuit concluded that dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction was inappropriate. The shipowner-defendants timely moved for dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction in the Northern District of Ohio, after which they had to choose between waiving their personal jurisdiction defenses and remaining in the Northern District of Ohio, or submitting to transfer to a court where personal jurisdiction existed. By objecting to transfer, the defendants constructively opted to waive their personal jurisdiction defenses. The court noted that the shipowners also filed answers in the Northern District of Ohio after the parties expressly agreed that they could demonstrate a waiver of the defense by filing an answer. View "In re: Asbestos Products Liability Litigation (No. VI)" on Justia Law

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Pierce was arrested after about 10 grams of marijuana and 40 grams of heroin were discovered in the rental car he was driving. Pierce offered to cooperate and subsequently made controlled transactions under surveillance. On June 25, Pierce paid Rowe $3900 and received 198.86 grams of heroin; on June 27, Pierce paid him $7000 in pre-recorded bills for heroin Pierce had previously received. Rowe was arrested. Officers recovered a notebook, several cell phones, and cash that matched the pre-recorded bills. Charged with distribution and possession with intent to distribute 1000 grams of heroin, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A), Rowe conceded that he distributed approximately 200 grams. The jury returned a general verdict finding Rowe guilty of the offense in the amounts of both 1000 grams or more and 100 grams or more. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded for entry of judgment based on 100 grams. The evidence was insufficient to support the 1000-gram verdict. The government did not present evidence of a single distribution involving 1000 grams or more of heroin. The prosecutor mistakenly believed that distribution of 1000 grams could be proven by combining several distributions. The district court confirmed that the government was mistaken, but erroneously found that because Rowe was also charged with possession with intent to distribute, a continuing offense, the verdict could stand. View "United States v. Rowe" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Robinson was told by her manager that “you either don’t know what you’re doing, or you have a disability, or [you’re] dyslexic.” Taking those words seriously, Robinson was tested for dyslexia. She submitted an evaluation that concluded that Robinson had symptoms consistent with dyslexia and requested accommodations. She was told that any diagnosis would not excuse her from performing her work in a satisfactory matter; she was advised to focus on improving her performance. Weeks later, she was fired. During the litigation, Robinson acknowledged that she could not prove she was dyslexic. She proceeded on a theory that she was perceived or regarded as dyslexic by her employer and was entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Third Circuit affirmed a judgment in favor of Robinson on her reasonable accommodation claim, finding that her employer had waived its argument under the 2008 ADA amendments. The Act now provides that employers “need not provide a reasonable accommodation . . . to an individual who meets the definition of disability in” 42 U.S.C. 12102(1)(C), which includes individuals who are “regarded as having” a physical or mental impairment. Despite the amendment, both parties proceeded under the “regarded as” case theory throughout the litigation. View "Robinson v. First State Community Action Agency" on Justia Law