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

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Hodge was charged with three counts of using, carrying, or possessing a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, 18 U.S.C. 924(c) after he shot two armored-vehicle workers and stole $33,500. A jury convicted Hodge of two counts. In 2015, the District Court of the Virgin Islands sentenced Hodge to an aggregate 420 months imprisonment on the two counts—the then-mandatory minimum for first-time 924(c) offenders convicted of two counts involving discharging a firearm—plus another 310 months on other counts. The Third Circuit affirmed as to the federal counts but remanded the territorial charges with instructions to vacate two territorial counts and to conduct the “requisite resentencing.” Before resentencing took place, the First Step Act became law, amending section 924(c) so that first-time offenders convicted of two counts involving discharging a firearm and stemming from the same indictment now face a 240-month mandatory minimum. The district court declined to disturb Hodge’s federal sentence. The Third Circuit affirmed. The post–First Step Act modification of Hodge’s territorial sentence does not permit Hodge to invoke the reduced section 924(c) mandatory minimum. View "United States v. Hodge" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In 2002, Holloway was convicted of a DUI at the highest blood alcohol content (BAC). The charge was dismissed upon his completion of an accelerated rehabilitation program. In 2005, Holloway was again arrested for DUI and registered a BAC of 0.192%. Holloway pled guilty to violating 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. 3802(c) for driving under the influence at the highest BAC (greater than 0.16%). He received a sentence of 60 months’ “Intermediate Punishment,” including 90-days’ imprisonment that allowed him work-release. In 2016, Holloway sought to purchase a firearm but was unable to do so because of his disqualifying DUI conviction, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). Holloway sought a declaration that section 922(g)(1) is unconstitutional as applied to him. The district court granted Holloway summary judgment and entered a permanent injunction barring the government from enforcing section 922(g)(1) against him. The Third Circuit reversed. Pennsylvania’s DUI law, which makes a DUI at the highest BAC a first-degree misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, constitutes a serious crime that requires disarmament. The prohibition does not violate Holloway’s Second Amendment rights. View "Holloway v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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Danziger, a Texas law firm, claims that it referred potential qui tam clients (including Epp) to an Ohio firm, Morgan Verkamp and had an oral contract to collect one-third of the attorney’s fees from the Epp suit. Epp retained Morgan Verkamp but never promised Danziger a referral fee. After years of litigation, the U.S. Government intervened and settled for hundreds of millions of dollars. Morgan Verkamp collected several million dollars in attorney’s fees. Danziger sought the referral fee in Pennsylvania state court by filing a “writ of summons,” which allows a plaintiff to seek discovery before filing a complaint. Danziger finally filed a complaint. Morgan Verkamp removed the case to federal court before the deadline for filing preliminary objections, then sought dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction or, alternatively, for a transfer to Ohio. Danziger suggested a transfer to Texas. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. There is no specific jurisdiction because Danziger’s claims neither arise out of nor relate to Morgan Verkamp’s activities in Pennsylvania. Nor did Morgan Verkamp consent to personal jurisdiction by participating in pre-complaint discovery; Pennsylvania law does not let defendants object to jurisdiction until the plaintiff files a complaint. A defendant who removes to federal court does not thereby consent to personal jurisdiction. Danziger does not need a transfer; it could timely refile its claims in another forum. View "Danziger & De Llano LLP v. Morgan Verkamp LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Tyson contacted a 17-year-old female on Facebook to engage her in prostitution. He traveled from Pennsylvania to New York City, picked up the victim and her friend, took them to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, then rented several rooms at a Motel 6. Phone records reveal that Harrisburg-area individuals contacted the victim to engage in commercial sexual activity. Law enforcement recovered the victim during a sting operation, interviewed her and reviewed her phone. They found a video of the victim performing oral sex on an adult male in a Motel 6 room. The man was identified as Tyson. Tyson was indicted for knowingly transporting a minor to engage in prostitution, 18 U.S.C. 2423(a) and producing child pornography, section 2251(a). Before trial, the court prohibited Tyson “from eliciting evidence to establish ‘mistake of age’” and from asserting “mistake of age” as an affirmative defense. The court found that such evidence’s “probative value is substantially outweighed by a risk that the evidence will result in unfair prejudice, confuse the issues, or mislead the jury.” Tyson entered a plea agreement, with a recommendation that his sentences be served concurrently for a total of 180 months’ imprisonment. The Third Circuit affirmed. The statutes’ text, context, and history make it clear that knowledge of age is not an element and mistake of age is not a defense. View "United States v. Tyson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiffs sued 33 defendants, alleging “a widespread criminal enterprise ... involving numerous RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] predicate acts," plus Pennsylvania law violations, asserting that the enterprise’s objective has been to inflict severe economic hardship to obstruct and discourage the plaintiffs from continuing in landscaping and snow removal services. The court dismissed the Iskens for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Iskens are Delaware residents and their business is a Delaware LLC with its principal place of business in Delaware. The Third Circuit vacated, holding that 18 U.S.C. 1965(b), not 18 U.S.C. 1965(d) (the general jurisdiction provision), governs the exercise of personal jurisdiction and that the plaintiffs satisfy the statutory (and constitutional) requirements for the district court to exercise such jurisdiction over the Iskens. When a civil RICO action is brought in a district court where personal jurisdiction can be established over at least one defendant, summonses can be served nationwide on other defendants if required by the ends of justice. The plaintiffs alleged a multi-state scheme implicating defendants from Delaware, New Jersey, and Virginia, but roughly half of the 33 defendants are Pennsylvania residents or Pennsylvania entities with their places of business in Pennsylvania. The exercise of personal jurisdiction over defendants from a neighboring state does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. View "Laurel Gardens, LLC v. McKenna" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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ABC stores its subscribers’ data on the cloud. ABC received a grand jury subpoena issued under 18 U.S.C. 2703(c)(2), ordering it to produce the non-content data of one of its subscribers, as part of a criminal investigation. The subpoena was accompanied by a nondisclosure order (NDO), prohibiting ABC from notifying any person, except its lawyers, of the existence of the subpoena for one year. Weeks later, a magistrate issued a search warrant directing ABC to produce content-specific data for the same account, with another NDO. ABC complied. The subscriber filed for bankruptcy. ABC moved to modify the NDOs to permit it to notify the bankruptcy trustee of the existence of the subpoena and warrant, arguing that the NDOs are content-based restrictions and prior restraints that infringe upon its First Amendment rights. ABC asserted the bankruptcy trustee had a duty to uncover and assert causes of action against the debtor’s officers and directors. The district court found that 18 U.S.C. 2705(b) implicates the First Amendment rights of service providers and that such an NDO passes strict scrutiny. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of ABC’s motion to amend the NDOs. The governmental interest in maintaining grand jury secrecy is sufficiently strong for the NDOs to withstand strict scrutiny; the restriction is the least restrictive means of serving that interest and is narrowly tailored, being limited to one year. View "In The Matter of the Application of Subpoena 2018R00776" on Justia Law

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Bell and Robinson entered a Philadelphia store, wearing stockings over their faces. Bell grabbed an employee’s neck, pointed a weapon and threw the employee to the ground, then took cash from the register. The employee grabbed Bell. Bell hit the employee with the weapon, causing the weapon to break. The employee then realized the firearm was actually a plastic gun; he stood and attempted to stop the robbery. Bell and Robinson fled the store with $1,000.00 in cash. Bell dropped his hat, which was seized by the police for DNA testing. Approximately one year later, the police obtained a warrant for Bell’s DNA. Officers went to Bell’s residence to execute the warrant and found Bell hiding on the roof outside his bedroom window with a bag containing ammunition. Bell pled guilty as a felon in possession of ammunition, 18 U.S.C. 922(g) and to Hobbs Act robbery, section 1951(a). The court imposed a two-level enhancement for physical restraint, U.S.S.G. 2B3.1(b)(4)(B) and a four-level enhancement for use of a dangerous weapon, section 2B3.1(b)(2)(D). The court calculated a sentencing range of 77-96 months and imposed a sentence of 86 months. The Third Circuit remanded for resentencing, affirming the application of the dangerous weapon enhancement but reversing the enhancement for physical restraint. While grabbing the victim and forcing him down satisfied the physical force requirement, the victim was not left with no alternative and the restraint was quite limited in time without sustained focus on the victim. Objects that appear to be dangerous weapons are considered dangerous weapons for purposes of section 2B3.1. View "United States v. Bell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Hospital has approximately 1,100 employees. About 500 are represented by the Union. Supervisors are not included in the bargaining unit. The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) provides that [v]acation will, so far as possible, be granted at times most desired by employees; but the final right to allow vacation periods, and the right to change vacation periods[,] is exclusively reserved to the Hospital. Any changes in vacation schedules may be realized by mutual consent. In the event the Hospital unilaterally changes a schedule causing the employee to suffer financial loss, the Hospital agrees to reimburse the employee for provable loss. Konsugar requested vacation during the week of December 25, 2017. The Hospital denied her request because her supervisor had requested that same week off and both could not be away at the same time. Konsugar filed a grievance. The arbitrator stated he could not “conclude that the subsequent reservation of exclusivity in allocating vacations entirely to the Hospital completely negates . . . ‘so far as possible’” and sustained the grievance. In a suit under the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185, the Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Hospital. The arbitrator’s decision disregarded the plain language of the CBA, ignored the intentions of the parties, and failed to construe such provision to give effect to all parts of the provision. View "Monongahela Valley Hospital, Inc. v. United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union" on Justia Law

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In 1975, Espichan was born in Peru. His father came to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in 1979. He got custody of Espichan in 1986 by a power of attorney signed by Espichan’s mother. In 1990, at the Callao, Peru police headquarters, Espichan’s mother filed a public declaration that she and Espichan’s father, having lived together since 1970, separated in 1979. Espichan’s father petitioned for him to come to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Espichan, 14, arrived in 1990. That month, his father became a U.S. citizen. In 2016, Espichan was charged as an alien convicted of an aggravated felony, subject to removal under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). Espichan argued that he had acquired derivative citizenship through his father under 8 U.S.C. 1432(a)(3), the applicable law at the time, because his parents were legally separated at the time of his father’s naturalization. The IJ and BIA rejected this claim, finding “unequivocal evidence” that Espichan’s father “never held himself out to be married” to Espichan’s mother. The Third Circuit vacated and transferred the case to the district court. Espichan’s nationality claim presents a genuine issue of material fact: whether his parents were married. If the court finds that they were married, Espichan has satisfied section 1432(a)(3)–(5), has derivative citizenship, and may not be removed. View "Espichan v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Center purchased a nursing home in which the Union represented a unit of licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and a unit of service employees that included certified nursing assistants (CNAs). The Center hired most of the LPNs who had worked for the former employer, increased their wages, and changed their paid leave and health benefits, without bargaining with the Union. The Union filed unfair labor practices charges, 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(5) & (1). An ALJ found that the Center was a “Burns successor” that had hired a majority of its predecessor’s employees and had an obligation to bargain with the union and found that the LPNs were not supervisors as defined by NLRA Section 2(11) but were statutory employees represented by the Union. The Board affirmed, concluding that the Center failed to establish that the LPNs have supervisory authority to discipline or effectively recommended discipline or possess the supervisory authority to adjust grievances. The Third Circuit granted a petition for enforcement. LPNs do not have the authority to assign or the responsibility to direct CNAs with use of independent judgment and do not have the authority to discipline CNAs and others; the evaluations of CNAs are not determinative of LPN supervisory status. View "Coral Harbor Rehabilitation and Nursing Center v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law