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

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Pennsylvania State Police received a tip about suspicious eBay activity and discovered several messages, seeking to buy children’s used underwear and posing as a child looking for photos of other children in their undergarments. The username was registered to “Robert Caesar” of Oxford, PA. Other information corroborated Caesar’s connection to the eBay account. While the investigation was ongoing, Officer Gallina received information that Caesar had sexually abused two adolescent brothers. After interviewing the boys, Gallina applied for warrants to search for evidence of aggravated indecent assault of a minor, seeking physical evidence of the alleged sexual abuse, consisting of “[s]emen and bodily fluid,” and images of child pornography stored on personal electronic devices. Although the supporting affidavit included no express allegations that Caesar possessed child pornography, it stated that child abusers “routinely keep” such images. During the ensuing search, officers seized electronic equipment. A third warrant authorized the search of those devices, which contained child pornography.The Third Circuit reversed, in part, the suppression of thousands of images of child pornography and of Caesar’s sexual abuse victims. Whether they were enough to satisfy probable cause, the allegations about Caesar’s prolonged sexual abuse of the brothers and his interest in photos of undressed children supported the reasonableness of the officers’ belief that probable cause existed. Gallina’s reliance on the initial warrant and his conduct securing the warrant did not approach the gross negligence required to trigger the exclusionary rule. View "United States v. Caesar" on Justia Law

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For much of his life, Wallace has suffered from severe mental illness, including bipolar disorder with psychotic features, chronic depression, ADHD, and major affective disorder. On February 28, 2000, Wallace, during a severe psychotic episode, got into bed with his wife, Eileen, and used the knife to stab Eileen to death. Wallace then dressed, stowed the knife in a drawer, and locked the house, leaving Eileen’s body behind. Wallace took a train to Philadelphia where he planned to commit suicide. Police were waiting for him; his mother had disclosed his whereabouts. Wallace admitted to stabbing Eileen, acting on a belief that death would set her spirit free. Wallace pleaded guilty but mentally ill to third-degree murder and related crimes. He missed the January 2002 deadline for a federal habeas corpus petition and filed in September 2015, arguing that his mental illness so hampered his ability to think clearly that he could not reasonably have been expected to file earlier.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the petition, concluding that Wallace was not entitled to equitable tolling to extend the filing deadline. Although Wallace claimed that his prescribed use of the drug Ritalin may have exacerbated his psychosis, rendering him involuntarily intoxicated or legally insane at the time of his crime such that he could not form the mens rea necessary for murder, the court declined to employ the “actual innocence gateway,” to excuse him from the deadline. View "Wallace v. Superintendent Mahanoy SCI" on Justia Law

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The hospital, located in Philadelphia, received a reclassification into the New York City area, which would sizably increase the hospital’s Medicare reimbursements due to that area’s higher wage index, 42 U.S.C. 1395ww(d). Although a statute makes such reclassifications effective for three fiscal years, the agency updated the geographical boundaries for the New York City area before the close of that period and reassigned the hospital to an area in New Jersey with an appreciably lower wage index. The hospital successfully sued three agency officials in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.The Third Circuit vacated and remanded for dismissal. The Medicare Act, 42 U.S.C. 1395oo(f)(1), channels reimbursement disputes through administrative adjudication as a near-absolute prerequisite to judicial review. The hospital did not pursue its claim through administrative adjudication before suing in federal court. By not following the statutory channeling requirement, the hospital has no valid basis for subject-matter jurisdiction. View "Temple University Hospital, Inc. v. Secretary United States Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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Following two fires at its steel plant, U.S. Steel polluted the air. Because that pollution violated its Clean Air Act permits and regulations, it reported the incidents to the local officials who enforce that Act, the Allegheny County Health Department. The Clean Air Council, an environmental watchdog, sued, arguing that under CERCLA, U.S. Steel should have reported the pollution to the federal government too. CERCLA (the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act) exempts from reporting any “federally permitted” emissions, 42 U.S.C. 9603, including emissions “subject to” certain Clean Air Act permits and regulations. The Council argued that “subject to” means “obedient to” so that an emission cannot be “subject to” a permit or regulation that it violates.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. In context, “subject to” means “governed or affected by.” Since U.S. Steel’s emissions were governed by a Clean Air Act permit, that means they were “federally permitted” under CERCLA and exempt from federal reporting. View "Clean Air Council v. United States Steel Corp." on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit denied a petition for review challenging the BIA's decision denying petitioner's motion to reopen immigration proceedings after the IJ denied petitioner's applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). In this case, the IJ sustained charges of removeability against petitioner, who is a native and citizen of Jamaica living in the United States, after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.The court concluded that it lacks jurisdiction to review the BIA's decision declining to reopen petitioner's proceedings sua sponte, but the court has jurisdiction over the remaining issues in the petition under 8 U.S.C. 1252(a). The court concluded that the BIA did not abuse its discretion in denying petitioner's motion to reopen in part because it contained no evidence to warrant reconsideration of the conclusion that petitioner had failed to establish official acquiescence. The court emphasized that petitioner's motion to reopen fails not because it contained unconvincing evidence of official acquiescence, but because it contained no such evidence. Petitioner fails the materiality requirement—and falls short of the procedural hurdle—because she presented no evidence addressing a core deficiency of her application. The court explained that, had she produced such evidence, the BIA could then move to the substantive hurdle and evaluate whether the evidence established a reasonable likelihood that she can establish that she is entitled to relief. Finally, the court rejected petitioner's due process claims, concluding that petitioner has no protectible expectation of entitlement of relief. In any event, the court was confident that the BIA reviewed the evidence petitioner presented and applied the presumption of regularity to its determination. View "Darby v. Attorney General of the United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Valeant develops and manufactures generic pharmaceuticals. Appellants purchased stock in Valeant after Valeant changed its business model to focus more on acquiring new drugs from other companies rather than developing its own. Valeant made promising representations about its financial performance based on its new business model. The price of Valeant stock skyrocketed nearly 350% in 2015. Before the district court addressed class certification in a putative class action on behalf of investors who purchased Valeant stock in 2015, alleging that the price was artificially inflated as a result of deceptive practices, the Appellants filed an “opt-out” complaint bringing the same claims in their individual capacities. The district court dismissed that complaint as untimely under the two-year limitations period.The Third Circuit vacated the dismissal. Putative class members may recover as part of the class or seek individual recourse. Members may initially proceed as part of a class, but certification may be denied later or members may discover that their individual claims are more valuable than the class claims and decide to pursue an opt-out complaint even if certification is likely. In either case, members are generally allowed to initiate an individual action. When a class complaint is filed, the limitations period governing the individual claims of putative members is tolled to protect the rights of putative members while avoiding needless identical lawsuits. Nothing further, such as a certification denial, is required to benefit from tolling. View "Aly v. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc." on Justia Law

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Mondelli suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and major depression. During his daily 12-hour visits with his mother at Berkeley Heights, Mondelli allegedly observed inadequate care. Mondelli regularly complained to staff, the New Jersey Board of Health, and the Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly. After several contentious visits, including police calls, Mondelli’s visits were limited to one to two hours per day in the lobby. Mondelli’s mother died.Mondelli filed suit, claiming ADA violations and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Despite several deadline extensions, Mondelli never cooperated in discovery. Mondelli explained that he suffers from various physical and mental health conditions; was found incompetent to stand trial in the Municipal Court of Fanwood; and has been unable to properly communicate with his lawyer. Mondelli supplied letters from physicians and a psychiatrist. The case was administratively terminated for 180 days, after which Mondelli moved to reopen. The district court denied Mondelli’s motion and, weighing the “Poulis” factors, dismissed his complaint with prejudice, finding that Mondelli was personally responsible for his failure to prosecute; that defendants were prejudiced by his failure to prosecute; that Mondelli had a history of dilatoriness; that no sanction other than dismissal would be appropriate; and that Mondelli’s ADA claim lacked merit.The Third Circuit vacated. There was verifiable evidence that placed Mondelli’s competency at issue; the court must examine his competency, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17. View "Mondelli v. Berkeley Heights Nursing and Rehabilitation Center" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Brace, a farmer, owns hundreds of acres in Erie County, Pennsylvania. He cleared 30 acres of wetlands, draining it to grow crops. In 1994, the Third Circuit affirmed that Brace had violated the Clean Water Act. In 2012, Brade bought 14 additional acres of wetlands. Again, he engaged in clearing, excavation, and filling without required permits. During a second suit under the Act, Brace’s counsel submitted perfunctory pleadings and failed to cooperate in discovery, repeatedly extending and missing deadlines. Counsel submitted over-length briefs smuggling in extra-record materials. The court repeatedly struck Brace’s materials but generally chose leniency. Eventually, the court struck Brace’s opposition to summary judgment after analyzing the “Poulis factors,” then granted the government summary judgment on liability, holding that Brace had violated the Act. The court ordered Brace to submit a proposed deed restriction and restoration plan.The Third Circuit rejected Brace’s appeal. While “it stretches credulity [to believe that Brace had] no idea how counsel [wa]s conducting this case,” the court gave Brace the benefit of the doubt. Brace’s lawyer’s misconduct forced the government to waste time and money “deciphering incomprehensible pleadings, scouring through noncompliant briefs, and moving again and again for compliance" to no avail. Counsel acted in bad faith; repeated orders to show cause, warnings, and threats of sanctions did not deter counsel’s chronic misbehavior. The sanction “was hardly an abuse of discretion.” View "United States v. Brace" on Justia Law

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Three clients filed separate discrimination cases, which were consolidated for discovery. The defendants obtained summary judgment. The clients filed a notice of appeal, then hired Paddick, who entered into a contingency fee agreement with each client, providing that Paddick would serve as counsel on remand and promising Paddick a 40 percent fee of any trial or settlement proceeds. Paddick prevailed in the appeal, then took 24 depositions, presented two oral arguments, attended two settlement conferences, and filed nine substantive motions or responses. When it came time to retain an expert witness, Paddick was unable to advance the necessary funds. The clients terminated their relationship with Paddick and retained Thompson to pursue their claims for a 35 percent contingent fee. Paddick informed Thompson of his work, noting that “fees remain due.” Thompson did not respond. The case settled for $380,000; Thompson’s share was $133,000. The district court acknowledged the settlements and dismissed the cases.A month later, Paddick successfully moved to intervene to enforce an attorney’s charging lien against the settlement proceeds. The Third Circuit affirmed an order that Thompson pay Paddick $54,562.73 from Thompson’s portion of the recovery. The district court had ancillary enforcement jurisdiction to resolve Paddick’s lien motion. The clients did not produce clear and convincing evidence of duress; imperfect representation does not necessarily bar Paddick from recovery. A client “should never be made to pay twice.” View "Butt v. United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America" on Justia Law

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Oakwood hired Dr. Thanoo in 1997. As Oakwood's Senior Scientist, he signed confidentiality agreements. Thanoo designed Oakwood’s microsphere process technology. Oakwood invested more than $130 million and two decades in its Microsphere Project and developed the “Leuprolide Products,” which are bioequivalent to Lupron Depot®. Aurobindo contacted Oakwood to discuss collaboration. Some of Oakwood’s trade secret information was shared under a confidentiality agreement. Negotiations failed. Aurobindo hired Thanoo six months later and began developing microsphere-based injectable products that Oakwood alleges are “substantially similar to and competitive with Oakwood’s Microsphere Project." Oakwood asserts that the product could not have been developed within the rapid timeframe without Thanoo’s assistance and the use of Oakwood’s trade secret information.The Third Circuit vacated the dismissal of Oakwood's suit, asserting trade secret misappropriation, breach of contract, and tortious interference with contractual relations. Under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, 18 U.S.C. 1836(b), Oakwood sufficiently identified its trade secrets and sufficiently alleged that the defendants misappropriated those trade secrets. The “use” of a trade secret encompasses all the ways one can take advantage of trade secret information to obtain an economic benefit, competitive advantage, or other commercial value, or for an exploitative purpose, such as research or development. A trade secret plaintiff need not allege that its information was the only source by which a defendant might develop its product. Aurobindo's avoidance of substantial research and development costs that Oakwood has invested is recognized as "harm" in the DTSA. View "Oakwood Laboratories LLC v. Thanoo" on Justia Law