Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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In response to the rise in active and mass shooting incidents in the United States, New Jersey enacted a law that limits the amount of ammunition that may be held in a single firearm magazine to no more than 10 rounds, N.J. Stat. 2C:39-1(y), 2C:39-3(j) . A magazine is an implement that increases the ammunition capacity of a firearm; LCMs, magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, allow a shooter to fire multiple shots in a matter of seconds without reloading. Rejecting a challenge citing the Second Amendment, the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, the Third Circuit held that New Jersey’s law reasonably fits the state’s interest in public safety and does not unconstitutionally burden the Second Amendment’s right to self-defense in the home. The law does not require gun owners to surrender their magazines but instead allows them to retain modified magazines or register firearms that have magazines that cannot be modified. Because retired law enforcement officers have training and experience that makes them different from ordinary citizens, the law’s exemption that permits them to possess magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds does not violate the Equal Protection Clause \ View "Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, Inc. v. Attorney General New Jersey" on Justia Law

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Then-New Jersey Governor Christie appointed Baroni as Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Baroni and Kelly, the Deputy Chief of Staff for New Jersey’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, engaged in a scheme to impose crippling gridlock on the Borough of Fort Lee after its mayor refused to endorse Christie’s 2013 reelection bid. Under the guise of conducting a “traffic study,” they conspired to limit Fort Lee motorists’ access to the George Washington Bridge (the world’s busiest bridge) over four days during the first week of the school year. Extensive media coverage of “Bridgegate” ensued. Baroni and Kelly were convicted of conspiracy to obtain by fraud, knowingly convert, or intentionally misapply property of an organization receiving federal benefits, 18 U.S.C. 371, and the substantive offense; conspiracy to commit wire fraud, section 1349, and the substantive offense; and conspiracy against civil rights, section 241, and the substantive offense. The Third Circuit affirmed the wire fraud convictions but vacated the civil rights convictions. The government presented evidence sufficient to prove defendants violated the wire fraud statute by depriving the Port Authority of, at a minimum, its money in the form of public employee labor. The court rejected an argument that Baroni possessed the unilateral authority to control Port Authority traffic patterns. There is no “clearly established” constitutional right to intrastate travel, so the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on the civil rights claims. View "United States v. Baroni" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit affirmed the order of the district court dismissing Appellant’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2241, holding that, although Appellant has been detained pending reveal proceedings since April 2016, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment did not entitle Appellant to a new bond hearing at which the government would bear the burden of justifying his continued detention. Appellant entered the United States on a tourist visa, which he overstayed. A year later, an Interpol "Red Notice" requested by Russian identified Appellant as a fugitive wanted for prosecution on criminal fraud charges. On April 22, 2016, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained Appellant under 8 U.S.C. 1226(a) and initiated removal proceedings, which are still pending in an immigration court. Appellant filed this action alleging that his continued detention deprived him of due process unless the government could show clear and convincing evidence of risk of flight or danger to the community. The district court dismissed the petition. The Third Circuit affirmed. The dissent argued that where the Russian government has been employing Interpol Red Notices to pursue and harass opponents of the Russian regime and where Appellant had no criminal record anywhere, Appellant was entitled to a new hearing to review the finding of “danger to the community.” View "Borbot v. Warden Hudson County Correctio" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant, a police officer, on Plaintiff’s action brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983, holding that the district court correctly found that the statute of limitations barred Plaintiff’s claims. After Defendant stopped Plaintiff’s car, searched him, and arrested him, Pennsylvania prosecuted him. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence, but the court of appeals reversed, concluding that the search violated the Fourth Amendment. Defendant later brought this suit asserting that Defendant conducted an unreasonable search and seizure and made a false arrest. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the statute of limitations ran from the time of the search rather than when the Pennsylvania court held the search unconstitutional; and (2) therefore, Defendant’s claim was time-barred. View "Nguyen v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Richardson and his son burgled two empty homes and fled from police. During a high-speed car chase, he rammed into a police car and crashed into a utility pole. He was convicted of burglary, criminal conspiracy, theft, aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and flight from a police officer. Mid-sentencing, Richardson decided that he was dissatisfied with his lawyer and sought to fire him. The sentencing judge treated Richardson’s request as waiving his right to counsel but did not, as the Sixth Amendment requires, question Richardson to ensure that his waiver was knowing and voluntary. Richardson’s post-sentencing and state-habeas lawyers both overlooked this error. The Third Circuit remanded to the district court to grant habeas corpus relief and order a new sentencing hearing. In Pennsylvania state court, the post-sentencing-motions stage is a critical stage at which a defendant is entitled to the effective assistance of counsel. Richardson was denied that right because his post-sentencing lawyer was ineffective. The line dividing trial from appeal falls naturally at the notice of appeal. Post-sentencing motions precede the notice of appeal, so they fall on the trial side of the line; when a state-habeas lawyer fails to raise a post-sentencing lawyer’s ineffectiveness, the prisoner may raise that issue for the first time in his federal habeas petition. Richardson’s ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim is meritorious. View "Richardson v. Superintendent Coal Township SCI" on Justia Law

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Sauers and his wife were driving southbound on Route 209 in Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania. Officer Homanko was on patrol, traveling in the same direction when he observed a summary traffic offense committed by a Dodge in the northbound lane. Homanko turned around to pursue the Dodge. He radioed police in the neighboring borough to request that officers there pull the Dodge over when it reached their jurisdiction. Homanko then began a chase at speeds of over 100 miles-per-hour. Several people observed him driving recklessly. Homanko lost control while negotiating a curve. His car spun around, crossed the centerline into southbound traffic, and crashed into Sauers’s car. The accident seriously injured Sauers and killed his wife. Homanko subsequently pled guilty to vehicular homicide, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of reckless or grossly negligent driving, and reckless endangerment. Sauers – individually and as administrator of his wife’s estate – filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, citing a “state-created danger” theory of liability. The Third Circuit vacated the denial of Homanko’s motion for dismissal based on qualified immunity; it was not clearly established at the time of the crash that Homanko’s conduct, as alleged in the complaint, could give rise to constitutional liability under the Fourteenth Amendment. The court commented, however, that it hoped to establish clear law with its decision. View "Sauers v. Borough of Nesquehoning" on Justia Law

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Guerrero-Sanchez attempted to unlawfully enter the U.S.in 1998. He was removed back to Mexico. Guerrero-Sanchez reentered the U.S. without inspection. In 2012, he was arrested for his role in an Idaho-based drug trafficking organization. Guerrero-Sanchez pled guilty and was sentenced to 42 months of imprisonment. ICE reinstated his 1998 order of removal, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(5). The Third Circuit denied his petition for review and motion for stay of the reinstated removal order. Guerrero-Sanchez completed his sentence and was transferred to ICE custody pending removal. An asylum officer concluded that Guerrero-Sanchez's claim that he would be tortured by a drug cartel if removed to Mexico was reasonable and referred the matter to an immigration judge. The IJ found that he was ineligible for withholding relief under section 1231(b)(3) because he committed a particularly serious crime and that he did not qualify for Convention Against Torture relief because he did not establish that the Mexican Government would consent to or be willfully blind to torture. While his case remained pending before the BIA, Guerrero-Sanchez sought habeas relief, challenging his detention while he awaits a determination on whether he will be afforded country-specific protection from removal. The district court granted the petition. The Third Circuit affirmed. The detention of an alien, who has a reinstated order of removal but is also pursuing withholding-only relief is governed by the post-removal law, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a) rather than section 1226(a), the pre-removal statute; section 1231(a)(6) compels an implicit bond hearing requirement after prolonged detention. View "Guerrero-Sanchez v. Warden York County Prison" on Justia Law

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L.T., 15 years old, was designated by the Virgin Islands Superior Court a “Person in Need of Supervision” who “habitually disobeys the reasonable demands of the person responsible for the child’s care and is beyond their control.” V.I. Code tit. 5, 2502(23). L.T. was subject to a court order to “follow the reasonable rules of his mother while living with her.” His mother (Russell) continued having problems with his behavior. One day, Russell contacted the Superior Court and “requested that [L.T.] be brought before the judge to answer for his behavior.” Superior Court Marshals, including Deputy Richardson, arrived at Russell’s home later that day. L.T. was “relaxing in his room, in his underwear and unarmed.” According to Russell, “Richardson shot [L.T.] under circumstances that were unjustified and an excessive use of force since [L.T.] was unarmed and did not threaten bodily harm to the marshals or third parties as he was attempting to run past the marshals.” L.T. was airlifted to Puerto Rico for medical treatment, but the shooting rendered him a quadriplegic. Russell sued, 42 U.S.C. 1983. On interlocutory appeal, the Third Circuit held that judicial immunity does not extend to protect an officer from a suit challenging the manner in which he executed a court order but held that a claim for gross negligence, for which the Virgin Islands has not waived sovereign immunity, should be dismissed. View "Russell v. Superior Court of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law

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Judge had been principal of Oaklyn Elementary School for about three years when she was stopped by a Pennsylvania State Trooper for failing to signal. After acknowledging she had been drinking, Judge asked the trooper to release her because she was concerned about her job. The trooper took Judge to the barracks, where she was given a test, which showed that Judge’s blood alcohol content was .332, more than four times the legal limit. Three weeks later, Judge encountered Superintendent Kelley, who had been advised by school board members about the traffic stop. Kelley wrote: If you do choose to resign then I will offer a neutral reference in the future . . . . [I]n the alternative, if you decide not to resign and DUI charges are filed against you then I will be forced to issue a written statement of charges for dismissal. Judge did not contact a lawyer, although she had retained counsel after her arrest. The next day, Judge presented a letter of resignation, while stating she “was not even charged with DUI yet.” Kelley then handed Judge court documents indicating that she had been charged. Judge sued, asserting deprivations of procedural and substantive due process, violation of equal protection, and breach of contract, based on "constructive discharge." The Third Circuit affirmed the rejection of all her claims: Judge was presented with a reasonable alternative to immediate resignation and resigned voluntarily. View "Judge v. Shikellamy School District" on Justia Law

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In December 2017, Reese was charged with using a facility and means of interstate or foreign commerce to attempt to induce, entice, or coerce a minor into engaging in sexual activity. The government sought pretrial detention arguing that there was probable cause to believe that Reese had committed the charged offense, which created a rebuttable presumption in favor of detention, 18 U.S.C. 3142(e)(3)(E). The motion was granted. In February 2018, Reese filed a pro se 28 U.S.C. 2241 petition. In March 2018, Reese, through counsel, moved for pretrial release in the separate criminal case, but before the same judge. That judge denied the motion, concluding that the evidence against Reese was “overwhelming,” that Reese had numerous prior criminal convictions, that Reese had previously violated conditions of bail, and that Reese lacked ties to the community. An appeal of that denial is pending. The court then dismissed the section 2241 petition. The Third Circuit held that a federal detainee cannot challenge his pretrial detention via a section 2241 habeas petition; such a request for release pending trial can only be considered under the Bail Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. 3141–3150, which provides a comprehensive scheme governing pretrial-release decisions. View "Reese v. Warden Philadelphia FDC" on Justia Law