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In 2009, Johnson participated in five bank robberies, carrying a BB gun twice and providing a gun for the others, while serving as a lookout. He was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. 371; one count of armed bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. 2113(d); four counts of aiding and abetting armed bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. 2 and 2113(d); and three counts of aiding and abetting the use and carrying of a firearm during a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 2 and 924(c)(1). For the first count of using a firearm during a crime of violence, the court applied 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)(ii), which provides that if “the firearm is brandished,” the minimum sentence is seven years. For the second and third firearm counts, the court imposed 25-year sentences under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(C), which requires a sentence of not less than 25 years for a subsequent conviction. Johnson’s total sentence was 835 months, The Third Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded for consideration in light of Alleyne (2013). The Third Circuit again affirmed, rejecting arguments that the court committed Alleyne errors by not submitting to the jury the questions of “brandishing” or whether two section 924(c) convictions were subsequent convictions. The fact of subsequent conviction is not an element of the offense and need not be submitted to the jury. Robbery is a crime of violence under the section 924(c)(3) elements clause. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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In 2001, Green was sentenced to 687 months of imprisonment for federal drug and firearms convictions. While serving that sentence, Green attacked another inmate with a shank, then pleaded guilty assault with intent to commit murder, 18 U.S.C. 113(a)(1), and was sentenced to 151 months, as a “career offender” under the residual clause of the then-mandatory Sentencing Guidelines. The Presentence Report did not specify which of Green’s prior convictions qualified as predicate offenses. The sentence, at the low end of the Guidelines, was to run consecutively to the 687 months that he was already serving. The Third Circuit affirmed and, after the Supreme Court’s “Johnson” holding that the residual clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act was void for vagueness, affirmed the dismissal of Green’s motion under 28 U.S.C. 2255 to vacate his sentence. The court concluded that Green’s motion was untimely because the one-year limitations period to bring a challenge on collateral review had passed by the time he filed this motion. Johnson did not constitute a newly recognized right, that would have provided Green a year from when Johnson was decided to file his section 2255 motion, in light of the Supreme Court’s 2017 "Beckles" opinion, that vagueness challenges cannot be brought to the advisory Sentencing Guidelines, View "United States v. Green" on Justia Law

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A DEA officer learned that Williams bought heroin in Detroit, which he sold in Pittsburgh, and placed a GPS tracker on Williams’s car to monitor his movements.. The officer planned to have Williams’s car stopped upon its return to Pennsylvania. That evening, Pennsylvania State Trooper Volk observed Williams’s car speeding, stopped it, issued a citation, and told Williams that he was free to go. Before Williams left, Trooper Volk asked for consent to search his car. Williams signed a “Waiver of Rights and Consent to Search.” Troopers searched Williams’s car. Unable to locate any narcotics, they requested a narcotics-detection dog. Williams eventually stated: “you searched my car three times, now you hold me up and I have to go.” There was a lot of noise from traffic and the wind and, other than Williams’s testimony, there was no evidence that Trooper Volk heard this. The search continued. Williams told the officers not to search his phone without a warrant. Williams objected when troopers began to disassemble Williams’s speakers, stating “I’ve been out here half an hour, man.” Seventy-one minutes into the search, Trooper Volk discovered 39 grams of heroin in a sleeve covering the car’s parking brake lever. Williams pled guilty to possession of heroin with intent to distribute, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C). The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of his motion to suppress and his 160-month sentence. Williams did not unequivocally withdraw his consent to the search. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Wang, a citizen of China, obtained lawful U.S. permanent resident status in 2010 and worked in a financial services firm. In 2011, without authorization, he purchased oil futures contracts using the firm’s trading account and transferred those contracts between firm accounts. In company records, Wang marked these contracts as closed (sold) when they were, in fact, still open. After the firm discovered the transactions, the FBI arrested Wang. The indictment alleged that, upon discovery of a loss of $2.2 million, the firm sold the contracts. Wang pleaded guilty to violating the Commodity Exchange Act by making a false report in connection with a commodities transaction, 7 U.S.C. 6b(a)(1)(B) and 13(a)(2) and was sentenced to three months in prison and ordered to pay $2.2 million in restitution. Wang was ordered removed. The BIA affirmed. The Sixth Circuit granted a petition for review and remanded, first holding that it had authority to consider de novo whether Wang’s conviction qualifies as an aggravated felony because it is “a purely legal question.” Wang is not properly categorized as an aggravated felon under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(M)(i) because crimes “involv[ing] fraud or deceit” require materiality as an element of proof and Section 6b(a)(1)(B) lacks this element. View "Wang v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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Ricketts petitioned the Third Circuit to review the BIA's denial of his motions to reopen his removal proceedings, arguing that he is actually a U.S. citizen. Finding that there were genuine issues of material fact as to his nationality, the court granted a joint motion and transferred the nationality dispute to the Eastern District of New York, where Ricketts resided at the relevant time (8 U.S.C. 1252(b)(5)(B)). After an evidentiary hearing, that court decided that the evidence overwhelmingly established that Ricketts is a Jamaican national who appropriated the identity of a U.S. citizen. Ricketts sought review by the Second Circuit. The district court transmitted the appeal to the Third Circuit. The government sought transfer the to the Second Circuit, requesting that the Third Circuit retain jurisdiction over Ricketts’s other consolidated petitions for review. The Third Circuit held that an appeal from a nationality determination following a transfer must be taken to the appellate court that typically hears appeals from the district court making the determination rather than to the appellate court that transferred the case to the district court in the first place. The statute indicates that Congress intended that hearings under section 1252(b)(5)(B) be treated as new proceedings separate from the underlying petitions for review. The Third Circuit held it lacked jurisdiction to entertain an appeal from a nationality determination made by the Eastern District of New York. View "Ricketts v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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Disability rights advocates brought a proposed class action suit against Steak ’n Shake under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C 12101, alleging they have personally experienced difficulty ambulating in their wheelchairs through two sloped parking facilities. They sought to sue on behalf of all physically disabled individuals who may have experienced similar difficulties at Steak ’n Shake restaurants throughout the country. The district court certified the proposed class. The Third Circuit reversed and remanded, first holding that the plaintiffs have Article III standing to bring their claims in federal court. Although a mere procedural violation of the ADA does not qualify as an injury in fact under Article III, plaintiffs allege to have personally experienced concrete injuries as a result of ADA violations on at least two occasions. Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that these injuries were caused by unlawful corporate policies that can be redressed with injunctive relief. However, the “extraordinarily broad class” certified by the district court violates the Rule 23(a)(1) requirement that the proposed class be “so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable” and Rule 23(a)(2)’s requirement that plaintiffs demonstrate that “there are questions of law or fact common to the class.” View "Mielo v. Steak N Shake Operations Inc." on Justia Law

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Pennsylvania State Trooper Volk, a drug interdiction officer on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, stopped Green, who had multiple prior arrests for drug and weapon offenses. Green allowed Volk to search his vehicle. Volk did not discover any contraband but detected the smell of raw marijuana in the trunk. The following day, Volk noticed Green’s vehicle heading the opposite direction, followed, and ascertained his speed by “pacing” Green’s vehicle. Volk determined that Green was traveling 79 miles per hour and pulled him over. Volk struck up a lengthy conversation with Green. Volk indicated that Green was free to leave but again asked to search Green’s vehicle. Green declined, explaining that he was in a hurry. Volk instructed Green to wait in his car until further notice. After approximately 15 minutes, a canine unit arrived and alerted for drugs in the trunk. Volk obtained a search warrant a few hours later. A search of Green’s trunk revealed roughly 1,000 bricks of heroin weighing nearly 20 pounds. Green pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin and was sentenced to 120 months of imprisonment. The Third Circuit affirmed. Volk had a reasonable suspicion that Green was speeding, so the stop was justified. Given Green’s statements about his travel, the smell of marijuana in his trunk, and his criminal history, Volk had a “particularized and objective” basis for suspecting that Green was engaged in criminal activity. View "United States v. Green" on Justia Law

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From 1996-2011 Pennsylvania claimed the costs of a training program, the Pennsylvania Restraint Reduction Initiative, “to train long-term care facility staff in the use of alternative measures to physical and chemical restraints,” as administrative costs under its Medicaid program, 42 U.S.C. 1396b(a)(7) . The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reimbursed Pennsylvania for about $3 million. After an audit, CMS sought a return of the money on the ground that funds spent on training programs are not reimbursable as administrative costs under Medicaid. CMS relied heavily on a 1994 State Medicaid Director Letter. The Appeals Board, district court, and Third Circuit rejected the state’s arguments that the 1994 Letter was an invalid substantive rule, that the Letter’s text does not exclude the training costs from reimbursement, that the Letter imposed an ambiguous condition on a federal grant, that the Appeals Board abused its discretion in denying discovery, that the HHS Grants Administration Manual limits the disallowance period to three years, and that the district court should have taken judicial notice of the 2015 CMS Question and Answer document concerning training costs. The court noted CMS could have reimbursed Pennsylvania if Pennsylvania factored the amount into its rate-setting scheme instead of claiming it as administrative costs. View "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Human Services v. United States" on Justia Law

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Adorers, a religious order of Roman Catholic women, owns land in Columbia, Pennsylvania affected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decision under the Natural Gas Act, to issue a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Transco, authorizing construction of a roughly 200-mile-long pipeline. Adorers claim that their deeply-held religious beliefs require that they care for the land in a manner that protects and preserves the Earth as God’s creation. Despite receiving notice of the proposed project, Adorers never raised this objection before FERC. More than five months after FERC granted the certificate, Adorers filed suit under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb-1. The district court dismissed, citing the Act: If FERC issues a certificate following the requisite hearing, any aggrieved person may seek judicial review in the D.C. Circuit or the circuit wherein the natural gas company is located or has its principal place of business. Before seeking judicial review, that party must, within 30 days of the issuance of the certificate, apply for rehearing before FERC. Anyone who fails to first seek a rehearing is barred from seeking judicial review, 15 U.S.C. 717r(a). The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal. A RFRA cause of action, invoking a court’s general federal question jurisdiction, does not abrogate or provide an exception to a specific jurisdictional provision prescribing a particular procedure for judicial review of an agency’s action. View "Adorers of Blood of Christ v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commisson" on Justia Law

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On January 6, 2016, in Newark, New Jersey, there was a collision between a car driven by Sconiers and a vehicle owned by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). About two weeks later, Sconiers submitted an administrative tort claim form to USPS seeking damages for injuries that she claimed she suffered in the accident. By letter dated July 14, 2016, addressed to Sconiers’s counsel, USPS denied her claim. The letter, citing the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) 28 U.S.C. 2401(b), informed Sconiers that if she was dissatisfied with the denial, she “may file suit in a United States District Court no later than six (6) months after the date the Postal Service mails the notice of that final action.” Sconiers filed suit eight months later. The district court found that Sconiers’s complaint was filed beyond the FTCA’s six-month statute of limitations and determined that she had not identified any extraordinary circumstance that justified equitable tolling of the deadline. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although the statute of limitations requires filing within two years, 28 U.S.C. §2401(b), the FTCA additionally requires claimants to file their claims within six months of an agency’s written denial. View "Sconiers v. United States" on Justia Law