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

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Supor, a construction contractor, got a job on New Jersey’s American Dream Project, a large retail development, and agreed to use truck drivers exclusively from one union and to contribute to the union drivers’ multiemployer pension fund. The project stalled. Supor stopped working with the union drivers and pulled out of the fund. The fund demanded $766,878, more than twice what Supor had earned on the project, as a withdrawal penalty for ending its pension payments without covering its share, citing the 1980 Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act (MPPAA), amending ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1381. Under the MPPAA, employers who pull out early must pay a “withdrawal liability” based on unfunded vested benefits. Supor claimed the union had promised that it would not have to pay any penalty. The Fund argued that the statute requires “employer[s]” to arbitrate such disputes. Supor argued that it was not an employer under the Act.The district court sent the parties to arbitration, finding that an “employer” includes any entity obligated to contribute to a pension plan either as a direct employer or in the interest of an employer of the plan’s participants. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding the definition plausible, protective of the statutory scheme, and supported by three decades of consensus. View "J Supor & Son Trucking & Rigging Co., Inc. v. Trucking Employees of North Jersey Welfare Fund" on Justia Law

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Under "loyalty contracts," Physician Buying Groups (PBGs) members are entitled to discounts if they buy a large enough percentage of their vaccines from Merck. The loyalty contracts include an arbitration provision. Membership contracts between PBGs and medical practices give medical practices discounts on Merck vaccines for enrolling in PBGs. PBGs contract with both Merck and medical practices and are middlemen but PBGs never possess the vaccines. Medical practices buy their vaccines directly from Merck, receiving discounts for belonging to a PBG. The Pediatricians, members of PBGs that contracted with Merck, never signed contracts containing an arbitration clause.The Pediatricians filed federal suits alleging Merck’s vaccine bundling program was anticompetitive. Merck moved to compel arbitration. On remand, following discovery, the district court again denied Merck’s motion and granted the Pediatricians summary judgment, reasoning that the Pediatricians were not bound under an agency theory. The Third Circuit reversed. The PBG membership contract made the PBG a “non-exclusive agent to arrange for the purchase of goods and services,” and the PBG acted on this authority by executing the loyalty contract with Merck that included the arbitration clause. The Pediatricians simultaneously demonstrated intent to create an agency relationship and exercised control over the scope of the PBG’s agency by contract. View "In re: Rotavirus Vaccines Antitrust Litigation v." on Justia Law

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John and Jane attended Princeton University where they began a volatile relationship, including physical altercations. When they broke up Jane spread rumors about John on campus and threatened John: “take a year off and nothing will happen to you.” John complained that he did not “feel safe.” The Director of Student Life recommended mental health services and did not recommend a Title IX complaint. Jane told Princeton’s Director of Gender Equity and Title IX Administration, that she was a victim of “Intimate Relationship Violence” but that she was not interested in pursuing further action. She was advised to press charges. Despite a no-contact order, Jane approached John on campus. Princeton told Jane not to let it happen again. Princeton barred John—but not Jane—from campus during its investigation. John accidentally “liked” one of Jane’s social media posts and self-reported the mistake. Princeton launched another disciplinary process. Princeton expressed no interest in pursuing John's counterclaims and ultimately found evidence to support Jane's allegations of physical abuse but nothing to confirm John’s claims, resulting in John’s expulsion. Jane tweeted about “boy problems that were never real problems just things I created.”The Third Circuit vacated the dismissal of John’s Title IX discrimination complaint. On a motion to dismiss, a court must “accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” View "Doe v. Princeton University" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law
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The Unions represent PG employees. Each union's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with PG required PG to provide health insurance to union employees. A separate provision governed dispute resolution with a grievance procedure that culminated in binding arbitration. The CBAs had durational clauses and expired in March 2017; the arbitration provisions had no separate durational clauses. Two months before their expiration, PG sent letters to the unions, stating that upon expiration, "all contractual obligations of the current agreement shall expire. [PG] will continue to observe all established wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment as required by law, except those recognized by law as strictly contractual, after the Agreement expires. With respect to arbitration, the Company will decide its obligation to arbitrate grievances on a case-by-case basis." While negotiating new CBAs, the parties operated under certain terms of the expired agreements. The unions claim that in 2019, PG violated the expired CBAs by failing to provide certain health-insurance benefits. The unions filed grievances under the dispute-resolution provisions. PG refused to arbitrate, stating that the grievance involved occurrences that arose after the contract expired. The Unions argued implied-in-fact contracts had been formed.The district court granted PG summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed, overruling its own precedent. As a matter of contract law, the arbitration provisions here, because they do not have their own durational clauses, expired with the CBAs. View "Pittsburgh Mailers Union Local Union 22 v. PG Publishing Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Keles was admitted into Rutgers’s Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department’s graduate program and received his M.S. degree in 2014. While pursuing this degree, Keles expressed his interest in continuing his studies as a Ph.D. student. To continue their studies as Ph.D. students, M.S. students in the CEE Department must submit a “Change-in-Status” form, identifying advisors and describing their research plans. At the end of the M.S. program, Keles submitted an incomplete Change-in-Status form. Keles disputed that he needed to submit a completed Change-in-Status form due to his claimed enrollment as an M.S.-Ph.D. student. Members of the CEE Department and the University’s administration informed him that he needed to satisfy the admission prerequisites. Keles neither found an advisor nor submitted a completed form but sought to register for classes in 2015. Rutgers’s Administration informed Keles that his lack of academic standing prevented him from registering.Keles sued, alleging contract, tort, statutory, and due process claims. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his suit, finding that Rutgers adhered to its own policies and did not act in bad faith. All M.S. students were subject to the same departmental requirements. Rutgers afforded Keles sufficient process and did not venture “beyond the pale of reasoned academic decisionmaking.” View "Keles v. Bender" on Justia Law

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Englewood, a non-profit corporation with a single community hospital in Bergen County, New Jersey, provides primary, secondary, and some non-complex tertiary services to patients. It lacks the expertise, regulatory approvals, and facilities to provide more complex tertiary and quaternary services. Hackensack, New Jersey's largest hospital system, has multiple academic medical centers, community hospitals, specialty hospitals, a medical school, and a research institution, including two hospitals in Bergen County.The Federal Trade Commission opposes a merger between Englewood and Hackensack and filed an administrative complaint citing the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18. To prevent the parties from merging before the administrative adjudication, the FTC filed suit under Section 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act. The Third Circuit affirmed the entry of a preliminary injunction. The FTC established that there is a reasonable probability that the merger will substantially impair competition. The court upheld the district court’s acceptance of the FTC’s proposed relevant geographic market defined by all hospitals used by commercially insured patients residing in Bergen County; price discrimination is not a prerequisite for a patient-based market. The district court did not err in finding that there would be a significant price impact and any benefits that would result from the merger did not offset anticompetitive concerns. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Hackensack Meridian Health Inc" on Justia Law

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Becker’s pregnant girlfriend was shot to death on August 12, 2011. In an interview immediately after the shooting, Becker waived his Miranda rights and stated that he only wanted to clean the gun and “play around.” On August 18, after Becker’s discharge from a psychiatric hospital, he went voluntarily for a second interview. In a video-recorded interview, police repeated the Miranda warnings and neither placed Becker in handcuffs nor arrested him. The door to the interview room was unlocked. Police offered Becker drinks, cigarettes, and breaks. After approximately one hour, Becker stated: “I have nothing more to say ‘cause no matter what I say, youse trying to make me something I’m not.” Investigators left the room for several minutes. About an hour later, Becker responded to questions regarding his abusive history: “OK. I’m done now.” He never explicitly asked or attempted to leave. Police continued to question Becker, who was convicted of murder in the first degree and murder in the third degree. Becker unsuccessfully appealed the denial of his motion to suppress the second interview.The district court rejected his federal habeas petition and found “no basis” for a Certificate of Appealability (COA). The Third Circuit affirmed, applying the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, 28 U.S.C. 2254 deferential standard to the state trial court’s findings when considering a request for a COA. Becker cannot meet that standard. View "Becker v. Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Defreitas, an enforcement officer for the U.S. Virgin Islands (U.S.V.I.) Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, asked for sexual favors in exchange for not reporting a female immigrant who was unlawfully present in the U.S.V.I. Defreitas was convicted of soliciting a bribe, V.I. CODE tit. 14, 403, and violating the Travel Act, 18 U.S.C. 1952(a)(3) but was acquitted of a blackmail charge, 18 U.S.C. 873.The Third Circuit declined the request to certify any questions to the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands but vacated the convictions, holding hold that the evidence presented was insufficient to prove that Defreitas engaged in an “official act” under either statute. Custom may inform the understanding of official duties when those “duties [are] not completely defined by written rules,” but custom alone cannot establish what constitutes an “official act.” Even assuming that the testimony of Defreitas’s partner established a custom of reporting undocumented immigrants, that evidence was insufficient to prove that Defreitas’s decision not to report was an “official act.” There existed no internal regulation, guideline, or statute that advised the Department to engage in any activity related to the policing of immigration laws. View "United States v. Defreitas" on Justia Law

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Garmendia testified that he first entered the U.S. in 2017 although there was evidence that he had previously been returned to El Salvador. In 2019, he was arrested as an active MS-13 gang member. After the IJ granted a continuance to secure counsel, Garmendia stated that he wanted to proceed without counsel, had “no” mental health issues, and understood the procedural rights explained by the IJ. Later, represented by counsel, Garmendia sought asylum and withholding of removal, citing his membership in a particular social group, political opinion, and the Convention Against Torture. Before his hearing, Garmendia’s counsel withdrew; he confirmed that he wanted to proceed. When questioned about inconsistencies with his application, Garmendia stated that he had “issues remembering things.” Garmendia did not press the political opinion or torture grounds. The IJ ordered him removed, finding Garmendia’s application untimely under the one-year requirement; that Garmendia’s testimony was internally inconsistent and implausible as "inconsistent with the operations of MS-13”; that no social group had been identified; that there was no past persecution and no well-founded fear of future persecution. The BIA affirmed. Garmendia did not contest that he had suffered no past persecution.The Third Circuit denied a petition for review. The IJ did not violate Garmendia’s due process rights by failing to develop the record or provide a fundamentally fair hearing. Substantial evidence supports the decision on the merits. View "Hernandez Garmendia v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The parents of M.W., a minor eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), filed a Petition for Due Process against the Board of Education. Before a scheduled hearing, the ALJ met with counsel, M.W.’s parent, and a Board representative. The terms of a purported settlement were read into the record. In a “Decision Approving Settlement,” the ALJ made specific findings and ordered, “that the parties comply with the settlement terms.” The parents later contacted the Board, repudiating the agreement, and moved the ALJ to “set aside the settlement.” They filed suit, seeking relief under the IDEA.The district court questioned whether the ALJ’s bare findings that the settlement was entered into voluntarily and resolved all disputes satisfied the IDEA's jurisdictional requirements, concluded that it lacked jurisdiction, citing IDEA provisions for the enforceability of settlement agreements (20 U.S.C. 1415(e), 1415(f)(1)(B)), and held that the ALJ’s decision was not based on “substantive grounds,” under 1415(f). The Third Circuit reversed. The entry of a “Decision Approving Settlement” in an IDEA dispute satisfies section 1415(I)'s jurisdictional prerequisite to an appeal of an administrative IDEA determination. If a prevailing party may enforce a settlement agreement embodied in an administrative consent order as an “aggrieved party” under 1415(i)(2), then a party seeking to challenge such an order as improperly entered must likewise be able to bring a challenge in federal court. View "G W v. Ringwood Board of Education" on Justia Law