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Santarelli was convicted of multiple crimes, including mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, and was sentenced to 70 months of imprisonment. The Third Circuit affirmed. Santarelli’s conviction became final on December 12, 2014. On November 30, 2015, Santarelli timely sought habeas relief, 28 U.S.C. 2255, alleging ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel in a combined 130 ways, In August 2016, Santarelli sought to amend her initial habeas petition to “include” in the “multiple grounds and constitutional violations . . . that specifically relate to enhancements, sentencing[,] and [S]entencing [G]uidelines.” The district court denied the motion as “time-barred” because the new allegations did not “relate back” to the initial habeas petition pursuant to FRCP 15(c). The court also denied Santarelli’s habeas petition on the merits. The Third Circuit denied a certificate of appealability with respect to the denial of Santarelli’s initial habeas petition on the merits but held that the allegations contained in Santarelli’s Motion to Amend “relate back” to the date of her initial habeas petition under Rule 15(c) and that her Subsequent Petition is not a “second or successive” habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. 2244 and 2255(h). The court remanded for the district court to consider the merits of her initial habeas petition as amended. View "United States v. Santarelli" on Justia Law

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Spartan, which operated on St. Croix, sought to displace Heavy Materials as the sole provider of ready-mix concrete on St. Thomas. Upon entering the St. Thomas market, Spartan started a price war that caused financial losses to Spartan while Heavy Materials retained its dominant position. After three years of fierce competition, the companies reached a truce: Spartan agreed to sell on St. Croix while Heavy Materials would keep selling on St. Thomas. Spartan then sued Argos, a bulk cement vendor, alleging violations of the Robinson-Patman Act, 15 U.S.C. 13(a), by giving Heavy Materials a 10 percent volume discount during the price war. The district court entered judgment for Argos and denied Spartan leave to amend its complaint to include two tort claims, finding undue delay and prejudice. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although Argos gave Heavy Materials alone a 10 percent volume discount on concrete, Spartan presented no evidence linking this discount to its inability to compete in the St. Thomas market. Spartan did compete with Heavy Materials for three years and not only lowered its retail prices, but also began a price war and achieved a nearly 30 percent share of the St. Thomas retail ready-mix concrete market. View "Spartan Concrete Products LLC v. Argos USVI Corp." on Justia Law

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Oberdorf walked her dog with a retractable leash. Unexpectedly, the dog lunged. The D-ring on the collar broke and the leash recoiled and hit Oberdorf’s face and eyeglasses, leaving Oberdorf permanently blind in her left eye. Oberdorf bought the collar on Amazon.com. She sued Amazon.com, including claims for strict products liability and negligence. The district court found that, under Pennsylvania law, Amazon was not liable for Oberdorf’s injuries. A third-party vendor, not Amazon itself, had listed the collar on Amazon’s online marketplace and shipped the collar directly to Oberdorf. The court found that Amazon was not a “seller” under Pennsylvania law and that Oberdorf’s claims were barred by the Communications Decency Act (CDA) because she sought to hold Amazon liable for its role as the online publisher of third-party content. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded. Amazon is a “seller” under section 402A of the Second Restatement of Torts and thus subject to the Pennsylvania strict products liability law. Amazon’s involvement in transactions extends beyond a mere editorial function; it plays a large role in the actual sales process. Oberdorf’s claims against Amazon are not barred by section 230 of the CDA except as they rely upon a “failure to warn” theory of liability. The court affirmed the dismissal under the CDA of the failure to warn claims. View "Oberdorf v. Amazon.com Inc" on Justia Law

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Nunez was indicted for passport fraud, making a false representation of U.S. citizenship, using a false social security number, and producing a state driver’s license not issued for her use. Nunez was detained under the Bail Reform Act (BRA), 18 U.S.C. 3142(d), which permits the 10-day pretrial detention of non-citizens who may pose a flight risk or danger so ICE may take them into custody. ICE lodged a detainer. Twelve days later, a different magistrate arraigned Nunez, denied the government’s motion for pretrial detention, and set conditions for her release. The district court upheld the order. ICE then executed its detainer, taking Nunez into custody for her removal proceedings. While in ICE custody, Nunez unsuccessfully moved to dismiss her indictment or obtain release, arguing that section 3142(d) gives the government “the choice of [either] taking the Defendant into [ICE] custody during the ten-day period and proceeding with removal or continuing with the criminal prosecution in which case the BRA controls.” The court held that 8 U.S.C. 1226(a)(1) allowed ICE to detain Nunez during the pendency of removal proceedings notwithstanding the criminal action; her detention did not conflict with the BRA. The Third Circuit dismissed an appeal of the ruling denying the request to dismiss the indictment, which was not a final ruling. The court affirmed the denial of Nunez’s claim that her BRA release order foreclosed her ICE detention. View "United States v. Nunez" on Justia Law

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E.D., a female immigration detainee at the Berks County Residential Center Immigration Family Center (BCRC), brought a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against employee Sharkey, alleging that he violated her Fourteenth Amendment right to bodily integrity after the two had sexual relations. Sharkey’s co-workers and BCRC supervisor allegedly were deliberately indifferent to the violation and Berks County allegedly failed to implement policies to prevent the violating conduct. The District Court denied the defendants’ motion for qualified immunity. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that immigration detainees are entitled to the same constitutional protections afforded by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as pre-trial detainees and E.D.’s rights were clearly established. There is enough evidence to support an inference that the defendants knew of the risk facing E.D., and that their failure to take additional steps to protect her, acting in their capacity as either a co-worker or supervisor, “could be viewed by a factfinder as the sort of deliberate indifference” to a detainee’s safety that the Constitution forbids. View "E. D. v. Sharkey" on Justia Law

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Hill built Commerce Bank from a single commercial bank location in 1973 by emphasizing customer loyalty through initiatives such as extended hours, quick account openings, and free perks. His success brought personal acclaim. The relationship between Hill and Commerce soured, culminating in Hill’s 2007 termination and TD Bank’s acquisition of Commerce for $8.5 billion. The publication of a book Hill had written during his Commerce tenure was canceled. In 2012, Hill wrote a new book. TD filed a copyright lawsuit alleging that parts of the 2012 book infringe the earlier book. In enjoining Hill from publishing or marketing his book, the district court concluded that TD owned the copyright under a letter agreement and that Hill’s book irreparably violated its “right to not use the copyright.” The Third Circuit vacated the injunction, reasoning that the district court had made “sweeping conclusions” that would justify the issuance of an injunction in every copyright case. Instead of employing “categorical rule[s]” that would resolve the propriety of injunctive relief “in a broad swath of cases,” courts should issue injunctive relief only upon a sufficient showing that such relief is warranted under particular circumstances. Although the agreement between the parties did not vest initial ownership of the copyright by purporting to designate the manuscript a work “for hire,” it did transfer any ownership interest Hill possessed to TD, so Hill’s co-ownership defense fails. View "TD Bank NA v. Hill" on Justia Law

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The FBI recruited Fairview Township Police Officer Baker’s fellow officer, Bennage, to assist in an investigation into allegations that Baker was involved in stealing drug proceeds. Baker learned that Bennage had found cash on a drug-overdose victim; Baker texted, “Where’s mine? LOL.” Bennage responded that others had been watching. Baker responded, “next time. LOL.” Days later, after Bennage and other officers discovered multiple stacks of cash during a search, Baker sent Bennage a text saying that he would help with the evidence and “don’t get greedy, be smart.” Baker told Bennage to put his share in a toolbox in Baker’s truck. Less than a month later, the FBI and Bennage executed an undercover operation in which Bennage and Baker stopped an FBI agent traveling with $15,000, posing as a drug trafficker. Bennage took the ‘trafficker’ in for booking, leaving Baker alone with the vehicle. Baker searched the car. He discovered the $15,000. FBI cameras recorded the process. Baker took $3,000. He later confessed to the thefts and was convicted of stealing or embezzling public money, 18 U.S.C. 641. The Third Circuit affirmed, upholding the trial court’s refusal to give an entrapment jury instruction and a jury instruction requiring the government to prove that he had an intent to permanently, rather than temporarily, deprive the government of its money, and its refusal to allow Mrs. Baker to testify about the financial burden of her cancer-related medical bills. View "United States v. Baker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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James arranged to sell cocaine to a DEA confidential informant, took a bag containing 12 kilograms of cocaine to a hotel room where the informant was staying, and negotiated a price of $13,500. DEA agents immediately arrived and arrested James. James, who apparently had no criminal history, was charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics, 21 U.S.C. 846, and possession with intent to distribute narcotics, section 841(a)(1). After being thoroughly questioned by the judge, James agreed to the government’s statement of facts and entered a plea of guilty to Count 1, which the court accepted. Months later, before sentencing, James filed a pro se “motion to dismiss counsel based upon ineffectiveness of counsel,” asserting his innocence, and claiming duress and that he did not understand the plea agreement. Newly-appointed counsel moved to withdraw the plea and argued entrapment. The court denied the motion, reasoning that “an entrapment defense is a claim of legal innocence, not factual innocence,” and James had failed to assert factual innocence. The Third Circuit affirmed. Even if James’s assertion of legal innocence (entrapment) were sufficient, bald assertions of innocence are insufficient to permit a defendant to withdraw his guilty plea. The court noted his earlier admissions, including that he negotiated the price on a per-kilo basis; James’s statements during the plea hearing indicate that his plea was knowing, voluntary, and fully informed. View "United States v. James" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Brooks, Debtor's CEO, was charged with financial crimes. In class action and derivative lawsuits, Debtor proposed a global settlement that indemnified Brooks for liability under the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX), 15 U.S.C. 7243. Cohen, Debtor’s former General Counsel and a shareholder, claimed that the indemnification was unlawful. The district court approved the settlement, Cohen, represented by CLM, appealed. The Second Circuit vacated, noting that the EDNY would determine CLM’s attorneys’ fees award. Debtor initiated Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The Bankruptcy Court confirmed Debtor’s liquidation plan, with a trustee to pursue Debtor’s interest in recouping its losses from the ongoing actions. Brooks died in prison. Because his appeal had not concluded, some of his convictions and restitution obligations were abated. Stakeholders negotiated a second global settlement agreement, under which $142 million of Brooks’ restrained assets were to be distributed to his victims; $70 million has been remitted to Debtor. The Bankruptcy Court awarded CLM fees for the SOX 304 claim; the amount would be determined if Debtor received any funds on account of the claim. CLM’s Fee Appeal remains pending at the district court. CLM requested a $25 million reserve for payment of its fees. The Bankruptcy Court ordered Debtor to set aside $5 million. CLM’s Fee Reserve Appeal remains pending. CLM then moved, unsuccessfully, for a stay of Second Settlement Agreement distributions. In its Stay Denial Appeal, CLM’s motion requesting a stay of distributions was denied. The Third Circuit affirmed. The $5 million reserve is sufficient. A $5 million attorneys’ fees award for 1,502.2 hours of legal work totaling $549,472.61 of documented fees would yield an hourly rate of $3,328.45 and a lodestar multiplier of over nine. In common fund cases where attorneys’ fees are calculated using the lodestar method, multiples from one to four are the norm. View "SS Body Armor I, Inc. v. Carter Ledyard & Milburn, LLP" on Justia Law

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Baloga, a school district custodian since 1999 and vice president of the custodial union since 2010, claimed that the Pittston District and its maintenance director, Serino, violated his First Amendment rights by retaliating against him based on his union association and related speech. The relationship between the union and the District—and, in particular, Serino—was strained. Baloga had filed a grievance about a scheduling change and was subsequently transferred. The district court rejected the claims on summary judgment, concluding that Baloga’s activity was not constitutionally protected because it did not implicate a matter of public concern. The Third Circuit reversed in part. Where a public employee asserts retaliation in violation of the First Amendment as a free speech claim and a pure union association claim, those claims must be analyzed separately. Consistent with longstanding Supreme Court precedent, there is no need to make a separate showing of public concern for a pure union association claim because membership in a public union is “always a matter of public concern.” Baloga raised a triable issue about whether he was retaliated against based solely on his union association. View "Baloga v. Pittston Area School District" on Justia Law