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

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Arrington claims he stopped engaging in drug activity after he was released from prison on parole in 2007. The government contends Arrington became a Pennsylvania drug supplier. In 2009, the police arrested Arrington’s co-conspirators. Arrington helped them attempt to escape apprehension. He abandoned his parole appointments and fled the state. Arrington was subsequently charged with possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to do the same, and traveling in interstate commerce with the intent to facilitate unlawful activity. His co-conspirators testified against him. Arrington claims he told his attorney, Kress, that he wanted to testify to explain that he absconded from parole not because of his involvement in drug trafficking; Kress did not honor this request because doing so would open Arrington to cross-examination, which might enable the government to introduce evidence of his prior convictions. Kress allegedly never sought Arrington's consent to waive his right to testify or explained that the decision was his to make. However, during his closing argument, Kress covered some of the material to which Arrington claims he would have testified.Arrington moved to vacate his convictions under 28 U.S.C. 2255, arguing that Kress was ineffective for unilaterally waiving his right to testify. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. The bar for obtaining an evidentiary hearing on a section 2255 motion is low but Arrington does not meet it, because his claim conclusively fails Strickland’s prejudice prong. View "United States v. Arrington" on Justia Law

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When Aleckna filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, she still owed the University (CCU) tuition. The filing of her bankruptcy petition imposed an “automatic stay” of all collection actions against her. While her case was pending, Aleckna, who had completed her coursework, asked CCU for a copy of her transcript. The University would only provide her with an incomplete transcript that did not include her graduation date, explaining that a “financial hold” had been placed on her account. Aleckna filed a counterclaim in the Bankruptcy Court arguing that CCU violated the automatic stay by refusing to provide her with a complete certified transcript, 11 U.S.C. 362(a)(6).The Bankruptcy Court found in Aleckna’s favor, concluding that she was entitled to receive her complete transcript, plus damages and attorneys’ fees because CCU’s violation was “willful.” The district court and Third Circuit affirmed. Section 362(k) provides that an individual who commits a willful violation is liable for damages and attorneys’ fees unless “such violation is based on an action taken by an entity in the good faith belief” that the stay had terminated. Precedent establishes a “willfulness” defense that is distinct from one of good faith but CCU failed to show that the law regarding the transcript issue was sufficiently unsettled to establish a lack of willfulness within the meaning of that precedent. View "In re: Aleckna" on Justia Law

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The Arbitration Board, in its Merits Award, held that Verizon violated a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with its Union by contracting with common carriers to deliver FiOS TV set-top boxes to “existing customers” for self-installation, work that used to be performed exclusively by Union Service Technicians. Months later, the Board, in creating a “remedy,” expanded the scope of the violation to include deliveries to both existing and new customers and also the accompanying self-installations.The Third Circuit affirmed the district court in vacating the Remedy Award to the extent that it awards damages for work that falls beyond the outer bounds of the Merits Award--the delivery of boxes to existing customers. The deference given to arbitration awards is almost unparalleled, but not absolute. An arbitrator’s powers are limited by the parties’ agreement, which is made against a background of default legal rules. Under these default rules, an arbitrator who has decided an issue is prohibited from revising that decision without the consent of the parties. He can decide other issues submitted by the parties, correct clerical errors, and clarify his initial decision— but nothing more. The Board improperly awarded punitive damages, which are not permitted under the CBA. View "Verizon Pennsylvania LLC v. Communications Workers of America" on Justia Law

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Harper runs deliveries under the “Amazon Flex” program, which supplements Amazon’s traditional delivery services. Interested drivers use an app to sign up to drive packages from Amazon warehouses, affiliated grocers, and participating restaurants to home shoppers. Harper signed up, clicking on a brightly colored button stating, “I AGREE AND ACCEPT” following the Terms of Service. The Terms included an arbitration provision with an “opt-out” process and specified that Washington law applies. Harper filed a putative class action on behalf of similarly situated New Jersey Amazon Flex drivers, alleging that Amazon misclassified them as independent contractors when they really are employees. Amazon moved to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act. Harper cited the exemption for a “class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce,” 9 U.S.C. 1, noting that the drivers make some deliveries across state lines. Amazon argued that the claim is also arbitrable under state law. The district court ordered discovery to determine whether Harper falls within the FAA exception, declining to reach Amazon’s alternative state law argument.The Third Circuit vacated. Federal courts sitting in diversity must decide state law claims, including state arbitrability, even where the FAA may apply. That is a threshold inquiry, ensuring prompt review of state law claims, particularly before turning to discovery to sort through a comparatively complex federal question. View "Harper v. Amazon.com Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Under 8 U.S.C. 1226(c), the government must detain noncitizens who are removable because they committed certain specified offenses or have connections with terrorism, and it must hold them without bond pending their removal proceedings. In 2012, the plaintiffs filed a habeas petition on behalf of a putative class of noncitizens who are detained under section 1226(c) in New Jersey, contending that it violates due process to mandatorily detain noncitizens who have substantial defenses to removal and that the procedure for conducting “Joseph” hearings is constitutionally inadequate.The Third Circuit held that section 1226(c) is constitutional even as applied to noncitizens who have substantial defenses to removal. For those detainees who contend that they are not properly included within section 1226(c) and are therefore entitled to a Josepth hearing, the government has the burden to establish the applicability of section 1226(c) by a preponderance of the evidence and the government must make available a contemporaneous record of the hearing, consisting of an audio recording, a transcript, or their functional equivalent. Section 1252(f)(1) does not authorize classwide injunctions, so the court reversed the district court’s order in part. View "Gayle v. Warden Monmouth County Correctional Institution" on Justia Law

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In March 2010, Orrstown made a stock offering at $27 per share. SEPTA invested some of its pension funds in Orrstown stock during this offering and later purchased Orrstown stock on the open market. In 2011-2012 Orrstown made disclosures concerning its financial health. Orrstown’s stock price dropped following each disclosure falling to $8.20 by April 2012.SEPTA filed a purported class action in May 2012, on behalf of a “Securities Act Class" of investors who purchased Orrstown stock “in connection with, or traceable to,” Orrstown’s 2010 Registration Statement, and the “Exchange Act Class” of investors who later purchased Orrstown stock on the open market. A first amended complaint added the Underwriters and the Auditor. The district court dismissed the amended complaint without prejudice for failure to meet pleading requirements. SEPTA filed its Second Amended Complaint in February 2016. The court dismissed all Securities Act claims against Orrstown but did not dismiss the Exchange Act claims except for some individual Orrstown officers. The court dismissed all claims against the Underwriters and the Auditor. The parties began discovery, which triggered a lengthy process in which the parties sought to have federal and state regulators review the relevant documents. In April 2019, SEPTA moved for leave to file a Third Amended Complaint, arguing it had identified evidence to support previously-dismissed claims through discovery.The court granted SEPTA’s motion despite the expiration of the three-year (Securities Act) and five-year (Exchange Act) repose periods. The Third Circuit affirmed. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c), which provides an exception more commonly applied to statutes of limitations, also allows amendment of a pleading after the expiration of a repose period here because the Rule’s “relation-back” doctrine leaves the legislatively-mandated deadline intact and does not disturb any of the defendants’ vested rights. View "Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority v. Orrstown Financial Services Inc." on Justia Law

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B.C., a native of Cameroon, primarily speaks “Pidgin” English, and reports that he has only limited abilities in “Standard” English. He fled from Cameroon to the U.S. after allegedly facing persecution at the hands of his government and, in removal proceedings, applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture. In interviews and hearings, immigration officials either presumed he spoke “Standard” English or gave him a binary choice between “English or Spanish” or “English or French.” Despite persistent clues that he was not fluent in “Standard” English, he was left without an interpreter, resulting in confusion and misunderstanding. Relying on purported “inconsistencies” in his statements, an IJ denied B.C.'s applications on the ground that he was not credible. The BIA affirmed. When presented with additional country conditions evidence, expert reports on the linguistic differences between “Standard” and “Pidgin” English, and B.C.’s card showing membership in an allegedly persecuted group, the BIA denied his motion to reopen.The Third Circuit vacated. B.C. was denied due process because the IJ did not conduct an adequate initial evaluation of whether an interpreter was needed and took no action even after the language barrier became apparent, resulting in a muddled record and impermissibly coloring the agency’s adverse credibility determination. On remand, the agency must also remedy other errors B.C. has identified by dealing with the corroborative evidence he submitted. View "B. C. v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Shorter, a transgender woman, has undergone hormone replacement therapy; her body is “openly female.” In 2015, she entered a Federal Correctional Institution to begin a 96-month sentence for creating a fraudulent “tax service.” Despite knowing that Shorter was transgender, prison officials first housed her in a room without a lock with 11 men. Prison officials screened her risk for sexual assault under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 regulations and concluded she was at “significantly” higher risk than other inmates because she presented as transgender, was small in stature, and had previously been sexually assaulted at another prison. Later, in an unlocked two-person cell, she was assigned a sex offender as her cellmate. Although the prison’s psychology department agreed Shorter should be transferred, she remained in the cell furthest from the officers. Shorter alleges that despite her repeated requests and grievances, she was ultimately stabbed and raped by a fellow inmate. She brought a pro se suit under “Bivens,” claiming officials violated her Eighth Amendment rights by deliberate indifference to the substantial risk that another inmate would assault her.Citing 28 U.S.C. 1915 and 1915A, the district court dismissed her complaint sua sponte before allowing her to serve the defendants. The Third Circuit reversed. Shorter’s case falls comfortably within one of the few contexts in which the Supreme Court has recognized a Bivens remedy. Shorter adequately pleaded a violation of the Eighth Amendment. View "Shorter v. United States" on Justia Law

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Singh, a native of India,arrived in the U.S. in 1991, without travel documents or proof of identity. He falsely claimed that his name was Davinder Singh. Singh failed to appear at his immigration hearing and was ordered deported in absentia. Singh filed an asylum application under the name Baljinder Singh and married a U.S. citizen. Singh successfully petitioned to adjust his status to lawful permanent resident without disclosing his immigration history. When Singh later sought naturalization, he again failed to disclose his immigration history. In 2006, he became a U.S. citizen. In 2011, he pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin, MDMA, and marijuana. Singh’s citizenship was revoked, 8 U.S.C. 1451(a), because he illegally procured naturalization.An IJ held Singh removable both for having been convicted of an aggravated felony, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(U), conspiracy to commit a controlled substances offense, and for having been convicted of a controlled substances offense. The BIA dismissed his appeal. The Ninth Circuit remanded. The pertinent statutory provisions permit removal only of individuals who were “aliens” at the time of their criminal convictions. The court rejected an argument that Singh should be treated as if he had never been naturalized and was actually an “alien” at the time he was convicted. View "Singh v. Attorney General of the United States" on Justia Law

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New Jersey Law Enforcement Directive 2018-6, states “that individuals are less likely to report a crime if they fear that the responding officer will turn them over to immigration authorities,” and barred counties and local law enforcement from assisting federal immigration authorities by providing any non-public personally-identifying information regarding any individual, providing access to state, county, or local law enforcement equipment, office space, database, or property not available to the general public, providing access to a detained individual for an interview, without the detainee's written consent, or providing notice of a detained individual’s upcoming release from custody. The Directive prohibited local law enforcement agencies and officials from entering “any agreement to exercise federal immigration authority pursuant to Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act” and required them to “notify a detained individual” when federal immigration authorities requested to interview the person, to have the person detained past his release date, or to be informed of the person’s upcoming release.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of challenges to the Directive. For a federal law to preempt state law it must represent the exercise of a power conferred on Congress by the Constitution. Because the Constitution confers upon Congress the power to regulate individuals, not states, the federal law must be best read as one that regulates private actors, The cited federal laws, 8 U.S.C. 1373 and 1644, which regulate only state action, do not preempt the Directive. View "Ocean County Board of Commissioners v. Attorney General New Jersey" on Justia Law