Articles Posted in U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals

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Political groups challenged the constitutionality (42 U.S.C. 1983) of two provisions of Pennsylvania’s election code that regulate ballot access. Sections 2911(b) and 2872.2(a), require that candidates seeking to be included on the general election ballot (other than Republicans and Democrats) submit nomination papers with a specified number of signatures. Section 2937 allows private actors to object to such nomination papers and have them nullified, and permits a Pennsylvania court, as that court deems “just,” to impose administrative and litigation costs on a candidate if that candidate’s papers are rejected. The district court dismissed for lack of standing. The Third Circuit reversed, finding that the aspiring political parties established that their injury-in-fact can fairly be traced to the actions of the Commonwealth officials and that the injuries are redressable. View "Constitution Party of PA v. Aichele" on Justia Law

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Gonzalez sued his former employer, the Waterfront Commission of the New York Harbor, a bi-state instrumentality of New Jersey and New York that was created in 1953 to investigate, deter, combat, and remedy criminal activity in the Port of New York-New Jersey. He sought to enjoin disciplinary proceedings initiated by the Commission as a violation of his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the First Amendment. The Commission had determined that Gonzalez, an employee (detective) since 1999 had made false statement in an affidavit concerning another employee’s discrimination suit. The district court denied Gonzalez’s motion and ultimately stayed and administratively terminated the suit, finding that the Younger abstention doctrine precluded federal interference with the ongoing state disciplinary proceedings. While appeal was pending, the Supreme Court issued its 2013 decision, Sprint Communications, Inc. v. Jacobs, clarifying the abstention inquiry and defining the outer boundaries of the abstention doctrine. The Third Circuit affirmed, concluding that the decision to abstain was appropriate under the Sprint decision. View "Gonzalez v. Waterfront Comm'n of NY Harbor" on Justia Law

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Foglia, an RN, was hired by Renal, a dialysis care services company, in 2007, and was terminated in 2008. Foglia filed a qui tam complaint against Renal under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729, in 2009. The United States chose not to intervene. In a second amended complaint, Foglia claimed that Renal falsely certified that it was in compliance with state regulations regarding quality of care, falsely submitted claims for reimbursement for the drug Zemplar, and re-used single-use Zemplar vials. The court dismissed, finding that Foglia had failed to state his claim with the heightened level of particularity required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) for fraud claims. The court noted Foglia’s failure to provide a “representative sample” or to “identify representative examples of specific false claims” and that even if Foglia’s claim had met the requirement of Rule 9(b), Foglia “provided no authority under an express or implied false certification theory that the claims submitted … violated a rule or statute establishing compliance as a condition of payment.” Foglia appealed dismissal of his claim of over-billing on Zemplar. The Third Circuit reversed, noting that it was a close case, the need to assume that Foglia was correct in alleging that Renal did not follow proper procedures if it was to harvest “extra” Zemplar from used vials, and that only Renal has access to the documents that could prove the claim. View "Foglia v. Renal Ventures Mgmt., LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2001, the Bryan family’s adopted son, J.O., repeatedly raped and molested his younger foster brother, K.B., in the room the boys shared. After weeks of abuse, K.B. told his foster parents, who contacted the Erie County Office of Children and Youth (ECOCY), which had facilitated J.O.’s adoption, and had J.O. removed from their home. The Bryans blamed ECOCY for K.B.’s ordeal, claiming that ECOCY employees concealed J.O.’s history of violent behavior and sexual misconduct. The Bryans sued ECOCY and seven employees under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on a theory that permits recovery from state actors when “the state’s own actions create the very danger that causes the plaintiff’s injury.” During trial, the parties agreed to a high-low settlement. Regardless of the verdict, the Bryan family was to receive at least $900,000 and defendants were to pay no more than $2.7 million. The jury returned an $8.6 million verdict; the defendants tendered $2.7 million. The Bryans claimed breach of the settlement agreement’s confidentiality clause, rendering the deal unenforceable. The district court concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to decide whether to enforce those terms or the verdict. The Third Circuit remanded. The case was not dismissed, nor was the verdict satisfied. A district court’s jurisdiction does not terminate at the moment jury deliberations do. View "Bryan v. Erie Cnty. Office of Children & Youth" on Justia Law

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Reifer suffered a worker’s compensation injury at IU-20 where she provided special education. Her injuries prevented her from returning to work. She retained Attorney Russo. Russo carried legal malpractice insurance with Westport in compliance with the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct. When IU-20 initiated disciplinary proceedings against Reifer, Russo failed to appear at the hearing. When IU-20 terminated her, Russo failed to appeal. Russo filed suit alleging violation of Reifer’s employment rights, which he lost for failure to exhaust state remedies. When Reifer sought alternate employment, Russo advised her to answer an application question as to whether she had ever been terminated in the negative. Reifer was terminated and disciplined for the false answer. Reifer commenced a malpractice claim against Russo. Russo’s “claims-made” policy only covered losses claimed during the policy period or within 60 days of the policy’s expiration. Russo failed to inform Westport of the action until several months after the policy lapsed and he failed to secure a replacement policy. Westport refused to defend Russo. Russo admitted liability. A jury awarded Reifer $4,251,516. Russo assigned to Reifer his rights under the Westport policy. Reifer sought a declaratory judgment that Westport was required to show it was prejudiced by Russo’s failure to notify and, failing to do so, owed a duty to defend and indemnify. The federal district court, sua sponte declined to exercise jurisdiction and remanded to state court. The Third Circuit affirmed. View "Reifer v. Westport Ins. Corp." on Justia Law

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Apple introduced the iPad in 2010. To send and receive data over cellular networks (3G), customers had to purchase a data contract from AT&T and register on an AT&T website. AT&T prepopulated the user ID field on the login screen with customers’ email addresses by programming servers to search for the user’s Integrated Circuit Card Identifier to reduce the time to log into an account. Spitler discovered this “shortcut” and wrote a program, the “account slurper,” to repeatedly access the AT&T website, each time changing the ICC-ID by one digit. If an email address appeared in the login box, the program would save that address. Spitler shared this discovery with Auernheimer, who helped him to refine the account slurper, which collected 114,000 email addresses. Auernheimer emailed the media to publicize their exploits. AT&T fixed the breach. Auernheimer shared the list of email addresses with Tate, who published a story that mentioned some names of those whose email addresses were obtained, but published only redacted email addresses and ICC-IDs. Spitler was in California. Auernheimer was in Arkansas. The servers t were physically located in Texas and Georgia. Despite the absence of any connection to New Jersey, a Newark grand jury indicted Auernheimer for conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(2)(C) and (c)(2)(B)(ii), and identity fraud under 18 U.S.C. 1028(a)(7). The Third Circuit vacated his conviction. Venue in criminal cases is more than a technicality; it involves “matters that touch closely the fair administration of criminal justice and public confidence in it.” View "United States v. Auernheimer" on Justia Law

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Bason was an Assistant Attorney General with the Virgin Islands Department of Justice, subject to a collective bargaining agreement. The Governor of the Virgin Islands approved Bason’s immediate termination. The Union submitted a grievance challenging the decision. An arbitrator found that the Governor lacked just cause to remove Bason and awarded immediate reinstatement. The Virgin Islands Superior Court vacated the award “only to the extent that it grants relief prior to July 23, 2010.” The Government filed a notice of appeal. The Union moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing that the Virgin Islands Supreme Court lacked appellate jurisdiction because neither the court nor the arbitrator ever established the amount of back pay owed to Bason, rendering the judgment non-final. The Virgin Islands Supreme Court held that an order mandating immediate reinstatement constitutes an appealable injunction and reversed the reinstatement. The Union sought certiorari, but on December 28, 2012, the President signed H.R. 6116, to eliminate Third Circuit certiorari jurisdiction over final decisions of the Virgin Islands Supreme Court and replace it with direct review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Third Circuit concluded that it retained certiorari jurisdiction over proceedings that were filed in Virgin Islands courts before the enactment of H.R. 6116, but dismissed the petition as moot because Bason had died. View "United Indus., Serv., Transp., Prof'l, & Gov't Workers v. Gov't of the V.I." on Justia Law