Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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A Harrisburg, Pennsylvania ordinance prohibits persons to “knowingly congregate, patrol, picket or demonstrate in a zone extending 20 feet from any portion of an entrance to, exit from, or driveway of a health care facility.” Individuals purporting to provide “sidewalk counseling” to those entering abortion clinics claimed that the ordinance violated their First Amendment rights to speak, exercise their religion, and assemble, and their due process and equal protection rights. The court determined that the ordinance was content-neutral because it did not define or regulate speech by subject-matter or purpose, so that intermediate scrutiny applied, and reasoned that it must accept as true (on a motion to dismiss) claims that the city did not consider less restrictive alternatives. The claims proceeded to discovery. In denying preliminary injunctive relief, the court ruled that plaintiffs did not demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits. The Third Circuit vacated. In deciding whether to issue a preliminary injunction, plaintiffs normally bear the burden of demonstrating likelihood of prevailing on the merits. In First Amendment cases where the government bears the burden of proof on the ultimate question of a statute’s constitutionality, plaintiffs must be deemed likely to prevail for purposes of considering a preliminary injunction unless the government has shown that plaintiffs’ proposed less restrictive alternatives are less effective than the statute. View "Reilly v. City of Harrisburg" on Justia Law

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Deadline for petition to Tax Court is jurisdictional and cannot be waived for equitable reasons. When spouses file a joint tax return, each is jointly and severally liable for the tax due, 26 U.S.C. 6013(d); the IRS may grant relief where it would be “inequitable to hold the individual liable.” Rubel and her ex-husband filed joint income tax returns, 2005-2008. They had an unpaid tax liability for each year. In 2015, Rubel sought relief under the innocent spouse relief provisions. On January 4, 2016, the IRS denied relief for tax years 2006-2008. On January 13, the IRS sent a denial for 2005. The determinations stated that Rubel could appeal to the Tax Court within 90 days; Rubel needed to file a petition by April 4 for the 2006-2008 tax years and by April 12 for 2005. Rubel submitted additional information to the IRS. In a March 3 letter, the IRS stated that it “still propose[d] to deny relief” and, incorrectly, “Your time to petition … will end on Apr. 19.” Rubel mailed a petition on April 19. The Third Circuit affirmed the Tax Court’s dismissal. The deadline set forth in 26 U.S.C. 6015(e)(1)(A), is jurisdictional and cannot be altered, regardless of the equities of the case. View "Rubel v. Commissioner Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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The consolidated appeals involve allegations that the companies holding the patents for Lipitor and Effexor XR delayed entry into the market by generic versions of those drugs by engaging in an overarching monopolistic scheme that involved fraudulently procuring and enforcing the underlying patents and then entering into a reverse-payment settlement agreement with a generic manufacturer. In 2013, the Supreme Court recognized that reverse payment schemes can violate antitrust laws and that it is normally not necessary to litigate patent validity to answer the antitrust question. The district judge dismissed most of plaintiffs’ claims. The Third Circuit remanded after rejecting an argument that plaintiffs’ allegations required transfer of the appeals to the Federal Circuit, which has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from civil actions “arising under” patent law, 28 U.S.C. 1295(a)(1). Not all cases presenting questions of patent law necessarily arise under patent law; here, patent law neither creates plaintiffs’ cause of action nor is a necessary element to any of plaintiffs’ well-pleaded claims. The court remanded one of the Lipitor appeals, brought by a group of California pharmacists and involving claims solely under California law, for jurisdictional discovery and determination of whether remand to state court was appropriate. View "In re: Lipitor Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs suffered from disabilities, for which each was prescribed an emotional support animal. Each woman obtained a dog. This violated the “no dogs” rule of their condominium association. Plaintiffs each sought an accommodation for an emotional support animal by filing paperwork, with a doctor’s letter prescribing an emotional support animal, and a dog certification. Other residents became upset about the presence of the dogs. The condominium board voted to impose a fine. When a new Board President took office, the Board granted the accommodation requests and waived the accrued fines. Plaintffs filed suit under the Fair Housing Act, alleging that the association denied their reasonable requests for accommodation (42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(3)(B)) and interfered with the exercise of their fair housing rights (42 U.S.C. 3617). Plaintiff Walters committed suicide while her case was pending. The district court dismissed Walters’ Fair Housing Act claims entirely due to her death and rejected Kromenhoek’s claims on the merits. The Third Circuit reversed. The survival of claims under the Fair Housing Act is not governed by Section 1988(a), but by federal common law, under which a claim survives the death of a party. There were genuine issues of material fact regarding the merits of the claims. View "Revock v. Cowpet Bay West Condominium Association" on Justia Law

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Pennsylvania resident Rarick worked for a company that insured its vehicles under a policy issued by Federated, a Minnesota corporation, under which the employer waived uninsured motorist coverage for most of its employees, including Rarick. Rarick alleged that he suffered injuries after he crashed a company car because an unidentified vehicle forced him off the road. Rarick submitted a claim to Federated for uninsured motorist benefits. Federated denied the claim. Rarick filed a class action, seeking a declaration that Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law required Federated to provide Rarick with uninsured motorist coverage. Rarick also requested damages for breach of contract. On a motion to remand to state court, the district court adopted a “heart of the matter” test to determine whether it had discretion to decline jurisdiction, found that the crux of the litigation was declaratory, noted “the nature and novelty of the state law issues,” declined jurisdiction and remanded the case. The Third Circuit vacated, stating that the heart of the matter test is problematic because it enables plaintiffs to avoid federal subject matter jurisdiction through artful pleading. The independent claim test is the applicable legal standard for review of a complaint that seeks both legal and declaratory relief. View "Rarick v. Federated Service Insurance Co" on Justia Law

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Pleasant Valley High School wrestling coach Getz allegedly assaulted team member C.M. and discriminated against C.M.’s sister, A.M. based on her gender. Plaintiffs alleged that during practice, C.M. was forced to wrestle a larger student, who threw him through the doors into the hallway and punched him. After Getz prodded C.M. to keep wrestling, an altercation ensued, in which Getz lifted C.M. up and “smash[ed] his head and back into the wall.” C.M., A.M., and their mother sued. The School Defendants asserted that discovery showed that Plaintiffs made numerous false statements in the complaint and amended complaint, and their claims lacked merit and that Plaintiffs’ Rule 56.1 statement contained false statements. The district court denied Defendants’ Rule 11 motions as “meritless,” noting that these Rule 11 motions tax judicial resources and emphasizing that the truth of the allegations in a case of this sort is revealed through discovery and addressed at summary judgment or trial, not via motions for sanctions. On interlocutory appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed. The district court appropriately exercised its wide discretion in concluding the motions lacked merit, and were counterproductive as they relied upon factual discrepancies that did not show the claims were patently frivolous. View "Moeck v. Pleasant Valley School District" on Justia Law

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In 2009, two groups of Pennsylvania hospital employees claimed they were not properly compensated for work performed during meal breaks. They sought to bring a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 216(b). The actions were conditionally certified and “opt-in” notices were sent to potential plaintiffs. More than 3,000 individuals joined one collective action and more than 800 opted in to the other. The parties conducted collective action related discovery for nearly two years. Both judges subsequently decertified the collective actions, reasoning that the opt-in plaintiffs were not similarly situated to the named plaintiffs. Their job duties varied significantly; those duties were “highly relevant in terms of how, why and whether the employees were compensated properly for missed or interrupted meal breaks.” More than 300 different individuals supervised the plaintiffs and had individual authority to implement policies. The named plaintiffs successfully moved to voluntarily dismiss their claims with prejudice (FRCP 41(a)). The Third Circuit rejected an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The same law firm then filed new claims against the same defendants, with new named plaintiffs, which were dismissed based on issue preclusion. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that only plaintiffs who had accepted an offer of judgment had been dismissed with prejudice. When the other opt-in plaintiffs were dismissed without prejudice, they did not suffer an adverse judgment on the merits of any claim. View "Halle v. West Penn Allegheny Health System, Inc." on Justia Law

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Marshall was sentenced to death in Pennsylvania in 1984 and has been pursuing a federal habeas petition since 2003. Marshall initially filed his petition through the Federal Community Defender; years later, on Marshall’s motion, the district court appointed new attorneys to represent Marshall. Marshall soon became dissatisfied with them because they would not withdraw the habeas petition filed by the Community Defender and assert different claims. Marshall eventually filed pro se a document, requesting an order: removing his new counsel; striking the habeas petition and other documents filed by the Community Defender; allowing the filing of a new habeas petition “nunc pro tunc”; and remanding for a new hearing “nunc pro tunc” in state court. In 2015, the court dismissed Marshall’s last three requests without prejudice. Counsel sought a determination of Marshall’s mental competence. The court held three hearings before Marshall consented to a psychiatric evaluation, which concluded that Marshall is not competent to assist his counsel or to proceed pro se. Eight days after a fourth hearing, before the court had announced any decision, Marshall filed a pro se notice of appeal. The district court subsequently found Marshall mentally incompetent and denied his request for removal of counsel. Marshall’s 30-day deadline to appeal that ruling expired without any filings. The Seventh Circuit dismissed. Marshall’s premature notice of appeal did not ripen when the district court issued its decision. View "Marshall v. Commissioner, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Hargus and others rented F&I's 26-foot ship, One Love, to travel throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands. F&I had hired Coleman as a captain. At Cruz Bay, Coleman anchored close to the shore. Most of the passengers disembarked. Later, members of the group, standing on the beach approximately 25 feet away from the boat, threw beer cans at Hargus while he was standing on the One Love’s deck. Coleman threw an empty insulated plastic coffee cup that hit Hargus on the side of his head. Hargus did not lose consciousness, nor complain of any injury. One Love resumed its journey. Days later, Hargus, having experienced pain and vision impairments, was diagnosed with a concussion and a mild contusion. Hargus had previously suffered 10-12 head injuries. The doctor allowed Hargus to return to work that day without restrictions. Hargus did not seek further medical treatment until a year later, when he was examined for headaches, memory loss, mood swings, and neck pain. Hargus filed suit, claiming a maritime lien against the One Love, negligence, and negligent entrustment. The district court awarded $50,000, concluding that it had admiralty jurisdiction, that Coleman was negligent and that the One Love was liable in rem. The Third Circuit vacated, holding that the act giving rise to Hargus’ claim was insufficient to invoke maritime jurisdiction because it was not of the type that could potentially disrupt maritime commerce. The district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. View "Hargus v. Ferocious & Impetuous, LLC" on Justia Law

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As a result of criminal convictions Immigration and Customs Enforcement sought removal of lawful U.S. permanent residents. Pending removal proceedings, each was detained under 8 U.S.C. 1226(c), which provides that if ICE has “reason to believe” that an alien is “deportable” or “inadmissible” by virtue of having committed a specified crime, that alien “shall” be taken into custody when released from detention for that crime, "without regard to whether the alien is released on parole, supervised release, or probation, and without regard to whether the alien may be arrested or imprisoned again for the same offense.” In a purported class action, the district court dismissed in part, holding that section 1226(c) did not violate substantive due process with respect to aliens who assert a substantial challenge to their removability. The court later held that the form giving aliens notice of their right to seek a hearing does not provide constitutionally adequate notice, that the government was required to revise the form, and that procedures for that hearing violate due process by not placing the initial burden on the government. The court then denied a motion to certify the class, stating that certification was “unnecessary” because “all aliens who are subjected to mandatory detention would benefit from the injunctive relief and remedies.” Stating that the district court “put the cart before the horse a,” the Third Circuit vacated. Once petitioners were released from detention, their individual claims became moot so the court retained jurisdiction only to rule on the motion for class certification—not to decide the merits issues. View "Gayle v. Warden Monmouth Cnty. Corr. Inst." on Justia Law