Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
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Gentile, the owner of a New York broker-dealer, was involved in two pump-and-dump schemes to manipulate penny stocks in 2007-2008. Gentile was arrested in 2012 and agreed to cooperate, but the deal fell apart in 2016. The indictment was dismissed as untimely. Gentile was still the CEO of a Bahamas-based brokerage and the beneficial owner of a broker-dealer; he had expressed an intention to expand that brokerage and hire new employees. The SEC filed a civil enforcement action eight years after Gentile’s involvement in the second scheme, seeking an injunction against further securities law violations and an injunction barring participation in the penny stock industry. A five-year statute of limitations applies to any “action, suit or proceeding for the enforcement of any civil fine, penalty, or forfeiture, pecuniary or otherwise,” 28 U.S.C. 2462. The Supreme Court has held that “[d]isgorgement in the securities-enforcement context” is a “penalty” subject to that five-year limitations period. The district court dismissed, holding that those remedies were penalties. The Third Circuit vacated; 15 U.S.C. 78u(d) does not permit the issuance of punitive injunctions, so the injunctions at issue do not fall within the reach of section 2462. The court remanded for a determination of whether the injunctions sought are permitted under section 78u(d). View "Securities and Exchange Commission v. Gentile" on Justia Law

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The 1992 federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), 28 U.S.C. 3702, prohibited governmental entities from involvement in gambling concerning competitive sports. New Jersey’s 2012 Sports Wagering Act authorized sports gambling. NCAA and professional sports leagues (Appellees) filed suit. The district court entered a temporary restraining order (TRO) barring the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA) from conducting sports gambling, finding that the state law violated PASPA. The court required Appellees to post a $1.7 million bond as security. On appeal, NJTHA successfully challenged the constitutionality of PASPA in the Supreme Court. On remand, NJTHA unsuccessfully sought to recover on the bond. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded. NJTHA was “wrongfully enjoined” within the meaning of Federal Rule 65(c) and no good cause existed to deny bond damages. PASPA provided the only basis for enjoining NJTHA from conducting sports gambling. The Supreme Court ultimately held that that law is unconstitutional; NJTHA had a right to conduct sports gambling all along. There was no change in the law; NJTHA enjoyed success on the merits and is entitled to recover provable damages up to the bond amount. View "National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Governor of New Jersey" on Justia Law

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Over the past eight years, the Hudson County family court has required Malhan to pay $300,000 in child and spousal support to his putative ex-wife, Myronova. Malhan claims that New Jersey officials violated his federal rights when they failed to reduce his support obligations after he was awarded custody of their two children and Myronova obtained a job that pays more than his own. The district court dismissed Malhan’s second amended complaint, holding that it lacked jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and that to the extent it had jurisdiction, it declined to exercise it under Younger v. Harris. The Third Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. Malhan does not complain of injuries caused by a state court judgment; none of the interlocutory orders in Malhan’s state case are “judgments.” Rooker-Feldman does not apply when state proceedings have neither ended nor led to orders reviewable by the U.S. Supreme Court. With respect to “Younger abstention,” the court noted that Malhan’s wife, not the state, began the family court case. The case has not sought to sanction Malhan for wrongdoing, enforce a parallel criminal statute, or impose a quasi-criminal investigation. Malhan is not trying to “annul the results” of a past garnishment. View "Malhan v. Secretary United States Department of State" on Justia Law

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Bank of Hope sued Ryu for embezzling money from its customers. As the case went on, Ryu began sending letters to the Bank’s shareholders, alleging that the Bank’s claims were baseless and were ruining his reputation. He hoped that the letters would pressure the Bank to settle. The Bank asked the magistrate judge to ban Ryu from contacting its shareholders. The district court affirmed the magistrate’s order imposing that ban. The Third Circuit vacated. The district court marshaled no evidence that this restriction on speech was needed to protect this trial’s fairness and integrity and it considered no less-restrictive alternatives. Courts have inherent power to keep their proceedings fair and orderly. They can use that power to order the parties before them not to talk with each other, the press, and the public. The First Amendment, however, requires an explanation of why restricting speech advances a substantial government interest, consider less-restrictive alternatives, and requires that the court ensure that any restriction does not sweep too broadly. View "Bank of Hope v. Chon" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Weber sued, pro se, nearly 60 defendants, based on her dealings with New Jersey public officials during a child custody matter. When she filed her federal complaint, Weber was also appealing an adverse custody decision in the New Jersey Superior Court. That seemingly-related action caused the district court to consider the prudential limitations on subject-matter jurisdiction in the abstention doctrines. The court dismissed Weber’s complaint without prejudice, permitting her 30 days to amend. Weber filed a notice of appeal. The Third Circuit Clerk responded, advising Weber, warning of "possible dismissal due to a jurisdictional defect” because her complaint had been dismissed without prejudice. The letter enclosed a copy of 28 U.S.C. 1291, and stated that, “to be final, order of dismissal must be with prejudice; order dismissing without prejudice contemplates leave to amend and is not appealable unless plaintiff elects to stand on complaint.” Receiving no response from the district court, Weber withdrew her appeal. Defendants sought dismissal with prejudice. The district court made an electronic entry on the docket: “Civil Case Terminated." Weber filed a new notice of appeal. The Third Circuit dismissed for lack of a final order. The docket entry was a utility event; Weber cannot rely on the entry. Weber’s indecision does not show clear and unequivocal intent, so the “stand on the complaint” doctrine cannot rescue the lack of a final order. Weber’s case remains pending in the district court. View "Weber v. McGrogan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged pharmaceutical manufacturers stalled the release of clinical trial results for their blockbuster anti-cholesterol drugs, tried to change the study's endpoint to produce more favorable results, concealed their role in the change, and that the delay allowed one company to raise $4.08 billion through a public offering, which the company used to purchase another company to lessen its reliance on the drugs. Amid press reports and a congressional investigation, the companies released the clinical trial results, which allegedly caused their stock prices to plummet, amounting to about a $48 billion loss in market capitalization. Investors filed suit. The court denied defendants’ motions to dismiss under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act’s heightened pleading standard, denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment, and granted class certification. Investors were provided with Rule 23(c)(2) notice of their right to opt-out: “you will not be bound by any judgment in this Action” and “will retain any right you have to individually pursue any legal rights.” After the opt-out period, the court approved settlements, offering opt-out investors 45 days to rejoin and share in the recovery, while stating that opt-outs “shall not be bound” to the settlement. Sixteen opt-out investors filed suits, tracking the class action claims, and adding a New Jersey common law fraud claim. After the Supreme Court held that American Pipe tolling does not extend to statutes of repose, plaintiffs were left with only their state-law claims. The court dismissed those as barred by the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act, 15 U.S.C. 10 78bb(f)(5)(B)(ii)(II). The Third Circuit reversed, finding that the class actions and the opt-out suits were not “joined, consolidated, or otherwise proceed[ing] as a single action for any purpose.” View "North Sound Capital LLC v. Merck & Co., Inc" on Justia Law

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Garrett sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs and retaliation. Garrett alleged that, while incarcerated, he had been prescribed a wheelchair and walker. When he was transferred to SCI Houtzdale in 2014, medical staff allegedly discontinued Garrett’s use of a walker and wheelchair, forbade him from receiving walking assistance from other inmates, and discontinued his “psych” medication. He acknowledged in his complaint that he had filed grievances but the grievance process was not complete. The district court dismissed many of pro se Garrett’s claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a), and dismissed the remainder for failure to satisfy the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “short and plain statement” requirement, Rule 8. The Third Circuit vacated. Garrett’s original complaint was defective because, as a prisoner when he filed it, he failed to first exhaust his administrative remedies. Two years later, Garrett filed an amended and supplemental complaint (TAC) under Rule 15, which superseded Garrett’s prior complaints. The TAC’s claims relate back to the original complaint because they concern the same core operative facts. When he filed the TAC, Garrett was no longer a prisoner and was not subject to the PLRA’s administrative exhaustion requirement. The TAC cured the original filing defect. The claims in Garrett’s pro se complaint are sufficiently “short” and “plain” and adequately put the defendants on notice of Garrett’s claims. View "Garrett v. Wexford Health" on Justia Law

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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Golden was researching Golden’s then-forthcoming book, Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America’s Universities. Golden requested documents from public universities, including three requests to the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act, N.J. Stat. 47:1A-1–47:1A-13 (OPRA). Many of the NJIT documents originated with the FBI and were subject to prohibitions on public dissemination. The FBI directed NJIT to withhold most of the records. NJIT obliged, claiming exemption from disclosure. After this suit was filed, NJIT and the FBI reexamined the previously withheld records and produced thousands of pages of documents, formerly deemed exempt. Golden then sought prevailing plaintiff attorneys’ fees under OPRA. The district court denied the fee motion. The Third Circuit reversed. Under the catalyst theory, adopted by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, plaintiffs are entitled to attorneys’ fees if there exists “a factual causal nexus between [the] litigation and the relief ultimately achieved” and if “the relief ultimately secured by plaintiffs had a basis in law.” Before Golden filed suit, NJIT had asserted OPRA exemptions to justify withholding most of the requested records. Post-lawsuit, NJIT abandoned its reliance on those exemptions and produced most of the records. Golden’s lawsuit was the catalyst for the production of documents and satisfied the test. That NJIT withheld records at the behest of the FBI does not abdicate its role as the records custodian. View "Golden v. New Jersey Institute of Technology" on Justia Law

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Charte, a district manager, became aware of American Tutor’s questionable billing and recruiting practices and expressed her concerns to the company's officers. Charte was terminated. Charte contacted the New Jersey Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education about the practices she had observed. American Tutor sued Charte in state court for defamation, tortious interference with advantageous economic relations, and product disparagement. While that state lawsuit was pending, Charte brought this qui tam action on behalf of the United States. As required by the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(A), the action remained under seal for seven years while the government investigated. The state court action was dismissed after the parties settled. The federal government did not intervene. The district court unsealed the complaint, then found that the qui tam action was barred by New Jersey’s equitable entire controversy doctrine. The Third Circuit vacated, finding the doctrine inapplicable. The qui tam suit did not belong to Chartre when she entered into the settlement agreement; she could not unilaterally settle and dismiss the qui tam claims during the government’s investigation. Charte followed every statutory requirement, including filing the qui tam action under seal and not disclosing its existence; she was “not trying to hide the ball.” Application of the entire controversy doctrine to this case, where the relator was the defendant in a previously filed private suit, would incentivize potential False Claims Act defendants to “smoke out” qui tam actions by suing potential relators and then quickly settling. View "Charte v. American Tutor Inc" on Justia Law

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GN and Plantronics manufacture telephone headsets, selling the headsets to customers through distributors. Under the voluntary Plantronics-Only Distributor (POD) program, distributors receive incentives such as favorable credit terms, rebates, and website support in exchange for not purchasing headsets directly from other manufacturers and not marketing competitors’ products on resellers’ websites. GN sent Plantronics a demand letter and filed suit in 2012, alleging that Plantronics’ POD program constituted monopolization. Plantronics issued a litigation hold to relevant employees, provided training sessions to ensure compliance, and sent quarterly reminders requiring acknowledgment of compliance. Plantronics’ Senior Vice President of Sales, Houston, nonetheless instructed employees to delete emails that referenced Plantronics’ competitive practices or its competitors. In 2014, Plantronics’ Associate General Counsel learned of Houston’s conduct, instituted a litigation hold on Houston’s assistant, and requested back-up tapes of Houston’s email account. Plantronics engaged its discovery vendor and a leading forensics expert to try to recover Houston’s emails. Some were recovered. The spoliation, however, continued. Plantronics did not complete its recovery efforts and destroyed the back-up tapes. During depositions, Plantronics executives were evasive. GN moved for a default liability judgment in light of the spoliation. The district court found that Plantronics acted in “bad faith” with an “intent to deprive GN” but denied the motion and issued a permissive adverse inference instruction to the jury, fined Plantronics three million dollars, and ordered it to pay GN’s spoliation-related fees. GN subsequently unsuccessfully sought to present evidence of spoliation. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plantronics. The Third Circuit reversed in part and remanded for a new trial, after upholding the denial of the motion for default judgment. The court committed reversible error when it excluded GN’s expert testimony on the scope of Plantronics’ spoliation. View "GN Netcom Inc. v. Plantronics Inc." on Justia Law