Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
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Plaintiffs purchased notary services at New Jersey UPS stores and, in class action complaints, alleged they were charged an amount that exceeded the $2.50 fee permitted by New Jersey law. Neither complaint alleged that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million. During discovery, while an appeal from the denial of a motion to dismiss was pending, UPS produced a spreadsheet showing that the New Jersey UPS stores had more than one million notary transactions during the six-year class period, which established an amount in controversy that satisfied federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). UPS removed both complaints to federal court. The district court remanded, reasoning that UPS could have performed the required calculation when the spreadsheet was produced in December 2020, so the removal petitions filed months later were untimely. The court did not consider whether CAFA’s local controversy exception required remand.The Third Circuit vacated. The removal statute requires removal within 30 days of service of a pleading that demonstrates the existence of federal jurisdiction or within 30 days of the date on which a defendant receives an amended pleading, motion, order, or other paper that discloses federal jurisdiction. Here, the initial pleadings did not demonstrate the existence of federal jurisdiction. UPS never received any paper that disclosed jurisdiction, so removal was timely. The court remanded for consideration of the local controversy exception. View "McLaren v. The UPS Store Inc" on Justia Law

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The parents of M.W., a minor eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), filed a Petition for Due Process against the Board of Education. Before a scheduled hearing, the ALJ met with counsel, M.W.’s parent, and a Board representative. The terms of a purported settlement were read into the record. In a “Decision Approving Settlement,” the ALJ made specific findings and ordered, “that the parties comply with the settlement terms.” The parents later contacted the Board, repudiating the agreement, and moved the ALJ to “set aside the settlement.” They filed suit, seeking relief under the IDEA.The district court questioned whether the ALJ’s bare findings that the settlement was entered into voluntarily and resolved all disputes satisfied the IDEA's jurisdictional requirements, concluded that it lacked jurisdiction, citing IDEA provisions for the enforceability of settlement agreements (20 U.S.C. 1415(e), 1415(f)(1)(B)), and held that the ALJ’s decision was not based on “substantive grounds,” under 1415(f). The Third Circuit reversed. The entry of a “Decision Approving Settlement” in an IDEA dispute satisfies section 1415(I)'s jurisdictional prerequisite to an appeal of an administrative IDEA determination. If a prevailing party may enforce a settlement agreement embodied in an administrative consent order as an “aggrieved party” under 1415(i)(2), then a party seeking to challenge such an order as improperly entered must likewise be able to bring a challenge in federal court. View "G W v. Ringwood Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The New Jersey Attorney General, investigating Smith & Wesson under the state's Consumer Fraud Act, issued a subpoena seeking documents related to Smith & Wesson’s advertisements. Instead of producing the documents, Smith & Wesson filed suit in federal court under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging the subpoena violated the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The state trial court subsequently ordered Smith & Wesson to show cause and threatened the company with contempt and a ban on sales in New Jersey; the court rejected the constitutional arguments presented in the federal suit. Smith & Wesson unsuccessfully sought an emergency stay of production. In federal court, Smith & Wesson added claims that the Attorney General’s suit was “retaliation" for the exercise of its First Amendment right to petition a court for redress.The Attorney General moved to dismiss the federal suit, citing “Younger” abstention. The district court dismissed the complaint, stating “the subpoena-enforcement action involves orders in the furtherance of state court judicial function.” Smith & Wesson eventually produced the subpoenaed documents under a protective order. The Third Circuit vacated the dismissal, citing the district court’s “virtually unflagging obligation . . . to exercise the jurisdiction given.” Abstention was not warranted in this case because the document production order was not “uniquely in furtherance of the state courts’ ability to perform their judicial functions.” View "Smith & Wesson Brands Inc v. Attorney General New Jersey" on Justia Law

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In 2016, the out-of-state petition circulators challenged Section 2869 of the Pennsylvania Election Code, which requires that any circulator of nomination petitions be “a qualified elector of the Commonwealth, who is duly registered and enrolled as a member of the party designated in said petition.” The district court found that the ban was not facially unconstitutional, but was unconstitutional as applied to the plaintiffs for the 2020 election only. The plaintiffs did not appeal the conclusion that the ban was not facially unconstitutional. The court declined to expand the injunctive relief to cover future elections for the plaintiffs and all similarly situated individuals. The Third Circuit held that permanent injunctive relief for all future elections is appropriate for the plaintiff circulators only, not to all similarly situated individuals, and only if the plaintiffs continue to submit to Pennsylvania’s jurisdiction. The request for permanent relief for the plaintiffs and all similarly situated individuals goes beyond the specific plaintiffs and circumstances of this litigation and seeks facial relief. A factual record specific to each similarly situated individual circulator will be necessary to determine the appropriate relief in future elections. Each individual circulator will need to demonstrate their willingness to submit to Pennsylvania’s jurisdiction for the purpose of nomination circulation. View "Benezet Consulting LLC v. Secretary Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) ordered Altice, a cable service provider, to prorate its bills for the month in which a cable customer cancels his service, as required by New Jersey law. In federal court, Altice argued that the Proration Requirement is preempted by the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984.The district court granted Altice judgment on the pleadings, concluding that “Younger” abstention was not warranted and that the Proration Requirement was preempted. The Third Circuit vacated. The Younger ruling was incorrect. BPU’s civil enforcement proceeding was quasi-criminal in nature and, thus, the type of proceeding to which Younger applies. BPU commenced the action against Altice by filing a formal complaint, a Show Cause Order with attributes similar to the filing of formal charges, and did so in its sovereign capacity. The proceeding was judicial in nature and ongoing when the federal complaint was filed; the proceeding implicates important state interests; and Altice has an adequate opportunity to raise its federal claims in the state proceeding. View "Altice USA Inc v. New Jersey Board of Public Utilities" on Justia Law

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Williams and Burton each filed civil rights complaints in the Western District of Pennsylvania against employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and moved to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP). Burton alleged that the defendants retaliated against him after he filed a grievance, concerning his use of the law library. Williams alleged that prison staff refused to accommodate his special dietary needs. Both plaintiffs consented to have their cases heard by magistrate judges, who dismissed the cases before the defendants consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction.The Third Circuit vacated. A magistrate judge can acquire jurisdiction to decide a case only by the consent of the parties, 28 U.S.C. 631(c)(1); “consent of the parties” does not mean consent just of the prisoner-plaintiff. The jurisdictional requirement cannot be waived by the parties. If the requirements of Section 636(c)(1) are not satisfied, the “magistrate judge [is deprived] of jurisdiction over the case” and the appellate court is statutorily deprived of appellate jurisdiction over the magistrate judge’s orders. Consent could not be implied in this case and retroactive, post-judgment consent cannot satisfy the statutory requirement. View "Burton v. Schamp" on Justia Law

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About 100 Pennsylvania landowners filed a class-action complaint, alleging that EQT has been storing natural gas in six separate storage fields, thereby utilizing the landowners’ underground pore space without providing them compensation. Months later, all landowners except for Laudato voluntarily dismissed their claims without prejudice. Laudato later moved for class certification, seeking approval of a class of: All persons and/or entities that own and/or owned real property—and/or natural gas storage rights to real property—located within the certificated boundaries of one or more of the Gas Storage Fields for any period of time, not before Defendants’ inception of the respective gas. The district court, exercising federal-question jurisdiction over claims under the Natural Gas Act, 15 U.S.C. 717–17z, agreed to class certification but rejected Laudato’s proposed class definition, refusing to grant other downstream requests such as the appointment of a class representative, the appointment of class counsel, and certain issues’ certification. The court directed the parties to meet and confer “regarding the establishment of an appropriate class definition.”The Third Circuit granted a petition for review, holding that because the order clearly implicates Rule 23(f), it had jurisdiction and that interlocutory review was appropriate. View "Laudato v. EQT Corp." on Justia Law

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Venezuela expropriated mining rights owned by Crystallex, a Canadian mining company. After prevailing in an arbitration proceeding, Crystallex obtained a $1.4 billion judgment. In an execution action, Crystallex seeks to auction shares owned by Venezuela’s state-owned energy company, PDVS, to satisfy its judgment against Venezuel, including PDVSA’s shares in PDVH, a Delaware holding company that owns CITGO, a U.S. petroleum refiner (one of PDVSA’s most important U.S. assets). The district court held that it had jurisdiction to enforce the judgment against Venezuela and that PDVSA could not assert sovereign immunity as a defense and ordered PDVH’s registered agent to retain the stock until further order. In an earlier appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed.Political conditions changed in Venezuela. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which administers U.S. economic sanctions, prohibited the transfer of assets without OFAC approval. On remand, PDVSA, PDVH as the garnishee, and CITGO asked the district court to quash the writ of attachment. The United States filed a statement of interest urging the court not to authorize a contingent sale of the shares.The district court refused to quash the attachment and decided “to set up the sales procedures and then to follow them to the maximum extent that can be accomplished without a specific license from OFAC,” including appointing a special master. The Third Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The district court has not reached a final decision. 28 U.S.C. 1291. View "Crystallex International Corp v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezue" on Justia Law

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SHI, owned by Vik, borrowed funds from Deutsche Bank (Bank). SHI entered a limited partnership (LP) agreement with Devon and invested $25 million, Bank issued margin calls. SHI claimed that it lacked funds to satisfy the calls. Bank sued SHI in England and Wales and received a $235,646,345 judgment, which SHI has not satisfied. SHI transferred the Devon Interest to CPR (allegedly related to Vik's father). SHI paid Devon millions of dollars for the transfer. Devon made fund distributions to the limited partners but had difficulties transmitting proceeds to CPR. CPR initiated arbitration to compel Devon to release the Proceeds. The arbitrator denied Bank’s request to intervene. Devon raised counterclaims, seeking a declaration whether the assignment to CPR was enforceable.Meanwhile, Bank sued CPR, SHI, and Devon in Delaware, alleging a conspiracy to commit fraud. The arbitrator denied Devon’s motion to stay proceedings. Devon then refused to participate in the arbitration. The arbitrator awarded CPR the proceeds, plus prejudgment interest, CPR petitioned to confirm the arbitration award; in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Devon attempted to interplead Deutsche Bank. Bank answered and sought to set aside the purported transfer of the Devon Interest to CPR, to declare SHI and CPR alter egos, and to find Devon, CPR, and SHI liable for fraud and conspiracy. The Third Circuit affirmed orders confirming the arbitration award, striking the interpleader complaint, and dismissing all third parties and claims and Devon’s counterclaim. View "CPR Management SA v. Devon Park Bioventures LP" on Justia Law

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The Reefer arrived at the Port of Wilmington, Delaware for what its owner, Nederland, expected to be a short stay. Upon inspection, the Coast Guard suspected that the vessel had discharged dirty bilge water directly overboard and misrepresented in its record book that the ship’s oil water separator had been used to clean the bilge water prior to discharge. Nederland, wanting to get the ship back to sea as rapidly as possible, entered into an agreement with the government for the release of the Reefer in exchange for a surety bond to cover potential fines. Although Nederland delivered the bond and met other requirements, the vessel was detained in Wilmington for at least two additional weeks.Nederland sued. The Delaware district court dismissed the complaint, holding that Nederland’s claims had to be brought in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims because the breach of contract claim did not invoke admiralty jurisdiction a claim under the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) failed because of sovereign immunity. The Third Circuit reversed. The agreement is maritime in nature and invokes the district court’s admiralty jurisdiction. The primary objective of the agreement was to secure the vessel's departure clearance so that it could continue its maritime trade. APPS explicitly waives the government’s sovereign immunity. View "Nederland Shipping Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law