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

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Salahuddin was Newark’s Deputy Mayor for Public Safety. He allegedly conspired to use his official position to obtain charitable and political contributions and to direct Newark demolition contracts to Cooper, with whom Salahuddin was allegedly in business. Both were convicted of conspiring to extort under color of official right, under the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a). The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting Salahuddin’s claims that the government failed to prove that one of the alleged co-conspirators committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy; that the district court erred in omitting an overt act requirement from its jury instructions; and that the rule of lenity requires that his conviction be vacated. The court rejected Cooper’s claim that the jury’s guilty verdict as to the Hobbs Act conspiracy charge was against the weight of the evidence. View "United States v. Salahuddin" on Justia Law

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D.E., now 23 years old, was a minor diagnosed with a learning disability and enrolled in school in the Central Dauphin School District. His parents claimed that while D.E. was enrolled in Central Dauphin he was deprived of a free appropriate public education (FAPE), in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400, and that he was discriminated against based upon his disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12132, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (RA), 29 U.S.C. 794. The district court dismissed the IDEA claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and later granted summary judgment in Central Dauphin's favor as to the ADA and RA claims. The Third Circuit affirmed as to the ADA and RA claims, but reversed dismissal of the IDEA claim. Individuals seeking to enforce a favorable decision obtained at the administrative level are "aggrieved" for purposes of the IDEA and may properly pursue such claims in court. The court stated: "we encourage the District Court to consider any form of compensatory education proposed" in a manner consistent with the IDEA and Third Circuit precedent. View "D.E v. Cent. Dauphin Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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Shamokin Filler, a coal preparation facility in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, has been regulated by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) since 1977. After a change in ownership in 2009, the new owners challenged MSHA’s jurisdiction, contending that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), not MSHA, should oversee it. Presumably the new owners wanted to avoid the more stringent requirements imposed by MSHA regulations and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 30 U.S.C. 801. MSHA, rather than OSHA, has much stricter oversight requirements including regarding respirable coal dust standards. The Secretary of Labor and an Administrative Law Judge for the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission disagreed and concluded that Shamokin was engaged in the “work of preparing the coal,” as defined in the Mine Act. Shamokin argued that its plant does not engage in the “work of preparing the coal” because it makes its 100% coal products out of already processed coal. The Third Circuit rejected the argument and denied a petition for review. Shamokin’s interpretation of the statute lacked any basis in the text of the Mine Act. View "Shamokin Filler Co. Inc v. Fed. Mine Safety & Health Review Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Hildebrand was a detective for the Allegheny County DA’s Office when he was terminated in 2011. He unsuccessfully filed an internal grievance. Hildebrand claimed that his termination was part of “a well-known and established practice to push out older workers through termination or forced resignation.” Hildebrand completed an Intake Questionnaire with the EEOC, indicating that he was the victim of age discrimination and that he “want[ed] to file a charge of discrimination.” The EEOC subsequently issued a right-to-sue letter. Hildebrand sued, asserting violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621-634, Title VII (retaliation), 42 U.S.C.1983 (violation of the Equal Protection Clause; First Amendment free speech rights), and the Pennsylvania Whistleblower and Human Relations Acts. The district court dismissed the Title VII retaliation claim and stated that the complaint failed to provide facts, i.e. specific dates, to establish exhaustion of administrative remedies. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal of the 1983 claims, but vacated dismissal of the ADEA claim. A state or local government employee may not maintain an age discrimination claim under section 1983, but may only proceed under the ADEA. A plaintiff is not obligated to plead exhaustion of administrative remedies with particularity, but may allege in general terms that the required administrative process has been completed. The EEOC Intake Questionnaire, when properly completed, constitutes a charge of discrimination. View "Hildebrand v. Allegheny Cnty." 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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Roldan, a pretrial releasee under supervision of the Virgin Islands Probation Office, was found murdered. Probation officer Semper was fired, as “extremely negligent in the supervision” of Roldan. Semper claimed that he was not the officer assigned to Roldan. He sought reinstatement and back pay, alleging violation of his due process rights and 18 U.S.C. 3602, which provides that a district court shall appoint probation officers and “may, for cause, remove a probation officer appointed to serve with compensation.” ‖The district court dismissed. Rejecting the government’s argument Roldan was not among those excepted service employees eligible for review of adverse agency actions under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, the court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction because Semper failed to set forth a money-mandating statute or regulation giving him the right to contest his termination in a Tucker Act proceeding. Following denial of certiorari, Semper filed another suit, citing federal question jurisdiction, and asserting a Bivens claim against the chief judge in his individual capacity; a claim against that judge in his official capacity; a claim against the United States pursuant to the waiver of sovereign immunity in the Administrative Procedure Act; and a claim under the Mandamus Act, 28 U.S.C. 1361, against the judge. The Federal Circuit affirmed dismissal of three claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and remanded with instructions to dismiss his individual capacity claim against the judge for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Semper v. Gomez" 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

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New Jersey and Pennsylvania municipalities sued the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) (collectively, the Enterprises). Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are federally-chartered but privately owned corporations that issue publicly traded securities, created by Congress to establish and stabilize secondary markets for residential mortgages, 12 U.S.C. 1716; 12 U.S.C. 1451. Fannie and Freddie purchase mortgages from third-party lenders, pooling them together and selling securities backed by those mortgages. In the wake of the housing market collapse of 2008, Fannie and Freddie owned many defaulted and overvalued subprime mortgages. They went bankrupt, and Congress created the FHFA to act as conservator for Fannie and Freddie. Congress exempted the Enterprises from all state and local taxation, with an exception for taxes on real property. The plaintiffs sought declaratory judgments that the Enterprises were not exempt from paying state and local real estate transfer taxes. The district courts dismissed. In a consolidated appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed. View "Delaware Cnty. v. Fed. Hous. Fin. Agency" on Justia Law

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is a federal agency that, under the Federal Power Act, regulates rates charged by public utilities for transmission and sale of energy in interstate commerce, and rules pertaining to such rates, 16 U.S.C. 824d. In 2006, FERC approved a new tariff (rules governing interstate sale of electricity and electric capacity) for the PJM market, covering 13 states and the District of Columbia, as a result of an extensively negotiated settlement between power providers, utility companies, government authorities and others. The order required that load serving entities (LSEs) in the market procure a certain amount of energy capacity for access during peak load; included a rule that offers for the sale of capacity in the markets at artificially low prices would, with some exceptions, be required to be raised to a competitive level (mitigation). In 2011, FERC altered the 2006 Order: eliminating a mitigation exemption for resources built under state mandate; eliminating a provision that guaranteed that LSEs would be able to use “self-supply” to satisfy capacity obligations; and changing factors used in determining whether an offer was subject to mitigation. Objectors argued that the changes amounted to direct regulation of power facilities in violation of the FPA, and that FERC arbitrarily eliminated the mitigation exemption for state-mandated resources. Electric utilities challenged elimination of self-supply assurances for LSEs. Others challenged new rules governing calculation of a resource’s net cost of new entry (for determining whether an offer for sale of capacity will be mitigated) and FERC’s determination that a new generation resource must clear only one capacity auction to avoid further mitigation. The Third Circuit rejected all of the challenges. View "NJ Bd. of Pub. Utils. v. Fed Energy Regulatory Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs involved in, or wishing to be involved in the “death care industry” challenged Pennsylvania’s Funeral Director Law, 63 Pa. Stat. 479.1 provisions that: permit warrantless inspections of funeral establishments by the state Board of Funeral Directors; limit the number of establishments in which a funeral director may have an ownership interest or practice the provision; restrict the capacity of unlicensed individuals and certain entities to hold ownership interests in a funeral establishment; require every funeral establishment to have a licensed full-time supervisor; require funeral establishments to have a “preparation room”; prohibit service of food in a funeral establishment; prohibit use of trade names by funeral homes; govern the trusting of monies advanced under pre-need contracts for merchandise; and prohibit payment of commissions. The district court found several provisions unconstitutional. The Third Circuit reversed: invalidation of the warrantless inspection scheme; holdings on dormant Commerce Clause challenges to certain provisions; conclusions that disputed provisions violate substantive due process; a ruling that the Board’s actions unconstitutionally impair private contractual relations with third parties; and invalidation of the ban on payment of commissions to unlicensed salespeople. The court affirmed that the ban on the use of trade names in the funeral industry violates First Amendment protections. The court noted that antiquated provisions are not necessarily unconstitutional. View "Heffner v. Murphy" on Justia Law