Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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In 2003-2008, Komis filed more than 60 Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints while employed by OSHA. Allegedly in retaliation for those and other EEO complaints filed a decade earlier, Komis contends her employer created a hostile work environment in that her supervisors: denied her the ability to work regularly from home; shifted her job duties to include more clerical work; reassigned her; and failed to promote her to Assistant Regional Administrator, instead selecting attorney Russo, who improperly disciplined her in retaliation for making additional discrimination claims. In 2008, Komis received notice of OSHA’s decision to terminate her employment. Komis left OSHA and filed another EEO complaint, alleging constructive discharge. Komis sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-16(a), citing retaliation and retaliatory hostile work environment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed judgments in favor of the agency. The court held that federal employees may bring retaliation claims under Title VII but declined to consider whether the same standard governs federal- and private- sector retaliation claims, and what standard applies to a federal retaliatory hostile work environment claim, given the Supreme Court’s 2006 decision, Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway. Komis cannot prevail under any potentially applicable standard, so any error in the jury instructions was harmless. View "Komis v. Secretary United States Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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The 2011 Virgin Islands Economic Stability Act (VIESA) sought to reduce government spending by reducing payroll while continuing to provide necessary public services. VIESA offered some of the government’s most expensive employees (with at least 30 years of credited service) $10,000 to chose to retire within three months. Those declining to retire had to contribute an additional 3% of their salary to the Government Employees Retirement System starting at the end of those three months. Two members of the System with over 30 years of credited service who chose not to retire claimed that the 3% charge violated federal and territorial laws protecting workers over the age of 40 from discrimination based on their age. The Third Circuit found the provision valid because it did not target employees because of their age under the Supreme Court’s 1993 decision in Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggin; its focus on credited years of service entitles the government to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)’s reasonable-factor-other-than-age defense. The Third Circuit concluded that the Virgin Islands Supreme Court would deem the provision consistent with existing territorial anti-discrimination statutes. View "Bryan v. Government of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law

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Philadelphia has received funds under the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program every year since the program’s 2006 inception in 2006. The Justice Department notified the city that it was withholding its FY2017 award because the city was not in compliance with three newly implemented conditions that required greater coordination with federal officials on matters of immigration enforcement. The city filed suit and was awarded summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed the order to the extent that it enjoins enforcement of the challenged conditions against the city and vacated the order to the extent it imposed a requirement that the federal government obtain a judicial warrant before seeking custody of aliens in city custody.. Where, as here, the Executive Branch claims authority not granted to it in the Constitution, it “literally has no power to act … unless and until Congress confers power upon it.” Congress did not grant the Attorney General this authority and the Challenged Conditions were unlawfully imposed. The Byrne statute itself provides no such authority and the conditions are not authorized by 34 U.S.C. 10102, the provision establishing the “Duties and Functions of Assistant Attorney General.” View "City of Philadelphia v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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Patterson, an African-American male and a longtime Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) employee, arrived at an Eddystone, Pennsylvania PLCB-run store to inquire about the store’s operating condition. Patterson identified himself to the assistant manager as a PLCB maintenance worker and asked whether the store’s electricity and plumbing were in working order or if the store might otherwise need repairs. The assistant manager became “very rude.” Patterson exited the store, entered his state-owned van, reported the assistant manager to his foreman over the phone, then drove toward another PLCB store in Newtown Square. En route, Patterson was stopped by the police and questioned about “robbing” the Eddystone store. An officer informed Patterson that the Eddystone assistant manager had called to report a “black guy” in a “state van” who was trying to “rob her store.” Patterson sued the PLCB, alleging race discrimination and violations of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed, finding that the PLCB was entitled to Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. The Third Circuit affirmed, employing a three-factor test to determine PLCB’s sovereign immunity status: whether the payment of the judgment would come from the state; what status the entity has under state law; and what degree of autonomy the entity has. View "Patterson v. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board" on Justia Law

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Simpson applied for a dealer’s federal firearms license (FFL) in 2010. During his interview, ATF representatives explained the legal responsibilities. Simpson signed an Acknowledgement of Federal Firearms Regulations. Simpson opened a firearms store. In 2011, Simpson attended a seminar where ATF officials discussed firearms regulations. In 2012, wanting to assemble AR-15 rifles, Simpson applied for an FFL to manufacture firearms. ATF officials met with him and discussed the relevant legal responsibilities, including the duty to mark all manufactured firearms and to keep a separate manufacturing acquisition and disposition (A&D) book. Simpson again signed an acknowledgment. Simpson applied to relocate his FFLs. An ATF Inspector met with him. Simpson again signed an acknowledgment under the Gun Control Act, 18 U.S.C. 921 (GCA). ATF conducted an inspection and decided to revoke Simpson’s FFLs. After a hearing, it was determined that Simpson had committed over 400 willful GCA violations: Selling or delivering firearms without having completed Firearm Transaction Records; transferring firearms without conducting background checks; incorrectly identifying firearms that had been transferred; failing to identify and mark firearms that he manufactured; failing to record the disposition of multiple firearms; and failing to appropriately sign and date ATF Form 4473 to indicate that he did not have reasonable cause to believe that a transferee was disqualified from receiving a firearm. The Third Circuit upheld the revocation. Simpson knew of and was plainly indifferent to his obligations by committing hundreds of GCA violations. View "Simpson v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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Then-New Jersey Governor Christie appointed Baroni as Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Baroni and Kelly, the Deputy Chief of Staff for New Jersey’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, engaged in a scheme to impose crippling gridlock on the Borough of Fort Lee after its mayor refused to endorse Christie’s 2013 reelection bid. Under the guise of conducting a “traffic study,” they conspired to limit Fort Lee motorists’ access to the George Washington Bridge (the world’s busiest bridge) over four days during the first week of the school year. Extensive media coverage of “Bridgegate” ensued. Baroni and Kelly were convicted of conspiracy to obtain by fraud, knowingly convert, or intentionally misapply property of an organization receiving federal benefits, 18 U.S.C. 371, and the substantive offense; conspiracy to commit wire fraud, section 1349, and the substantive offense; and conspiracy against civil rights, section 241, and the substantive offense. The Third Circuit affirmed the wire fraud convictions but vacated the civil rights convictions. The government presented evidence sufficient to prove defendants violated the wire fraud statute by depriving the Port Authority of, at a minimum, its money in the form of public employee labor. The court rejected an argument that Baroni possessed the unilateral authority to control Port Authority traffic patterns. There is no “clearly established” constitutional right to intrastate travel, so the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on the civil rights claims. View "United States v. Baroni" on Justia Law

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In 2008, the U.S. government strove to rescue the collapsing economy, including by enacting the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, which authorized the government to act as conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government-sponsored enterprises with critical roles in the home mortgage market. Under that conservatorship, Fannie and Freddie made a deal with the Department of Treasury, guaranteeing those agencies access to hundreds of billions of dollars; they had to give their net profits to the Treasury—in perpetuity. Fannie’s and Freddie’s junior shareholders had expected to share in those future profits. The agreement wiped out that expectation. The Third Circuit rejected challenges by those junior shareholders. The Recovery Act gave the government broad, discretionary power to enter into the deal and the deal complies with the requirements of the Act, as well as Delaware and Virginia corporate law. In addition, the relief sought would “restrain or affect the exercise of [the government’s] powers” as conservator, which the Recovery Act forbids, 12 U.S.C. 4617(f). View "Jacobs v. Federal Housing Finance Agency" on Justia Law

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From 1910 until 1986, Greenlease Holding Co. (“Greenlease”), a subsidiary of the Ampco-Pittsburgh Corporation (“Ampco”), owned a contaminated manufacturing site in Greenville, Pennsylvania. Trinity Industries, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Trinity Industries Railcar Co. (collectively, “Trinity”), acquired the site from Greenlease in 1986 and continued to manufacture railcars there until 2000. An investigation by Pennsylvania into Trinity’s waste disposal activities resulted in a criminal prosecution and eventual plea-bargained consent decree which required, in relevant part, that Trinity remediate the contaminated land. That effort cost Trinity nearly $9 million. This appeal arose out of the district court’s determination that, under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), and Pennsylvania’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (“HSCA”), Trinity was entitled to contribution from Greenlease for remediation costs. The parties filed cross-appeals challenging a number of the district court’s rulings, including its ultimate allocation of cleanup costs. The Third Circuit ultimately affirmed the district court on several pre-trial rulings on dispositive motions, vacated the cost allocation determination and remanded for further proceedings. View "Trinity Industries Inc v. Greenlease Holding Co." on Justia Law

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Biear, a federal prisoner, mailed Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(7)(A), requests to eight components of the Department of Justice, seeking: “Any and all documents and electronic media assembled during any investigation (or review) containing the name James S. Biear (aka J. Steven Biear and James C. Biear), DOB [REDACTED], SSN: [REDACTED].” The Criminal Division replied by requiring him to certify his identity and submit additional information regarding the records. Biear completed the certification of his identity but did not further detail his request. The Criminal Division then denied Biear’s request; the Office of Information Policy affirmed. The FBI initially denied Biear’s request because the records were in an active investigative file, exempt from disclosure. After Biear filed suit, the FBI produced some documents in full and some with redactions; others were withheld as duplicative or containing exempt information that could not be reasonably segregated from nonexempt information. The Third Circuit reversed the district court, concluding that Biear exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to his Criminal Division request; Biear’s request was sufficiently specific. His challenge to the FBI’s response was not mooted by the FBI’s subsequent production of documents. The court should have continued to exercise jurisdiction over Biear’s claim regarding the sufficiency of the FBI’s response. View "Biear v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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The contracts between the Drivers and Joseph Cory, a motor carrier business, purported to establish that the Drivers would work as independent contractors. The Drivers claim the realities of the relationship made them employees under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA), 820 ILCS 115/1–115/15. The contracts expressly permitted Joseph Cory to take “chargebacks” for any expense or liability that the Drivers had agreed to bear, including costs for “insurance, any related insurance claims, truck rentals, . . . uniforms,” and “damaged goods,” from the Drivers’ paychecks without obtaining contemporaneous consent. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of Joseph Cory’s motion to dismiss the Drivers’ suit. The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA), 49 U.S.C. 14501–06, does not preempt the IWPCA. Wage laws like the IWPCA are traditional state regulations and part of the backdrop that all business owners must face. IWPCA does not single out trucking firms and its impact is too tenuous, remote, and peripheral to fall within the scope of the FAAAA preemption clause. IWPCA’s limited regulation of ministerial aspects of the manner in which employees are paid does not have a significant impact on carrier rates, routes, or services of a motor carrier and does not frustrate the FAAAA’s deregulatory objectives. View "Lupian v. Joseph Cory Holdings LLC" on Justia Law