Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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Piasecki was convicted of 15 counts of possession of child pornography and was sentenced to three years’ probation. Pennsylvania sex offenders were then subject to “Megan’s Law” registration requirements. While Piasecki pursued appellate relief, that law expired and was replaced with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) to “bring the Commonwealth into substantial compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006,” which applied retroactively to Megan’s Law registrants. SORNA had increased registration and reporting requirements. Among other restrictions, Piasecki was required to register in-person every three months for the rest of his life and to appear, in-person, at a registration site if he were to change his name, address, employment, student status, phone number, or vehicle ownership. As a Tier III SORNA registrant, he could petition a court to exempt him from the requirements after 25 years. Piasecki was only subject to the SORNA restrictions when he filed his 28 U.S.C. 2254 habeas petition, challenging his conviction. His probation and conditions of supervision had expired. Reversing the district court, the Third Circuit held that Piasecki was “in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State Court,” as required for jurisdiction. SORNA’s registration requirements were sufficiently restrictive to constitute custody and were imposed pursuant to the state court judgment of sentence. View "Piasecki v. Court of Common Pleas, Bucks County" 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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When McKinney was granted tenure in 1974, his employment was governed by University Policies that provide that tenured faculty can be terminated only “for cause” and provide yearly salary raises for faculty who perform satisfactorily or meritoriously. Any salary increase for “maintenance” or merit becomes part of the base contract salary. No explicit provisions govern salary decreases; the Policy provides procedures to address complaints about salary decisions and requires that a faculty member “judged unsatisfactory” be informed of specific reasons related to teaching ability, achievements in research and scholarship, and service. In McKinney’s 2010 and 2011 reviews, Dean Keeler expressed concern about declining enrollment in McKinney’s classes, poor student evaluations, and a stagnant research agenda, but granted standard 2.0% and 1.5% maintenance increases. In 2012, McKinney ranked last among the Grad School faculty and was rated “less than satisfactory.” McKinney’s salary was increased by 0.5%. He was told that if his performance did not improve, he could receive a salary reduction. McKinney again ranked last in the 2013 review. Dean Keeler reduced his salary by 20%. McKinney sued, alleging that the University unconstitutionally deprived him of his property interest in his base salary. Reversing the district court, the Third Circuit concluded that he had no such property interest. The Policy language is not sufficient to give McKinney a “legitimate expectation” in the continuance of his base salary. The appeal provisions and the three-tiered rating structure indicate that salaries are subject to “possible annual adjustments,” and that McKinney had no more than a “unilateral expectation of receiving [his] full salary,” View "McKinney v. University of Pittsburgh" 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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Adams, a resident and member of the State Bar of Delaware, wanted to be considered for a state judicial position. Following the announcement of several judicial vacancies, Adams considered applying but ultimately chose not to because the announcement required that the candidate be a Republican. Because Adams was neither a Republican nor a Democrat, he concluded that any application he submitted would be futile. Adams challenged the Delaware Constitution's provision that effectively limits service on state courts to members of the Democratic and Republican parties, citing Supreme Court precedent: A provision that limits a judicial candidate’s freedom to associate (or not to associate) with the political party of his choice is unconstitutional. The governor responded that because judges are policymakers, there are no constitutional restraints on his hiring decisions. The Third Circuit ruled in favor of Adams, concluding that judges are not policymakers because whatever decisions judges make in any given case relates to the case under review and not to partisan political interests. The portions of Delaware’s constitution that limit Adams’s ability to apply for a judicial position while associating with the political party of his choice violate his First Amendment rights. View "Adams v. Governor of Delaware" on Justia Law

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Newark police officers forcibly entered and searched the apartment of Roman’s girlfriend. They arrested Roman, who was present in the apartment after they found drugs in a common area that was shared by multiple tenants. Roman was imprisoned for over six months and indicted for various drug offenses. The New Jersey Superior Court found the search to be unlawful and the charges were dropped. Roman sued the City of Newark and various police officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the city had a pattern or practice of constitutional violations and failed to train, supervise, and discipline its officers. He also pleaded an unlawful search claim against the officers and contends they are liable for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. The district court dismissed all of the claims as inadequately pled and held the city did not have an ongoing practice of unconstitutional searches and arrests. The Third Circuit vacated in part. While most of Roman’s claims do not withstand dismissal, he adequately alleged that the Police Department had a custom of warrantless searches and false arrests. He also sufficiently pled that the Department failed to train, supervise, and discipline its officers, specifically with respect to “the requirements of [the] Fourth Amendment and related law.” View "Estate of Roman v. Newark" on Justia Law

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Goldstein was arrested for involvement in a kidnapping scheme. Prosecutors obtained a court order under the Stored Communications Act,18 U.S.C. 2703(d), compelling Goldstein’s cell phone carrier to turn over his CSLI. CSLI metadata is generated every time a cell phone connects to the nearest antenna; service providers retain a time-stamped record identifying the particular antenna to which the phone connected, which can provide a detailed log of an individual’s movements. Section 2703(d) does not require a showing of probable cause to obtain CSLI but only requires “specific and articulable facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe” that the CSLI is relevant and material. The district court denied a motion to suppress. Goldstein was convicted. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that Section 2703(d) complied with the Fourth Amendment because cell phone users have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their CSLI. The Third Circuit granted rehearing after the Supreme Court’s "Carpenter" holding, that “an individual maintains a legitimate expectation of privacy in the record of his physical movements as captured through CSLI” and that the government’s collection of CSLI requires a showing of probable cause under the Fourth Amendment. The Third Circuit then held that the government violated Goldstein’s Fourth Amendment rights when it acquired his CSLI but nonetheless upheld the admission of Goldstein’s CSLI because the government was acting under an objectively reasonable good faith belief that obtaining CSLI under Section 2703(d) was constitutional. View "United States v. Goldstein" on Justia Law

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In 2008, St. Croix residents Bryan, Beberman, and Francis took a Caribbean cruise aboard the Adventure of the Seas, stopping at several foreign ports before returning. to the United States. Some of the stops are known sources of narcotics. When they reboarded the ship in Puerto Rico, a can of shaving powder in Francis’s bag spilled over an officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The travelers claim that the officers' subsequent actions were retaliation for their laughing at that incident. The officers found nothing unlawful in their bags, but made a notation in the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) database that Francis had appeared “disoriented and nervous” and that it took him some time to state his employment. That database contained entries from 2000, 2004, and 2006 linking Bryan and Francis to suspicion of drug smuggling. Officers searched their cabins but found no contraband. The three travelers asserted Bivens claims against the officers for allegedly violating their Fourth Amendment rights and tort claims against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the officers and the government. The officers are entitled to qualified immunity and the government is shielded from liability under the FTCA’s discretionary function exception. View "Bryan v. United States" on Justia Law

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Bistrian, a detainee at the Philadelphia FDC, awaiting trial for wire fraud was placed in the special housing unit (SHU) four times. He became an orderly, allowed to interact with other SHU inmates. A fellow inmate, Northington, asked him to pass notes between inmates. Bistrian told officers, which led to a surveillance operation. Bistrian secretly passed inmate notes to prison officials, who photocopied them and gave Bistrian the originals to pass along. Eventually, Bistrian accidentally gave a photocopy to an inmate. After his cooperation became known, he received threats and made prison officials aware of them. In June 2006, prison officials placed him in the recreation yard with Northington and other inmates, who brutally beat Bistrian. Officials yelled but did not enter the yard until more guards arrived. Bistrian suffered severe injuries. In December 2006, officials again placed him in the SHU, citing death threats against him. At a 2007 sentencing hearing, Bistrian objected to his treatment. Two days after Bistrian’s counsel pressed for an explanation of his SHU time, Bistrian was returned to the SHU. Bistrian alleges that Warden Levi, denying an appeal, said Bistrian “would never see the light of day again.” In Bistrian’s civil rights suit, the district court granted qualified immunity to some defendants but denied summary judgment on Bistrian’s "Bivens" constitutional claims. The Third Circuit affirmed in part. Bistrian has a cognizable Bivens claim for the alleged failure to protect him; an inmate’s claim that prison officials violated his Fifth Amendment rights by failing to protect him against a known risk of substantial harm does not present a new Bivens context. The punitive-detention and First Amendment retaliation claims do amount to an extension of Bivens into a new context; special factors counsel against creating a new Bivens remedy in those contexts. View "Bistrian v. Levi" on Justia Law

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Philadelphia Officers stopped a car for a traffic violation. The driver, a front passenger (Robinson), and a rear passenger, Burke, produced identification. Officers noticed the smell of marijuana and saw marijuana residue and decided to search for drugs. Burke was removed and frisked first. Fritz recovered a gun on the floor where Burke had been sitting. Burke and Robinson fled. Burke was quickly apprehended. Officer Madara broadcast that Robinson was a Black male, approximately 6’0”-6’1”, 160-170 pounds, wearing dark blue pants and a red hoodie. The description did not mention any facial hair. Officers Powell and Cherry responded. Powell viewed a photograph of Robinson on the patrol car's computer screen. Less than one minute later, the officers saw an individual (Bey). Bey was a 32-year-old, dark-skinned African-American man with a long beard, weighing about 200 pounds and wearing black sweatpants and a hooded red puffer jacket. Robinson was a 21-year-old, light-skinned African American man with very little hair under his chin and a tattoo on his neck, weighing 160-170 pounds. The officers approached Bey, who had his back to them, and ordered him to show his hands. Bey complied and turned around. Officers recovered a gun. Bey, charged as a felon in possession of a firearm, unsuccessfully moved to suppress the gun. The Third Circuit reversed. While the initial stop was supported by reasonable suspicion, the continuation of that stop, after Bey turned around and police should have realized that Bey did not resemble Robinson, violated the Fourth Amendment. View "United States v. Bey" on Justia Law