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

by
Vanterpool was convicted under V.I. Code tit. 14, section 706(1) for obsessive phone calls and faxes to his ex-girlfriend Jacqueline Webster. On appeal, he argued that: Section 706 was unconstitutional under the First Amendment; that his trial counsel’s performance amounted to an ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment; and that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support Vanterpool’s multiple convictions. The Third Circuit remanded. While the First Amendment challenge would have been viable had it been raised during trial, the plain error standard precluded relief on appeal. Trial counsel’s failure to preserve the First Amendment challenge satisfied the prejudice prong of the Strickland test, but the record was insufficient regarding whether trial counsel’s performance fell below professional norms. View "Government of the VI v. Vanterpool" on Justia Law

by
In 2013, Governor Christie signed AB A3371 into law, providing: A person who is licensed to provide professional counseling ... shall not engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a person under 18 years of age. Plaintiffs provide licensed counseling to minor clients seeking to reduce or eliminate same-sex attractions and include providers of religious-perspective counseling. Plaintiffs describe their efforts as “talk therapy,” involving only verbal communication about potential “root causes” of homosexual behavior, such as childhood sexual trauma or a distant relationship with the same-sex parent, with discussion of “traditional, gender-appropriate behaviors and characteristics” and how the client can foster and develop those behaviors and characteristics. They challenged the law as a violation of their rights to free speech and free exercise of religion and asserted claims on behalf of their minor clients. The district court rejected the First Amendment claims and held that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring claims on behalf of their minor clients. The Third Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the statute is a regulation of professional speech that passes intermediate scrutiny. A3371 does not violate plaintiffs’ right to free exercise of religion, as it is a neutral and generally applicable law that is rationally related to a legitimate government interest. View "King v. Governor of NJ" on Justia Law

by
Lewis, Shavers, and White committed an armed robbery of a North Philadelphia “speakeasy” in 2005, pointing firearms at customers and employees, ordering them to the floor, and threatening to shoot. They were charged with Hobbs Act robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a), and conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery; using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c); and attempted witness tampering. The district court instructed the jury that Lewis was charged with “using and carrying a firearm during the crime of violence.” The jury found the three guilty of the Hobbs Act violations and the section 924(c) violation. Lewis was sentenced to 57 months on the Hobbs Act counts and 84 months’ incarceration, the mandatory minimum, on the section 924 count, for “brandishing” a firearm. The Supreme Court remanded in light of its decision in Alleyne v. U.S., concerning imposition of a mandatory minimum sentence based upon facts that were never charged or found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The Third Circuit affirmed Lewis’s sentence, reasoning Alleyne error of the sort alleged here is not structural, but is subject to harmless or plain error analysis under FRCP 52. Lewis essentially conceded that the evidence supported the finding that he brandished a firearm; other testimony clearly demonstrated that Lewis went beyond “use” of a firearm. Given “overwhelming and uncontroverted evidence” in support of the brandishing element, had the jury been properly instructed, it would have found that element beyond a reasonable doubt. Any error was therefore harmless. View "United States v. Lewis" on Justia Law

by
Pennsylvania State Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration worked with confidential informants and identified Beaver County cocaine distributor, Taylor, and, through wiretaps, were able to observe part of a delivery of cocaine. According to Taylor, who later testified for the government, he drove to a hotel near the Pittsburgh Airport carrying a bag full of cash. He met with the cocaine supplier, Middlebrooks from Houston, who drove to Washington County to pick up the drugs for transfer to Taylor. The DEA obtained a “roving wiretap” on Taylor’s communications, which was used to follow a second transaction between Taylor and Middlebrooks. Agents saw Middlebrooks back his vehicle up to a tractor-trailer rig, open his trunk, and then hand the bag full of packaged cash to a man (Shannon) standing beside the rig. Taylor and Middlebrooks were taken into custody. A black bag containing a large amount of cocaine was found in the trunk of Middlebrooks’s car. Shannon was arrested at the truck stop. Agents found the bag, which contained $669,340, plus $1000 in the truck’s glove compartment. The Third circuit vacated Shannon’s conviction because the government asked inappropriate questions regarding Shannon’s post-arrest silence, in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights. View "United States v. Shannon" on Justia Law

by
Christopher was a troubled man with a long history of mental health and substance abuse problems. He committed suicide in 2004, while in custody at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution (HRYCI) in Wilmington, Delaware, awaiting transportation to the Violation of Probation Center in Sussex County, Delaware. He had been arrested the previous day on an administrative warrant. Christopher was on probation for a domestic abuse conviction, and had been arrested for loitering while waiting to purchase drugs. His widow and children sued. The Third Circuit affirmed the district court, holding that prison administrators are not entitled to qualified immunity from an Eighth Amendment claim that serious deficiencies in the provision of medical care by a private, third-party provider resulted in an inmate’s suicide. View "Barkes v. First Corr. Med. Inc." on Justia Law

by
Mallory and Ismail, employed as emergency medical technicians, were visiting the Philadelphia home of Delaine, their mother. At about 2:30 a.m. they were standing with friends in front of a neighbor’s home. Officer Enders approached, shined a spotlight, and ordered them to disperse. Although they complied, Ismail cursed Enders, who detained Ismail for a few minutes before releasing him. Ismail walked back toward Delaine’s house, seeing police cruisers out front. Officers Hough and Lynch had received a dispatch that there was a group of men outside the address and that a black male wearing a brown leather jacket over a black hooded sweatshirt, had a gun. Delaine approached the second cruiser and asked whether they had arrested Ismail. As they were speaking, Hough noticed that Mallory, standing nearby, matched the description. As Mallory spoke with the officers, his jacket lifted to reveal a revolver in his waistband. Hough exclaimed “gun!” exited the vehicle and ordered Mallory to stop. Mallory ran into Delaine’s house, shutting the door. The officers gave chase; pushed aside Delaine’s daughter; and kicked the door open. They entered the dark house, weapons drawn; searched the house; pried open a locked bathroom door; found Mallory; arrested and handcuffed him. As the officers proceeded through the house with Mallory they recovered a revolver from under umbrellas behind the front door, which had swung open into the house. Charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Mallory successfully moved to suppress the gun. The Third Circuit affirmed, stating that it would not: “underplay the dangers that police officers may face when pursuing a suspect into an unfamiliar building. Nonetheless, once the officers had secured the premises and apprehended Mallory, the exigencies of the moment abated and the warrant requirement reattached.” View "United States v. Mallory" on Justia Law

by
Donahue was convicted of fraud and related offenses and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The court directed Donahue to surrender by a given time place to serve this sentence, but he did not do so. The court issued a warrant for his arrest; U.S. marshals apprehended Donahue in New Mexico, while he was in his son’s Ford Mustang. The marshals took possession of the Mustang and, over the next five days, two federal agencies searched the vehicle several times and photographed and x-rayed it, without seeking or obtaining a warrant. An FBI agent found a firearm magazine clip under the driver’s seat and a semi- automatic pistol in a bag seized from the Mustang’s trunk. Donahue moved to suppress evidence found in the Mustang and in a hotel room in which he had registered under a false name. The district court granted the motion, finding that the government lacked probable cause. The government appealed with respect to evidence found in the Mustang. The Third Circuit reversed. Although it is clear that the government had the opportunity to seek a warrant before searching the Mustang, the automobile exception to the warrant requirement obviated its need to do so as there was probable cause; there were virtually no temporal, physical, or numerical limitations on the search’s scope. View "United States v. Donahue" on Justia Law

by
The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), an incorporated collective bargaining organization that represents the approximately 6,600 active police officers employed by the Philadelphia, operates a political action committee, COPPAC, for purposes of distributing contributions to candidates for local and state office. FOP, COPPAC, and four police officers challenged the constitutionality of section 10-107(3) of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, which prohibits employees of the Philadelphia Police Department from making contributions “for any political purpose,” 351 Pa. Code 10.10-107(3). The provision was enacted in 1951, based on Philadelphia’s history of political patronage. As interpreted by its implementing regulation, employees of the police department cannot donate to COPPAC because it uses some of its funds for partisan political purposes. The Charter ban applies only to the police, and does not proscribe political donations made by Philadelphia’s other 20,000 employees, the vast majority of whom are organized interests. The Third Circuit reversed summary judgment upholding the ban. Despite its valid concerns, the city did not explain how the ban serves in a direct and material way to address these harms. Given the lack of fit between the stated objectives and the means selected to achieve it, the Charter ban is unconstitutional. View "Lodge No. 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Philadelphia" on Justia Law

by
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) maintains bank accounts, which inmates use to purchase items such as soap, deodorant, toothpaste, and over-the-counter medications. Inmates are also responsible for the costs some medical and legal services. Inmates earn wages, capped at 51 cents an hour, for work conducted for the prison, or get gifts from friends and family. In 1998, the legislature authorized the DOC to deduct from inmate accounts to collect “restitution or any other court-ordered obligation or costs.” The DOC promulgated a policy that each DOC facility makes “payments of 20% of the inmate’s account balance and monthly income for restitution, reparation, fees, costs, fines, and/or penalties associated with the criminal proceedings … provided that the inmate has a balance that exceeds $10.00.” DOC authority to make deductions is automatically triggered when it receives a sentencing order that includes a monetary portion. There is no requirement that the order provide for automatic deduction. DOC does not provide inmates with any hearing or other opportunity to be heard before deductions commence. Inmates filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of procedural due process rights. After post-remand discovery, the district court granted defendants summary judgment, finding some claims time-barred, that one inmate had received all process he was due under the Constitution, and that corrections officials were entitled to qualified immunity from claims for monetary damages. The Third Circuit reversed as to the due process claims noting disputes of fact regarding notice and because the inmate never had any opportunity to be heard prior to deprivation, but otherwise affirmed. View "Montanez v. Sec'y PA Dep't of Corrs." on Justia Law

by
Attorney Andrew Dwyer and his law firm (collectively, Dwyer) launched a website that published excerpts from judicial opinions by New Jersey judges about Dwyer’s lauded abilities as a lawyer. One of the judges requested that his quoted comments be removed from the website, but Dwyer refused on the ground that the quotation was not false or misleading. As a result of the dispute, the New Jersey Bar’s Committee on Attorney Advertising (Committee) proposed, and the New Jersey Supreme Court eventually adopted, an attorney-conduct guideline that banned advertising with quotes from judges or judicial opinions. The final version of the guideline, however, allowed attorneys to advertise with the full text of judicial opinions. The day before the guideline went into effect Dwyer filed this action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, arguing that the guideline was an unconstitutional restriction on speech. The district court granted summary judgment for the Committee, concluding that the guideline was not a ban on speech but instead was a disclosure requirement. The Third Circuit reversed, holding that the guideline, as applied to Dwyer’s accurate quotes from judicial opinions, violated his First Amendment right to advertise his commercial business. Remanded. View "Dwyer v. Cappell" on Justia Law