U.S. Third Circuit - FindLaw

U.S. Third Circuit - The FindLaw 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog


This guy. How badly did he want to make headlines?

Late last month, President Barack Obama announced that he would use executive orders to push through certain immigration reforms. Republicans screeched. Congress bemoaned the trampling of their authority. States' attorneys general filed a lawsuit. Even a few members of the president's own party quietly questioned the move.

Even still, the most surprising voice has to be Judge Arthur Schwab of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, who has somehow found a way to rule on the constitutionality of Obama's actions mere weeks after they were announced.

Justice Seamus McCaffery, suspended by his colleagues in the wake of a pornographic email scandal, resigned in October. It seemed like a sad end to the man's long career in public service and on the bench.

And to some, it seemed like a bit of an overreaction. (Though, on the other hand, if the extorting-a-fellow-justice claims were true, forced retirement was exactly what he deserved.)

Overreaction or not, how's he doing now? Financially, he's doing pretty damn well.

People sext. They take pics of their naughty bits and send them to each other. Boudoir photography has been a thing since cameras were invented. Basically, we're all a bunch of naughty, sex-crazed heathens.

We're all apparently violating federal law as well. Section 2257 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, enacted to combat child pornography, requires anyone who produces sexually explicit materials to keep records of the name and birthdate of every performer in a given work, include a statement about where the records are stored, and make the records available to the attorney general for inspection on demand.

Except, there's no exception for home movies.

It was the scandal that ended the Philadelphia Traffic Court. Two sitting, three former, and one senior Traffic Court judges, along with a Traffic Court administrator and two businessmen, were indicted in 2013 for their alleged roles in a ticket-fixing ring.

This week, two of those judges were sentenced: ex-Judges Thomasine Tynes and Robert Mulgrew each received prison sentences for offering perjured testimony about their roles in the conspiracy. According to Mulgrew's attorney, the ticket fixing scheme was a decades-long practice that predated all of the defendants, but it is likely no more -- the Traffic Court was disbanded in favor of a new program integrated with the Municipal Court.

Qualified immunity? For a claim of employment retaliation for whistle-blowing? Believe it or not, that's the defense Philadelphia School District mounted after a federal district court denied its motion for summary judgment in this employment retaliation case.

Francis Dougherty, a former employee, was fired after she told the news media that the school district's superintendent, Dr. Arlene Ackerman, directed a contract to a minority-owned firm without a bidding procedure. The Third Circuit said "no" to the district's claim that it was protected by qualified immunity.

Last month, we reported that the Pennsylvania legislature had passed Senate Bill No. 508, a law that would allow a crime victim to prevent the crime perpetrator from talking about the crime if doing so would make the crime victim feel bad.

The Pennsylvania law in this case was pretty squarely targeted at Mumia Abu Jamal, convicted in 1983 of murdering a Philadelphia police officer. Almost immediately after Gov. Bill Corbett signed it into law, Mumia supporters sued to block its enforcement.

The midterms are over, which means it's time to get back to work. And President Barack Obama has wasted no to time in getting back to one of his major legacies: shaping the judiciary. On Wednesday, the White House announced two nominees to federal circuit courts of appeals, including one to the Third Circuit.

Who's the new local judge nominee? He's actually not new at all: It's Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, a long-time Philadelphian who began his legal career as a local public defender and, for the last year, has been a federal district court judge.

It's a rare occasion when a federal appellate court upholds a grant of habeas corpus. It's rarer still when the habeas petition centers on ineffective assistance of counsel. Nevertheless, last month, the Third Circuit overturned the district court's denial of habeas corpus to Dung Bui, a Pennsylvania resident convicted in federal court of growing marijuana.

So what exactly happened that led the Third Circuit to this infrequent result?

Delaware prison officials have indicated they plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in a rare instance in which prison officials were found liable for the acts of subordinates.

In Barkes v. First Correctional Medical Inc., the Third Circuit determined that state prison administrators were responsible for the suicide of Christopher Barkes, an inmate at a Delaware prison.

One of the most legendary rock songs of all time, "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin, might just be a copy-and-paste job. That's the claim of the heirs of Randy Craig Wolfe (aka Randy California), a legendary guitarist in his own right, a protege of Jimi Hendrix who formed the band Spirit when he was still a teenager and was a pioneer in the psychedelic rock category.

Spirit released the instrumental interlude "Taurus" two years before "Stairway to Heaven." Zeppelin toured with Spirit and often covered the latter band's songs when they opened for them.

Now Wolfe's estate, decades after the songs were released, is raising a copyright infringement claim over the issue.