U.S. Third Circuit - FindLaw

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


The so-called automobile exception to the warrant requirement is like Prince: constantly changing, keeping you guessing, but retaining a certain timeless sex appeal with its intricacies and exceptions. (Is it Gant or is it Belton? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.)

Joseph Donahue was staring down the short end of the automobile exception. Donahue was convicted of fraud in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania. The court ordered him to surrender at a particular time, but he never appeared. U.S. marshals found him in New Mexico in a Ford Mustang. Marshals took the Mustang, searched it, photographed it, and even X-rayed it -- all without a warrant.

There was a guy, a guy we'll keep anonymous (this case does involve Alcoholics Anonymous, after all) who was an insider at the Philadelphia Consolidated Holding Corporation ("PHLY"). In mid-2008, he had a few relapses, and when he returned to AA, his long-time AA confidant, Timothy McGee, asked about the absences. The insider blurted out that he was stressed about work because PHLY was about to sell at three times its book value: $61.50.

McGee, as you have probably already guessed, went out and bought as much of PHLY's stock as possible, flipping the stock after the acquisition announcement for about $290,000 in profit. The SEC noticed the suspicious transactions, asked him about it, and eventually, McGee was convicted of insider trading and perjury under a misappropriation theory.

McGee challenged his conviction, arguing that AA mentorship falls outside of the "recognized dut[ies]" and relationships that can support such a conviction.

This is one of those cases that seems obvious, until you consult the history books.

You might think to yourself, of course a city can't ban its police officers from contributing to political campaigns -- that's ridiculous. Except, in 1917, the "Bloody Fifth" Ward incident happened: Cops beat up an opposition candidate, killed a detective who tried to intervene, and terrorized the candidate's supporters. Because, ya know, machine politics.

A series of reforms followed, culminating in a 1951 ban on political contributions by cops as a prophylactic against corruption. The ban stood for more than 60 years, until the Third Circuit cut it down this week, citing a few obvious free speech problems.

In addition to paying for their crimes figuratively by going to prison, defendants also have to pay literally in the form of restitution, fines, and fees. In Pennsylvania, prisoners have inmate accounts that they use for purchasing such things as soap, toothpaste, and over-the-counter medications. A Pennsylvania law allows the state to deduct a prisoner's fines and fees from this inmate account -- although sometimes inmates aren't told this can happen.

Domingo Montanez and Timothy Hale are two such prisoners. They sued the Department of Corrections, alleging due process violations when the state automatically deducted funds from their inmate accounts to pay their fines and fees. The Third Circuit reversed summary judgment against Hale, and affirmed summary judgment against Montanez.

Remember the mailbox rule? Just the thought of it brings us back to our first year of law school. And believe it or not, it still comes up in cases today.

Last week, the Third Circuit had a chance to review the common law presumption of delivery, and noted that it in this day and age, that time-honored presumption may not be enough for employers attempting to give their employees legal notice.

New Jersey attorney Andrew Dwyer's practice is focused on representing employees in matters of employment law, and in cases where judges had to assess his legal services, in the context of fee shifting statutes, many judges praised his work.

But what started out as praise turned into a conflict with New Jersey's Committee on Attorney Advertising. Read on to see why the Third Circuit ruled that the Committee violated his First Amendment rights.

We called it. Back in July we saw the writing on the wall when a Pennsylvania county clerk named Theresa Santai-Gaffney told the Standard-Speaker, "I've never surrendered" in her fight to keep the Keystone State's same-sex marriage ban alive. Well, it looks like she might just have to.

On Monday, the Third Circuit denied the Schuylkill County clerk's motion for a hearing en banc, essentially leaving her with one option: the U.S. Supreme Court.

Whether she will "surrender" now remains to be seen.

A "sovereign citizen" who claims he's a "crown prince emperor" can't remove his case to federal court, a judge has ruled.

What are "sovereign citizens"? They're Americans who, for some reason, don't believe the law applies to them. They are real problems in some parts of the country, where they gum up local court systems by filing copious documents containing ridiculous legalese and citations lifted out of context from court opinions.

Sovereign citizens claim the U.S. government has no power over them, as they are their own sovereign nation, and they're governed by English common law (if they're governed by anything at all). Their antics can from delightfully misanthropic to seriously dangerous.

It might be one of the least talked about legal issues splitting our nation's courts right now, though we've certainly done our share of babbling about it. It's the resentencing of juvenile lifers, a question that has led to intra-state (federal and state courts conflicting) and interstate splits, with more courts than we can count coming down on both sides of the question since the U.S. Supreme Court's Miller v. Alabama decision in 2012.

What's the issue? Miller held that juveniles must be afforded an "individualized" determination of the offender's age, childhood, life experience, degree of responsibility the youth was capable of exercising, and the chances for rehabilitation -- essentially a heavily scrutinized review that is supposed to limit the amount of life-without-parole sentences.

Now, U.S. District Judge Timothy Savage of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has joined the discussion, holding that Miller is retroactive -- a holding that is made ever the more interesting by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's holding late last year that Miller is not retroactive.

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday issued its opinion in Milliken v. Jacono, holding that a home's seller didn't have to disclose a murder/suicide that occurred in the house because it didn't affect the price of the house. A grisly fact pattern to be sure, but the Supreme Court rooted its opinion in the more prosaic world of real estate.