U.S. Third Circuit - FindLaw

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


Though noting that "the underlying circumstances of the case are tragic," the Third Circuit last week nonetheless affirmed a district court's dismissal of a case in favor of the police.

The case involves Tabitha Gonzalez, who was having an asthma attack, and two Philadelphia police officers. Tabitha had the attack in her front yard, and police responded to the house following a report of "a person screaming" at the house. Though the family had made five "understandably frantic" calls to 911, the police were never made aware that the screaming and the medical emergency were related.

A couple may proceed in their class action lawsuit against Aaron's, a furniture and office rental store, and many of its franchisees, the Third Circuit ruled yesterday. Clarifying the Circuit's standards on class ascertainability, the Circuit held that the ascertainability test should be a simple, narrow examination of the proposed class.

The decision marks an important clarification in a rule that had been used by defendants to defeat class actions before the class is even formed. The facts of the case, which involve spyware installed on rental computers, serves as another reminder that rental furniture might not be the best idea.

Thanks to the difficulty imposed by Congress in AEDPA, it's more likely that you'll see a unicorn tap dance with Lieutenant Dan than you'll see a federal court actually grant a state prisoner's federal habeas petition -- and that you'll see a circuit court of appeals sustain the petition.

Well, someone call Gary Sinise, because the Third Circuit granted Jose Juan Chavez-Alvarez's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Chavez-Alvarez claimed the government violated his due process rights detaining him without a bond hearing since 2012. Reversing the district court, the Third Circuit agreed.

The Citizenship and Immigration Service operated beyond its powers when it adopted regulations requiring that immigrants seeking a "special immigrant religious worker" visa to have done prerequisite work in the U.S. under lawful immigration status, the Third Circuit ruled Tuesday.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, non-citizens may obtain a "special immigrant religious worker" visa which allows religious workers, such as ministers, to to eventually obtain legal permanent residency. Before applying, immigrants must have completed two years of religious work. If that work was in the U.S., it must have been done while in the country lawfully, according to the invalidated CIS regulations. CIS had argued that requiring legal status for previous U.S. work simply makes sense in the broader immigration scheme, which prohibits employers from hiring unauthorized aliens. The Third, however, was unconvinced.

In 1973, Clark Edward Squire was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the murder of a New Jersey state trooper during a traffic stop.

Last year, Squire -- now known as Sundiata Acoli -- successfully petitioned a New Jersey appellate court to release him on parole. The state attorney general appealed that decision, and the New Jersey Supreme Court announced it would hear the case.

Judge Thomas Ambro joined the Third Circuit in 1999, as a Clinton appointee. A graduate of Georgetown University for both undergrad and law school, he previously worked in the law firm of Richards, Layton & Finger for 34 years.

In private practice, Ambro focused on bankruptcy and business law. On the bench, he has become a reliable voice for liberalism on a wide range of social and civil rights issues.

Can an ERISA retirement plan, after having paid out a consistent pension to early retirees, later reduce those pensions based on the age at which the pensioners retired? Not without violating ERISA's anti-cutback rule, the Third Circuit ruled last Wednesday.

The case, Cottillion v. United Refining Company, involved pensioned retirees who began collecting before they were 65. After several years of pension payouts, United amended the plan to reduce, based on an actuary assessment, payments for early retirees. The court found this not only an impermissible interpretation of the plan's terms, but a violation of ERISA, the law governing employee retirement plans.

Zachary Wilson, a prisoner in Pennsylvania whose murder convictions have twice been overturned, will not yet be able to challenge a third prosecution. Before the court may hear his federal Rule 60(b) motion, Wilson must first exhausting his state court claims, the Third Circuit ruled on Monday.

Wilson had been convicted of two murders in Philadelphia in the early 1980s, only to have those convictions overturned decades later. He remained in prison for years, under arrest for the same murders whose convictions had just been vacated, but was not arraigned until 10 years later.

The Third Circuit ruled Wednesday that certain truckers are entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act, finding that drivers of lighter vehicles are subject to a "carveout" from the FLSA's overtime exemptions.

The FLSA establishes minimum wage and overtime requirements that apply to the majority of workers. Covered workers are entitled to "time and a half" overtime, except, of course, the many workers who fall within the Act's numerous exemptions.

A Pennsylvania divided against itself cannot stand! On February 13, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (not the author of The Bonfire of the Vanities) announced a commonwealth-wide moratorium on the death penalty, which he called "error-prone, expensive, and anything but infallible."

This move earned the ire of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and now, a lawsuit filed by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.