U.S. Third Circuit - FindLaw

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


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.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act's religious exemption to contraceptive coverage suffered a setback today, as the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court's determination that even the religious exemption runs afoul of the First Amendment.

The Third Circuit's opinion falls in line with opinions from other circuits last year, holding that the religious exemption to contraceptive coverage doesn't allow an employer to prevent an employee from ever obtaining contraceptives.

2014 at the 3rd Circuit: Porngate, Ejaculation, Led Zeppelin

What is there to say about the Third Circuit? It's geographically small. It's in the mid-Atlantic.

That about sums it up. But it was also the source of a lot of fun blog material this year: from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ridiculous infighting to the most beautiful legal complaint I've ever seen.

Then again, we find most things we blog about interesting. What did you, our U.S. Third Circuit Blog readers, enjoy? Here are the 11 most-viewed blog posts of 2014:

Eager Judge Declares Obama's Immigration Plan Unconstitutional

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.

'Porngate' Justice Seamus McCaffery Is Laughing His Way to the Bank

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.

Anyone Who Has Ever Taken Naughty Pics Has Violated This Fed. Law

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.