U.S. Third Circuit - FindLaw

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


The majority said that this was a "straightforward" case: Columbia Gas Transmission has the "right of eminent domain to obtain easements over the land of objecting landowners, outside of the existing right of way, in order to replace deteriorating pipeline."

And yet, the dissent (and the district court) felt that this was far more complicated, because it depends on how you define "replace" -- replace in place, or replace and reroute, up to a mile from the original location of the gas line. (H/T to The Legal Intelligencer.)

Who said law can't be interesting?

As a general rule, one shouldn't send porn through a work email account during work hours. As a more specific rule, one shouldn't do that if one is a state official, and as an even more specific rule, the head of the state police really shouldn't be doing that at all.

And yet, here we are. The Pennsylvania state attorney general's office last week named eight current and former high-ranking state officials who were part of an investigation into state officials' sending and receiving pornographic emails on state email accounts on state computers.

"Civil regulatory scheme" or "criminal punishment"? How would you classify a newly instated requirement that all sex offenders wear an ankle monitor at all times, check in with officers at the parole board when needed, and if they violate the rules, be subject to criminal penalties?

If that sounds a lot like parole to you, you're not alone. The New Jersey Supreme Court has held that the state's 2007 Sex Offender Monitoring Act (SOMA) amounts to ex post facto punishment when applied to those who had committed their crimes before the law was enacted.

"SOMA looks like parole, monitors like parole, restricts like parole, serves the general purpose of parole, and is run by the Parole Board," the court explained. "Calling this scheme by another name does not alter its essential nature."

Prosecutor? No need. How about defense counsel? Nah, they can represent themselves.

Meet Judge Louis DiLeo. Back in 2010, in the Linden, New Jersey, municipal court, DiLeo held a "trial" consisting of himself as the judge and prosecutor, the two defendants representing themselves (after denying their request for a public defender), and the police witness, who cross-examined them.

Unsurprisingly, the two convictions were later reversed, Judge DiLeo was reprimanded, and last week, the Third Circuit upheld the district court's holding that he had lost his judicial immunity by going all Judge Dredd on the parties.

Sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), also known as conversion therapy or ex-gay therapy, is still illegal in New Jersey, the second U.S. state to ban the controversial treatment. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, borrowing heavily from the Ninth Circuit's consideration of California's similar ban, upheld Assembly Bill A3371 yesterday.

The Third Circuit held that while the therapy was speech (as opposed to conduct), it was professional speech, a form of speech offered fewer protections under the First Amendment. New Jersey's interest in "protecting its citizens from harmful or ineffective professional practices" trumps those protections.

The only remedy left for proponents of the therapy is an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, a path these groups declined to take when challenging California's ban.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is simple: If you're injured, you can take leave and your job is held for you while you recover. Except, the finer points can get a bit tricky. What if an employee can only come back with restrictions? Who makes the judgment call on whether an employee can fulfill her essential duties?

That was the key to Vanessa Budhun's case. She broke a finger, was told by HR that she had to take FMLA leave, and while she was gone, was replaced. The doctor cleared her with "no restrictions in splint," which is kinda-sorta like no restrictions, but with only seven functioning digits. (Bundhun's job requires typing.)

The district court granted summary judgment to the hospital, but the Third Circuit reversed. Why?

A prisoner ejaculation lawsuit? What's this all about?

Prisons can be funny places. Not funny "ha-ha," but funny "what planet are you living on?" For example, sex occurs in prisons -- that's a fact -- but prisons have been routinely against providing condoms in order to limit the transmission of STDs between prisoners. Why? The outmoded logic that, because sex between prisoners isn't permitted, providing condoms would be an incentive to have sex. Recall the previous sentence, however: It's already happening. The philosophy of harm reduction, rather than making public policy based on what people should or shouldn't be doing, is predicated on making policy based on what people actually do.

Against this backdrop, we come to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, where an Article III judge rejected a magistrate's recommendation that a prisoner's Eighth Amendment claim be dismissed.

If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? And if a person puts child pornography in a shared folder, but no one downloads it, has that person "distributed" child pornography? By a 2-1 margin, the Third Circuit said "no."

David George Husmann was already on supervised release for a child pornography conviction when the probation department was alerted that his computer had accessed pornographic websites. A probation officer visited his house, ultimately seizing four USB flash drives. Husmann also had file-sharing applications installed on his computer. Several of the pornographic files were in a "shared" folder that could be made available to others on the file sharing network.

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.