U.S. Third Circuit - FindLaw

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


Ever since Miranda v. Arizona, the right to remain silent, and its companion, the right to have an attorney present during questioning, has been walked back both by the U.S. Supreme Court and various state supreme courts.

Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a person can't invoke his Fifth Amendment right to counsel under Miranda in anticipation of police questioning. Along with a recent decision of the California Supreme Court, Pennsylvania's decision moves Miranda's temporal period in favor of the police.

A large class action law firm has filed a writ of mandamus with the Third Circuit, seeking to prevent a court appointed special master from interviewing its plaintiffs. The firm, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, gained prominence due to its role in the $260 billion tobacco settlement in the late 1990s, but recently received sanctions for thalidomide lawsuits which were described as "bad-faith advocacy" which "gives new meaning to 'frivolous.'"

As the cases began to falter, and sanctions began to mount, Hagens Berman sought to dismiss them en masse. That led to the special master seeking to interview the plaintiffs, in order to determine if they had knowingly agreed to abandoned their cases.

In an attempt to make porn distributors police themselves, Congress passed into law 18 USC 2257, which requires that they keep records of all their performers so they can prove no one in their employ is underage. They also must produce these records at the government's request, or permit the government to inspect them at any time.

Porn companies think this requirement is onerous and violates the First and Fourth Amendments. The Third Circuit actually agreed, to some extent, at least as to the Fourth Amendment argument.

Three insurance companies were sued by two patients and their pharmacies after the companies had refused to pay for blood-clotting-factor products under ERISA health plans. Eventually, the insurance companies paid them in full, including interest. Each time, the patients recovered through settlement, not court order.

The patients filed for attorneys' fees under ERISA, which allows for recovery of attorneys' fees when there has been "some success" on the merits. The settlements were success enough, the First Circuit reasoned, deciding for the first time that the catalyst theory allows recovery of fees in ERISA cases. ERISA attorneys, now's the time to pop the champagne.

Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary committee will hold a hearing on pending nominees, allowing for some much needed movement after two months without a hearing. That won't mean much for the Third Circuit, however. Even after six months, the Senate is still stalling on President Obama's nomination of Luis Felipe Restrepo for the Third Circuit.

When Restrepo was nominated last November, he was one of a cohort of seven nominees to federal judgeships. The Senate has held hearings on only two of that group, so far.

What's the hold up?

Personally, I've never understood the draw of gift certificates. Unlike cash, they're filled with restrictions, limitations, and prohibitions. But, they often come with deals, and people love a good deal.

That love of a deal may result in a windfall for some New Jersey litigants. After suing Restaurant.com for selling gift certificates which failed to comply with New Jersey consumer protection laws, in a case that has resulted in six published opinions, plaintiffs may finally have the go ahead to pursue a class action lawsuit against the website.

Lucy Cheng and Mait Dubois claimed to work for OMEI, which represented investors in Ocean View, which lent money to another entity called Southgate Development Group (SDG), which was the owner of a real estate development called Southgate Crossing.

Are you following along? If you think the need for multiple layers of corporations is a red flag, the Third Circuit is right along with you in this tale of "highly dubious business activities" taking place in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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.