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Qualified immunity? For a claim of employment retaliation for whistle-blowing? Believe it or not, that's the defense Philadelphia School District mounted after a federal district court denied its motion for summary judgment in this employment retaliation case.

Francis Dougherty, a former employee, was fired after she told the news media that the school district's superintendent, Dr. Arlene Ackerman, directed a contract to a minority-owned firm without a bidding procedure. The Third Circuit said "no" to the district's claim that it was protected by qualified immunity.

Last month, we reported that the Pennsylvania legislature had passed Senate Bill No. 508, a law that would allow a crime victim to prevent the crime perpetrator from talking about the crime if doing so would make the crime victim feel bad.

The Pennsylvania law in this case was pretty squarely targeted at Mumia Abu Jamal, convicted in 1983 of murdering a Philadelphia police officer. Almost immediately after Gov. Bill Corbett signed it into law, Mumia supporters sued to block its enforcement.

Delaware prison officials have indicated they plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in a rare instance in which prison officials were found liable for the acts of subordinates.

In Barkes v. First Correctional Medical Inc., the Third Circuit determined that state prison administrators were responsible for the suicide of Christopher Barkes, an inmate at a Delaware prison.

From the "that's a terrible idea" department comes a proposed law from Pennsylvania, Senate Bill No. 508, that would allow a crime victim to obtain an injunction preventing the criminal "offender" from engaging in "conduct which perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim." This is further defined as "conduct which causes a temporary or permanent state of mental anguish."

According to Techdirt, the bill was authored following a pre-taped commencement speech given by Mumia Abu-Jamal to the graduate of his correspondence college. Abu-Jamal was convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer in 1981, and his name evokes strong feelings in both the police and prisoners' rights communities. Some state legislators in Pennsylvania were apparently so outraged that criminals have First Amendment rights that they passed Senate Bill No. 508 in a few days.

You know the old trope of the two friends who couldn't be more different? "The Odd Couple"? "Bosom Buddies"? "The Patty Duke Show"? Well, Estate of Lagano v. Bergen County Prosecutor's Office is like that, except one was Chief of Detectives for the East Brunswick, New Jersey, police department and the other one might be a mobster. (I smell a "Sopranos" spin-off!)

Frank Lagano was under investigation; his friend Michael Mordaga was the detective. Mordaga told his friend to hire a particular attorney to make all of it go away. Instead, Lagano became a confidential informant for the New Jersey Attorney General's office.

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.

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.

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.

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.