3rd Circuit Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Third Circuit
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The dust has finally settled around the controversy over student speech in the "I Heart Boobies" bracelet case, and now another school in the Third Circuit has come under fire for potentially violating a student's right to free speech.

Though there's never a clear line drawn as to what kind of speech can be prohibited, this case is a particularly difficult one because the speech being prohibited is religious in nature. At the intersection of religious speech, and permissible prohibitions on speech at schools, lies the case of the religious Valentine's Day cards.

In the latest fallout from the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, the United States District Court for the District of Delaware has issued an order granting a preliminary injunction, enjoining the state of Delaware from enforcing Delaware Election Code Sections 8002(10), 8002(27) and 8031, which requires certain disclosures related to financial contributions to third-party political ads.

On January 1, 2013, Delaware's Election Disclosures Act ("Act") took effect, which would require organizations, including non-profits, to disclose donors when the funds are used for third-party advertisements during an election. Non-profit conservative group, Delaware Strong Families, who publishes and distributes a voter guide, sought to prevent enforcement of the Act by filing a verified complaint in district court.

Things in the Third Circuit are heating up as cert petitions get filed, denied, and in one case, argued before the Supreme Court. Let's just say it's been a busy week. Today, we'll give you a breakdown of cases originating in the Third Circuit as they (try to) make their way to the Supremes.

Drake, et al. v, Jerejian, et al. -- Petitions Filed

Last year, the Third Circuit affirmed a district court's decision that held constitutional a New Jersey law that required a gun owner must show a "justifiable need" to receive a permit to carry a firearm. Earlier this year, gun owners (whose appeal is bankrolled by the NRA) filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court. Last week, the New Jersey Attorney General filed a brief asking the Court to deny the petition. We're waiting to see whether the Court will grant cert.

The post-9/11 surveillance has not been without controversy -- or litigation -- and a case originating in New Jersey is now making its way to the Third Circuit. However, jurisdictional issues, as well as Supreme Court precedent, may stand in the way of this case getting very far.

The Alleged Discriminatory Activity

According to the compliant, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the New York Police Department "began a secret spying program to infiltrate and monitor Muslim life in and around New York City." The Associated Press covertly found, and released, un-redacted information regarding the spying program, including actual locations being monitored.

The tech community is watching the Third Circuit as Andrew "weev" Auernheimer, the hacker people love to hate, appeals his conviction for, as he puts it, "doing arithmetic." And, in more somber news, the Third Circuit lost one of its finest judges on Wednesday, Judge Joseph F. Weis Jr.

Weev's Appeal and Oral Arguments

Weev is currently serving a 41-month sentence for identity theft and conspiracy to commit unauthorized access to a protected computer, in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ("CFAA"), when he accessed and leaked 114,000 email addresses of iPad users. On Wednesday, the Third Circuit heard arguments in his appeal.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently delivered an opinion in Fernandez v. California, where it held that Georgia v. Randolph -- which holds that one co-tenant's consent to search does not override another co-tenants refusal to consent to search -- does not apply when the occupant objecting to the search has been removed, and the remaining occupant provides consent "well after [the other occupant] has been removed from the apartment they shared."

These two Supreme Court cases, along with another case recently decided by the Third Circuit, all have one thing in common -- lovers' quarrels and consent to search.

The Third Circuit got the final word in a case that has sparked national attention on the issue of students' rights of free speech, when the Supreme Court denied a school district's petition for cert. on Monday. Also, in a case that may affect future elections, the Third Circuit heard arguments regarding the constitutionality of Pennsylvania ballot access laws.

"I Heart Boobies" Case Denied Cert

A group of students sued their school district after they were banned from wearing "I Heart Boobies" bracelets meant to promote breast cancer awareness. A district court lifted the school's ban and granted a preliminary injunction, and the school district appealed. An en banc panel of the Third Circuit found that the school's ban violated the students' free speech, because the bracelets were not offensive, were aimed at raising social awareness, and were not disruptive.

If you were planning on drowning your sorrows in booze the next time you attended a funeral in Pennsylvania, you may need to bring your own flask. The Third Circuit recently upheld an old law on the books, and some funeral directors are miffed, reports LancasterOnline. And, adding to those that are upset are Orthodox Jewish therapists, as they join the charge challenging New Jersey's law banning gay conversion therapy.

Food (and Booze) and Funerals Don't Mix

Several people and organizations sued the Pennsylvania Board of Funeral Directors challenging provisions of the Pennsylvania Funeral Director Law ("FDL") as violating the U.S. Constitution. The district court found many of the provisions unconstitutional, and the Board of Funeral Directors appealed. The Third Circuit reversed most of the district court's rulings.

No more secrets. At least, that's what the Delaware Coalition for Open Government says, and two lower federal courts agreed. But, on the day of the deadline, attorneys for the Delaware Court of Chancery filed their petition for writ of certiorari, reports Reuters.

The Delaware Chancery Arbitrations

Delaware amended its laws in 2009 to provide "the power to arbitrate business disputes" to the Delaware Court of Chancery. If one of the entities is a Delaware corporation, the dispute is over $1 million or more, and if neither party is a consumer, state-sponsored arbitrations may ensue, though they are not open to the public. And, therein lies the dispute: these arbitrations, performed by the Delaware Court of Chancery have been likened to secret trials, with a public interest group claiming that these non-public arbitrations violate their First Amendment right of access.

In a case we've been watching, last week Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court -- an intermediary appellate court -- issued a long-awaited decision on the viability of Pennsylvania's voter ID law. In his opinion and order, Judge Bernard L. McGinley invalidated, and permanently enjoined, a Pennsylvania law requiring voter photo identification.

Pennsylvania's Voter ID Law

The Pennsylvania Voter ID law in question, HB 934, added a photo identification requirement to Pennsylvania's Election Code. The amendment was passed, without one single Democratic vote, purportedly to prevent voter fraud, though The Atlantic noted that a Pennsylvania Republican stated that the law "is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."