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

Recently in Civil Rights Law Category

Congratulations are in order to the Nurse Ratcheds of the world. The Third Circuit ruled Tuesday that New Jersey can forcibly medicate institutionalized, mentally ill patients in state custody.

The appeal came after Disability Rights New Jersey challenged the forced-medication, arguing that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the patients' due process rights. The Third Circuit disagreed, finding that the institutionalized were not discriminated against and had sufficient process available before being medicated.

No Anticipatory Invocation of Miranda, Says Penn. Sup. Ct.

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.

3rd Cir. Upholds Porn Recordkeeping Requirements

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.

3rd Cir. Affirms Dismissal of 4th and 14 Am. Claims Against Police

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.

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.

3rd Cir. Follows Others in Upholding ACA Contraceptive Exemption

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.

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.

No Qualified Immunity for School District's Firing of Whistleblower

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.

Mumia Abu-Jamal Sues to Block Pa. Criminal Gag Law

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.

Del. to Petition SCOTUS in Prison Suicide Case

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.