3rd Circuit Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Third Circuit
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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.

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.

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.

N.J.'s Gay Conversion Therapy Ban Stands: 3rd Cir.

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.