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

Recently in Criminal Law Category

It might be one of the least talked about legal issues splitting our nation's courts right now, though we've certainly done our share of babbling about it. It's the resentencing of juvenile lifers, a question that has led to intra-state (federal and state courts conflicting) and interstate splits, with more courts than we can count coming down on both sides of the question since the U.S. Supreme Court's Miller v. Alabama decision in 2012.

What's the issue? Miller held that juveniles must be afforded an "individualized" determination of the offender's age, childhood, life experience, degree of responsibility the youth was capable of exercising, and the chances for rehabilitation -- essentially a heavily scrutinized review that is supposed to limit the amount of life-without-parole sentences.

Now, U.S. District Judge Timothy Savage of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has joined the discussion, holding that Miller is retroactive -- a holding that is made ever the more interesting by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's holding late last year that Miller is not retroactive.

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

New Jersey's attempt to regulate sports betting is in the news again, but this time it's because the Supreme Court denied certiorari. But, in true New Jersey fashion, a new bill was passed within days based on arguments the Department of Justice ("DoJ") made in its brief to provide a work around.

Will the new law (if it goes into effect) be challenged? You can bet on it.

We apologize for the brief interlude between posts, but we are back and ready to update you on the goings-on in the Third Circuit. The Supreme Court reversed a Third Circuit's opinion in a case that reads like a Lifetime made-for-television movie. Not to be outdone by the Supreme Court, a Pennsylvania county clerk is stirring up more trouble in the same sex marriage scenario.

In less dramatic news (hopefully), Delaware is on its way to getting a new judge on its Supreme Court.

It's been an exciting week in the Third Circuit. Pennsylvania joined the ranks among the more enlightened set of states that recognize same sex marriage.

And in more entertaining news, the hacker whose sentence was recently vacated by the Third Circuit has sent the U.S. Government an invoice for Bitcoins totaling about $13 million.

Don't we all feel modern and cool here in the Third?

We've been watching the progression of Andrew "weev" Auernheimer's trial and appeal and last week, the Third Circuit released its opinion in the hacker's appeal. Though "complex and novel issues that are of great public importance in our increasingly interconnected age" were presented, the case was decided on what some might call a technicality -- venue.

Until Monday, Auernheimer was 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.

Upon his release, Auernheimer expressed his need for bacon, says Ars Technica.

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.

Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella was convicted in 2011 for crimes related to a scheme dubbed "Kids for Cash" -- an outrageous miscarriage of justice that has resulted in a film of the same name about the scandal. On Monday, the Supreme Court denied his petition for writ of certiorari.

The Kids for Cash Scandal

The Kids for Cash scandal involved Judge Ciavarella, and his colleague former Judge Conahan, in a conspiracy to send hundreds of juveniles to private detention centers, in lieu of county-run centers, in exchange for cash payments exceeding $2.8 million. As a result, Ciavarella was convicted of 12 of 39 counts including conspiracy and racketeering, and is serving a 28-year sentence in federal prison in Illinois, reports The Citizens' Voice.

There's a lot of seat-shifting going on right now in the Third Circuit. Between the Trenton Mayor's removal, BridgeGate, and the tentative selection of a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, New Jersey is having a hard time staying out of the legal headlines.

Removal of Trenton Mayor Tony Mack

On Wednesday, New Jersey State Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson removed Trenton Mayor Tony Mack from office, following a jury conviction for fraud, bribery and extortion, all related to government corruption, reports The Associated Press.

While it's questionable why any defendant would waive the rights that make them the envy of defendants round the world, it happens. Negotiating and bargaining doesn't just happen in boardrooms, but courtrooms as well, where defendants bargain away their rights for plea deals and shorter sentences.

But is anything really final? This week, the Third Circuit had occasion to address whether a defendant's waiver of some post-conviction rights had the effect of nullifying an appellate waiver. The court held that it did not.

Like the Second Circuit, the Third Circuit holds a special place in my heart as I spent five years of my life in Philadelphia. And though reading Third Circuit opinions does not sate my appetite for cheese steaks or hoagies, there is never a lack of interesting cases coming out of the Third (yes, I'm looking at you Tenth Circuit and Federal Circuit).

Third Circuit in the News

The Third Circuit made headlines with important cases being decided including a student free speech case that centered on students' right to wear bracelets proclaiming "I Heart Boobies" as part of a breast cancer awareness campaign. Also notable, in a warrantless GPS case (with a circuit split brewing) the court held that officers should have first obtained a warrant before affixing a slap-on GPS tracking device to a car. The warrantless GPS decision is awaiting en banc review, and the school district has voted to petition SCOTUS for review, so these will be a hot issues in 2014 as well.