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

Recently in Civil Rights Law Category

Court Upholds Pennsylvania School's Transgender Bathroom Policy

Some decisions are easy -- even the tough ones.

In Doe v. Boyertown Area School District, a federal appeals court upheld a school district's transgender bathroom policy. It means that high school students may go to bathrooms and locker rooms according to their gender identity.

The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals made short work of the decision. The judges summed it up in three paragraphs.

Preachers Beat Criminal Charges, Lose Civil Case

Perhaps it was the message evangelical ministers were preaching that got them into trouble.

After all, there's something wrong about telling people "the end is coming" just as they board a train. But Don Karns and Robert Parker were not going to stop preaching just because they didn't have a permit to be on the train platform.

That was the real problem, according to the New Jersey Transit Authority. But after beating criminal charges against them, the preachers sent the state agency another message in Karns v. Shanahan.

Court to Reconsider Free Speech in Public Meetings

You can't say bomb in an airport -- Ben Stiller learned when protesting treatment by airline representatives.

And you can't say, "some of my friends have guns," as John Barna should have learned protesting school board actions. "I may have to come after all of yours," he added in a sequel.

That earned him expulsion from Panther Valley School Board meetings, and he responded with a First Amendment lawsuit. His case was dismissed, but the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals said it is not over yet.

Court Revives Civil Rights Case Over Trooper Killed in Training

Firearms instructor Richard Schroeter didn't check to see if his gun was loaded, then accidentally shot and killed Trooper David Kedra during routine training.

Schroeter pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment, and Kedra's mother sued for civil rights violations. She alleged that Schroeter subjected her son to a state-created danger, but a trial judge said the instructor was entitled to qualified immunity.

In Kedra v. Schroeter, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. The plaintiff may soon have her day in court, but one judge said the case may have long-term impact.

In a shocking case, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that a TSA agent cannot be held liable for violating the civil rights of a traveler he falsely accused of making a bomb threat.

Following the analysis under Zigler v. Abbasi, the appellate court refused to extend Bivens to hold a TSA agent liable for retaliating against a passenger that wanted to file a complaint. Additionally, it noted that TSA agents enjoy a special protection for national security reasons.

In a pair of cases out of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, a three judge panel reversed a seemingly rogue lower federal district court ruling that refused to extend First Amendment protections to two individuals who photographed police in public. While the cases were remanded back to the lower federal court, the circuit court seemed to caution the parties that the defendants were likely to be immune from liability, regardless of the outcome of the appeal.

The cases are: Fields v. City of Philadelphia, et al., Case No. 16-1650, and Geraci v. City of Philadelphia, et al., Case No. 16-1651. Michael Fields was standing on the sidewalk video recording police as they were breaking up a college party. Fields was arrested simply for making the recording. Amanda Geraci was physically restrained, by the neck, when she attempted to photograph a police officer arresting a protester.

Aaron Hernandez died in prison on Wednesday, having taken his own life. The former New England Patriots tight end's suicide came as he was serving a life sentence for murdering Odin Lloyd, the boyfriend of his fiancee's sister, and just days after he had been acquitted in another double murder case.

Hernandez's may be one of the most famous prison suicides, but it's not the only one. Every year, hundreds of inmates kill themselves, making it the leading cause of death in local jails, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Now, the Third Circuit has clarified just when such suicides may be considered violations of the Eighth Amendment.

Philadelphia's ban on noncommercial advertising in its airport violates the First Amendment and is an unreasonable use of government power, the Third Circuit ruled recently. That ban came after the NAACP paid, in 2011, to display a noncommercial advertisement proclaiming "Welcome to America, home to 5 percent of the world's people and 25 percent of the world's prisoners."

The city then banned all noncommercial advertisements in the Philadelphia International Airport, ostensibly to maximize revenue and avoid controversy. But, the Third Circuit found, there is little evidence that the ban accomplishes either of these goals, making it an unreasonable restriction on First Amendment rights to free speech.

Google and Viacom Win Suit Over Tracking Children Online

The nationwide class action suit that involved Google and Nickelodeon allegedly tracking our innocent, innocent children was largely defeated by the defending companies recently. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit felt that planting cookies on children's computers and devices didn't run afoul of both state and federal laws, at least not the ones the parents identified.

It wasn't a complete victory for Viacom, Nickelodeon's parent company, though. The federal court allowed one privacy claim against the entertainment company stand as it had collected children's information despite promises not to do so. It looks like completely fibbing parents still isn't kosher in corporate America.

Abortion Clinic 'Buffer Zone' Case Revived by 3rd Circuit

The Third Circuit has revived a controversial buffer zone free speech case that challenged Pittsburgh's local ordinance establishing a 15-foot zone around abortion clinics. The zone was created to provide easier access for patients seeking to enter clinics without being verbally accosted by protesters and pro-life advocates.

It was not even a close call as the circuit voted 3-0, saying that protesters had a valid cause of action to pursue a suit against the city on theories that their free speech rights were violated under the Constitution.