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

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Qualified Immunity Trumps First Amendment Lawsuit Over Wetlands

Identifying a right to be free from retaliatory restriction on speech, a federal appeals court ruled that a township official was nonetheless immune from liability when he told local residents not to contact him or other town leaders about a property dispute.

The Third Circuit ruled last week that the official had violated a Pennsylvania couple's rights with his "no contact" email, but that the right was not clearly established in the law at the time. Under the circumstances, the appeals court said, the official was entitled to a qualified immunity.

Court Lifts Solitary Confinement for Some Death Row Inmates in Pennsylvania

Charles Dickens wrote that the law is an ass.

In Oliver Twist, the author suggested that sometimes the law makes no sense. In the case of Mr. Bumble, he said "the law is a ass" for making a man legally responsible for his wife's thievery.

With apologies to Dickens, as well as Craig Williams and Shawn Walker, it appears no one was legally responsible for their 14 years in unlawful solitary confinement. The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals said Williams and Walker had been denied due process, but that prison officials were not to blame because the law was not clear.

Age Bias Is Actionable in Sub-Groups, 3rd Cir. Rules

Splitting the federal circuits, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia has ruled that age discrimination may be actionable by sub-groups of older workers.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals said the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects workers aged 40 and older against age discrimination, and groups of fifty-year-olds or older groups may sue relative to younger groups in the protected class.

"A rule that disallowed subgroups would ignore genuine statistical disparities that could otherwise be actionable through application of the plain text of the statute," the appellate court said.

In reversing a trial court decision in the case, the appeals court set up the issue for resolution by the U.S. Supreme Court. The third Circuit acknowledged that its ruling was at odds with the Second, Sixth and Eighth circuits, but said it was compelled to craft its own rule.

3rd Circuit Reverses in Favor of ISPs, Rules Against AT&T

Net Neutrality. Data Throttling. These are some of the new vocabulary terms that netizens have become fluent in recently. It seems that every few months, a new court drama plays out over the proper nature of Internet traffic and how to handle it.

One of the key players, AT&T, has been finding itself in courtrooms a lot lately. How nice of them to set precedent for the rest of us.

3rd Circuit Rules That Fraudsters Can Offset Their Liabilities

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals all but sided with a pair of Pennsylvania construction businessmen by vacating their sentences and overruling the sentencing court. To their credit, however, the panel was simply applying court rules.

The case involved defrauding the government by taking advantage of government benefits outlined in the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Act. The Court's ruling clarifies how damages are to be properly calculated when funds are illicitly secured and work is actually completed.

A couple may proceed in their class action lawsuit against Aaron's, a furniture and office rental store, and many of its franchisees, the Third Circuit ruled yesterday. Clarifying the Circuit's standards on class ascertainability, the Circuit held that the ascertainability test should be a simple, narrow examination of the proposed class.

The decision marks an important clarification in a rule that had been used by defendants to defeat class actions before the class is even formed. The facts of the case, which involve spyware installed on rental computers, serves as another reminder that rental furniture might not be the best idea.

Remember the mailbox rule? Just the thought of it brings us back to our first year of law school. And believe it or not, it still comes up in cases today.

Last week, the Third Circuit had a chance to review the common law presumption of delivery, and noted that it in this day and age, that time-honored presumption may not be enough for employers attempting to give their employees legal notice.

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.

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.

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.