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

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A litterbug out of the state of New Jersey has filed, and basically won, a federal lawsuit over being jailed after pleading guilty to a fine-only offense. Notably, that fine was less than $250, including all the garbage administrative fees courts tack on.

After explaining to the court that he could not afford to pay the fine immediately, but could enter a payment plan, or do community service, he was jailed. Fortunately, for Anthony Kneisser, a family member paid the fine for him shortly after being taking into custody. But, unfortunately for the Burlington Township Municipal Court, the federal district court ruled in the plaintiff's favor on their motion for summary judgment.

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez 'Dodges Bullet' in Mistrial

In the criminal defense world, a 10-2 deadlock is a pretty big win.

A complete acquittal would be like a home run, but jurors voted 10-2 and sent a big message to the prosecutors in United States of America v. Menendez. Don't try it again.

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, whose bribery case ended in a mistrial, hopes the Department of Justice doesn't refile charges against him. But for Senate Democrats, the mistrial was a ticket to the big game where they need every vote.

Charlton Heston, the late Hollywood actor and conservative activist, played an unusual role in overturning Paul McKernan's 1998 conviction for the murder of his roommate. McKernan's bench trial was held before Judge Lisa Richette. The trial went a bit awry after Judge Richette discovered a blog post criticizing her as a "bleeding heart judge" and quoting Charlton Heston's characterization of her as "Let 'em Loose Lisa."

That blog post caused Judge Richette to lose her impartiality, McKernan argued, and his counsel should have demanded her recusal. The Third Circuit agreed, finding that McKernan had received ineffective assistance of counsel.

3rd Cir. Refuses to Kill Corruption Charges Against Sen. Menendez

The Third Circuit has refused to dismiss corruption and fraud charges against U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. The New Jersey senator is accused of accepting gifts in exchange for political favors, but he sought to have the charges dismissed, on the basis that the Constitution's "speech or debate" clause shielded him from prosecution.

That argument did not sway a three-judge panel. This is the last major obstacle to be cleared between the New Jersey legislator from what is most likely going to be a very uncomfortable trial.

Prosecutor Misconduct in Murder Case Didn't Render Trial Unfair

Prosecutorial misconduct did not render a murder trial fundamentally unfair according to the Third Circuit, affirming the lower court. What kind of misconduct are we talking about? The misconduct included repeated suggestion that the defendant's freedom would threaten the jurors' safety, the suggestion that the defendant's discarded firearm would endanger children, and repeated showings of images of a bloodied corpse the defendant had shot.

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.

The operator of a home hospice care company had his Medicare fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering convictions upheld by the Third Circuit recently. Matthew Kolodesh had claimed that his conviction was obtained through prosecutorial misconduct.

He alleged that the prosecutors improperly relied upon a recording of him planning to defraud Medicare and improperly introduced stereotypes that Russians sought to "game the system." The Third Circuit, however, disagreed, finding that the prosecutor's actions were appropriate given the context.

Chaka Fattah Jr. just wanted to start an education company. Now he's facing a slew of legal issues, including a 23-count indictment.

Fattah Jr., son of the Pennsylvania congressman, has been the center of attention in Philadelphia since 2012 concerning alleged tax fraud and misuse of bank loans. He faces up to $13 million in fines from the IRS. The ongoing legal dispute took a bad turn for Fattah on June 1st when the Third Circuit dismissed his appeal.

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 Judgment Against Real Estate Schemers

Lucy Cheng and Mait Dubois claimed to work for OMEI, which represented investors in Ocean View, which lent money to another entity called Southgate Development Group (SDG), which was the owner of a real estate development called Southgate Crossing.

Are you following along? If you think the need for multiple layers of corporations is a red flag, the Third Circuit is right along with you in this tale of "highly dubious business activities" taking place in the U.S. Virgin Islands.