May 1st, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Fulton v. City of Phila., 3rd Cir. 2019 LEXIS 11711 (April 22, 2019)-A reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer informed the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services in March 2018 that two of its agencies would not work with same-sex couples as foster parents. Human Services investigated this allegation, which it considered a violation of the City’s anti-discrimination laws. When the agencies confirmed that, because of their religious views on marriage, they would not work with gay couples, Human Services ceased referring foster children to them. One of those agencies, Catholic Social Services (sometimes abbreviated “CSS”), brought this action claiming that the city has violated its rights under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise, Establishment, and Free Speech Clauses, as well as under Pennsylvania’s Religious Freedom Protection Act. It seeks an order requiring the City to renew their contractual relationship while permitting it to turn away same-sex couples who wish to be foster parents. CSS sought preliminary injunctive relief to this effect from the District Court. When it denied the request after a three-day hearing, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, 320 F. Supp. 3d 661 (E.D. Pa. 2018), CSS appealed. Our…


April 23rd, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Adams v. Governor of Del. 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 10618 (April 10, 2019) Fuentes, J.-James R. Adams is a resident and a member of the State Bar of Delaware. For some time, he has expressed a desire to be considered for a judicial position in that state. Following the announcement of several judicial vacancies, Adams considered applying but ultimately chose not to because the announcement requires that the candidate be a Republican. Because Adams was neither a Republican nor a Democrat, he concluded that any application he submitted would be futile. Adams brings this suit against the Governor of the State of Delaware to challenge the provision of the Delaware Constitution that effectively limits service on state courts to members of the Democratic and Republican parties. Adams claims that under the Supreme Court’s precedent in Elrod v. Burns and Branti v. Finkel, a provision that limits a judicial candidate’s freedom to associate (or not to associate) with the political party of his or her choice is unconstitutional. The Governor argues that because judges are policymakers, there are no constitutional restraints on his hiring decisions and he should be free to…


March 20th, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Timbs v. Indiana, 2019 Supreme Court of the U.S. LEXIS 1350 (February 20, 2019) Ginsburg, J.-This case involves forfeiture of a $42,000 vehicle with a maximum fine of $10,000. The trial court in Indiana ruled that such forfeiture would be grossly disproportionate to the gravity of the offense and hence unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment excessive fines clause. The Indiana Supreme Court did not decide whether the forfeiture would be excessive. It held that the excessive fines clause constrains only federal actions and is inapplicable to state actions. The question presented is: Is the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause an “incorporated” protection applicable to the States under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause? Like the Eighth Amendment’s proscriptions of “cruel and unusual punishment” and “[e]xcessive bail,” the protection against excessive fines guards against abuses of government’s punitive or criminal-law-enforcement authority. This safeguard, we hold, is “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty,” with “dee[p] root[s] in [our] history and tradition. McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742, 767, 130 S. Ct. 3020, 177 L. Ed. 2d 894 (2010) (internal quotation marks omitted; emphasis deleted). The Excessive Fines Clause is therefore incorporated…


February 19th, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Earl Patterson v. Penna. Liquor Control Board, 2019 U.S. Dist (February 12, 2019) Restrepo, J.-Earl Patterson was employed as a maintenance person for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (“PLCB”) when he reported for duty at a PLCB-operated liquor store in Eddystone, Pennsylvania. Shortly after his arrival, the location’s assistant manager accused him of attempting to rob the store. Patterson was detained by the police as a result of the PLCB employee’s accusation. Patterson filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§1981 and 1983 against the PLCB alleging race discrimination and violation of Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection in connection with these events. Patterson now appeals the District Court’s Order granting the PLCB’s motion to dismiss his Complaint on Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity grounds. For the reasons that follow, we will affirm. Though, by its terms, the Eleventh Amendment immunizes only “States” against private actions brought by citizens of other states, see U.S. Const. amend. XI, it is “well established” that suits brought by in-state litigants against “arms” of a state “may nonetheless be barred by the Eleventh Amendment.” Karns, 879 F.3d at 512-13 (quoting Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663…


December 6th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Tam Thah Nguyen v. Commonwealth of Penna; Bromberg, 2018 U.S. Dist. 2-15-cv-05082 (October 2018) Bibas, J.-A claim that a search was unconstitutional accrues when the officer conducts the search, not when a court later declares it unconstitutional. So the statute of limitations runs from the time of the search, not the time of the court decision. Here, Tam Thanh Nguyen sued Pennsylvania State Trooper Jared Bromberg for a 2012 search and arrest, but only after a 2015 Pennsylvania court decision held that search unconstitutional. Nguyen’s suit thus arrives more than a year late and is time-barred, so we will affirm. 


October 10th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Appellant Michael Rinaldi, who at all relevant times was an inmate in custody at United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg (“Lewisburg” or the “Institution”), appeals the District Court’s dismissal of his complaint alleging that the conduct of various personnel violated his constitutional and statutory rights. His appeal requires us to resolve three matters of first impression for our Court: (1) what showing an inmate must make to establish that administrative remedies were not “available” within the meaning of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”); (2) whether the PLRA’s exhaustion requirement is satisfied where a prison administrator elects to resolve a procedurally improper administrative request on the merits; and (3) whether a prison’s housing and cellmate assignments meet the discretionary function exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act’s limited waiver of sovereign immunity. For the reasons that follow, we will affirm the District Court’s dismissal of Rinaldi’s complaint in part and will vacate and remand in part.  The court found the proper exhaustion in that the constitutional claims can go forward, but it also found that the discretionary right of prison authorities with respect to housing and to the Federal Tort Claims Act…


October 10th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Jutrowski v. Twp. of Riverdale, 3d Cir. 2018 LEXIS 25806 (September 12, 2018) Krause, Jr.  This case arises from an undisputed constitutional violation: an act of excessive force committed during the arrest of Appellant Emil Jutrowski in which he was kicked in the face, breaking his eye socket. Appellees – consisting of two Riverdale, New Jersey Police Officers and two New Jersey State Troopers involved in the arrest (the “Individual Defendants”), and their respective employers, the Township of Riverdale and the State of New Jersey (collectively, the “Defendants”) – do not dispute that one of the officers kicked Jutrowski. But each of the Individual Defendants assert he neither inflicted the blow himself nor saw anyone else do so, and Jutrowski, whose face was pinned to the pavement when the excessive force occurred, is unable to identify his assailant. He therefore brought excessive force claims against all Defendants and conspiracy claims against the four Individual Defendants under 42 U.S.C.  § 1983. The District Court, however, relying on our precedent that a defendant in a civil rights action must have “personal involvement” in the alleged wrongs, Rode v Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195,…


September 28th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Newark Cab Association; Newark Taxi Owner Association; Teterboro Airport Limousine Service; ABBAS ABBAS; PETRO ABDELMESSIEH; SAYEV KHELLAH; MICHAEL W. SAMUEL; GEORGE TAWFIK, individually, and by certain plaintiffs on behalf of others similarly situated v City of Newark, 2018, U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Cir., (August 20, 2018) Chagares, J.  Newark Cab Association, Newark Taxi Owner Association, Teterboro Airport Limousine Service, Abbas Abbas, Petro Abdelmessieh, Sayev Khellah, Michael W. Samuel and George Tawfik (collectively, the “plaintiffs”) filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and New Jersey law challenging an agreement the City of Newark (the “City”) entered into with Uber Technologies, Inc. (“Uber”). They alleged inter alia, that the City violated their rights under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment by subjecting Uber and other Transportation Network Companies (“TNCs”) to less onerous regulations than those imposed on taxi and limousine operators. The City moved to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The District Court granted the motion, and dismissed the action with prejudice. This appeal followed. The City’s decision to permit TNCs to operate…


September 27th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Commonwealth v Knox, 2018, LEXIS 4272 (August 21, 2018) Saylor J.  In this appeal by allowance, we address whether the First Amendment of the United States Constitution permits the imposition of criminal liability based on the publication of a rap-music video containing threatening lyrics directed to named law enforcement officers. While criminal drug charges were pending, Appellant and Brasley wrote and recorded a rap song entitled, “F—k the Police,” which was put on video with still photos of Appellant and Beasley displayed in a montage. In the photos, the two are looking into the camera and motioning as if firing weapons. The view was uploaded to YouTube by a third party, and the YouTube link was placed on a publicly-viewable Facebook page entitled “Beaz Mooga,” which the trial evidence strongly suggested belonged to Beasley. In terms of the songs effects, Officer Kosko testified that when he heard it he was “shocked” and it made him “nervous.” He cited it as one of the reasons he decided to leave the Pittsburgh police force and relocate. See id. at 107, 109. For his part, Detective Zeltner stated he found the video “very…


September 24th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Kelly Conard v Penna. State Police, Penna. State Police Human Resources, Sgt. Joseph Tripp, Sgt. Dennis Hile, 2018 U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Cir., (August 28, 2018).  Plaintiff Kelly Conard appeals from the July 12, 2016 order of dismissal of a civil rights action that she brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against her former employer, the Pennsylvania State Police, and her former State Police Supervisors, Sergeants Joseph Tripp and Dennis Hile. The District Court held that the bulk of Conard’s claims were barred because they had been adjudicated in a prior action which she initiated after she unsuccessfully sought reemployment by the State Police after she voluntarily resigned. The Court also dismissed her separate claim that defendants retaliated against her for having filed that prior action by giving her negative employment references as it held that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. For the reasons set forth below, we will reverse the order dismissing Conard’s First Amendment retaliation claim.