CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-EIGHTH AMENDMENT-CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT-SOLITARY CONFINEMENT-MENTAL CONDITION

December 8th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Clark v. Coupe, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 32644 (3rd Cir. November 28, 2022) (Restrepo, J.) Angelo Clark, a prisoner diagnosed with manic depression and paranoid schizophrenia, brought an as-applied claim alleging his months-long placement in solitary confinement violated his constitutional rights. The District Court dismissed the claim on qualified immunity grounds, finding Clark failed to allege the violation of a clearly established right. We must disagree. Clark alleged prison officials imposed conditions they knew carried a risk of substantial harm and caused him to suffer debilitating pain that served no penological purpose. Because these allegations trigger established Eighth Amendment protection, we will reverse the grant of qualified immunity and remand for further proceedings.  In Palakovic v. Wetzel, we held allegations that solitary confinement was "inhuman for [Palakovic] in light of his mental illness" averred a viable conditions of confinement claim without discussing his access to mental health treatment. 854 F.3d 209, 226 (3d Cir. 2017). Accordingly, we conclude that the jury's verdict does not preclude our review of Clark's "per se" solitary confinement claim. In re Medley, 134 U.S. 160, 168, 10 S. Ct. 384, 33 L. Ed. 835 (1890). This Court has long…

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIRST AMENDMENT-FREE SPEECH-VOTING

December 8th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Mazo v. New Jersey Sec'y of State, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 32398 (November 23, 2022) (Krause, C.J.)  Nowhere are the First Amendment rights of free speech and association more essential, or more fiercely guarded, than in the context of free and open elections. Self-government depends on ensuring that speech intended to support, challenge, criticize, or celebrate political candidates remains unrestricted. But at the end of every hard-fought political campaign lies the ballot box, where our constitutional democracy depends equally on States fulfilling their solemn duty to regulate elections to ensure fairness and honesty, even where doing so may burden some First Amendment rights. For this reason, courts have long applied the more flexible Anderson-Burdick balancing test to evaluate constitutional challenges to state election laws that govern the mechanics of the electoral process. At the same time, however, courts continue to apply a traditional—and often quite stringent—First Amendment analysis to state election laws that implicate core political speech outside of the voting process. This case asks us to determine where the campaign ends and the electoral process begins. New Jersey permits candidates running in primary elections to include beside their name…

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-EQUAL PROTECTION-CONVICTED SEX OFFENDERS

December 6th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Stradford v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't of Corr., 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 31021 (November 9, 2022) (Porter, C.J.)  Class representatives Lacey Stradford, William Nettles, Jesse Stroud, William Scott, and Richard Richardson ("Appellees"), all convicted sex offenders, allege the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") enforces a policy that unconstitutionally discriminates against sex offenders. The policy requires DOC to consider, among other things, "community sensitivity" when it evaluates parolees for halfway house placement. The District Court entered summary judgment for Appellees, holding that sex offenders and non-sex offenders are similarly situated and consideration of "community sensitivity" when making halfway house assignments is irrational.  But not all crimes are alike. The differences among sex crimes, and between sex crimes and non-sex crimes, preclude the purported similarity between sex offenders and non-sex offenders in this case. A discretionary grant of parole cannot erase those differences. In any event, DOC's halfway house policy considering "community sensitivity," among many other factors, is rationally related to more than one legitimate government interest. So we will reverse and remand for entry of summary judgment for the DOC.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIFTH AMENDMENT-TAKINGS CLAUSE-POLICE SEIZURE OF LAWFULLY OWNED GUNS

September 2nd, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Frein v. Pa. State Police, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 24414 (3rd Cir. August 30, 2022) (Bibas, C.J.) Police may seize potential evidence using a warrant.  They may not keep it forever.  They did that in this case.  After a man assassinated a Pennsylvania state trooper and injured another, the trooper seized his parents’ guns.  The government never used the guns as evidence.  Eight years after the crime, once the son lost his last direct appeal, the officer still refused to return them, even though the officers do not claim that the parents or guns were involved in the crime.  Because the parents were never compensated, they have a Takings claim.  Because they lawfully owned the guns, they have a Second Amendment claim too.  Since they had a real chance to challenge the government’s keeping the guns, they did get procedural due process.  The court found that the case of Bennis v. Michigan, 516 U.S. 442, 452 (1996) is no bar to the claim.  At most, the guns are potential evidence and the police do not gain title to that.  The warrant does not immunize officials who keep property this long. …

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-PENNSYLVANIA CONSTITUTION-ENVIRONMENTAL AMENDMENT

August 22nd, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Pa. Envtl. Def. Found. v. Commonwealth, 2022 Pa. LEXIS 1127 (S. Ct. August 5, 2022) (Baer, C.J.) We reiterate that Section 27 imposes fiduciary duties on Commonwealth entities to "conserve and maintain [Pennsylvania's public natural resources] for the benefit of all the people," which includes a "duty to prevent and remedy the degradation, diminution, or depletion of our public natural resources." Pa. Const. art. 1, § 27; PEDF II, 161 A.3d at 932 (quoting Robinson Twp., 83 A.3d at 956-57). PEDF seeks a declaration that Sections 104(P) and 1601 of the General Appropriation Acts of 2017 and 2018 violate the Commonwealth's trustee duties by using trust resources to pay for the general operations of the DCNR. PEDF specifically contends that revenue from oil and gas leases of State forest and park lands deposited in the Lease Fund should not be appropriated to pay DCNR's general operations, including inter alia, the "salaries, wages or other compensation and travel expenses" of DCNR officers and employees of the Commonwealth, or for the "purchase or rental of goods and services" or "any other expenses . . . necessary for the proper conduct of the…

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIRST AMENDMENT-SPEECH-DISCIPLINARY BOARD OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA EQUAL RIGHTS PROVISION

July 11th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Greenberg v. Goodrich, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52881 (E.D. Pa. March 24, 2022) (Kenney, J.)  This Court fully commends and supports the aims and intentions of the American Bar Association ("ABA") in its creation of the ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) as a statement of an ideal and as a written conviction that we must be constantly vigilant and work towards eliminating discrimination and harassment in the practice of law. If the ABA were to apply the Model Rule as a standard to maintain good standing for its voluntary members, it would indeed be the gold standard. It is a measure that most members of the ABA would aspire to, as would the vast number of those in the profession not represented by the ABA. When, however, the ABA standard is adopted by government regulators and applied to all Pennsylvania licensed lawyers, as in this instance by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (the "Board"), it must pass constitutional analysis and muster. The ABA's power over its voluntary membership is of an immensely different kind, quality, and force than that of the government over its constituents. The government cannot approach…

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIRST AMENDMENT-RELIGION-ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE-PRAYER AT A FOOTBALL GAME

July 7th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Justice Gorsuch delivered the opinion of the Court.  Joseph Kennedy lost his job as a high school football coach because he knelt at midfield after games to offer a quiet prayer of thanks. Mr. Kennedy prayed during a period when school employees were free to speak with a friend, call for a reservation at a restaurant, check email, or attend to other personal matters. He offered his prayers quietly while his students were otherwise occupied. Still, the Bremerton School District disciplined him anyway. It did so because it thought anything less could lead a reasonable observer to conclude (mistakenly) that it endorsed Mr. Kennedy’s religious beliefs. That reasoning was misguided. Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy’s.  Nor does a proper understanding of the Amendment’s Establishment Clause require the government to single out private religious speech for special disfavor. The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike. Now before us, Mr. Kennedy renews his argument that the District’s conduct violated both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment.  These Clauses…

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIRST AMENDMENT-SPEECH-GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES-BLACK LIVES MATTER

July 5th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Amalgamated Transit Union v. Port Auth. of Allegheny Cnty., 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 17951 (3rd Cir. June 29, 2022) (Porter, C.J.)  Beginning in April 2020, the Port Authority of Allegheny County ("Port Authority") required its uniformed employees to wear face masks at work. Some employees wore masks bearing political or social-protest messages. Concerned that such masks would disrupt its workplace, Port Authority prohibited them in July 2020. When several employees wore masks expressing support for Black Lives Matter, Port Authority disciplined them under this policy. In September 2020, Port Authority imposed additional restrictions, confining employees to a narrow range of masks. Together with their union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 ("Local 85"), the employees sued, alleging that Port Authority had violated their First Amendment rights. The District Court entered a preliminary injunction rescinding discipline imposed under the July policy and preventing Port Authority from enforcing its policy against "Black Lives Matter" masks. Port Authority appeals. The government may limit the speech of its employees more than it may limit the speech of the public, but those limits must still comport with the protections of the First Amendment. Port Authority bears the burden…

CIVIL RIGHTS-TITLE VII-RELIGION-REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION-MUSLIM HEAD COVERING

July 2nd, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

By Cliff Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann posted in Constitutional Law on Thursday, July 2, 2015. E.E.O.C. v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, 135 S.Ct. 2028 (2015).  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits a prospective employer from refusing to hire an applicant in order to avoid accommodating a religious practice that it could accommodate without undue hardship.  The question presented is whether this prohibition applies only where an applicant has informed the employer of his need for an accommodation.  In this situation, the store did not hire the woman who wore a Muslim covering because it disagreed with their policy about no head coverings.  An employer is entitled to have a no-headwear policy as an ordinary matter.  But when an applicant requires an accommodation as an aspect of religious practice, it is no response that the subsequent failure to hire was due to an otherwise-neutral policy.  Title VII requires otherwise-neutral policies to give way to the need for an accommodation. Related Posts: CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-PENNSYLVANIA CONSTITUTION-ENVIRONMENTAL AMENDMENT, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIFTH AMENDMENT-TAKINGS CLAUSE-POLICE SEIZURE OF LAWFULLY OWNED GUNS, NEGLIGENCE-MISREPRESENTATION-ECONOMIC LOSS DOCTRINE, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FOURTH AMENDMENT-SEARCH AND SEIZURE-GOVERNMENT REGULATION,…

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-SECOND AMENDMENT-PUBLIC CARRY LICENSES-SPECIAL NEED

June 28th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n v. Bruen, 2022 U.S. LEXIS 3055 (S. Ct. June 23, 2022) (Thomas, J.)  In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. 570, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 171 L. Ed. 2d 637 (2008), and McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U. S. 742, 130 S. Ct. 3020, 177 L. Ed. 2d 894 (2010), we recognized that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect the right of an ordinary, law-abiding citizen to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense. In this case, petitioners and respondents agree that ordinary, law-abiding citizens have a similar right to carry handguns publicly for their self-defense. We too agree, and now hold, consistent with Heller and McDonald, that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.  The parties nevertheless dispute whether New York’s licensing regime respects the constitutional right to carry handguns publicly for self-defense. In 43 States, the government issues licenses to carry based on objective criteria. But in six States, including New York, the government further conditions issuance of a license to carry on a citizen’s showing of some additional special need.  Because the State of New York issues public-carry licenses only when an applicant demonstrates a special need…