Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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Liao, a citizen of China, became a lawful U.S. permanent resident in 2005. In 2015, Liao had a physical altercation with his girlfriend, Yu. A neighbor called the police. Yu told responding officers that she was holding her infant son, J.Y., while Liao struck her, but that J.Y. was not “hit or hurt.” She said, however, that during the fight, J.Y. was placed on the bed and fell to the floor. Officers arrested Liao, charging him with three offenses, including endangering the welfare of a child, Pa. Cons. Stat. 4304(a)(1). Liao was convicted and served 106 days of his prison sentence. An IJ ordered Liao’s removal for committing “a crime of domestic violence, a crime of stalking, or a crime of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment,” which rendered him removable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(E)(i). The Third Circuit granted a petition for review and remanded to the BIA, reasoning that the elements of his conviction do not match the elements of the crime of “child abuse” under federal law, which requires a specified risk of harm that rises above conduct that creates only the bare potential for non-serious harm. The Pennsylvania child endangerment statute in effect at the time of Liao’s conviction did not require such a risk. View "Liao v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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After seeing an idling car, illegally parked in front of a store known for drug sales, officers waited for the driver to return, then approached the car. The driver admitted not having a driver’s license. Hester, the passenger, stated that he had a license and started to get out of the car. As he moved, an officer heard the familiar thud of a gun hitting the vehicle's floorboards. Another officer, who testified to seeing Hester drop the gun, verbally alerted the others. Hester attempted to run, but was apprehended. Officers near the vehicle confirmed the presence of a gun at the foot of the passenger’s seat. Hester was convicted as a felon in possession of a firearm following the denial of his motion to suppress. The court applied a four-level enhancement to Hester’s Guidelines range under the theory that Hester’s possession itself constituted New Jersey evidence tampering but varied downward to mitigate its effect, and sentenced Hester to 86 months’ imprisonment. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion to suppress but held that the application of the evidence tampering sentencing enhancement was erroneous. A traffic stop is a seizure of everyone in the stopped vehicle. Hester had submitted to the officers’ show of authority when he waited in the vehicle with the driver before and during questioning but there was objectively reasonable suspicion to support Hester’s seizure. View "United States v. Hester" on Justia Law

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Then-New Jersey Governor Christie appointed Baroni as Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Baroni and Kelly, the Deputy Chief of Staff for New Jersey’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, engaged in a scheme to impose crippling gridlock on the Borough of Fort Lee after its mayor refused to endorse Christie’s 2013 reelection bid. Under the guise of conducting a “traffic study,” they conspired to limit Fort Lee motorists’ access to the George Washington Bridge (the world’s busiest bridge) over four days during the first week of the school year. Extensive media coverage of “Bridgegate” ensued. Baroni and Kelly were convicted of conspiracy to obtain by fraud, knowingly convert, or intentionally misapply property of an organization receiving federal benefits, 18 U.S.C. 371, and the substantive offense; conspiracy to commit wire fraud, section 1349, and the substantive offense; and conspiracy against civil rights, section 241, and the substantive offense. The Third Circuit affirmed the wire fraud convictions but vacated the civil rights convictions. The government presented evidence sufficient to prove defendants violated the wire fraud statute by depriving the Port Authority of, at a minimum, its money in the form of public employee labor. The court rejected an argument that Baroni possessed the unilateral authority to control Port Authority traffic patterns. There is no “clearly established” constitutional right to intrastate travel, so the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on the civil rights claims. View "United States v. Baroni" on Justia Law

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Salmoran, a citizen of Mexico, was granted lawful permanent resident status in 2004. In 2015, he pled guilty to violation of New Jersey Statutes 2C:24- 4(b)(5)(b): Any person who knowingly possesses or knowingly views any photograph, film, videotape, computer program or file, video game or any other reproduction or reconstruction which depicts a child engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act, including on the Internet, is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. DHS charged Salmoran as removable for having been convicted of: the aggravated felony crime of sexual abuse of a minor; an offense relating to child pornography; and a crime of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment. The BIA held that the conviction “categorically constitutes a crime of child abuse," so as to subject him to removal (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(I), 1227(a)(2)(E)(i)) but did not address whether the conviction was categorically an aggravated felony for an offense relating to child pornography, rejected Salmoran’s argument that the state statute was broader than the federal offense, and found that Salmoran was “statutorily precluded from applying for cancellation of removal. The Third Circuit remanded. The conviction qualifies as a crime of child abuse, but does not qualify as an aggravated felony relating to child pornography; while Salmoran is removable, he may still file an application for cancellation of removal. View "Salmoran v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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McClure-Potts contacted police about Samarin, who entered the U.S. without inspection from Ukraine. McClure-Potts claimed she was trying to adopt Samarin, who was 19 years old and that Samarin had been “speaking of Hitler against the Jews” and might have stolen a rifle. McClure-Potts provided a birth certificate indicating that Samarin was born in 1992. Police discovered that McClure-Potts had previously filed runaway reports regarding a minor son (Asher) apparently born in 1997; Samarin was posing as Asher and attending high school. The school provided a sworn statement from McClure-Potts that Samarin was born in 1997, with applications for free/reduced lunch and health benefits. Samarin claimed that he had moved in with McClure-Potts, then was told to cut ties with his family and surrender his money and his identification documents. He was forced to do household work. McClure-Potts obtained a Social Security card for "Asher," and used it to procure $7,336 in income tax credits and $13,653.28 in nutritional and health benefits. McClure-Potts was charged with Social Security Fraud, 42 U.S.C. 408(a)(6); Harboring an Illegal Alien, 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii), (a)(2); and Unlawful Conduct Respecting Documents in Furtherance of Forced Labor, 18 U.S.C. 1589, 1590. McClure-Potts pled guilty to the Social Security Fraud and Harboring counts. Based on the amount of loss ($20,989.28) and the court’s refusal to grant an offense level reduction due to the claim that her fraud was committed “other than for profit," she was sentenced to five months. The Third Circuit affirmed. The benefits that McClure-Potts sought and received were “payment” for her harboring Samarin. View "United States v. McClure-Potts" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit affirmed the order of the district court dismissing Appellant’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2241, holding that, although Appellant has been detained pending reveal proceedings since April 2016, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment did not entitle Appellant to a new bond hearing at which the government would bear the burden of justifying his continued detention. Appellant entered the United States on a tourist visa, which he overstayed. A year later, an Interpol "Red Notice" requested by Russian identified Appellant as a fugitive wanted for prosecution on criminal fraud charges. On April 22, 2016, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained Appellant under 8 U.S.C. 1226(a) and initiated removal proceedings, which are still pending in an immigration court. Appellant filed this action alleging that his continued detention deprived him of due process unless the government could show clear and convincing evidence of risk of flight or danger to the community. The district court dismissed the petition. The Third Circuit affirmed. The dissent argued that where the Russian government has been employing Interpol Red Notices to pursue and harass opponents of the Russian regime and where Appellant had no criminal record anywhere, Appellant was entitled to a new hearing to review the finding of “danger to the community.” View "Borbot v. Warden Hudson County Correctio" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit held that New Jersey’s drug-trafficking law of which Petitioner was convicted is coextensive with its federal counterpart and that on the date of Petitioner’s conviction, New Jersey’s list of drugs was no broader than the federal list, making Petitioner removable. Petitioner was convicted of four drug-related crimes under New Jersey law. For the latter three counts, the jury was instructed that it could convict Petitioner for attempting to transfer cocaine or to aid another in distributing cocaine. Thereafter, Petitioner was charged as removable. The government claimed (1) Petitioner’s New Jersey drug-distribution convictions under N.J. Stat. Ann. 2C:35-5(a)(1)&(b)(1) match the federal Controlled Substances Act’s ban on drug trafficking, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), making Petitioner removable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii) for having been convicted of an aggravated felony; and (2) Petitioner’s convictions related to federally controlled substances, and therefore, Petitioner was removable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B)(i) for having been convicted of a controlled-substance offense. The immigration judge sustained the charges. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed. The Third Circuit held that Petitioner was removable and ineligible for cancellation of removal because (1) New Jersey attempt law is coextensive with federal law, and (2) on the date of his conviction, Petitioner was convicted of a controlled-substance offense that is an aggravated felony. View "Martinez v. Attorney General, United States" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit vacated Defendant’s sentence, which included as a condition of his supervised release from prison a restriction on Defendant’s possession or use of computers or other electronic communication devices, holding that the restrictions were not tailored to the danger Defendant posed. Defendant pleaded guilty to using the internet to attempt to entice a child into engage in sexual acts. Defendant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment and a lifetime of supervised release. When Defendant violated the terms of his supervised release, a revocation hearing was held at which the judge imposed the condition forbidding Defendant to possess or use any computers, electronic communications devices, or electronic storage devices. The Third Circuit remanded for a new revocation hearing, concluding that restricting Defendant’s internet access was necessary to protect the public but that Defendant’s current conditions were not tailored to the danger he posed. View "United States v. Holena" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant, a police officer, on Plaintiff’s action brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983, holding that the district court correctly found that the statute of limitations barred Plaintiff’s claims. After Defendant stopped Plaintiff’s car, searched him, and arrested him, Pennsylvania prosecuted him. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence, but the court of appeals reversed, concluding that the search violated the Fourth Amendment. Defendant later brought this suit asserting that Defendant conducted an unreasonable search and seizure and made a false arrest. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the statute of limitations ran from the time of the search rather than when the Pennsylvania court held the search unconstitutional; and (2) therefore, Defendant’s claim was time-barred. View "Nguyen v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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At age 14 Schonewolf began smoking marijuana. By age 15 she left home and dropped out of school. Schonewolf developed a drinking problem and attempted suicide several times before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Schonewolf’s use of opiates began with prescription painkillers following a car accident; after her doctor’s retirement, she used heroin to satisfy her addiction. In 2010, Schonewolf was arrested with 12 pounds of methamphetamine in her car, which she was transporting for her father. Schonewolf pled guilty and was sentenced to time served, plus 60 months’ supervised release. Schonewolf began using heroin again and was caught attempting to purchase the drug, resulting in Pennsylvania misdemeanor charges and a violation of supervised release. Her probation officer withdrew the violation petition because Schonewolf was in a detox program. Schonewolf suffered an overdose and left treatment. At her revocation hearing, the government indicated that Schonewolf was again in treatment. The court sentenced Schonewolf to one day in prison, followed by her pre-existing term of supervised release. Schonewolf was later found to be selling heroin, pled guilty, and is currently serving a state sentence. Schonewolf’s probation officer filed another violation petition. The Guidelines range for Schonewolf’s sentence was 24-30 months’ imprisonment. The court sentenced Schonewolf to 40 months, consecutive to her state sentence. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the court based the sentence on Schonewolf’s need for drug rehabilitation, in violation of the Sentencing Reform Act and the Supreme Court’s 2011 "Tapia" ruling. Schonewolf’s sentence was based on past lenity. A court does not violate the Act or Tapia merely by mentioning the need for rehabilitation. View "United States v. Schonewolf" on Justia Law