Articles Posted in U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals

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In 2010 the Supreme Court held, in Miller v. Alabama, that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments. Three individuals, each serving a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole for offenses committed as juveniles, sought authorization to file successive habeas corpus petitions under 28 U.S.C. 2254 and 2255 to raise Miller claims. The parties agreed that Miller states a new rule of constitutional law, but Pennsylvania (the state in which two petitioners were convicted) argued that Miller was not retroactive; the federal prosecutor claimed that Miller was retroactive but that the other petitioner’s sentence satisfied the new Miller rule. The Third Circuit found that the petitioners had made a prima facie showing that Miller is retroactive and authorized successive habeas petitions. View "In re: Grant" on Justia Law

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Brittany and Emily Morrow were subjected to threats and physical assaults by Anderson, a fellow student at Blackhawk High School. After Anderson physically attacked Brittany in the lunch room, the school suspended both girls. Brittany’s mother reported Anderson to the police at the recommendation of administration. Anderson was charged with simple assault, terroristic threats, and harassment. Anderson continued to bully Brittany and Emily. A state court placed Anderson on probation and ordered her to have no contact with Brittany. Five months later, Anderson was adjudicated delinquent and was again given a “no contact” order, which was provided to the school. Anderson subsequently boarded Brittany’s school bus and threatened Brittany, even though that bus did not service Anderson’s home. School officials told the Morrows that they could not guarantee their daughters’ safety and advised the Morrows to consider another school. The Morrows filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violation of their substantive due process rights. The district court dismissed, reasoning that the school did not have a “special relationship” with students that would create a constitutional duty to protect them from other students and that the Morrows’ injury was not the result of any affirmative action by the defendants, under the “state-created danger” doctrine. The Third Circuit affirmed. View "Morrow v. Balaski" on Justia Law

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In 1996 mother reported to police that, during a visit to her father’s apartment, their 12-year-old (Linda) alleged that father made sexual advances. Mother obtained an order of protection after he twice failed to appear. The county agency classified father as an “indicated” child abuse perpetrator on Pennsylvania’s child abuse registry. Father was charged with indecent exposure and endangering a child’s welfare. He pled guilty to harassment; the remaining charges were dismissed. In subsequent years, Linda denied the incident. Mother and father resumed living together and were allowed, by the agency, to have related children in their home. After mother obtained custody of their grandchild, the agency removed all children from the home, based on father’s listing. By the time father attempted to appeal in 2007, the agency had destroyed its 1996 records. The listing was expunged in 2010. The district court rejected claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding that the agency’s position with respect to the listing did not “shock the conscience” and that there was no showing of a deliberate decision to deprive the plaintiff of due process nor evidence that the agency employs a policy or has a custom of conducting desultory investigations. View "Mulholland v. Cnty. of Berks" on Justia Law

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Daughter, born in June 2004, suffered medical problems that stunted her growth. In October 2005, Mother took Daughter to Dr. Lindblad, who diagnosed failure to thrive. She was treated inpatient for six days and gained 50 grams per day, a gain normal for a child of Daughter’s age and condition. After returning to Mother’s care, Daughter gained only four grams per day. Lindblad again prescribed inpatient treatment and, in April 2006, concluded that Daughter’s condition was psychosocial; he feared that Daughter was neglected and noted concern about Munchausen by proxy. He spoke to a child welfare caseworker, who was already investigating the situation. A judge ordered Daughter removed to her father’s home, with Mother to have only supervised visitation. Caseworkers thought it unnecessary to hold the hearing that Pennsylvania law would require were Daughter taken into state custody. Mother received no explanation of how to arrange for a hearing. After Daughter was removed, discrepancies in her recorded weights were discovered. Mother’s habeas petition, filed 40 days after removal, was rejected. Mother and father later agreed to share custody. The district court rejected Mother’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit. The Third Circuit reversed and remanded for trial on procedural due process claims. View "B. S. v. Somerset Cnty." on Justia Law