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

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Under the “Hyde Amendment,” a district court in criminal cases may award to a prevailing party a reasonable attorney’s fee and other litigation expenses, if the position of the United States was vexatious, frivolous, or in bad faith, unless the court finds special circumstances, 18 U.S.C. 3006A. The district court denied such an award in a case involving four counts of conspiring and attempting to commit extortion, 18 U.S.C. 951(a) & 2 (Hobbs Act), and two counts of traveling in interstate commerce to promote and facilitate bribery, 18 U.S.C. 1952(a)(3) & 2 (Travel Act). The government alleged that Manzo, a candidate for mayor of Jersey City, sought cash payments from Dwek, an informant posing as a developer, and that, in exchange, Manzo indicated he would help Dwek with matters involving Jersey City government. The district court dismissed each Hobbs Act count because Manzo was not a public official at the time of the conduct. The Third Circuit affirmed. The court later held that receipt of something of value by an unsuccessful candidate in exchange for a promise of future official conduct does not constitute bribery under the New Jersey bribery statute and dismissed all remaining charges. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of fees. View "United States v. Manzo" on Justia Law

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PG sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging the constitutionality of 25 Pa. Stat. 3060(d), a portion of the Pennsylvania Election Code mandating that all persons, except election officers, clerks, machine inspectors, overseers, watchers, persons in the course of voting, persons lawfully giving assistance to voters, and peace and police officers, when permitted by the provisions of this act, must remain at least ten (10) feet distant from the polling place during the progress of the voting. PG claimed that the statute infringed on its First Amendment “right to access and gather news at polling places” and that selective enforcement violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court dismissed. The Third Circuit affirmed. There is no protected First Amendment right of access to a polling place for news-gathering purposes and there was no evidence of “invidious intent” or intentional discrimination. View "PG Publ'g Co. v. Aichele" on Justia Law

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During the 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial election, the Democratic National Committee and others sued the Republican National Committee, and others, alleging that defendants targeted minority voters for intimidation, in violation of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1971, 1973, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. RNC allegedly mailed sample ballots to individuals in precincts with a high percentage of minority registered voters and included individuals whose postcards were returned as undeliverable on a list of voters to challenge at the polls and enlisted off-duty officers to intimidate voters by standing at minority precinct polling places, wearing “National Ballot Security Task Force” armbands. Some allegedly wore visible firearms. In 1982, RNC and DNC entered into a consent decree, national in scope, limiting RNC's participation in voter fraud prevention without advance court approval. The decree was modified in 1987 and was the subject of enforcement actions in 2000, 2004, and 2008. The district court denied, in part, a motion to modify or vacate the decree, but made modifications. The Third Circuit affirmed, stating that if RNC does not hope to engage in conduct that would violate the decree, it is puzzling that it would pursue vacatur so vigorously. despite significant modifications. View "Democratic Nat'l Comm. v. Republican Nat'l Comm." on Justia Law

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The ordinance prohibits posting signs on utility poles, streetlights, sign posts, and trees in a public right-of-way. At the time their actions were brought, plaintiffs were both candidates for political office in an area of the city that contains "a classic urban landscape of row house neighborhoods, where most homes have no front yard." They claimed that, given their limited funds, they would have ordinarily relied heavily on signs posted on street poles to spread their political messages. Several political candidates received numerous tickets. The district court ruled in favor of the city. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting claims that the ordinance violated the First, Fourteenth, and Twenty-Fourth Amendments. Plaintiffs conceded that the ordinance is content-neutral. It is narrowly tailored to serve significant governmental interests and leaves open ample alternatives for communication. View "Johnson v. City of Philadelphia" on Justia Law

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The dean of a school gave the New Jersey State Senator a "low show" well-paid job in exchange for the senator's efforts as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee to obtain funding for the school. The senator also attempted to use a "no show" job as an attorney for county social services to increase his pension benefits. Both were convicted of honest services fraud (18 U.S.C. 1341, 1343 and 1346 and bribery in connection with a state agency that receives federal funds (18 U.S.C. 666(a)). The senator was also convicted of mail fraud (18 U.S.C. 1341) for the pension scheme. The senator was sentenced to 48 months and the dean to 18 months in prison. The court entered a joint restitution order for $113,187. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding sufficient evidence to support each conviction. The government's requests that grand jury witnesses voluntarily not disclose "any matters" that occurred during those proceedings did not interfere with defense access to witnesses so as to merit reversal. The court properly instructed the jury on honest services fraud or bribery, in light of the Skilling decision, and acted within its discretion in regard to testimony by the director of pension services. View "United States v. Bryant" on Justia Law