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Opinions

The Middle District of Pennsylvania offers a database of opinions for the years 1999 to 2012, listed by year and judge. For a more detailed search, enter the keyword or case number in the search box above.

Judge John E. Jones III

This matter is before the Court on the defendant Alexander Sylvester’s objection to presentence investigation report’s classification of him as a career offender and his motion for a downward departure under the Sentencing Guidelines based on his conditions of confinement pending trial. For the reasons set forth below, Sylvester’s objection will be overruled and his motion will be denied.

Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner

Presently before the court is a motion (Doc. 2) for preliminary injunction filed by plaintiff Gene Stilp (“Stilp”). Stilp seeks to enjoin enforcement of § 1108(k) of the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, 65 PA. CONS. STAT. § 1108(k), which prohibits disclosure by any person of information relating to an ethics complaint, preliminary inquiry, investigation, hearing, or petition for reconsideration that is pending before the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission. The court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion on April 1, 2009,1 after which the parties submitted additional briefing, (see Docs. 18, 20). For the reasons that follow, the motion for preliminary injunction will be granted in part and denied in part.

A jury trial was held in the above-captioned matter from June 8 through June 23, 2009. In advance of jury selection, defendant Jaime Cardenas-Borbon (Doc. 1148) submitted a request (Doc. 1148) to waive his right to a jury and have his case adjudicated in a bench trial. The court denied the request on the record during the first day of trial after conducting a colloquy with Borbon and his counsel regarding the reasons underlying his request. The court has prepared the instant memorandum to provide further explanation for denial of Borbon’s request.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to a jury trial; however, there is no concomitant right to waive trial by jury and obtain a bench proceeding.

Presently before the court is defendants’ motion (Doc. 588) to certify an interlocutory appeal from the memorandum and order of court (Doc. 582) dated March 4, 2009 (hereinafter “the March 4 Memorandum”). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

Arthur Nelson IV and Marie Nelson bring this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on behalf of minors D.N. and S.N.1 The complaint raises claims under three doctrines of due process liability: the special relationship theory, the state-created danger theory, and the Monell theory of municipal liability. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Doc. 13.) For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

Plaintiff Donna Dull brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that defendants used excessive force to effectuate her arrest in spring 2005. Her daughter, plaintiff Holly Dull, who was arrested at the same time, advances § 1983 claims for unlawful arrest and unlawful imprisonment. Plaintiffs also maintain claims for municipal and supervisory liability and seek redress under state tort law. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 30). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

This is a First Amendment challenge to Canon 7B(1)(c) of the Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct, which regulates the campaign activitiy of candidates for judicial office. Plaintiffs Democracy Rising PA and Tim Potts (collectively “plaintiffs”) seek declaratory and injunctive relief to remedy prospective harms, and compensatory relief to rectify prior constitutional injuries allegedly caused by the canon. Defendants are members of the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board and the Pennsylvania Office of Disciplinary Counsel (collectively “defendants”). Presently before the court is defendants’ motion to dismiss. (Doc. 42.) For the reasons that follow, defendants’ motion will be granted.

This is a multidistrict antitrust matter brought under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1, and various state antitrust and consumer protection statutes. Plaintiffs allege that defendants conspired to fix the prices of chocolate confectionary products in the United States. Defendants, who control approximately 75% of the American market for chocolate candy, allegedly entered pricing agreements, resulting in coordinated price increases on three distinct occasions between 2002 and 2007. Defendants argue that the amended complaints fail to raise a plausible inference of an agreement to fix prices as required by Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). Defendants have filed motions to dismiss (Docs. 464, 469, 477) the complaints under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
 
Defendants Cadbury plc, Cadbury Holdings, Mars Canada, Nestlé S.A., and Nestlé Canada have also filed motions to dismiss (Docs. 466, 471, 473, 474) under Rule 12(b)(2) for lack of in personam jurisdiction. These defendants contend that they do not sell chocolate candy in the United States, maintain no facilities inside the U.S., and have no pricing authority in the U.S. chocolate market.
 
For the reasons that follow, the Rule 12(b)(2) motions will be deferred during a period of jurisdictional discovery. The Rule 12(b)(6) motions filed by the remaining defendants will be denied except with respect to certain common law and consumer protection claims. The Rule 12(b)(6) motions filed by Cadbury plc, Cadbury Holdings, Mars Canada, Nestlé S.A. and Nestlé Canada will be deferred until resolution of their jurisdictional challenges.

Judge Malachy E. Mannion

During state court criminal proceedings in Monroe County involving sentencing issues, plaintiff allegedly declined to speak to his attorney and declined to make certain information known to him because a private consultation area was not available for their use. Plaintiff was unwilling to speak in ear shot of other persons (including sheriffs and other inmates) and supposedly risk loss of his attorney-client privilege and other confidences. Plaintiff further alleges that in consequence of the state denying him access to private consultation facilities (at the county courthouse), in conjunction with his own concomitant refusal to be fully forthcoming with his attorney in those circumstances, he was sentenced to "a longer period of incarceration because of the facts I was unable to relay to [my attorney] concerning my prior record score." Doc. No. 44 at 2-3. Plaintiff argues that the defendants' failure or refusal to provide (what he terms) an adequate private consultation area is a denial of his due process rights and First Amendment right to petition. See Amended Compl. at 3. (Doc. No. 28.) The operative complaint, i.e., the Amended Complaint, is brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983. In his proposed (second) Amended Complaint, plaintiff seeks to add a claim for punitive damages, and additionally seeks to add Wieslaw T. Niemoczynski, Chief Public Defender of the Monroe County Public Defenders Office, as a defendant.

Pending before the Court is the United States' (the Government's) request for the extradition of Mary Beth Harshbarger, (Doc. No. 2), pursuant to the Treaty on Extradition, Dec. 3, 1971, U.S.-Canada, T.I.A.S. No. 8237 (as amended by protocols of 1988 and 2001)1 and Title 18, United States Code, Section 3184. Having considered the parties' submissions, oral argument, the Treaty, statutory law, and case law, the Court finds that there is sufficient evidence to support Harshbarger's extradition to Canada to face the (single) charge of causing death by criminal negligence which has been brought against her there.

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