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Opinions

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

Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner

Bears are big business. Revenues in the collectible teddy bear industry approached $1 billion in the late 1990s, in a field consisting of both established companies and relatively small start-ups.1 Against this competitive backdrop, plaintiff, The Boyds Collection, Ltd. (“Boyds”), seeks to enjoin sales of bears designed by defendant, The Bearington Collection, Inc. (“Bearington”).2 The complaint alleges that several Bearington bears infringe on copyrighted Boyds bears, entitling Boyds to injunctive and monetary relief under federal law.

Once again the court must consider the efforts of defendant, the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (“Association”), to impose a “fair share fee” on nonunion public employees in a manner consistent with the First Amendment. The court previously held that a fee assessed by the Association from December 2001 through mid-2003 was unconstitutional because advance notice was not provided to employees.1 Now under review, in the context of crossmotions for summary judgment, is a subsequent fee collected from mid-2003 to mid-2004 and preceded by notice dated March 15, 2003. Whether this notice provided a constitutionally adequate explanation of the basis for the fair share fee is the dispositive issue for resolution.

Removal, personal jurisdiction, and venue occasionally conspire to render the question of where a case proceeds as great a controversy as how it proceeds. A corporation based in Maryland asserts that a federal court sitting in Pennsylvania lacks statutory and constitutional authority to bind the company to judgment in an action removed from the state judiciary. This court disagrees, and finds that maintenance of this suit for benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1401, comports with federal personal jurisdiction and venue requirements.

This property rights case has been 150 years in the making. Plaintiffs claim an easement over railroad tracks presently operated by defendant, Norfolk Southern Railway Company (“Norfolk”). The land underlying the tracks was once owned by plaintiffs’ predecessors in interest, and a crossing has been maintained for their benefit since before 1850. Nevertheless, Norfolk denies the existence of an easement and recently announced plans to close the crossing. Plaintiffs seek a declaration of their rights and an injunction against the closure.

Judge John E. Jones III

Pending before the Court is a Motion to Intervene as Defendants (doc. 27) filed by Michael and Sheree Hied, Raymond and Cynthia Mummert, and James and Martha Cashman (the “Applicants”) on January 17, 2005. Also pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss (doc. 30) filed by Defendants on January 28, 2005.
 
We will resolve the pending Motions herein, and for the reasons that follow we will deny both the Motion to Intervene and the Motion to Dismiss.

Pending before the Court is a Motion to Quash a Subpoena and for a Protective Order (“the Motion”) (doc. 35), filed by the defendants Daniel Mimnaugh (“Mimnaugh”) and David J. Swartz (“Swartz”) (together, “Defendants”) on October 25, 2004. For the reasons that follow, the Motion shall be granted in part and denied in part.

Following Nadia Macheska’s (“Macheska” or “Plaintiff”) voluntary dismissal of all claims against Thomson Learning and Harcourt Learning Direct (“Thomson” or “Defendants”), the Defendants filed this Motion for Fees and Costs (doc. 30) against Macheska’s counsel of record, Paul M. Jennings, Esq., (“Jennings”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927.
 
This case arose out of the termination of Plaintiff’s employment at Thomson on September 17, 2001 and the legality of the Separation Agreement and General Release (the “Release”) signed by the Plaintiff on November 5, 2001, and by Thomson’s Vice President Steven A. Moll (“Moll”) on December 1, 2001. On October 31, 2003, Macheska initiated this action, wherein she alleges that she lacked the capacity necessary to legally execute the Release. Following somewhat limited but costly and time-consuming discovery by Thomson, as well as an aborted attempt to appoint a guardian for Macheska in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas, Macheska voluntarily withdrew all of her claims against Thomson. Subsequently, the instant motion seeking costs and fees was filed by Thomson. A timely response was filed by Jennings, and oral argument was conducted on October 25, 2004. At oral argument, certain additional exhibits were requested and received by the Court. Following these supplements to the record by both parties, the Motion is now ripe for our review.
 
We will grant Thomson’s Motion to the extent that we will consider an award of fees and costs incurred by Thomson between March 1, 2004 and July 7, 2004.

Judge Sylvia H. Rambo

Before the court is Defendant’s Motion for Bail Pending Appeal (Doc. 772). In the motion, Defendant offers five issues that he asserts justify his release from incarceration during appeal under 18 U.S.C. § 3143(b)(1). The court recently granted Defendant’s motion in part. (See Doc. 784.) Specifically, the court concluded that its decision to rule the United States Sentencing Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) unconstitutional as applied to this case in light of Blakely v. Washington, 124 S. Ct. 2531 (2004) presented a substantial question of law that could have resulted in a significant modification of Defendant’s sentence. The court stayed Defendant’s sentence until the Supreme Court issued its anticipated decision regarding Blakely’s impact on the Guidelines and deferred ruling on the remaining four issues in Defendant’s motion.

Before the court is Defendants Richard C. Perry and Perry Corp.’s (the “Perry Defendants”) Motion to Transfer Venue (Doc. 8). The Perry Defendants request the court to transfer this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York or, in the alternative, to the Western District of Pennsylvania. As explained more fully below, the court finds that this action could have been brought in the Southern District of New York and that the balance of factors strongly favors transferring the case to that forum. Thus, the Perry Defendants’ motion will be granted.

Judge A. Richard Caputo

The present action focuses on the events leading up to and surrounding the investment contracts made by the Luzerne County Retirement Board and Board members during the period of 1988 and 2002. Plaintiffs allege that various Board members engaged in a pay-to-play scheme in which contracts to invest or manage pension plan assets were awarded in exchange for campaign contributions to various Board members’ reelection campaigns.

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