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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

One of the benefits of the myriad challenges to the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (hereinafter “Health Care Act” or the “Act”), Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (2010), as amended by the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-152, 124 Stat. 1029, is the distillation of relevant issues. As a threshold matter, I emphasize, as Judge Vinson emphasized in Florida v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, --- F. Supp. 2d ---, 2011 WL 285683 (N.D. Fla. 2011), that this case is not about whether the Health Care Act merely treats the symptoms or cures the disease which has so clearly afflicted our health care system. Nor is it about the exhaustive efforts of Congress to document and to project the increasing costs of health care services or to pinpoint discriminatory practices associated with pre-existing conditions.
 
Rather, this case concerns the precise parameters of Congress’s enumerated authority under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. Specifically, the issue is whether Congress can invoke its Commerce Clause power to compel individuals to buy insurance as a condition of lawful citizenship or residency. The court concludes that it cannot. The power to regulate interstate commerce does not subsume the power to dictate a lifetime financial commitment to health insurance coverage. Without judicially enforceable limits, the constitutional blessing of the minimum coverage provision, codified at 26 U.S.C. § 5000A, would effectively sanction Congress’s exercise of police power under the auspices of the Commerce Clause, jeopardizing the integrity of our dual sovereignty structure.

Presently before the court is the report (Doc. 37) of the Honorable William T. Prince, United States Magistrate Judge, recommending that the motion for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. 18) filed by defendants, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (“PennDOT”) and Allen Biehler, Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, be granted in part, and denied in part. Plaintiff David Behar, M.D. (“Dr. Behar”) has filed objections (Docs. 43-44) to the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation (“R&R”). The Pennsylvania Medical Society, the American Medical Association, and the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society filed a brief of amici curiae (Doc. 42) in support of Dr. Behar’s objections. For the reasons set forth below, the court will adopt the R&R in its entirety.

Plaintiffs Bonnie Hynoski, Stephen Hynoski, Christine Hynoski, Tom Hynoski, the Borough of Centralia, Harold Mervine (as executor of the estate of Lamar Mervine, Jr. and Lana Mervine), John Koschoff, Helen Hynoski, and Walter Hynoski (collectively, “plaintiffs”) filed the above-captioned case, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against defendants Columbia County Redevelopment Authority, Rosenn Jenkins and Greenwald, LLP, John T. Zelinka, Gary Taroli, Blaschak Coal Corporation, Steven Fishman, the Commonweath of Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, and C. Alan Walker.1 Presently before the court is plaintiffs’ motion (Doc. 2) for preliminary injunctive relief. Plaintiffs seek to enjoin any and all defendants, or anyone acting on their behalf, from taking any action in furtherance of certain eminent domain proceedings presently pending in state court. For the following reasons, plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunctive relief will be denied.

Judge John E. Jones III

Pending before the Court is Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff ACF Industries, LLC’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Claims for Lack Subject Matter Jurisdiction (Federal Preemption). (Doc. 127). For the following reasons, we shall deny the pending motion.

Plaintiffs, a class of individuals with intellectual disabilities (formerly known as mental retardation) who are institutionalized in state intermediate care facilities for persons with mental retardation (“ICF/MRs”) initiated this litigation in June 2009. Plaintiffs alleged that they were appropriate for, and not opposed to, community-based services, and that Department of Public Welfare and the Secretary of Public Welfare (collectively, “Defendants” or “DPW”) violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12131-12134, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“RA”), 29 U.S.C. § 794, by failing to provide those services to institutionalized individuals. Plaintiffs sought both declaratory and injunctive relief. On January 27, 2011, the Court resolved cross Motions for Summary Judgment in Plaintiffs’ favor, finding that Defendants were violating the integration mandates of the ADA and RA by relegating institutionalized individuals to a class of persons who receive community placements only after another class, those who are not institutionalized, was fully served. (See Doc. 88.) Because of the exhaustive detail that would be required in any resulting injunctive relief ruling, and mindful that the parties were in a better position to come to closure on an acceptable policy, we encouraged the parties to mediate in aid of seeking a final resolution. The parties thereafter reached a settlement with the commendable assistance of U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson, and, thus, before the Court is Plaintiffs’ Unopposed Motion for Final Approval of the Proposed Class Action Settlement Agreement (Doc. 260) and Plaintiffs’ Unopposed Motion for Attorneys’ Fees, Litigation Expenses, and Costs (Doc. 262). For the reasons that follow, the Court will approve the proposed settlement and award the requested fees.

Before the Court is the Motion to Compel the Production of Government Interview Notes (“the Motion”)(Doc. 67) filed by Defendants John J. Rigas and Timothy Rigas (collectively “the Defendants”) on April 15, 2008. This matter had previously been stayed pending an interlocutory appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Following the Third Circuit’s decision in that appeal, the Court received a supplemental brief on the Motion from the Defendants. (Doc. 125). Accordingly, the matter is fully ripe for our review.

Before the Court is the Motion to Compel the Production of Government Interview Notes (“the Motion”)(Doc. 67) filed by Defendants John J. Rigas and Timothy Rigas (collectively “the Defendants”) on April 15, 2008. This matter had previously been stayed pending an interlocutory appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Following the Third Circuit’s decision in that appeal, the Court received a supplemental brief on the Motion from the Defendants. (Doc. 125). Accordingly, the matter is fully ripe for our review.

Appellant Charles J. DeHart, III, Chapter 13 Trustee (“the Trustee”) appeals a July 23, 2010 Opinion (the “Opinion”) issued by the Honorable Mary D. France of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.1 In the Opinion, the Bankruptcy Court held that the undistributed funds held by the Trustee following a conversion of the case to chapter 7 are property of the debtor Barry L. Michael (“Debtor”). Accordingly, the Bankruptcy Court granted Debtor’s motion to compel the Trustee to turn over the undistributed funds. The Trustee filed a timely appeal on September 2, 2010 (Doc. 1). The appeal has been fully briefed by the parties and is therefore ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, we will affirm the Opinion of the Bankruptcy Court.

Judge Malachy E. Mannion

By way of relevant procedural background 2, the plaintiff filed the instant action, (Doc. No. 1), on February 17, 2009, which he later amended on April 5, 2009, to include claims of age discrimination and retaliation (Count I), First Amendment violations (Count II), and a hostile work environment (Count III), in relation to his employment as an orthotist3 at the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Veterans Affairs, (“VA”), Medical Center, (Doc. No. 3).

Pending before the court is the Plaintiff’s Motion for Sanctions for Failing to Preserve Electronic Stored Information and Provide Such Information in Discovery. (Doc. No. 50). Based upon a review of the motion and related materials, the motion will be denied.

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