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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 John E. Jones III

The instant case arises from the COVID-19 pandemic currently affecting our nation. Petitioners, all ICE detainees, sought release from ICE detention facilities across central Pennsylvania as a means of avoiding potential infection. Their claims were based upon the allegedly poor conditions and infection control protocols at York County Prison, (“YCP”), Clinton County Correctional Facility, (“CCCF”), and Pike County Prison, (“PCCF”). In these facilities, the original Petitioners contended that they were all at high-risk for more severe complications should they contract COVID-19 as a result of either advanced age or from comorbid conditions.

This matter was commenced in December of 2016 by Audi of America, Inc. (hereinafter “AoA”), which is an organizational unit of Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., and is the United States importer and distributor of Audi-brand vehicles, parts and accessories. Named as Defendant was Bronsberg & Hughes Pontiac, Inc., (hereinafter referred to as “Wyoming Valley”), which owns and operates automobile dealerships, including an Audi dealership pursuant to a dealership agreement with AoA. This action arose out of a contract dispute between AoA and Wyoming Valley.

Presently pending before the Court is Defendant Summit Physician Services d/b/a Summit Orthopedic Group’s Motion to Dismiss and Strike Portions of Plaintiff’s Complaint (“the Motion”). (Doc. 22). The Motion has been briefed, (Docs. 23, 25), and the time for filing a Reply has passed. Accordingly, the matter is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the Motion shall be denied.

The instant case alleges a variety of wage-and-hour-related claims against Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company resulting from Plaintiff Sicklesmith’s employment as a server. Plaintiff Sicklesmith brings his claims on behalf of himself and a group of similarly-situated Hershey employees.

Plaintiff Sicklesmith was employed by Defendant at the “Houlihan’s” restaurant in Hershey, Pennsylvania (“the Restaurant”) from approximately January 2017 until September 2019. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 7, 9). During his employment, Plaintiff Sicklesmith was paid the Pennsylvania hourly tipped minimum wage of $2.83, plus tips from customers of the Restaurant. (Id. at ¶ 10). This tipped minimum wage falls below the Pennsylvania minimum wage of $7.25, but such a practice is permitted by Department of Labor (“DOL”) regulations, providing that certain requirements are met. 29 C.F.R. §531.56(e). At issue here is whether Defendant complied with relevant regulations when it compelled Plaintiff Sicklesmith and the putative class to perform alleged non-tip-generating work while paying them the tipped minimum wage, as opposed to the higher minimum wage.

Plaintiff alleges that he and similarly-situated tipped servers employed by Defendant were required to perform impermissible “non-tip-producing work” during their shifts, including “rolling silverware; [sic] setting up drink stations, cleaning the soda machine, filling sauce containers, setting-up the salad cooler, preparing food, slicing fruit, sorting silverware and ramekins, and cleaning the Restaurant.” (Id. at ¶ 12). While performing such tasks, Plaintiff Sicklesmith claims, he and other servers were not earning tips, nor did Defendant pay them the higher minimum wage required by regulation.

Judge Christopher C. Conner

Petitioner Nathaniel Clarke filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Clarke argues that the length of his mandatory pre-removal detention under 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c) has become unreasonable and that due process entitles him to an individualized bond hearing before an immigration judge. Before the court are Clarke’s habeas petition; the report of Magistrate Judge Joseph F. Saporito, Jr., recommending that the court grant Clarke’s petition; and respondent’s objection to the report. For the reasons that follow, we will overrule respondent’s objection, adopt Judge Saporito’s report and recommendation, and order that Clarke receive an individualized bond hearing within 30 days.

Defendant Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr., is a former judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. In February 2011, a jury found Ciavarella guilty of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, honest-services mail fraud, money-laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and subscribing and filing a materially false tax return. Ciavarella was sentenced to 336 months’ imprisonment. In 2018, we vacated three of Ciavarella’s convictions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 after concluding that he had been prejudiced by his trial counsel’s failure to raise a statute-of-limitations defense. The parties now dispute what relief, if any, Ciavarella is entitled to under Section 2255.

Defendant Emerson Miller objects to being classified as a career offender under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. He raises an issue of first impression for this circuit. Miller contends that recent amendments to the Controlled Substances Act ("federal CSA"), 21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq., remove his prior state conviction-possession with intent to deliver marijuana-from the purview of the career-offender guideline's definition of "controlled substance offense." 

In January 2013, a jury convicted defendant Tristan Green of three counts of armed bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(d) and three counts of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during those armed bank robberies in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). Green moves the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 for vacatur of all three Section 924(c) convictions based on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Davis, 588 U.S. ___, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019).

Petitioner Samuel Randolph, an inmate currently confined at the State Correctional Institution at Phoenix in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The matter is proceeding via an amended habeas petition. (Doc. 182). Randolph challenges his capital convictions and sentence from the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Because Randolph was unlawfully denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of choice, we are compelled to grant Randolph’s amended habeas petition, vacate his convictions and sentence, and provide the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 90 days in which to conduct a new trial.

Approximately two months ago, Governor Wolf declared a disaster emergency in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania due to the rapid global spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus. Over the following weeks, the Governor announced three unprecedented Executive Orders which drastically altered everyday life in the Commonwealth: the Business Closure Order, the Stay-at-Home Order, and the School Closure Order, (collectively, “the Orders”). Those orders temporarily closed non-essential businesses, ordered individuals to remain at home when not completing essential tasks, and made virtual learning the norm for schoolchildren. These orders remain largely in effect to slow the spread of COVID-19, a disease that has, as of the date of this writing, killed over 4,767 people in Pennsylvania alone. Petitioners now bring a variety of constitutional and state law claims challenging the implementation of the Orders.

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