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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.

Judge Christopher C. Conner

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.

Chief Judge John E. Jones III

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.

Presently pending before the Court is Intervenor the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Objections to U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson’s Memorandum and Order of October 22, 2019, (Doc. 176), granting the Philadelphia Inquirer intervenor status but denying its request to unseal docket entries 45, 46, 48, 54, 55, 59, 80, 82, 85, and 86. (Doc. 178). Intervenor’s Objections have been fully briefed, (Docs. 179, 182, 186), and are ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, Intervenor’s Objections shall be overruled in part and sustained in part to the extent that we shall remand this matter back to Judge Carlson to mediate a resolution between the parties in accordance with this Opinion.

Presently pending before the Court is Defendant Premier Biotech, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss Counts VII and VIII of Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint (“the Motion”). (Doc. 28). In her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Samantha Amig alleges a variety of constitutional and state law claims against Mifflin and Juniata Counties, the Mifflin County Correctional Facility (“the Facility”), its Warden, several Facility Correction Officers, and Premier Biotech, Inc. (“Premier”) arising from her 45-day term of incarceration at the Facility. The claims relevant to the
instant motion relate to an allegedly defective urine drug test which was manufactured by Premier and administered to Plaintiff during her time at the Facility.

Plaintiff now alleges both a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count VII) and a product liability claim (Count VIII) against Premier for the harm caused her by their allegedly defective manufacture of the urine drug test she was administered. In the instant motion, Premier seeks to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against it for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, Premier’s Motion shall be denied in full.

Defendants the Milton Hershey School and the Hershey Trust Company, as Trustee for the Milton Hershey School Trust (collectively, "Defendants” or “the School”), operate a cost-free, not-for-profit, residential academy. Plaintiffs Julie Wartluft (“Wartluft”) and Frederick Bartels, Jr. (“Bartels”) are the parents of Abrielle Kira Bartels (“Abrielle”), a former student. In their amended complaint, Plaintiffs allege that, despite knowing that Abrielle suffered from depression and suicidal ideations, Defendants discharged her from their care under a “shadow policy” which mandated that students be expelled from the School after two mental health hospitalizations, even if those hospitalizations were recommended by school staff. (Doc. 29 at ¶ 108). Abrielle committed suicide shortly after her discharge. Wartluft and Bartels, in their individual capacities and in their capacities as administrators of the Estate of Abrielle Kira Bartels (“the Estate”), sought damages.

Plaintiffs Michael and Brandy Gress (“Plaintiffs”) bring this class action against Defendant Freedom Mortgage Corporation (“Defendant”) on behalf of a multi-state putative class claiming breach of contract (Count I); violation of various state consumer protection statutes1 on behalf of the multi-state putative class (Count II); violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”), 73 P.S. §§ 201-1, et seq., on behalf of the Pennsylvania cases (Count III); violation of the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (“FCEUA”), 73 P.S. § 2270.1, et seq., on behalf of the Pennsylvania cases (Count IV); and unjust enrichment on behalf of the Pennsylvania cases (Count V).  Plaintiffs filed their Complaint on March 5, 2019.  (Doc. 1).  Presently pending before the Court is Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1), 12(b)(2), and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, filed on April 17, 2019.  (Doc. 21).  The Motion has been fully briefed, (Docs. 22, 26, 27), and is ripe for review. 

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.

On April 17, 2019, Defendant Keith Thomas Dougherty was charged by a grand jury in the Middle District of Pennsylvania with one count of mailing threatening communications to a federal district court judge in violation of 18 U.S.C. §876(c), and one count of using electronic mail to threaten another federal district court judge in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875( c ). D.I. 1. To avoid any appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest, the case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 292(b), the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for Third Circuit designated this Court to preside over the case. D.I. 8.

Pending before the Court are six motions filed by Defendant.

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