Catching up on the Third Circuit’s holiday-week opinion excitement

After issuing two opinions on Christmas Eve, which I confess to writing up a bit quickly amidst pre-holiday scrambling, the Third Circuit issued four more opinions the week between Christmas and New Years. One of them, Orie, was issued on panel rehearing from an opinion highlighted here.

Monongahela Valley Hospital v. United Steel Paper & Forestry Union — arbitration — affirmance — Ambro  [December 30]

“We have the rare situation where not even our heavy degree of deference to arbitrators can save an arbitration decision and award,” begins this opinion affirming the district court’s ruling that vacated an arbitrator’s decision in favor of a union in a dispute over vacation requests with a hospital employer. The arbitrator “dispens[ed] his own brand of industrial justice” by ignoring the plain language of the contract that gave the hospital “final” and “exclusive[]” authority to decide the disputes at issue, the Third Circuit held, observing, “we are not an amen corner for arbitrators’ rulings.”

Joining Ambro were Krause and Bibas. Arguing counsel were Anthony Resnick for the union and Hayes Stover of K&L Gates for the hospital.


Orie v. District Attorney—habeas corpus—affirmance—Jordan [December 30]

On panel rehearing, the Third Circuit again affirmed the denial of habeas corpus relief to the sister of, and former chambers secretary for, a Pennsylvania judge, but it removed a passage from its original opinion that the petitioner had argued conflicted with Supreme Court law.

The Third Circuit issued its original opinion in November. It contained a paragraph holding that the habeas statute bars federal courts from granting relief under Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when, due to counsel’s error, the petitioner files objections to a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation late. When the opinion issued, I wrote here that I believed the opinion was incorrect and that rehearing was warranted because the Supreme Court had earlier rejected the same reasoning, and the petitioner sought rehearing on that basis.

Granting panel rehearing, the court deleted the paragraph from its new opinion, but it affirmed again for the reasons given in the remainder of the original opinion.

Once again, joining Jordan were Bibas and Matey. Arguing counsel were James DePasqulale of Pittsburgh for the petitioner and Ronald Wabby of the Allegheny County D.A.’s office for the Commonwealth.


Espichan v. Attorney General—immigration—reversal—Ambro [December 27]

Whether a Peruvian immigrant could be deported after being convicted of a crime hinged, by statute, on whether his parents had a “legal separation.” That question in turn hinged on whether they had been married under Peruvian law, which recognizes de facto marriage. The BIA ruled for the government based on evidence that the father hadn’t held himself out as married, but the the Third Circuit granted the petition for review and transferred the case to a district court to decide, as a factual matter, whether the government could prove that the parents weren’t married. The court held that the summary judgment standard applied and that the government bore the burden as the moving party. If the parents were married, then there was no material dispute that they had legally separated, the court held. The panel retained jurisdiction over any subsequent appeal.

Joining Ambro were McKee and Roth. Arguing counsel were Kristina Ivtindzioski of New Jersey for the immigrant and Arthur Rabin of the Department of Justice for the government.


Coral Harbor Rehabilitation v. NLRB—labor—affirmance—McKee [December 26]

An entity purchased a nursing home where some of the nurses were unionized, but it changed their terms of employment unilaterally, without bargaining with the union, on the theory that it had converted the unionized nurses into supervisors and thus removed them from the National Labor Relations Act’s protection. The Third Circuit upheld the NLRB’s ruling for the nurses, holding that the record supported its conclusion that the nurses weren’t supervisors because they lacked the requisite independent judgment.

Joining McKee were Porter and Roth. The appeal was decided without oral argument.