New opinions — a civil-rights dismissal affirmance and a civil-forfeiture reversal

Two published cases today.

Vargas v. City of Philadelphia — civil rights — affirmance — Jordan

The Third Circuit today upheld dismissal of a civil-rights suit brought against Philadelphia arising from a woman’s horrifying death from an asthma attack when police allegedly blocked the woman from being taken to the hospital. Acknowledging the “tragic” facts, the court held that any seizure by the officers was reasonable under the community caretaking doctrine even though it did not involve a seizure of evidence or a vehicle search. The court also upheld dismissal of the substantive due process, failure-to-train, and false imprisonment claims.

Joining Jordan were Fisher and Greenaway. Arguing counsel were James Hockenberry for the plaintiff and Jane Istvan  (whose webpage indicates she co-authored an article intriguingly titled, “Effective Brief Writing Despite High Volume Practice”) for the city.

Langbord v. U.S. Dep’t of the Treasury — civil asset forfeiture — reversal — Rendell

The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act was enacted in 2000 to curb forfeiture abuse by government. (Mission unaccomplished.) CAFRA requires the government to file a forfeiture-complaint within 90 days of seizure, and here the government, acting badly, did not do so. Today the Third Circuit held that government violated the statute. A divided panel ordered the seized property, two ten double eagle gold coins (a double eagle coin sold at auction in 2002 for over $7.5 million), returned to the people it was seized from, even though they allegedly were not the rightful owners because the coins were stolen from the government.

Joining Rendell was McKee. Sloviter dissented, agreeing that the government violated the statute but “definitely” not agreeing the government had to hand over the coins. Arguing counsel were Barry Berke for the Langbords and Robert Zauzmer for the government.