New opinions — First Amendment, two criminal, and an immigration

CA3 issued 4 published opinions today.

The day’s headliner is a ruling that allows Philadelphia police officers to contribute to their union’s PAC, reversing the district court and striking down on First Amendment grounds a half-century-old city rule that aimed to insulate police from political influence. Section I.C of the opinion offers a lively history of Philly police corruption and noted that the city argued it remains a serious concern.

The case is Lodge 5 v. City of Philadelphia. Opinion by Hardiman, joined by Scirica and Nygaard. Arguing counsel were Thomas Jennings for the union and Eleanor Ewing for the city.

The day’s other reversal is a criminal appeal. The basis for reversal was the district court’s failure to make clear what evidence it relied on for a drug-quantity finding at sentencing (p.29). The court affirmed on numerous other issues, including, unusually, one on which the Government confessed error.

The case is US v. Freeman. Opinion by Fisher, joined by Cowen and Nygaard. Arguing counsel were Pamela Colon for one defendant, Dale Smith for the other, and Nelson Jones for the government.

The court also affirmed a criminal appeal. After Claxton was convicted of drug dealing, the district court granted his judgment of acquittal for insufficient evidence, but CA3 reversed, and on remand Claxton was sentenced to 10 years. In this appeal, he raised issues including speedy trial, jury issues, Rule 403, Brady, and sentencing safety-valve eligibility, and CA3 affirmed.

The case was US v. Claxton. Opinion by Fisher, joined by Cowen and Nygaard (same panel as the previous case). Judge Cowen also wrote separately to express his view that the defendant waived one of this claims by failing to include or cite the relevant transcript in the record on appeal. Arguing counsel were Susan Moorehead for the defendant and Nelson Jones for the government.

Today’s final case is an immigration appeal. A Jamaican citizen who overstayed his visa had two minor drug convictions and was ordered deported. He conceded his removability but argued he was entitled to a waiver of criminal admissibility. After losing before the BIA, he appealed, and CA3 affirmed. On one point the court joined 4 circuits against CA2.

The case is Syblis v. AG. Opinion by Fisher (3 published opinions in one day = clerkships ending), joined by Jordan and Scirica. Arguing counsel were Ryan Muennich for the deportee and Anthony Nicastro for the government.