New opinions — three reversals

Three opinions, three reversals — one a significant criminal appeal, the other two disability-rights.

First, the criminal case, a defendant win on 404(b) and prosecutorial misconduct. Here’s the court’s cogent intro summary:

Ebon Brown  brings this appeal following his
conviction  in the United States District Court for the
Western District of Pennsylvania  of  unlawful possession
of a firearm by a convicted felon, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).
He  raises three arguments on appeal. First,  he  argues  the
District Court erroneously denied his motion to suppress the firearm  recovered  by  law enforcement. Second,  he
argues that the District Court erroneously admitted, under
Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b),  evidence  that he had
previously obtained guns through  a straw purchaser. And
third, he argues  that  a new trial is warranted because the
District Court permitted the prosecutor  to make improper
statements during closing  arguments.
We are not
persuaded by Brown’s  argument that  evidence of  the
firearm should have been suppressed.  We agree,
however,  that the District Court erred in admitting
evidence of  Brown’s  past firearm purchases and  by
overruling Brown’s objection to the prosecutor’s closing
arguments. Because the  Rule 404(b)  error  was  not
harmless,  we will  vacate the judgment of the District
Court and remand for a new trial.

Aside: I’d love to see a study done on whether prosecutorial misconduct happens more often in cases where the caption was larded with sinister AKAs — here the caption reads “United States of America v. Ebon P.D. Brown, a/k/a/ E-Murder.” I’ve always thought that practice unworthy of our legal system.

The case is US v. Brown. Opinion by Smith, joined by Vanaskie and joined in part by Shwartz. Shwartz dissented in part, concluding that any 404(b) error was harmless. Arguing counsel were Kimberly Brunson for the defendant and Rebecca Haywood for the government.

Next up is a pro-plaintiff disability-rights reversal. The suit was brought under the IDEA, ADA, and the Rehabilitation Act on behalf of a disabled public-school student who alleged discrimination and denial of a free appropriate education. The district court dismissed the IDEA claim and granted summary judgment the rest. In this appeal, CA3 reversed the IDEA dismissal.

The case is D.E. v. Central Dauphin School Dist. Opinion by Fisher, joined by Van Antwerpen and Tashima CA9 by designation. Arguing counsel were Joel Mallord of Dechert for the family and Thomas Specht for the district.

The final case is another partial win for a plaintiff in a disability appeal. Budhun’s job was 60% typing, so it was a problem when she broke a bone in her hand, and she eventually lost her job. She sued under the FMLA and tried to amend to add an ADA claim. The district court granted summary judgment to the employer; today CA3 affirmed the ADA amendment-denial but vacated and remanded on the FMLA claim.

The case is Budhun v. Reading Hospital. Opinion by Chagares, joined by Shwartz and Aldisert. The case was submitted without oral argument.