New opinions — two civil-rights appeal reversals

Two opinions today, both appeals from 1983 suits, both reversing in part.

The first involves a police-misconduct 1983 suit arising out of shocking facts, shocking enough that a jury awarded $2.7 million damages. And after a remittitur motion, a second jury awarded $4 million. A second remittitur motion followed, but instead of ruling on that motion the district court just reinstated the first verdict. CA3 reversed, instructing the district court to reinstate the second verdict and then rule on the second remittitur motion.

The case is Lesende v. Borrero. Opinion by Cowen, joined by Fisher and Scirica. Arguing counsel were John Scott for the defendant city and Robert Kobin for the trial plaintiffs.

The second is another police-misconduct suit where a state police officer went around to the back of a property without trying the front door but argued that his warrantless entry was covered by the “knock and talk” exception. The district court denied the plaintiff’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on unlawful entry and the jury ruled for the officer. CA3 reversed, holding that the officer violated the Fourth Amendment as a matter of law and was not entitled to qualified immunity.

The case is Carman v. Carroll. Opinion by Fuentes, joined by McKee & Schiller EDPA by designation. Argument audio here. Arguing counsel were Barry Dyller for the trial plaintiffs and Deputy AG Sean Kirkpatrick for the officer.

UPDATE: Julie McGrain has a helpful write-up of Carman at Federal Defender Third Circuit Blog, here.

UPDATE II: The Supreme Court reversed per curiam, opinion here.