Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Petitioner, a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, appealed the denial of his petition under 28 U.S.C. 2241 challenging a magistrate judge's certification of extraditability. The magistrate judge found that petitioner was subject to extradition under a treaty between the United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina based on war crimes he allegedly committed during the conflict in former Yugoslavia. The court applied the indefinite limitations period from the United States Torture Act, 18 U.S.C. 2340A, that was in place at the time of the extradition request and concluded that the request for petitioner's extradition is not time-barred under Article VII of the treaty. Further, the acts of torture allegedly perpetrated by petitioner against civilians preclude application of the political offense exception. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that petitioner's extradition is neither time-barred nor precluded by the political offense exception in the treaty. View "Nezirovic v. Holt" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging Henrico County's ordinance prohibiting solicitation within county roadways. Plaintiff is homeless and supports himself by soliciting donations in the County. The district court granted summary judgment for the County, concluding that the ordinance is content-neutral and a narrowly tailored time, place, and manner restriction on speech. Plaintiff argued on appeal that the County bears the burden of proof and that the County's evidence was insufficient to establish that the ordinance is narrowly tailored or that it leaves open ample alternative channels of communication. McCullen v. Coakley held that a content-neutral regulation is narrowly tailored if it does not burden substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government's legitimate interests. McCullen clarified the law governing the evidentiary showing required of a governmental entity seeking to uphold a speech restriction under intermediate scrutiny. Because the parties did not have McCullen's guidance at the time they prepared their cross motions for summary judgment, the court vacated the district court's order and remanded for further factual development and proceedings under McCullen's standard. View "Reynolds v. Middleton" on Justia Law

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Freeman, a provider of integrated services for expositions, conventions, and corporate events, performed credit and criminal background check policies on job applicants, which excluded applicants whose histories revealed certain prohibited criteria. The EEOC alleged that these background checks had an unlawful disparate impact on black and male job applicants. The district court granted summary judgment to Freeman after excluding the EEOC's expert testimony as unreliable under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. Thus, the EEOC failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The court affirmed the district court's judgment, where the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the expert testimony as unreliable based on the sheer number of mistakes and omissions in the expert's analysis. The court declined to consider whether the district court erred in limiting the time period in which the EEOC could seek relief, as any error in this regard was inconsequential in light of the expert's pervasive errors and utterly unreliable analysis. The court declined to reach any other issues in the district court's opinion. View "EEOC v. Freeman" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and subsequently appealed his sentence. The district court found that defendant used the firearm in an attempted murder, but defendant disputed that he had the requisite mens rea for attempted murder. Consequently, the district court denied defendant a downward adjustment for acceptance of responsibility pursuant to U.S.S.G. 3E1.1. In this case, when defendant denied that his "acts and omissions" included shooting with the intent to kill, he denied relevant conduct attributable to him. Because falsely denying relevant conduct is "inconsistent with acceptance of responsibility," the district court did not err by denying defendant a three-level reduction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. Burns" on Justia Law
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Posted in: Criminal Law
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Beyond Systems, an internet service provider, filed suit against Kraft and Connexus seeking damages under California's and Maryland's anti-spam statutes based upon several hundred e-mails which it alleges were unlawful spam. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that Beyond Systems had Article III standing by claiming a harm: receiving spam e-mail. On the merits, the court agreed with the district court that Beyond Systems is barred from recovery because it consented to the harm underpinning its anti-spam claims. In this case, Beyond Systems created fake e-mail addresses, solely for the purpose of gathering spam; it embedded these addresses in websites so that they were undiscoverable except to computer programs that serve no other function than to find e-mail accounts to spam; it increased its e-mail storage capacity to retain a huge volume of spam; and it intentionally participated in routing spam e-mail between California and Maryland to increase its exposure to spam and thereby allow it to sue under both states' laws. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Beyond Systems v. Kraft Foods" on Justia Law

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Defendant plead guilty to knowingly failing to register as a sex offender as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 18 U.S.C. 2250(a). The indictment alleged that defendant was subject to SORNA's registration requirement because of his prior South Carolina conviction for the common law offense of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. The court concluded that the Denial Order properly applied the "circumstance-specific approach" (the noncategorical approach) in deciding that defendant was subject to SORNA's registration required. However, the district court erred in ruling that defendant's conviction was for a sex offense under U.S.S.G. 5D1.2(b)(2). Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Price" on Justia Law
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Posted in: Criminal Law
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Relator appealed the district court's dismissal of her qui tam action under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3279-3733, for lack of jurisdiction. Relator alleged that fraudulent invoices were submitted to the federal government under the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) Program in both Graham and Cherokee Counties. In relator's third amended complaint, she named as defendants Graham County, the Graham County SWCD, and the Cherokee County SWCD, along with several individuals. Although the court found no fault with the district court's factual findings, the district court applied an incorrect legal standard in reaching its conclusion as to public disclosure. Rejecting the Seventh Circuit's view, the court held that a public disclosure requires that there be some act of disclosure outside of the government. In this case, while the Audit Report and the USDA Report at issue were disclosed to government officials charged with policing the type of fraud relator alleges, nothing in the record suggests that either report actually reached the public domain. Therefore, the public disclosure bar was not triggered on this basis. That the reports were disclosed to state and local government agencies as well as federal agencies does not alter the court's conclusion. Further, the existence of public information laws does not go against the court's holding. Accordingly, the district court had jurisdiction over this action and the court reversed. View "U.S. ex rel. Wilson v. Graham Cnty. Soil & Water" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a Turkish national, appealed his conviction for violating the marriage fraud statute under 8 U.S.C. 1325(c). Section 1325(c) prohibits entry into a marriage "for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws." Defendant argued that the jury should have been instructed that he could not be convicted unless the jury found that his "sole" purpose in entering into the marriage was to evade the immigration laws. The court held that because defendant's proposed instructions are not correct statements of law, the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to give those instructions to the jury. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. Sonmez" on Justia Law
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Posted in: Criminal Law
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Diane Z. Kirsch assigned her limited interest in the Lee Graham Shopping Center Limited Partnership to the Diane Z. Kirsch Family Trust where the interest was to pass to the Cullen Trust. The Partnership filed suit after Kirsch died, seeking a declaratory judgment that the Partnership Agreement forbids the transfer of the interest to the Cullen Trust. The district court granted summary judgment to the Partnership on all claims. The court affirmed, concluding that the probate exception does not preclude federal court jurisdiction in this case and the case was properly before the district court, and that the Agreement prohibits the transfer of the interest to the Cullen Trust, which benefits a non-family member. The court found that the Agreement unambiguously prohibits gift transfers of interests to non-family members. View "Lee Graham Shopping Ctr. v. Estate of Kirsch" on Justia Law
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Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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Power Fuels, operator of a facility that receives, blends, stores, and delivers coals for a power plant located across the road, petitioned for review of the Commission's final order, challenging the Secretary's assignment of jurisdiction to the MSHA, rather than to the nonspecialized OSHA. The court held that the Secretary permissibly concluded that a facility that blends coal for a nearby power plant was subject to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 30 U.S.C. 802(h)(1)(C), (i). Therefore, the MSHA's assertion of jurisdiction was proper because the Mine Act covers this kind of activity. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Power Fuels, LLC v. Federal Mine Safety & Health" on Justia Law