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

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Defendant, convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and sentenced to life imprisonment, appealed the district court's denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2241, seeking relief pursuant to United States v. Simmons. Had defendant been sentenced after Simmons, defendant would have faced a lower mandatory minimum sentence than the mandatory life term that he actually received. The court concluded that the district court lacked jurisdiction under section 2255(e) to consider defendant’s section 2241 petition. The court noted that it was not unsympathetic to defendant's claim due to the gravity of the life sentence. However, Congress has the power to define the scope of the writ of habeas corpus, and Congress has exercised that power here to narrowly limit the circumstances in which a section 2241 petition may be brought. The petition, in this case, does not present one of the permitted circumstances. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Surratt, Jr." on Justia Law
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Plaintiffs, servers for hotels and restaurants at the National Harbor complex in Maryland, filed suit against their employers, alleging violations of the tip-credit provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 203(m), their collective bargaining agreement, and Maryland state law. The district court dismissed the complaint. The court found that the statutory requirements that an employer inform an employee of section 203(m) and permit the employee to retain all his tips unless the employee is in a tip pool with other regularly tipped employees does not apply to employees, like plaintiffs, who are seeking only the recovery of the tips unrelated to a minimum wage or overtime claim. In this case, plaintiffs, concede that their wages do not fall below the statutory minimum, and the “the statutory language,” of the FLSA, including section 203(m), “simply does not contemplate a claim for wages other than minimum or overtime wages.” Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Jahir v. Ryman Hospitality Properties" on Justia Law

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John Doe 2 and Mother Doe, on behalf of John Doe 2's younger brother, filed suit against defendant, the president of the Citadel, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendant violated an affirmative duty to protect them under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Louis “Skip” ReVille provided childcare for the Doe family and sexually abused the two minor boys. ReVille, a graduate of the Citadel, previously worked as a counselor at the Citadel's youth summer camp. Plaintiffs contend that defendant did not report a complaint that a counselor at the summer camp - later identified as ReVille - had molested a child attending the camp. Plaintiffs argued that defendant's actions allowed ReVille to continue his abuse of Doe 2 and Doe 3. The court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant. The court affirmed, concluding that the state-created danger doctrine does not impose liability on defendant for ReVille’s ongoing abuse of the Does; while defendant's undisputed failure to act brought dishonor to him and The Citadel, it did not create a constitutional cause of action; and defendant's alleged conduct neither created nor increased the danger ReVille already posed to the Does, and in any event, did not constitute cognizable affirmative acts with respect to ReVille’s abuse of the Does. View "Doe 2 v. Rosa" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to illegally reentering the country and the district court applied a sixteen-level sentencing enhancement based on defendants previous conviction in North Carolina for discharging a firearm into an occupied building, which the district court concluded is a requisite “crime of violence.” The court concluded that the district court erred in ruling that defendant's offense necessarily involved the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force against a person when, in fact, under North Carolina law, there need be only the use of force against property to sustain a conviction. The court further concluded that this error was not harmless and therefore, the court vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Parral-Dominguez" on Justia Law
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Defendant pleaded guilty to illegally reentering the country and the district court applied a sixteen-level sentencing enhancement based on defendants previous conviction in North Carolina for discharging a firearm into an occupied building, which the district court concluded is a requisite “crime of violence.” The court concluded that the district court erred in ruling that defendant's offense necessarily involved the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force against a person when, in fact, under North Carolina law, there need be only the use of force against property to sustain a conviction. The court further concluded that this error was not harmless and therefore, the court vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Parral-Dominguez" on Justia Law
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Elderberry filed suit in the Western District of Virginia alleging breach of a lease for a skilled nursing facility against Living Centers, FMSC, and Continium, and breach of a guaranty contract against Mariner. Separately, in the Northern District of Georgia, Mariner filed a declaratory judgment action against Elderberry, seeking a declaration that it had no obligations under the guaranty. The two actions were consolidated in the Western District of Virginia. The district court denied the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment but held that the guaranty was enforceable against Mariner. The district court entered judgment in favor of Elderberry on all counts and found defendants jointly and severally liable for accrued and future damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest. The court held that Elderberry lost its right to rent that accrued after it terminated the lease on August 24, 2012; Elderberry is, however, entitled to any rent that accrued prior to termination of the lease; and Elderberry is entitled to non-rent damages that accrued prior to termination of the lease. Given the Georgia Supreme Court’s most recent pronouncement on that state’s statute of frauds, combined with Georgia’s parol evidence rule, the court held that the guaranty satisfies the Georgia statue of frauds. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded with instructions. View "Elderberry of Weber City, LLC v. Living Centers - Southeast" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. On appeal, the government challenged the district court's grant of defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment. The district court concluded that defendant was not a prohibited person because the state statute at issue did not, as a categorical matter, qualify as a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (MCDV). The court agreed with the government that the analytical approach referred to as the “modified categorical approach” applies to this case and establishes that defendant was convicted of a qualifying misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. In this case, because the offense is divisible, the modified categorical approach is applicable. The relevant charging document establishes that defendant was convicted of the completed-battery form of assault under North Carolina law, and the crime of assault by completed battery categorically qualifies as an MCDV. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "United States v. Vinson" on Justia Law
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Defendant, who suffers from Delusional Disorder, Persecutory Type, was arrested for firing a handgun at a Coast Guard helicopter and later found incompetent to stand trial and committed to the custody of the Attorney General. After defendant refused to take antipsychotic medication in order to render himself competent, the district court granted the government’s request that he be medicated by force. The court reversed, however, concluding that the government has not met its burden of proving that involuntary medication is substantially likely to restore defendant's competency. In this case, the district court overlooked the issue lying at the heart of this case: the meagerness of the evidence that forcible treatment is substantially likely to restore defendant's competency, when his particular medical situation is taken into account - especially as evaluated under the requisite clear and convincing standard of proof. View "United States v. Watson, Jr." on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed a Title VII employment discrimination suit, seeking to recover for sexual harassment she allegedly experienced while working at a Drive factory. Drive argued that plaintiff was actually employed by a temporary staffing agency, ResourceMFG, and therefore Drive was not an “employer” subject to Title VII liability. Although the district court acknowledged that in some instances an employee can have multiple “employers” for Title VII purposes, it concluded that in this case ResourceMFG was plaintiff’s sole employer. The court agreed with the district court and its sister circuits and concluded that Title VII provides for joint employer liability. The court also concluded that the so-called “hybrid” test, which considers both the common law of agency and the economic realities of employment, is the correct means to apply the joint employment doctrine to the facts of a case. In this case, the district court did not explicitly use the "hybrid" test in its opinion and thus the court articulated the hybrid test for the joint employment context and applied it to the facts of this case, concluding that Drive was indeed plaintiff's employer. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Drive and remanded for further consideration of plaintiff's Title VII claims. View "Butler v. Drive Automotive Indus." on Justia Law

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Defendant, convicted of four drug-related charges, filed a pro se motion entitled “Motion for Relief from Judgment 60(b)(1)(3)(6).” The district court dismissed the motion for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. At issue was whether the court can review the district court’s categorization of defendant’s motion without first issuing a Certificate of Appealability (“COA”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2253(c)(1)(B). The court held that recent Supreme Court jurisprudence has made clear that section 2253(c) does not apply in this particular situation. Because the court found that defendant’s motion constitutes a mixed Rule 60(b)/section 2255 motion, the court remanded to the district court to afford defendant the opportunity to decide whether to abandon his improper claim or to proceed with a successive habeas petition. View "United States v. McRae" on Justia Law
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