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

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In 2006, Keith Alan Clark was found guilty of kidnapping and assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct. In 2014, Clark, pro se, filed a motion for extension of time to request a certificate of appealability. At issue is whether this motion, filed within the thirty day requirement of Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4, is the functional equivalent of a formal notice of appeal demanded by Rule 3. The court held that a document filed by a pro se litigant as an extension of time to request a certificate of appealability qualifies as the notice of appeal required by Rule 3. Because Clark's motion was timely under Rule 4 and satisfied the notice requirements of Rule 3, the court concluded that it has jurisdiction to consider Clark's application for a certificate of appealability. View "Clark v. Cartledge" on Justia Law
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Petitioner, an ethnic Hutu and a native and citizen of Rwanda, seeks review of the BIA's denial of his applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The court concluded that substantial evidence supports the agency’s ultimate conclusion that petitioner assisted or participated in the Rwandan genocide. Consequently, the agency correctly determined that petitioner is barred from receiving asylum or withholding of removal. Furthermore, substantial evidence supports the denial of petitioner's request for CAT protection where the record amply supports the agency’s finding that petitioner is likely to be held in civilian prison and tried in civilian courts. Accordingly, the court denied the petition. View "Munyakazi v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against Lendmark under Maryland’s Credit Grantor Closed End Credit Provisions (CLEC), Md. Code Ann., Com. Law 12-1001 et seq., challenging the manner in which Lendmark charged and applied late fees towards her personal loan of roughly $2,600. The district court entered judgment for Lendmark. The court concluded that Lendmark was not entitled to charge a late fee in December 2010 or February 2011, or in any month in which plaintiff paid an installment timely and in full. Because the court held that the complaint alleging these facts states a plausible claim for relief, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of this claim and remanded for further proceedings. The court affirmed as to the remainder of plaintiff's claims. View "Williams v. Lendmark Fin. Serv." on Justia Law
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Plaintiffs challenge the adequacy of the environmental review conducted by the Corps before it issued a permit pursuant to section 404 of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1344, authorizing Raven Crest to discharge fill material into waters of the United States in conjunction with that mine. The district court granted the Corps’ and Raven Crest’s motions for summary judgment, holding that the Corps properly determined that the connection between surface coal mining and public health was an issue not properly within the scope of its environmental review. The court affirmed and concluded that this case is indistinguishable from the court's precedent in Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition v. Aracoma Coal Company, in which the court rejected a similar challenge. In Aracoma, the court held that the “specific activity” authorized by the section 404 permit was “nothing more than the filling of jurisdictional waters for the purpose of creating an underdrain system for the larger valley fill,” and that the Corps did not have sufficient control and responsibility over the entire valley fill to warrant including the entire project in the scope of the Corps’ environmental review. View "Ohio Valley Envtl. Coal. v. US Army Corps" on Justia Law
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After plaintiff was terminated from his position as a police officer, he filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging retaliatory discharge in violation of the First Amendment based on the comments he made as a candidate for town council that were critical of his employer. The district court denied Police Chief Rob Hall qualified immunity. The court concluded, however, that Hall is entitled to qualified immunity because it was debatable at the time of plaintiff's dismissal that his speech interests as a citizen outweighed Hall’s interests as a public employer. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Brickey v. Hall" on Justia Law

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After William Gault terminated plaintiff from her position as deputy clerk, plaintiff filed suit challenging her termination on First Amendment grounds. The district court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment, holding that plaintiff occupied a confidential or policymaking position and was subject to termination for campaigning against her boss. The court reversed the district court’s decision to grant summary judgment to Gault based on the Elrod-Branti exception, determining that it could not, as a matter of law, conclude that party affiliation is an appropriate requirement for the effective performance of plaintiff's former position as a deputy clerk; Gault has not established the defense of qualified immunity; the court found unpersuasive Gault's contention that the Eleventh Amendment immunizes him from suit for monetary damages in his official capacity; and the history of this case does not present the court with an adequate Pickering record to review. The court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Lawson v. Union County Clerk of Court" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a citizen of Bolivia, seeks review of the BIA's decision finding him ineligible for cancellation of removal. The BIA determined that petitioner's Virginia conviction for forging a public record pursuant to Virginia Code Ann. 18.2-168 was an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(R). The court concluded that Virginia forgery is an aggravated felony under the INA because it is a categorical match with the federal generic definition of forgery. Thus, the state and federal forgery crimes necessarily relate to one another. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review and denied the Government's request to remand as moot. View "Alvarez v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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Relators filed suit against medical laboratory businesses in 2007 in state court, alleging that the labs had submitted false claims to the Commonwealth for Medicaid reimbursement. Defendants removed to federal court. After the Commonwealth entered into a settlement agreement with defendants, the district court awarded relators a share of the settlement proceeds. Relators appealed, contending that the district court's award was insufficient under state law. The court vacated and remanded to the state court, concluding that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the qui tam action. In this case, by the plain terms of the complaint, relators could have prevailed on their state law claims by proving that defendants contravened the Commonwealth’s Medicaid regulations, without showing any violation of federal law. View "Commonwealth of Virginia ex rel. Hunter Labs. v. Commonwealth of Virginia" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was severely beaten by a fellow inmate, plaintiff filed suit against correctional officers, alleging that they were deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk to his safety in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court denied summary judgment to the correctional officers based on qualified immunity. In light of the facts as the court may view them, and drawing reasonable inferences in plaintiff’s favor, the court found that the district court correctly held that material issues of fact precluded summary judgment for the correctional officers on the Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim. The court also concluded that an objectively reasonable correctional officer would have known that these actions were unreasonable, ran afoul of clearly established law, and violated plaintiff's rights. Accordingly, the correctional officers are not entitled to qualified immunity and the court affirmed the judgment. View "Cox v. Quinn" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an Arab-American Muslim woman from Morocco, filed suit against Fairview, alleging claims, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1981, for race discrimination (Count I), hostile work environment (Count II), and retaliation (Count III); and pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000(e) et seq., claims for discrimination based on religion, national origin, and pregnancy (Count IV), hostile work environment (Count V), and retaliation (Count VI). The district court granted summary judgment for Fairview on all six counts. In regard to the discrimination and retaliation counts, the court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to meet plaintiff's burden to show pretext. In this case, the evidence supports plaintiff's argument that when she complained to her supervisor, who was also her alleged harasser, the supervisor decided to terminate her and immediately got the decision approved. Furthermore, the absence of any evidence to support Fairview’s lack-of-work explanation is also important. Although Fairview claims that there were discussions of eliminating plaintiff's position in the past, there is no record evidence to support that claim. Accordingly, the court reversed and vacated as to Counts III and VI. Likewise, the court reversed as to the remaining counts. By failing to address numerous comments that were open to a racially motivated interpretation, and by circumscribing its analysis to just one comment without reviewing the totality of the circumstances, the district court committed reversible error in its grant of summary judgment for Fairview. View "Guessous v. Fairview Property Investments" on Justia Law