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

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Petitioner challenged the district court's denial of his 28 U.S.C. 2241 habeas petition. Petitioner appealed the computation of his federal sentence, and, more specifically, the refusal of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to designate nunc pro tunc a state facility for service of his federal sentence. Although the court found no error in the district court’s analysis of the BOP’s sentencing calculation, the court concluded that the district court overlooked a two-pronged flaw in the BOP’s exercise of its broad discretion in denying petitioner’s requested nunc pro tunc designation. The court held that, in its consideration of the fourth statutory factor under 18 U.S.C. 3621(b), the BOP misapplied 18 U.S.C. 3584(a). That is, in the face of the federal sentencing judge’s silence as to the court’s intention, the BOP invoked a presumption that the unelaborated federal sentence should be deemed to run consecutively to the later imposed state sentence. The court concluded that the presumption relied on was inapplicable in this case. Because the court concluded that the BOP abused its discretion, the court affirmed the judgment in part, vacated in part, and remanded with instructions that the district court remand petitioner's request for a nunc pro tunc designation to the BOP for further consideration. View "Mangum v. Hallembaek" on Justia Law
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Defendant conditionally plead guilty to one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime, and then appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained from a search of his residence. The court concluded that defendant has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the investigator omitted information from the search warrant affidavit - material information about the reliability of the confidential informant who was the primary source of the information used to establish probable cause - with at least a reckless disregard for whether these omissions made the application misleading. Because these omissions were material to a finding of probable cause, defendant has established a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights under Franks v. Delaware. Therefore, the district court erred in denying defendant’s suppression motion. The court reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress, vacated defendant's conviction and sentence, and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Lull" on Justia Law
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After CSX charged plaintiff, one of its employees, with "serious" violations of the company's safety policy, plaintiff filed suit under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), 49 U.S.C. 20109, alleging that he was disciplined in retaliation for his activities as local chairman of the transportation union. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of CSX, concluding that plaintiff had failed to show that any CSX employee involved in the disciplinary process had also known about his union activities. The court held that the “knowledge” relevant for a retaliation claim under the FRSA must be tied to the decision-maker involved in the unfavorable personnel action. The court concluded that, because plaintiff does not present sufficient evidence that the relevant CSX decision-makers knew of his protected activities, his claims fail as a matter of law at the prima facie stage. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Conrad v. CSX Transp., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, enrolled in Marshall University's Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program, filed suit against defendants raising various claims, including violation of her due process and equal protection rights, after she unsuccessfully pursued reconsideration through Marshall’s internal grade-appeals process. Plaintiff had left her student-teaching post in protest over differences with her supervising teacher. Consequently, plaintiff was not awarded credit and did not receive her MAT nor teaching license. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's order granting defendants' motion to dismiss. The court concluded that the district court properly determined both that sovereign immunity bars plaintiff's claims against the Marshall University Board of Governors, and that the allegations in plaintiff's pro se complaint against the other defendants failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Kerr v. Marshall Univ. Bd." on Justia Law

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Defendant conditionally plead guilty to being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, and then challenged the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence recovered after a stop-and-frisk. The court rejected defendant's version of the facts as well as his accompanying legal argument that he was seized before he reached for his pocket. The court also concluded that the police had reasonable suspicion based on a tip from a 911 call, defendant was found in the area in which the gunshot was reported in a high-crime area, defendant failed to respond or make eye contact with the officers, and defendant's performance of a security check gave credence to the anonymous tip and gave the officers reason to suspect that defendant was the man of whom they had been warned. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Foster" on Justia Law
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Petitioner, a native and citizen of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, seeks review of the BIA's final order of removal affirming the IJ's conclusion that petitioner filed a frivolous asylum application and was therefore ineligible for adjustment of status. The court concluded that notice set forth in the I-589 application for asylum suffices to satisfy the requirement under 8 U.S.C. 1158(d)(4)(A) that the applicant be notified of the consequences of filing a frivolous application. Although an immigration judge is free to give an applicant additional warnings during the hearing, there is no statutory requirement that he do so. Therefore, the court rejected petitioner's contention that he did not receive adequate notice. The court rejected petitioner's remaining claims and denied the petition for review. View "Ndibu v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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Defendant was convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon and was sentenced as an armed career criminal based on his three prior convictions for felony common law robbery in North Carolina. The court affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress the handgun found in defendant's vehicle during a traffic stop, and the district court's denial of defendant's motion for a new trial. The court concluded, however, that defendant's prior offense of North Carolina common law robbery is not categorically a violent felony. Therefore, the court held that the district court erred in sentencing defendant as an armed career criminal. The court vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Gardner" on Justia Law
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After plaintiff went to the police station to report the theft of his cable services, he ended up involuntarily detained for six days for a mental-health evaluation. Plaintiff then filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that he was unlawfully seized without probable cause in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The court concluded that the claims against the mental-health evaluator and her employer were properly dismissed. However, as to the two officers who initially took plaintiff into custody, the court found that the allegations in the complaint were sufficient to survive the motion to dismiss. When the statements in the Incident Report are treated not as true, but as assertions made by the Officers, the court had little difficulty in concluding that plaintiff's claims against the Officers should not have been dismissed. Plaintiff alleged that he has no mental illness and the facts he describes in the complaint provided no basis for the Officers to have reasonably concluded otherwise. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd." on Justia Law

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After registered nurses employed at the Hospitals elected the Union as their bargaining representative, the Hospitals challenged the election results and refused the Union’s requests to bargain. The Board issued a final decision concluding that the Hospitals violated the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 151 et seq., by refusing to bargain with the Union. Determining that the Hospitals did not waive their argument regarding the Board's lack of quorum, the court gave deference to the Board's interpretation and concluded that the Regional Director’s authority to act was not abrogated during the period when the Board lacked a quorum. The court rejected the Hospitals' argument that the Regional Director was not validly appointed because the Acting General Counsel, was without authority to act at the time of Regional Director Harrell’s appointment. It is the Board - not the General Counsel - that retains final authority over the appointment of a Regional Director, and the Board approved the appointment of the Regional Director in this case. The court further concluded that there is no merit in the Hospitals' contention that the Board appointed the Regional Director after the Board lost a quorum and consequently, the appointment was invalid. Finally, the court concluded that the Hospitals’ sole challenge to the merits of the Board’s final decision was baseless. Accordingly, the court granted the Board's application for enforcement. View "NLRB v. Bluefield Hospital" on Justia Law

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After defendant was convicted of charges related to the kidnapping of his estranged wife, the district court sentenced him to 295 months in prison and also required him to register as a sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. 16911 et seq. The court rejected defendant's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel because such claims are not addressed on direct appeal; the district court did not err in admitting evidence of prior acts where the evidence was relevant to issues other than character or propensity and the probative value outweighed the danger of unfair prejudice; and, the district court did not err in requiring defendant to register as a sex offender under SORNA, because aggravated sexual abuse involves a sexual act or sexual contact with another and defendant thus was convicted of a criminal offense that has an element involving a sexual act or sexual contact with another. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Faulls" on Justia Law
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