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

By
Defendant, a CPA, appealed his sentence and conviction for conspiracy and obstruction of justice following his involvement in earnings mismanagement and improper accounting transactions while acting as chief accounting officer of Beazer Homes. The court concluded that the district court did not err in excluding evidence surrounding the false email accusations. In any event, any error was harmless where defendant was not ultimately prejudiced. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in quashing defendant's Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 17(c) subpoena to Beazer; in prohibiting defendant's accounting expert from testifying about work papers prepared by Beazer's independent auditors; and in allowing the government to have Beazer employees testify as lay witnesses about the propriety of complex accounting transactions without calling an accounting expert to testify. Finally, the court rejected all three of defendant's potential misconduct claims and concluded that any error was harmless. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Rand" on Justia Law

By
After Kimberly Adkins and Chaille Dubois filed separate Chapter 13 bankruptcy petitions in the Bankruptcy Court, Atlas filed proofs of claim in their bankruptcy cases based on debts that were barred by Maryland’s statute of limitations. At issue is whether Atlas violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq., by filing proofs of claim based on time-barred debts. The court held that Atlas’s conduct does not violate the FDCPA because filing a proof of claim in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy based on a debt that is time-barred does not violate the FDCPA when the statute of limitations does not extinguish the debt. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Dubois v. Atlas Acquisitions LLC" on Justia Law

By
Over twenty electrical construction workers filed suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., seeking unpaid hourly and overtime wages from Power Design for work completed under a federally funded subcontract between a joint venture and Power Design. The district court granted summary judgment for Power Design. The court found nothing in the relevant statutes barring the Electrical Workers from pursuing an FLSA claim. In light of the statutory texts, which admit of no conflict, and the similarities between Powell v. U.S. Cartridge Co., Masters v. Maryland Management Co., and this case, the court held that the statutes at issue apply concurrently to the Electrical Workers’ employment arrangement. Accordingly, the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Power Design and the court vacated the judgment, remanding for further proceedings. View "Amaya v. Power Design, Inc." on Justia Law

By
Claimants appeal the district court's entry of default judgment for the government in a civil forfeiture action against funds deposited in claimants’ names in banks in New Zealand and Hong Kong. Default judgment was entered after the government successfully moved to disentitle claimants from defending their claims to the defendant property under the federal fugitive disentitlement statute, 28 U.S.C. 2466. Claimants’ alleged copyright infringement scheme, dubbed the “Mega Conspiracy,” used public websites to facilitate the illegal reproduction and distribution of copyrighted movies, software, television programs, and music. The court rejected claimants' challenge to the district court's in rem jurisdiction over assets in foreign countries; the court affirmed the district court's adoption of the reasoning in Collazos v. United States, a Second Circuit case, holding that claimants had waived the due process rights they claim were violated by operation of section 2466; as section 2466 predicates disentitlement on an allowable presumption that a criminal fugitive lacks a meritorious defense to a related civil forfeiture, the court concluded that it does not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and affirmed the district court’s decision; and the court adopted a specific intent standard for section 2466 and affirmed the district court's finding of intent with respect to each defendant. The court rejected claimants' remaining arguments and affirmed the judgment in its entirety. View "United States v. Batato" on Justia Law

By
An ALJ found that Jerry Addison was entitled to benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 901-944, because he had established the existence of clinical and legal pneumoconiosis that resulted in a total respiratory disability. Sea-B, Addison's former employer, filed a petition for review of the ALJ's decision. The court concluded that the ALJ’s decision to exclude the additional CT scan evidence was not harmless. This error affects the determination of both clinical and legal pneumoconiosis and impacts the ALJ’s consideration of the other evidence in this case. The omitted CT scan evidence is unquestionably probative of the central issue in dispute: whether Addison suffered from pneumoconiosis. Furthermore, the court could not determine from the ALJ’s sparse explanation how, or if, he weighed the x-ray readings in light of the readers’ qualifications. Finally, because the proffered explanation for elevating Dr. Forehand’s diagnosis is not supported, the ALJ must reevaluate that opinion to determine the proper weight it should be given. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for review, vacated the order, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sea "B" Mining Co. v. Addison" on Justia Law

By
These consolidated cases challenge provisions of a recently enacted North Carolina election law. Session Law 2013-381.2 imposed a number of voting restrictions. The law required in-person voters to show certain photo IDs, beginning in 2016, which African Americans disproportionately lacked, and eliminated or reduced registration and voting access tools that African Americans disproportionately used. Prior to the enactment of SL 2013-381, the legislature requested and received racial data as to usage of the practices changed by the proposed law. Upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans. The court concluded that the asserted justifications for the law cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation: taking away minority voters' opportunity because they were about to exercise it. Therefore, the court concluded that the General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent. The court reversed and remanded with instructions to enjoin the challenged provisions of the law. View "N.C. State Conference v. McCrory" on Justia Law

By
Amy Tuschen worked for RLM for six years and then joined a competitor, eScience. RLM filed suit against eScience and Tuschen, alleging principally that Tuschen breached a covenant not to compete and unlawfully took confidential information from RLM and shared it with eScience. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants. The court concluded that the covenant not to compete was not enforceable because it was overbroad, and RLM failed to present sufficient evidence that Tuschen took or shared RLM’s confidential information. The court rejected RLM's remaining claims and affirmed the judgment. View "RLM Communications v. Tuschen" on Justia Law

By
After plaintiff was arrested for obstruction of justice and the charge was ultimately dismissed, plaintiff filed suit against the police officers responsible for her arrest, alleging that the officers violated her Fourth Amendment rights by arresting her without probable cause. The district court granted the officers' motion for qualified immunity. The court concluded that it would be clear to officers in defendants' position that they lacked probable cause to arrest defendant where the court could not find in the record any attempted action by the officers that could be said to have been "obstructed" by plaintiff, and the officers' brief and oral argument are likewise missing even a suggested action that was actually obstructed. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Graham v. Gagnon" on Justia Law

By
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
By
Posted in:
Updated:

By
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
By
Posted in:
Updated: