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

By Justia Inc
Plaintiff, a dissatisfied applicant in an ex parte trademark proceeding, sought review of an adverse ruling on his trademark application by commencing a de novo action in a federal district court. Under the Lanham Act, if an applicant elects to proceed in district court and no adverse party opposed his application before the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), the applicant must name the Director of the PTO as a defendant and pay all the expenses of the proceeding, whether or not she succeeds in the action. At the end of the proceeding in this case, the Director of the PTO sought the expenses of the proceeding from Plaintiff, including the PTO’s attorneys fees. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the imposition of all expenses on a plaintiff in an ex parte proceeding does not constitute “fee-shifting” that implicates the “American Rule” but, rather, constitutes an unconditional compensatory charge imposed on a dissatisfied applicant in an ex parte trademark proceeding who elects to engage the PTO in a district court proceeding. View "Shammas v. Focarino" on Justia Law
By Justia Inc
Posted in: Trademark
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By Justia Inc
After a jury-waived trial, a Virginia state judge convicted Petitioner on charges of brand larceny and breaking and entering. The state appellate courts denied Petitioner’s direct appeal, and the state supreme court denied Petitioner’s habeas petition. Petitioner subsequently filed this federal habeas petition. The district court granted habeas relief on one claim, concluding that the state supreme court unreasonably applied Strickland v. Washington in rejecting Petitioner’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim. As a resulting, the court vacated Petitioner’s convictions and sentence. The Fourth Circuit vacated the portion of the district court’s order granting habeas relief and remanded for dismissal of the petition, holding that the Virginia Supreme Court did not unreasonably conclude that Petitioner failed to establish Strickland prejudice. View "Jones v. Clarke" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
A multiemployer pension plan (the “Pension Fund”) commenced this action under 29 U.S.C. 1401(b)(2) by filing a complaint seeking to vacate or modify an arbitration order entered pursuant to section 1401(a)(1). The Pension Fund later filed an amended complaint that it argued related back to the filing date of the original complaint. The district court concluded that the Pension Fund could challenge the arbitration award only by filing a motion to vacate or modify, as provided in the Federal Arbitration Act. The court then treated the amended complaint as a motion and dismissed it, concluding that it was untimely under section 1401(a)(2) because a motion cannot “relate back” under Fed. R. Civ. P. 15. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court’s order of dismissal and remanded for further proceedings as a civil action, holding (1) a party seeking to vacate or modify an arbitrator’s award under section 1401(b)(2) must commence an action in a district court by filing a complaint; and (2) the amended complaint in this case related back to the filing date of the original complaint, thus rendering it timely. View "Local Union 557 Pension Fund v. Penske Logistics LLC" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Ashton LeBlanc, a Louisiana resident, had a son, Robert, who was born in Nigeria in 1970. In 2001, Robert and Ashton decided to file the appropriate paperwork to have Robert declared a United States citizen. Ashton completed and submitted to his attorney a Form N-600, an application for certificate of citizenship, but the attorney instead filed a Form I-130, a petition for an adjustment of status for an alien relative. The I-130 was denied in 2007. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denied the appeal. In 2011, Ashton contacted a second attorney to check on the status of Robert’s citizenship and was assured that the process was moving forward. Ashton subsequently hired his current counsel, who discovered Ashton’s previous attorney’s deficient performance. Current counsel moved to reopen the denial of the I-130 petition on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. The BIA denied the motion, concluding that Ashton failed to show due diligence after contacting the second attorney. The Fourth Circuit dismissed Ashton’s petition for review for lack of jurisdiction because the petition was from Ashton’s denied motion to reopen his visa petition, not an order of removal against Robert, and because transfer to an appropriate district court was not in the interests of justice. View "LeBlanc v. Holder" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Robert Lang and his construction business (collectively, “Lang”) contracted to sell Dan Ryan Builders, Inc. (“Dan Ryan”) all the lots in a housing development Lang was planning to build. When cracks appeared in the basement slab and foundation walls of a partially constructed house on one of the lots Dan Ryan had purchased, the parties amended their agreement. After further problems developed in the construction of the homes, Dan Ryan filed this lawsuit against Lang seeking monetary damages for breach of contract. After a bench trial, the district court entered judgment in favor of Dan Ryan and ordered Lang to pay Dan Ryan limited damages on the contract claim. Dan Ryan appealed, seeking additional damages. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in its award of damages. View "Dan Ryan Builders, Inc. v. Crystal Ridge Dev., Inc." on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
This case involved a dispute between two clergymen, each of whom believed himself to be the proper leader of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina. Bishop Charles vonRosenberg brought this action against Bishop Mark Lawrence, alleging Lanham Act violations and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Bishop Lawrence asked the district court to dismiss this federal action for lack of standing or, in the alternative, to abstain and stay this action pending resolution of related state court proceedings. The district court granted the motion to abstain and dismissed the action, concluding that it had broad discretion to decline to grant declaratory relief under the abstention doctrine articulated in Brillhart v. Excess Insurance Co. of Am. and Wilton v. Steven Falls Co. The Fourth Circuit vacated the dismissal order, holding (1) Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, which permits a federal court to abstain only in “exceptional” circumstances, properly governed the abstention question in this action; and (2) because the district court did not apply the correct abstention standard, the case is remanded for a determination of whether “exceptional” circumstances are present in this case. View "vonRosenberg v. Lawrence" on Justia Law
By Justia Inc
Posted in: Trademark
Updated:

By Justia Inc
Under the “fifteen-year presumption” of the Black Lung Benefits Act, if a claimant has at least fifteen years of underground coal mine employment and a qualifying respiratory or pulmonary disability, a rebuttable presumption arises that he is entitled to benefits. After working for more than twenty-one years in underground coal mines, most recently for Petitioner, Respondent suffered a totally disabling respiratory impairment for purposes of the Act. Respondent filed this claim for benefits under the Act. The administrative law judge (ALJ) reviewing his claim applied the fifteen-year presumption, concluded that Petitioner failed to rebut that presumption, and awarded black lung benefits. The Fourth Circuit denied Petitioner’s petition for review and affirmed the ALJ’s finding that Petitioner had failed to rebut the fifteen-year presumption, holding that the ALJ’s determinations were supported by substantial evidence. View "Hobet Mining, LLC v. Epling" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Hebei Prince Shipping Co., Ltd. (“Hebei Prince”) owned the M/V HEBEI SHIJIAZHUANG (“the Vessel”). The Vessel was leased to Tramp Maritime Enterprises, Ltd. under three consecutive time charters that prohibited Tramp Maritime from incurring “any lien or encumbrance” against the Vessel. World Fuel Services Trading, DMCC (“DMCC”) provided marine fuel (referred to as “bunkers”) to the Vessel but was never paid. DMCC subsequently filed this in rem action against the Vessel in federal district court asserting that it was owed $809,420 for the unpaid bunkers and that it was entitled to enforce a maritime lien on the Vessel under the Federal Maritime Lien Act (FMLA). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of DMCC. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court had admiralty jurisdiction to consider DMCC’s claim; and (2) DMCC was entitled to bring its claim that it had an enforceable maritime lien under the FMLA. View "World Fuel Servs. Trading v. Hebei Prince Shipping Co., Ltd." on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Defendant, a native and citizen of Honduras, was convicted under North Carolina law of two counts of second-degree kidnapping. Defendant was subsequently removed from the United States to Honduras. Defendant reentered the United States illegally at some point when he was arrested for possession of a controlled substance and assault and battery in Virginia. Defendant subsequently pleaded guilty to a single-count indictment for illegal reentry into the United States. The district court concluded that a sixteen-level enhancement should be applied to Defendant’s sentence for reentry after a prior conviction for a “crime of violence.” Defendant appealed, arguing that his North Carolina crime did not constitute a crime of violence. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that, under North Carolina law, a conviction for second-degree kidnapping does constitute a crime of violence, and as such, the addition of a sixteen-level enhancement to Defendant’s sentence was proper. View "United States v. Flores-Granados" on Justia Law
By Justia Inc
Posted in: Criminal Law
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By Justia Inc
In 2007, Petitioner, a native and citizen of El Salvador, was convicted of petit larceny. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security commenced removal proceedings against Petitioner. Petitioner conceded removability but applied for cancellation of removal under 8 U.S.C. 1229b(b)(1), The immigration judge pretermitted Petitioner’s application and ordered her removed to El Salvador, concluding that her petit-larceny conviction rendered her ineligible for relief because it was a crime involving moral turpitude. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the BIA’s decision was based on an incorrect interpretation of section 1229b(b)(1)(C).The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the BIA’s reading of section 1229b(b)(1)(C) was a permissible interpretation of the statute, entitling the BIA’s decision to Chevron deference. View "Hernandez v. Holder" on Justia Law