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

By Justia Inc
Plaintiff appealed the district court's summary dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim against defendant on the ground that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a). Plaintiff's suit arose from allegations that prison officers used excessive force while transferring him to a different cell. The court reversed and remanded, holding that plaintiff reasonably believed that he had sufficiently exhausted his remedies by complying with an internal investigation. View "Blake v. Ross" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Plaintiff filed suit against the University under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., for discriminatory termination based on gender, retaliatory termination, and the creation of a hostile work environment. At issue was the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v.Nassar on what Title VII retaliation plaintiffs must show to survive a motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that the McDonnell Douglas framework, which already incorporates a but for causation analysis, provides the appropriate standard for reviewing plaintiff’s claim. Applying this framework, the court found that summary judgment in favor of the University is not warranted on plaintiff's retaliation claim where a reasonable jury could conclude from plaintiff's evidence that the University's proffered justifications were not its real reasons for firing her and that the University's actual reason for firing her was to retaliate against her complaining about sexual harassment and for her subsequent complaints of ongoing retaliation. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to plaintiff's retaliation claim. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's gender-based discrimination claim and hostile work environment claim. View "Foster v. Univ. of Maryland Eastern" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Defendant appealed his revocation sentence. At issue was whether the district court erred in determining, based on defendant’s status as a recidivist drug offender, that certain drug offenses committed during his supervised release were Grade B violations under the Sentencing Commission’s advisory policy statements for violations of probation and supervised release. The court held that the district court did not err in concluding that defendant's prior drug convictions increased the extent to which his marijuana offenses during supervised release were “punishable” under Section 844(a). Thus, the district court correctly determined that defendant’s multiple acts of possessing marijuana during his supervised release constituted Grade B violations under the Guidelines’ Chapter 7 advisory policy statements. View "United States v. Wynn" on Justia Law
By Justia Inc
Posted in: Criminal Law
Updated:

By Justia Inc
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1982, alleging that correctional officers used excessive force when they forcibly extracted him from his prison cell. The officers appealed the district court's denial of their motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The parties agree that the law clearly established at the time of the extraction governs the entitlement to qualified immunity here. In Norman v. Taylor, the court held that absent the most extraordinary circumstances, a plaintiff cannot prevail on an Eighth Amendment excessive force claim if his injury is de minimis. Applying Norman, the court concluded that many of plaintiff's injuries could have an enduring impact on health and well-being and were not de minimis. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Ussery v. Mansfield" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
After Radiance published an article online entitled “NAACP: National Association for the Abortion of Colored People” that criticized the NAACP’s stance on abortion, the NAACP sent Radiance a cease-and-desist letter. Radiance sought a declaratory judgment that it had not infringed any NAACP trademarks and the NAACP filed counterclaims alleging trademark infringement and dilution. The court concluded that the NAACP does not have actionable claims for trademark infringement in this case; Radiance's use of the NAACP's marks or colorable imitation falls squarely within the exceptions to trademark dilution specifically included in the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq., to avoid encroaching on free speech rights; and therefore, the court reversed the district court's injunction and remanded with directions that defendant's counterclaims be dismissed. View "The Radiance Foundation, Inc. v. NAACP" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Defendant pled guilty to reentering the United States as an illegal alien and the district court imposed a twelve-level sentencing enhancement based on his prior felonious conviction for unlawfully transporting aliens. On appeal, defendant argued that the Court's ruling in United States v. Simmons precludes the enhancement because the Guidelines for his prior conviction under the then-mandatory Sentencing Guidelines was zero to six months' imprisonment. The court affirmed the sentence, concluding that the district court did not err in imposing the enhancement because the judge who sentenced defendant for the prior conviction had discretion to sentence him for up to five years. View "United States v. Bercian-Flores" on Justia Law
By Justia Inc
Posted in: Criminal Law
Updated:

By Justia Inc
In this putative class action, plaintiffs are a class of black steel workers who allege endemic racial discrimination at a South Carolina plant owned by Nucor. At issue was whether the workers have presented a common question of employment discrimination through evidence of racism in the workplace. In light of the Supreme Court's opinion in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, the district court on remand refused to certify the class. The court held that the district court has for a second time erred in refusing to certify the workers’ class, where (1) statistics indicate that promotions at Nucor depended in part on whether an individual was black or white; (2) substantial anecdotal evidence suggests discrimination in specific promotions decisions in multiple plant departments; and (3) there is also significant evidence that those promotions decisions were made in the context of a racially hostile work environment. The court concluded that the district court fundamentally misapprehended the reach of Wal-mart and its application to the workers' promotions class. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded for recertification of the class. View "Brown v. Nucor Corp." on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Defendant, a board-certified dermatologist, was indicted for executing a "scheme or artifice to defraud" when billing public and private healthcare benefit programs and related offenses. The district court granted plaintiff's motion to strike as unduly prejudicial certain financial details alleged in the indictment, a motion in limine to exclude evidence of post-scheme conduct the government intended to introduce to show defendant's consciousness of guilt; and a motion in limine to exclude all evidence of the scheme that was not directly related to one of the 53 specifically charged executions. The court concluded that the district court abused its discretion in limiting the government’s proof to that which is directly relevant to one or more of the 53 executions charged in the indictment, without taking into account the relevance of uncharged conduct to the alleged overarching scheme; the district court abused its discretion because it misapplied Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) and 403 in excluding evidence of defendant's post-scheme conduct; and the district court abused its discretion where, because a violation of the healthcare fraud statute requires knowing and willful conduct, the government must establish defendant's intent to defraud. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "United States v. Bajoghli" on Justia Law
By Justia Inc
Posted in: Criminal Law
Updated:

By Justia Inc
Plaintiff filed suit against Dr. Cohen seeking a declaration that they properly rescinded his disability insurance policies. The magistrate judge held that Dr. Cohen made material misrepresentations on his policy applications and granted summary judgment to plaintiffs. Applying Maryland law, the court concluded that each of the questions to which Dr. Cohen allegedly gave false answers is subject to more than one reasonable interpretation, and so is ambiguous. Because the language of each question at issue in this case is ambiguous, summary judgment was inappropriate. In regard to the magistrate judge's denial of Dr. Cohen's motion in limine, the court held that a Consent Order suspending a Maryland medical license rendered by the Maryland State Board of Physicians is not admissible in a civil or criminal action absent consent, except for in an action brought by a party aggrieved by a Board decision. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's v. Cohen" on Justia Law
By Justia Inc
Posted in: Insurance Law
Updated:

By Justia Inc
Petitioner, a native and citizen of El Salvador, entered the United States without inspection and without valid entry documents. The Government subsequently initiated deportation proceedings against Petitioner. Petitioner conceded her removability but sought relief from removal in the form of asylum and withholding of removal under the Immigration and Naturalization Act. The immigration judge concluded that Petitioner had not established her eligibility for asylum. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed. The Fourth Circuit granted Petitioner’s petition for review and vacated the order of the BIA, holding that Petitioner had established her eligibility for asylum. Remanded. View "Hernandez-Avalos v. Lynch" on Justia Law