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

Articles Posted in Family Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against United Airlines for retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601 et seq. The district court granted summary judgment for United Airlines. United Airlines had discharged plaintiff for fraudulently taking FMLA leave and for making dishonest representations during the ensuing investigation. The court concluded that, even drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiff as the nonmoving party, Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., plaintiff has failed to create an issue of triable fact that the explanation United Airlines provided for his discharge was a pretext for retaliation for taking FMLA leave. In this case, the evidence taken as a whole plainly paints the picture of an employee who used FMLA leave to avoid interrupting his vacation, and then gave a variety of inconsistent explanations for his behavior upon his return. The court explained that to hold otherwise would disable companies from attaching any sanction or consequence to the fraudulent abuse of a statute designed to enable workers to take leave for legitimate family needs and medical reasons. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Sharif v. United Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

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After the Court of Appeals of Maryland suspended Michael Tankersley’s law license when he refused to provide his social security number to the Client Protection Fund of the Bar of Maryland, Tankersley filed suit against the trustees of the Fund, and the judges and the clerk of the Court of Appeals. Tankersley filed suit against these defendants in their official capacities, seeking injunctive relief based on his claim that his suspension violated the federal Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a. The district court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss. Both the Tax Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. 405(c)(2)(C)(i), and the Welfare Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. 666(a)(13)(A), allow states to collect individuals’ social security numbers in specific situations. The court held that the district court erred in relying on section 666 of the Welfare Reform Act to dismiss Tankersley’s complaint. In this case, the court agreed with Tankersley that “applicant” cannot properly be read to include a Maryland attorney who must pay an annual fee to maintain his license. However, the court concluded that section 405 of the Tax Reform Act applies to Tankersley, and the state of Maryland may lawfully compel him to provide his social security number to the Fund or consequently have his law license suspended. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Tankersley v. Almand" on Justia Law

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Father petitioned for the return of his children to Mexico pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, T.I.A.S. No. 11670, 19 I.L.M. 1501. The district court declined to order the children returned, and Father appealed. Reviewing the record facts as a whole, the court agreed with the district court that a preponderance of the facts establishes that Son has significant connections demonstrating a secure, stable, and permanent life in his new environment. Son is therefore “settled” within the meaning of the Convention. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s determination that Son is “settled” within the meaning of the Hague Convention and affirmed its decision not to exercise its discretion to order Son returned. View "Alcala v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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A German court denied Father's petition under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, T.I.A.S. No. 11,670, 1343 U.N.T.S. 98, and a German appellate court affirmed. Consequently, Mother did not have to return the children to North Carolina. On a one-month visit to North Carolina, Father decided to keep the children. The district court accorded comity to the German appellate court's decision and granted Mother's Hague petition. The children were ordered to return to Germany. Father appealed. The court rejected Father's arguments on appeal and concluded that the district court properly extended comity because the German court's decision neither clearly misinterpreted the Hague Convention nor failed to meet a minimum standard of reasonableness. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Smedley v. Smedley" on Justia Law

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Petitioner filed suit for survivor's benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 901-945. Petitioner sought review of an April 2012 decision of the BRB affirming the denial of benefits by an ALJ. The court held that petitioner satisfied the test for survivor's benefits: she is the surviving spouse of a miner whose death was hastened by pneumoconiosis due at least in part to coal mine employment. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with directions to award benefits without further administrative proceedings.View "Collins v. Pond Creek Mining Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging Virginia Code sections 20-45.2 and 20-45.3; the Marshall/Newman Amendment, Va. Const. art. I, 15-A; and any other Virginia law that bars same sex-marriage or prohibits the State's recognition of otherwise-lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions (collectively, the Virginia Marriage Laws). Plaintiffs argued that these laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and enjoined Virginia from enforcing the laws. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that each of the plaintiffs had standing as to at least one defendant, and the court declined to view Baker v. Nelson as binding precedent. The court concluded that strict scrutiny analysis applied in this case where the Virginia Marriage Laws impede the right to marry by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and nullifying the legal import of their out-of-state marriages. Proponents contend that five interests support the laws: federalism-based interests, history and tradition, protecting the institution of marriage, encouraging responsible procreation, and promoting the optimal childrearing environment. The court concluded, however, that these interests are not compelling interests that justify the Virginia Marriage Laws. Therefore, all of the proponents' justifications for the laws fail and the laws cannot survive strict scrutiny. Accordingly, the court concluded that the Virginia Marriage Laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the extent that they prevent same-sex couples from marrying and prohibit Virginia from recognizing same-sex couples' lawful out-of-state marriages. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Bostic v. Schaefer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, by and through her adoptive parents, brought this action challenging South Carolina's reduction of monthly adoption assistance benefits, claiming that the reduction violated the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, 42 U.S.C. 670 et seq. The court held in this case that section 673(a)(3) did set forth a privately enforceable right under 42 U.S.C. 1983, but that the parents have failed to plead any violation of that right by defendants. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Hensley v. Koller" on Justia Law

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Petitioner initiated this action for wrongful removal under the Hague Convention, seeking the return of his son to Switzerland. The district court found that respondent breached no rights of custody in removing the child and denied the petition for return. Respondent had sole custody of her son when she traveled with him to the United States and Swiss law gave her a unilateral right to remove the child while he was in her sole custody. Petitioner failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that respondent's removal of the child abused her rights under Swiss law or breached any rights of custody petitioner held at the time of removal. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "White v. White" on Justia Law

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Albert DiFederico, a former naval commander, was serving as a civilian contractor for the State Department in Pakistan when he was killed in a terrorist attack on the Marriott Islamabad Hotel. His widow and their three sons brought this wrongful death action and survivorship claim alleging that Marriott was liable for its failure to adequately secure its franchise hotel. The district court granted Marriott's motion to dismiss on the basis of forum non conveniens, finding that Pakistan was an available, adequate, and far more convenient forum to hear the case. Plaintiffs brought their suit in the forum of Marriott's principal place of business, the District of Maryland. The court found that plaintiffs were entitled to heightened deference in their choice of forum. The court concluded that it would be a perversion of justice to force a widow and her children to place themselves in the same risk-laden situation that led to the death of a family member. Plaintiffs were inconvenienced by the fear, emotional trauma, and associated logistical complexity that would afflict them if this case were dismissed and decided in Pakistan. The court's review of several of the applicable public and private factors provided additional support for the court's conclusion that the district court abused its discretion in dismissing the case. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "DiFederico v. Marriott Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment for her employer, the UPS, pursuant to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), 42 U.S.C. 2000e(k), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. The court held that plaintiff presented no direct evidence of pregnancy discrimination where the UPS policy at issue, that did not provide light duty work to pregnant workers but did for certain other employees, treated pregnant and nonpregnant workers alike and therefore complied with the PDA. Plaintiff also failed to offer sufficient evidence to make out a prima facie case of discrimination under the McDonnell Douglas framework. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Young v. UPS" on Justia Law