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

Articles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

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The EEOC initiated a lawsuit against Propak more than six and one-half years after a Propak employee filed his discrimination charge. The district court granted Propak's motion for summary judgment. At issue on appeal was whether the district court abused its discretion in ordering that the EEOC pay attorneys' fees to Propak, the prevailing defendant employer. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that the EEOC acted unreasonably in initiating this litigation. The court need not address the district court's alternative holding that the EEOC's continued pursuit of the litigation was unreasonable in light of the developing record in the case. The court declined to address the district court's well-reasoned fee calculation. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "EEOC v. Propak Logistics, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction of two counts stemming from his participation in a series of armed robberies. The government cross-appealed the district court's denial of forfeiture. The court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction under Pinkerton v. United States for brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. The court concluded, however, that the district court's forfeiture ruling was unsupported by any relevant legal authority. Accordingly, the court affirmed the conviction and reversed the trial court's forfeiture ruling, remanding with directions to enter a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of the value of the stolen goods. View "United States v. Blackman" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Nicaragua, argued that he met the requirements of 8 U.S.C. 1229b(b)(1)(A) and was therefore eligible for cancellation of removal. Shortly before the statute's ten years of physical presence requirement would accrue, DHS served petitioner with a notice to appear. On appeal, petitioner's main argument was that the notice to appear was invalid and thus did not stop the accrual of the ten-year statutory period. The court concluded that petitioner's original notice to appeal was not invalid where the court deferred to the BIA's reasonable interpretation of the statute and noted that the notice to appear substantially complied with the requirements of section 1229(a); the IJ did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to terminate removal proceedings; DHS had discretion to amend the charge; the court lacked jurisdiction to review petitioner's contention that the IJ violated his procedural due process right by pretermitting his application for cancellation of removal, and because the court determined that deference to In re Camarillo was appropriate, the court need not reach the BIA's alternative rationale regarding fraud. Accordingly, the court denied in part and dismissed in part. View "Urbina v. Holder, Jr." on Justia Law

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Relator filed suit against certain student loan corporations, alleging that they defrauded the Department of Education and thus violated the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq. After applying the arm-of-the-state analysis on remand, the district court again concluded that all of the student loan corporations constituted state agencies not subject to suit under the Act and granted their motions to dismiss. Applying the arm-of-the-state analysis to the corporations, the court vacated the judgment of the district court as to PHEAA and remanded to permit limited discovery on the question of whether PHEAA was truly subject to sufficient state control to render it a part of the state; vacated the judgment with respect to VSAC and remanded to permit limited discovery; and affirmed the judgment with respect to ASLA because it is an arm of Arkansas and therefore not subject to suit under the FCA. View "U.S. ex rel. Oberg v. Kentucky Higher Education" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that he was the owner of certain fractional work interests in four Ritchie County mining partnerships. The court certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia: Whether the proponent of his own working interest in a mineral lease may prove his entitlement thereto and enforce his rights thereunder by demonstrating his inclusion within a mining partnership or partnership in mining, without resort to proof that the lease interest has been conveyed to him by deed or will or otherwise in strict conformance with the Statute of Frauds. View "Valentine v. Sugar Rock, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed a restitution order as part of his sentence for bankruptcy fraud. The court concluded that attorneys' fee expenditures were includable under 18 U.S.C. 3663A(b)(1). In this case, the causal relationship the government sought to establish between the crime and the incurrence of the fees was not based simply on the fact that the fees were incurred to prevent harm from, or to remedy harm caused by, the defendant's criminal conduct. Rather, the government sought to prove that the fees incurred were directly and proximately caused by defendant's bankruptcy fraud because the fraud occurred in the context of defendant's bankruptcy proceeding and Jordan Oil incurred the fees defending its interest against defendant's fraud in that same proceeding. Accordingly, the court concluded that the district court properly determined that the amount of attorneys' fees Jordan Oil incurred in the bankruptcy case as a result of defendant's offense was includable as restitution under the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act (MVRA), 18 U.S.C. 3663A. View "United States v. Abdelbary" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed the district court's denial of his motion to terminate the terms of his supervised release that had been imposed in conjunction with his term of imprisonment. The court held that defendant's term of supervised release did not commence while he remained in federal custody pending the resolution of his status under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, 18 U.S.C. 4248. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. Neuhauser" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence after pleading guilty to a drug and firearm offense. The court rejected defendant's contention that NCIC reports were categorically unreliable in light of the widespread use of the reports. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in finding that defendant's NCIC report, in addition to the corroboration provided by the Government, established the fact that defendant was convicted in 1971 of second degree assault by a preponderance of the evidence. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in applying the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard to establish the fact of his prior conviction where the Supreme Court has held in Almendarez-Torres v. United States that the Sixth Amendment permits a judge to find the fact of a prior conviction by a mere preponderance of the evidence, even if this fact raises the statutory maximum or minimum penalty for the current offense. Accordingly, the district court did not clearly err in concluding that defendant committed the 1971 assault and the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. McDowell, Jr." on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought attorney's fees from Ceres for his purusit of a claim for disability benefits under section 928(a) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. 928(a). The court concluded that section 928(a)'s plain language requires fee-shifting only when an employer has paid no compensation within 30 days of receiving the official claim. In this case, Ceres voluntarily paid petitioner one week's compensation within 30 days of receiving his claim, and thereby admitting to liability for the injury for the purposes of section 928(a). Ceres met the requirement of section 928(a), moving the dispute to section 928(b). Petitioner was entitled to the services of an attorney but, under the LHWCA's fee-shifting scheme, petitioner was not entitled to have that attorney paid for by Ceres. The court held that Ceres's payment of one week's benefits at the maximum compensation rate, being directly tied as it was to petitioner's alleged injury, qualified as "compensation" within the meaning of section 928(a). Finally, the court rejected petitioner's claim that when Ceres filed a notice of controversion prior to the payment at issue, it signaled that it was controverting his claim, and by doing so, irrevocably triggered section 928(a). Accordingly, the court denied the petition View "Lincoln v. DOWCP" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, former and current employees, filed suit against Columbia Farms, asserting a claim for the payment of unpaid wages, withheld in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., and the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act (S.C. Wages Act), S.C. Code Ann. 41-10-10 to -110. Plaintiffs also asserted a second claim for retaliation against them for instituting workers' compensation proceedings, in violation of S.C. Code Ann. 41-1-80. The court reversed the jury award on the S.C. Wages Act claims, concluding that those claims were preempted by section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. 185, and should have been dismissed. As for the retaliation claims under S.C. Code Ann. 41-1-80, the court reversed as to 6 employees because they failed to present evidence satisfying the governing legal standards for recovery under state law. As to the retaliation claims of the remaining two employees, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Barton v. House of Raeford Farms, Inc." on Justia Law