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

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DXC, a publicly-traded company formed in 2017 from a merger of Computer Science and Hewlett Packard, initially met its strategic financial goals by instituting costcutting measures. In February 2018, it issued a press release announcing its continued financial success. Soon, DXC had to revise its projected revenue guidance to shareholders downward by an estimated $800 million, which it announced in November 2018. DXC’s shareholders incurred losses when its stock price subsequently fell.Plaintiffs represent a class of shareholders who acquired DXC stock from February 8 through November 6, 2018, alleging violations of the Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), 78t(a), and Rule 10b-5. They claim that Defendants knew the cost-cutting measures implemented in 2018 undermined DXC’s ability to generate revenue and that this was contrary to information released to the public so that the Defendants fraudulently induced them to acquire DXC stock by making material misstatements and omissions regarding DXC's financial health and that they did so with the requisite scienter. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The statements issued by DXC were either forward-looking statements protected under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA), 15 U.S.C. 78u-5, safe-harbor provision, or non-actionable puffery and that the complaint, viewed as a whole, did not contain factual allegations sufficient to give rise to the “strong inference” of scienter required by the PSLRA. View "KBC Asset Management NV v. DXC Technology Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Securities Law
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Lewis and two others robbed a pawnshop. Lewis pointed his firearm at the manager and struck him in the back of the head three times, causing him to fall to the floor. The robbers stole 28 firearms, more than $61,000 worth of jewelry, and $2,000 in cash. The police found a “red spot” on the back of the manager’s head, which was not bleeding. The manager felt “dizzy” and was taken to the hospital. His medical expenses totaled $3,676.92. Lewis pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a), Hobbs Act robbery, and brandishing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c). The PSR recommended a two-level enhancement because a victim sustained bodily injury. Lewis objected that an injury must be “significant” to sustain the enhancement and that an injury must have “more than momentary consequences” to be “significant.”The district court “guess[ed]” that the manager had suffered a “mild concussion,” applied the enhancement and sentenced Lewis to 46 months followed by 84 months for Count III. The Fourth Circuit vacated. The court erred in imposing the injury enhancement. The prosecution failed to produce police reports, medical records, photographs, or testimony with respect to the injury to establish that the manager received more-than-precautionary medical attention. Nor did it establish that the manager’s injuries lasted for a “meaningful period.” View "United States v. Lewis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Clendening sued the government for her husband’s wrongful death allegedly caused by his exposure to contaminated water and environmental toxins while stationed at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Her complaint also asserted claims for subsequent fraudulent concealment and failure to warn relevant personnel of the severity, scope, and impact of said exposure.The district court dismissed all claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The wrongful death claims are barred under the “Feres” doctrine and the failure-to-warn claims are barred under the Federal Torts Claims Act’s “discretionary function” exception, 28 U.S.C. 2680(a). The exposure cited as the cause of Clendening’s death stemmed from the relationship between Clendening and his military service; the military’s provision of water and accommodations to its troops is clearly activity incident to service. While the failure-to-warn claim is not barred by Feres, the government had no mandatory duty to warn Clendening of his exposure after the fact. The “challenged conduct is the product of judgment or choice,” and involved a decision “based on considerations of public policy.” View "Clendening v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2017, SCANA, an electric and natural gas public utility, halted construction at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina. WEC, a contractor with SCANA, laid off its employees working at the project, as did Fluor, a subcontractor hired by WEC. Employees of WEC and Fluor sued SCANA and Fluor, alleging that the companies failed to give notice of the plant closure and layoffs as required under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, 29 U.S.C. 2102(a).The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. None of the plaintiffs were “employees” of SCANA. There was no common ownership between SCANA and WEC or Fluor, nor did they share any directors or officers. WEC and Fluor were responsible for hiring, firing, and paying their own personnel and decided which employees would be responsible for accomplishing which tasks. WEC and Fluor employees did not even receive SCANA’s employee handbook, nor were they at all integrated with SCANA’s human resources department. WEC and Fluor operated “distinct businesses that were not dependent” on SCANA. Fluor was relieved of any obligation to provide 60 days of notice by the unforeseeable business circumstances exception. View "Pennington v. Fluor Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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Burr was convicted for the 1991 murder of an infant, “Susie.” Burr was living with Susie’s mother, Bridges, and was physically abusive to Bridges. Bridges had returned home to find Susie unconscious, having seizures, bruised, and with broken bones. Burr was sentenced to death. Burr has pursued habeas remedies before the state and federal courts. In 2020, the district court declined to grant habeas relief on the basis of claims under "Brady" and "Napue," related to transcripts of interviews with two witnesses, Susie’s brother, Scott, and Bridges.The Fourth Circuit affirmed. Burr has not demonstrated that the state court’s decision was “based on an unreasonable determination of the facts,” 28 U.S.C. 2254(d)(2). The state court did not unreasonably apply Brady when it concluded that “any inconsistencies between the trial testimony of [Bridges and Scott] and their pre-trial comments to the prosecutors are of de minimis significance.” Burr did not explain how the transcript would have allowed him to impeach that testimony. The jury could make its own determination of how much weight to give the statements of a young child who repeatedly stated that he could not remember key details. Burr has not pointed to any “false impression” about Scott’s testimony that prosecutors should have been aware of and flagged but that the jury would not also have been aware of after listening to that testimony. View "Burr v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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Pugin, a citizen of Mauritius, was admitted to the U.S. in 1985 as a lawful permanent resident. In 2014, Pugin pleaded guilty in Virginia to being an accessory after the fact to a felony. He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with nine months suspended. Pugin was charged with removability because he was convicted of an aggravated felony: “an offense relating to obstruction of justice, perjury, or subornation of perjury,” 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(S), 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii).The IJ employed the categorical approach to determine whether the Virginia conviction qualified as obstruction of justice, noting that the BIA had previously decided that a federal conviction for accessory after the fact is a crime relating to obstruction of justice. The IJ then held that Virginia accessory after the fact is an offense relating to obstruction of justice because, like its federal counterpart, the offense requires the defendant “act with the ‘specific purpose of hindering the process of justice.’” The Fourth Circuit affirmed that Pugin may be deported. The BIA definition of “obstruction of justice” under the Act is entitled to "Chevron" deference and the Virginia offense of accessory after the fact categorically matches that definition. View "Pugin v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Union represents employees at Constellium’s plant. In 2013, after Constellium attempted to change retirees’ health benefits, the Union sued. In 2017, the Fourth Circuit held, in "Barton," that, because the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) stated that retiree health benefits would endure only for the CBA's term, they did not vest. Constellium and the Union subsequently negotiated another CBA, effective through September 2022, which outlines retiree healthcare benefits. Constellium sent a letter to its Medicare-eligible retirees, announcing changes to their healthcare coverage.The Union initiated a grievance, citing the CBA’s guarantee of retiree health benefits for the CBA’s term. Constellium claimed that the change did not violate the CBA and that Barton permitted the change with respect to retirees who retired under previous CBAs. Constellium unsuccessfully sought a declaratory judgment that it prevailed on preclusion grounds; the district court reasoned that whether Barton precluded arbitration was a question for the arbitrator.An arbitrator ruled in favor of the Union, reasoning that “the question of whether retiree health benefits were vested or durational”—which was “central” in Barton—was "a red herring” because the Union’s new claims did not depend on whether the benefits were vested or durational, but focused on the terms of the 2017 CBA, under which Constellium was obligated to maintain the same health benefits for the relevant retirees throughout the CBA's full term. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the denial of Constellium’s motion to vacate the arbitrator’s award. View "Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood, LLC v. United Steel, Paper & Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit dismissed the Media Entities' appeal of the district court's denial of their motion to intervene and in support of unsealing and vacating non-disclosure orders entered in two cases that were pending before that court. In this case, after briefing in the appeal concluded, the district court unsealed both cases and lifted the non-disclosure orders. The court held that the district court's recent orders in the underlying proceedings have rendered the Media Entities' appeal moot. The court explained that, at bottom, the Media Entities sought to intervene to challenge orders that are no longer in effect. View "In re: Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Defendants Williams, Bennett, Johnson, and Farris pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. Although defendants' pleas did not specify that the methamphetamine was of Ice-level purity, the district court at sentencing found that the conspiracy involved Ice and that each was responsible for its distribution. The district court sentenced defendants using the drug-quantity table in USSG 2D1.1(c) .The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendants' sentences, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in deciding not to reject the Ice Guidelines because of the vastness of this conspiracy and the danger posed by Ice and the appropriateness of treating higher purity methamphetamine more seriously than lower purity methamphetamine. The court concluded that the district court must have latitude to consider whatever reliable evidence is available to make its 80% purity determination. While such evidence may be used, it must be sufficiently reliable and specific that it actually supports the government's position that the drug's purity is 80% or above. The court explained that, given the evidence presented as to each of the defendants, it was not clearly erroneous for the district court to determine that the government met its burden of proving the conspiracy involved Ice. Finally, there was no error in sentencing Johnson under criminal history category II. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Plaintiff filed suit challenging the constitutionality of Section 3-506 of Maryland's Election Law, which provides that a list of Maryland registered voters (the List) may be given to an applicant who is himself a registered Maryland voter (Access Provision), so long as the applicant attests that he will use the List for purposes that are related to the electoral process (the Use Provision). On remand from the Fourth Circuit, the district court awarded summary judgment to Maryland state officials on plaintiff's Use Provision-based free speech and vagueness claims.The Fourth Circuit applied the Anderson-Burdick balancing test and concluded that plaintiff's claim that — as applied to him — the Use Provision contravenes the Free Speech Clause was without merit. The court explained that, when weighed against the State's interests — that is, safeguarding the List, protecting Maryland's election system, and shielding Maryland registered voters from harassment — the burden imposed on plaintiff is modest. The court also found plaintiff's as-applied vagueness claim unavailing where plaintiff understands the Use Provision's reach. Finally, the court found meritless plaintiff's facial challenges to the Use Provision which argued that the Use Provision facially contravenes the Free Speech Clause and that the phrase "related to the electoral process" is facially vague. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Fusaro v. Howard" on Justia Law