by
The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's order denying the EEOC's request under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) for retroactive monetary relief from the county. The court held that retroactive monetary awards, such as the back pay sought here, were mandatory legal remedies under the ADEA upon a finding of liability. The court's conclusion was not altered by the county's contention that the EEOC unduly delayed in the investigation. Accordingly, the court remanded for a determination of the amount of back pay to which the affected employees were entitled under the ADEA. View "EEOC v. Baltimore County" on Justia Law

by
Sierra Club filed suit against Dominion under the citizen-suit provision of the Clean Water Act, alleging that Dominion was violating 33 U.S.C. 1311(a), which prohibits the unauthorized "discharge of any pollutant" into navigable waters. The Fourth Circuit held that the landfill and settling ponds on the Chesapeake site of a coal-fired power plant did not constitute "point sources" as that term was defined in the Clean Water Act, and thus reversed the district court's ruling that Dominion was liable under section 1311(a). The court held, however, that Dominion's discharge permit did not regulate the groundwater contamination at issue and affirmed as to those claims. View "Sierra Club v. Virginia Electric & Power Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging a mobile home park's policy requiring all occupants to provide documentation evidencing legal status in the United States to renew their leases as violating the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment for the mobile home park, holding that plaintiffs have made a prima facie case that the policy disparately impacted Latinos in violation of the FHA, satisfying step one of the disparate impact analysis, and that the district court therefore erred in concluding otherwise. The court also held that the district court seriously misconstrued the robust causality requirement described in Tex. Dep't of Housing & Cmty. Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., 135 S. Ct. 2507, 2513 (2015), and erroneously rejected plaintiffs' prima facie claim that the policy disparately impacted Latinos. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Giron de Reyes v. Waples Mobile Home Park LP" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to grant preliminary injunctive relief under section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. 160(j), as requested to preserve the ability of the National Labor Relations Board to award relief after the completion of the ongoing agency process adjudicating unfair labor practice charges against two hospitals because the Board failed sufficiently to demonstrate that the effectiveness of its remedial power was in jeopardy in this case. A union filed unfair labor practice charges with the Board alleging that two hospitals had refused to bargain collectively and in good faith with the union. The Board later filed petitions in the district court against the hospitals under section 10(j) requesting preliminary injunctions - pending the final disposition of the matters pending before the Board - that would direct the hospitals to bargain with the union in good faith. The Board alleged that preliminary injunctive relief was necessary to prevent declining employee support for the union. The district court declined to grant relief. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the Board’s arguments for injunctive relief failed to demonstrate that the Board’s ability to redress the alleged unfair labor practices will be impaired or frustrated. View "Henderson v. Bluefield Hospital Co." on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions for possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine based and possession of a firearm, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress statements he made to officers during the execution of a search warrant for his residence; (2) did not abuse its discretion in admitting “other acts” evidence under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b); (3) did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to disclose the identity of a confidential informant who provided information used to obtain the search warrant; and (4) did not err in enhancing Defendant’s sentence on the basis of his prior Maryland convictions. View "United States v. Bell" on Justia Law

by
Defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law after a jury returned verdicts awarding compensatory and punitive damages for each plaintiff in three wrongful death nursing home malpractice claims. Defendants argued that plaintiffs failed to produce evidence of an aggravating factor necessary to support an award of punitive damages under North Carolina law and failed to produce evidence necessary to support a verdict regarding Plaintiff Jones. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court correctly found plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence that defendants' negligence proximately caused the death of Elizabeth Jones but erred in finding plaintiffs failed to present evidence sufficient for a reasonable jury to award punitive damages. The court affirmed the district court's denial of the motion for judgment as a matter of law as to Plaintiff Jones' award of compensatory damages; reversed as to plaintiffs' award of punitive damages; and remanded with instructions to enter judgment for plaintiffs consistent with North Carolina's statutory limits on punitive damages. View "VanDevender v. Blue Ridge of Raleigh, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

by
The Fourth Circuit reversed the decision of the district court denying Appellant’s motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, holding that Appellant’s ACCA-enhanced sentence was unlawful where the sentencing court relied on three ACCA predicate convictions and one of those predicates was no longer valid. Appellant received a mandatory sentence enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) based on three prior convictions. Appellant filed this motion to vacate his sentence arguing that one of his ACCA predicate convictions no longer qualified as an ACCA predicate in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). Assuming without deciding that the offense no longer qualified as an ACCA predicate, the district court found that another conviction listed in Appellant’s presentence investigation report but never designated as an ACCA predicate could replace the now-invalid predicate. The Fourth Circuit disagreed and remanded for resentencing, holding that the government may not use a conviction never before designated as an ACCA predicate to support an ACCA sentence enhancement on collateral review. View "United States v. Hodge" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed Appellant’s sentence of forty-nine months entered after he pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to conspiracy to commit access-device fraud and aggravated identity theft, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief on any of his arguments on appeal. During the proceedings below, the government determined that Appellant had not fulfilled his obligation under the plea agreement to testify truthfully. The government then exercised its right under the agreement to refuse to move for a substantial-assistance sentence reduction. On appeal, Appellant argued that the district court erred by permitting the government to decline to move for a substantial-assistance reduction without requiring it to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Appellant had breached his obligations under the plea agreement. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the plea agreement was not ambiguous; and (2) Appellant’s approach requiring the government to declare Appellant in breach of the plea agreement was not supported by any language in the agreement or any principle of contract law. View "United States v. Under Seal" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Plaintiffs, a student and two student groups behind a Free Speech Event at the University of South Carolina, filed suit alleging that University officials violated their First Amendment rights when they required one of the students to attend a meeting to discuss complaints about their event. Plaintiffs also alleged a facial challenge to the University's general policy on harassment, arguing that it was unconstitutionally vague and overly broad. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the University defendants, holding that the University neither prevented plaintiffs from holding their Free Speech Event nor sanctioned them after the fact. Plaintiffs failed to show a credible threat that the University would enforce its harassment policy against their speech in the future, and thus they lacked standing to pursue their facial attack on the policy. View "Abbott v. Pastides" on Justia Law

by
Virginia's regulation of the consumption, purchase, manufacture, and sale of alcohol through a series of interconnecting provisions found in Title 4.1 of the Virginia Code did not qualify as cruel and unusual punishment because it criminalizes plaintiffs' status as homeless alcoholics and did not violate Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962). Robinson held that, although states may not criminalize status, they may criminalize actual behavior even when the individual alleges that addiction created a strong urge to engage in a particular act. In this case, it is the act of possessing alcohol—not the status of being an alcoholic—that gave rise to criminal sanctions. The interdiction statute was a preventative tool and the state could use this sort of prophylactic device to identify those at the highest risk of alcohol problems and put them on notice that subsequent behavior could be subject to punishment. The Fourth Circuit also held that the interdiction provision did not violate plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment right to due process where interdiction carried no threat of imprisonment and therefore did not result in a loss of liberty. Finally, the interdiction provision did not violate plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. The court applied rational basis review and held that the law was rationally related to Virginia's legitimate interest in discouraging alcohol abuse and its attendant risks to public safety and wellbeing. View "Manning v. Caldwell" on Justia Law