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This appeal arose out of litigation by family members of United States sailors killed in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole against the Republic of Sudan for its alleged support of Al Qaeda. The district court denied Sudan's motion to vacate default judgments entered against it. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's order, holding that plaintiffs' method of serving process did not comport with the statutory requirements of 28 U.S.C. 1608(a)(3), and thus the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over Sudan. The court remanded to the district court with instructions to allow Kumar the opportunity to perfect service of process. View "Kumar v. Republic of Sudan" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Crazy Horse's motion to compel arbitration. In this case, Crazy Horse pursued a merits-based litigation strategy for three years and actively sought to obtain a favorable legal judgment. The court held that Crazy Horse's conduct was at odds with the Federal Arbitration Act's, 9 U.S.C. 1-16, goal of facilitating the expeditious settlement of disputes. The court explained that Crazy Horse did not seek to use arbitration as an efficient alternative to litigation. Rather, Crazy Horse used arbitration as an insurance policy in an attempt to give itself a second opportunity to evade liability. View "Degidio v. Crazy Horse Saloon and Restaurant" on Justia Law

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The offense of unlawful wounding under West Virginia law is a crime of violence under Section 4B1.2 of the Sentencing Guidelines. The Fourth Circuit held that unlawful wounding is categorically a crime of violence under the force clause because it applies to a defendant who shoots, stabs, cuts, or wounds any person. Therefore, the statute's text dictates that the minimum conduct required for conviction of unlawful wounding must at least involve physical force capable of causing physical injury to another person. Because the district court concluded that unlawful wounding did not qualify as a crime of violence in this case, the court vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Covington" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for four counts of sex trafficking by use of force, fraud, or coercion and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. The court held that evidence was provided to support each element of defendant's convictions. In this case, the court did not have the power to reweigh the evidence or to second guess the jury's credibility determinations. The court also held that the district court carefully considered relevant factors in differentiating between types of sexual history evidence. Therefore, the district court's decision to strike some of the evidence was fair and the court did not abuse its discretion. View "United States v. Maynes, Jr." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A civil commitment hearing under the Adam Walsh Act, 18 U.S.C. 4248, was not a "civil action" as that term is used in 18 U.S.C. 1658(a). The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's civil commitment order under the Act and rejected petitioner's claim that the four-year catch-all statute of limitations Congress enacted for civil actions under section 1658(a) applied to his case. The court reasoned that the statutory requirement that a civil commitment proceeding be initiated against a person while he is in federal custody amounts to a de facto statute of limitations that provides the same finality and certainty as a conventional limitation without implicating the concerns that arise from statutes totally silent as to timing. Therefore, the timing of a civil commitment proceeding was otherwise provided by law. View "United States v. Searcy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Movant filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3)(A), seeking authorization to file a second or successive application for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge his 2001 sentence of four life terms plus 45 years imposed by a Virginia state court for nonhomicide crimes he committed as a juvenile. The Fourth Circuit denied the motion because the claim movant sought to present to the district was raised in his first federal application for a writ of habeas corpus, and therefore movant failed to make a prima facie showing that his successive habeas application would allege a claim that was not presented in a prior application, as the statute required. View "In re: Jarius Phillips" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that defendant's civil commitment judgment was not void under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4) and the district court had discretion to deny relief under Rules 60(b)(5) and 60(b)(6). In this case, defendant pleaded guilty to failing to comply with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). While in custody for that offense, defendant was certified as a sexually dangerous person and civilly committed. The Supreme Court later held in a different case that the version of SORNA then applicable to defendant's offense did not require a sex offender to update his registration in his former home state after moving to a foreign country. Consequently, defendant moved to have his SORNA conviction vacated and then sought relief from his civil commitment. The court affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for relief from civil commitment, holding that the civil commitment judgment was not void, and the district court weighed carefully the competing interests, in light of all the facts, and reasonably determined that defendant should remain civilly committed. View "United States v. Welsh" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action primarily alleging that plaintiff's First Amendment Free Exercise Clause rights, as well as his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc et seq., were violated because of his former prison's failure to accommodate his religious dietary needs. The court held that plaintiff's prospects for meaningful redress were sufficient to give him standing to seek prospective relief regarding the content of the Common Fare menu; defendants have not demonstrated that plaintiff had lost all legally cognizable interest in the outcome of his request for prospective relief from the suspension; and, on the merits, plaintiff has shown a genuine factual dispute as to whether his rights were substantially burdened by the prison's serving him foods that Nation of Islam dietary rules prohibited him from eating. The court explained that defendants failed to offer any institutional interest that they claimed justified the burdening of a prisoner's rights. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Carter v. Fleming" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment for MIA in an action alleging salary discrimination under the Equal Pay Act (EPA), 29 U.S.C. 206(d). The court held that the EEOC established a prima facie violation of the EPA, and that genuine issues of material fact exist regarding whether the pay disparity was due to factors other than gender. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "EEOC v. Maryland Insurance Admin." on Justia Law

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A Baltimore City ordinance that requires pregnancy clinics that do not offer or refer for abortions to disclose that fact through signs posted in their waiting rooms, as applied to the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, violates the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause. The Fourth Circuit held that, although the City's interests in addressing allegedly deceptive advertising and to prevent health risks that can accompany delays in seeking to end a pregnancy were plainly important, the City could pursue its goals through less restrictive means and there was only a loose fit between the compelling disclosure at issue and the purported ills identified by the government. Therefore, the ordinance failed to satisfy heightened First Amendment scrutiny. View "Greater Baltimore Center v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law