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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for filing three false tax returns and obstructing a grand jury proceeding. The court held that the district court properly instructed the jury on the nexus requirement. However, the jury's determinations pursuant to that instruction were based on the substantial evidence presented at trial. Therefore, because the jury was properly instructed and found defendant guilty based on ample and substantial evidence, the court upheld his conviction. The court rejected defendant's remaining contentions related to the course of his trial. View "United States v. Sutherland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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CAI filed suit against state prosecutors, seeking to enjoin the enforcement of state unauthorized practice of law (UPL) statutes against it. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, holding that the UPL statutes did not unconstitutionally restrict CAI's associational rights. In this case, like the solicitation statute in Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Ass'n, 436 U.S. 447 (1978), North Carolina's UPL statutes only marginally affected First Amendment concerns and did not substantially impair the associational rights of CAI. The court also held that the UPL statutes did not unlawfully burden CAI's freedom of speech. Determining that intermediate scrutiny was the appropriate standard for reviewing conduct regulations that incidentally impact speech, the court held that barring corporations from practicing law was sufficiently drawn to protect clients. The court also held that the UPL statutes did not deny CAI due process, were not unconstitutionally vague, and did not violate the state constitution's Monopoly Clause. Finally, CAI's commercial speech claim was not an independent basis for granting relief and the state may forbid CAI from advertising legal services barred by law. View "Capital Associated Industries v. Stein" on Justia Law

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After the district court dismissed a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for being untimely filed, it granted a certificate of appealability as to whether the one-year limitations period prescribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) for filing the section 2254 petition was tolled by petitioner's state court motion to reduce sentence under Rule 4-345 of the Maryland Rules. In light of Wall v. Kholi, 562 U.S. 545 (2011), the Fourth Circuit held that the limitations period was tolled during the pendency of the Maryland Rule 4-345 motion. Like a motion to reduce sentence under Kholi's Rhode Island Rule 35, the court explained that a Maryland Rule 4-345 motion to reduce sentence was not part of the direct review process and undoubtedly called for review of the sentence. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Mitchell v. Green" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that North Carolina prison officials imposed a substantial burden on his religious exercise by refusing his request to celebrate four annual Rastafarian holy days, in violation of his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the First Amendment. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for defendants based on different reasons than the ones given by the district court. The court held that plaintiff failed to show that defendants' policies caused a substantial burden on his exercise of religion. In this case, plaintiff failed to identify any Rastafarian inmate in the North Carolina prison system who would attend his proposed gatherings. View "Wright v. Lassiter" on Justia Law

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After plaintiffs were arrested and detained by ICE under 8 U.S.C. 1226(a), pending removal for being in the United States without inspection or admission, they filed suit against ICE and DHS, challenging their transfer or anticipated transfer from ICE's detention facility to an out of state facility. Plaintiffs alleged a violation of their substantive due process right to family unity and procedural due process right to notice and an opportunity to be heard, because such transfers separated them from their children and made it impossible for children to have access to their parents or to visit them. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the government's motion to dismiss and held that plaintiffs did not have a due process right to family unity in the context of immigration detention pending removal. Furthermore, the court did not have the authority to create a new substantive due process right in view of Supreme Court decisions cautioning courts from innovating in this area. Likewise, the court held that, because plaintiffs right to family unity did not exist, their procedural due process claim failed. View "Reyna v. Hott" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying Citizens' motion for attorney's fees, expert fees, and costs stemming from a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action that successfully challenged a 2015 state law that redrew Greensboro City Council districts. The court held that civil rights fee-shifting statutes, such as those at issue here, are not meant to punish defendants for a lack of innocence or good faith but rather to "compensate civil rights attorneys who bring civil rights cases and win them." The court explained that "innocence" or a "lack of responsibility" for the enactment of an unconstitutional law was therefore not an appropriate criterion to justify denying a fee award against the party responsible for and enjoined from enforcing the unconstitutional law. View "Brandon v. Guilford County Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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Respondents, Mississippi death row inmates, filed suit challenging the state's lethal injection procedures under the Eighth Amendment. Respondents sought discovery by serving a subpoena on the VDOC. The VDOC provided some documents and then moved to quash the subpoena in district court. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the VDOC's motion to quash the subpoena on the merits, holding that the district court reasonably found that respondents did not have a need for further discovery from the VDOC, a nonparty, that outweighed the burdens the discovery would impose. Accordingly, the court need not reach the state sovereign immunity issue. View "Virginia Department of Corrections v. Jordan" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint alleging that the sheriff's failure to reappoint plaintiff for his political disloyalty violated his First Amendment rights to freedom of political association and speech. The court held that the Elrod-Branti exception, which permits public officials to fire certain employees for their support of a political opponent, was applicable in this instance and that the sheriff's decision not to reappoint plaintiff did not violate his First Amendment rights of freedom of political association. The court also held that the sheriff's decision did not violate plaintiff's First Amendment right to freedom of speech under the Pickering-Connick doctrine because the balancing test weighs in favor of the sheriff. View "McCaffrey v. Chapman" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that negligent advice from their financial advisor and his employer, Morgan Stanley, resulted in less favorable tax distribution options on their annuities inherited from the estate of Claire Blumberg. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court erred in awarding defendants summary judgment based on plaintiffs' alleged contributory negligence. The court held that Maryland had a high bar for taking questions of contributory negligence from a factfinder and plaintiffs' evidence offered a basis for a reasonable factfinder to determine that they justifiably relied on defendants' advice. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Berkenfeld v. Lenet" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for ten offenses of money laundering conspiracy, substantive money laundering, and related charges of obstruction of justice. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his role as the "consigliere" of an elaborate multi-state marijuana trafficking organization. The court held that the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress tapes of inculpatory recorded conversations with drug dealers; the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant on each of the ten counts; the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting certain evidence from the lawyer-witnesses; the district court's willful blindness instruction did not entitle defendant to any relief from his money laundering convictions; and the district court's supplemental instruction with respect to a jury note was not impermissibly coercive. View "United States v. Farrell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law