by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's 20 year sentence for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. The court held that the district court adequately conducted a de novo sentencing hearing by performing an individualized assessment of all relevant sentencing factors; the district court did not clearly err in declining to apply the acceptance-of-responsibility reduction under USSG 3E1.1; under Fourth Amendment precedent, the court was compelled to hold that kidnapping under North Carolina law was a crime of violence under USSG 4B1.2; and it was not clear that the career offender enhancement was grossly disproportionate, facially or as applied to defendant's criminal history. The court held that the district court appropriately decided not to restrict public access to the entire sentencing memorandum, but it erred by not granting the less restrictive remedy of allowing defendant to file a redacted version of the memorandum. Accordingly, the court reversed the denial of defendant's motion to seal his sentencing memorandum and remanded for the filing of a redacted version of the memorandum for public records. View "United States v. Harris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of habeas relief and remanded with instructions to dismiss petitioner's habeas application with prejudice under the court's decision in United States v. Surratt, 855 F.3d 218 (4th Cir. 2017) (en banc). Petitioner was sentenced to 118 years in prison for nonhomicide crimes that he committed when he was 15 years old. Petitioner sought habeas relief after the Supreme Court decided Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), which prohibited juvenile offenders convicted of nonhomicide crimes from being sentenced to life without parole. While the application was pending, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell issued petitioner a partial pardon, reducing his sentence to 40 years' imprisonment. The court reasoned that had the district court properly applied Surratt, it would have been required to conclude that Governor McDonnell's valid partial pardon reducing petitioner's sentence to 40 years' imprisonment rendered his habeas application moot and that the district court was therefore without jurisdiction to address it and opine on the constitutionality of petitioner's original sentence under Graham. View "Blount v. Clarke" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the insurance company that insured Steven Gordon. After Steven died, his wife filed suit seeking the full coverage amount for the insurance policy he had been paying for through his company. The court held that no reasonable jury could find that either of the CIGNA Defendants had a fiduciary duty toward the Gordons with respect to soliciting supporting materials for coverage beyond the guaranteed issue amount or notifying new employees that they had not completed the evidence of insurability requirement; even assuming without deciding, that the cause of action for breach of trust by a fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was cognizable, her claim would fail because there was no evidence that the CIGNA Defendants knowingly participated in any breach; and the district court did not err by granting summary judgment before allowing plaintiff to conduct discovery. View "Gordon v. Cigna Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA, Insurance Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress after he was convicted of attempting to smuggle firearms out of the country and an associated conspiracy charge. The court agreed with the district court that the forensic analysis of defendant's phone was properly categorized as a border search; despite the temporal and spatial distance between the off-site analysis of the phone and defendant's attempted departure at the airport, the justification for the border exception was broad enough to reach the search; under Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473 (2014), the forensic examination of defendant's phone must be considered a nonroutine border search, requiring some measure of individualized suspicion; and because the agents who conducted the search reasonably relied on precedent holding that no warrant was required, suppression of the report would be inappropriate. View "United States v. Kolsuz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed Oceanic and Oceanfleet's conviction and sentence for nine criminal offenses committed by the supervisory personnel of an oceangoing cargo ship owned and operated by defendants. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to prove corporate criminal liability where the jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt — with respect to any of the offenses in the Indictment — that any cargo ship crewmember was acting pursuant to corporate authority or with an intent to benefit Oceanic or Oceanfleet. The court rejected defendants' arguments that the sentencing court erred by grouping the various offenses; by failing to consider their independent financial conditions and separate abilities to pay the fines imposed; by imposing erroneously disparate fines on Oceanfleet compared to fines on similarly situated defendants; and by imposing a special condition of probation that improperly impacted related third parties. View "United States v. Oceanic Illsabe Limited" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment in an action by plaintiffs, five officers charged in a homicide case, alleging claims of malicious prosecution, defamation, and false light against a state attorney. Plaintiffs alleged that defendant's role in independently investigating their conduct stripped her of absolute prosecutorial immunity and that their allegations of malice or gross negligence overcame Maryland's statutory immunity protections. The court rejected plaintiffs' invitation to cast aside decades of Supreme Court and circuit precedent to narrow the immunity prosecutors enjoyed. The court also found no justification for denying defendant the protection from suit that the Maryland legislature has granted her. In this case, defendant's alleged wrongs fell squarely within the umbrella of absolute immunity where plaintiffs challenged specific conduct that she performed in her role as an advocate. View "Nero v. Mosby" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's ruling denying the bankruptcy trustee's objection to exemptions claimed by debtors. In this case, the district court concluded that the applicable bankruptcy statute authorized debtors to utilize Louisiana's state law statutory scheme to exempt personal property in West Virginia from debtors' bankruptcy estate. The court agreed with the well-reasoned analysis of the district court that the bankruptcy court correctly adopted the state-specific interpretation of 11 U.S.C. 522(b)(3)(A). The court explained that the district court's adoption of the state-specific approach was consistent with the rulings of at least two sister appellate courts that have addressed the issue. View "Sheehan v. Ash" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

by
Plaintiffs filed suit against Cadrillion, Legacy North Carolina, and James Yuhas, alleging claims for breach of contract, conversion, abuse of process, and unfair and deceptive trade practices. The Fourth Circuit held that, by failing to pay the Call Price owed under the Agreement, Cadrillion breached a duty it assumed only as a result of that contract. Therefore, the economic loss rule applied and Cadrillion and Yuhas were entitled to judgment as a matter of law on plaintiffs' conversion claim. Because the court reversed as to the conversion claim, leaving plaintiffs with only a breach of contract claim, the court must also reverse the punitive damages award. Because the court reversed on the conversion claim and remanded for a new trial on contract damages, the results obtained and extent to which plaintiffs prevailed may substantially change. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's grant of attorneys' fees and remanded for the district court to reassess the proper amount of fees. The court also held that the district court did not err in granting judgment as a matter of law in favor of Cadrillion and Yuhas on the abuse of process claim. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the abuse of process and unfair and deceptive trade practices claim. View "Legacy Data Access, Inc. v. Cadrillion, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed Defendant Saint Louis and Tulin's convictions for charges stemming from their involvement in the kidnappings of two Americans in Haiti. The court agreed with the district court's observation that, although it certainly was not a perfect trial, the issues raised by defendants ultimately did not warrant reversal. The court held that the district court did not err in refusing to suppress evidence of a codefendant's out-of-court identification of Tulin; by denying defendants' motion for a mistrial based on the introduction of testimony about a previous sexual assault by someone else; by violating Tulin's rights under the Confrontation Clause; by denying him a fair trial; by determining that the weight of the evidence did not warrant a new trial; and by applying a two-level sentencing enhancement for inflicting serious bodily injury. View "United States v. Saint Louis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's conclusion that petitioner was ineligible for asylum. In Mejia v. Sessions, 866 F.3d 573, 584 (4th Cir. 2017), the court recently held that an alien subject to a reinstated order of removal may not apply for asylum. Mejia's fact pattern was substantially similar to petitioner's where the alien had grounds to apply for asylum prior to her initial removal. The court held that petitioner's arguments were inconsistent with the plain terms of 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(D) and were contrary to Mejia's holding that section 1231(a)(5) attached a categorical prohibition against applying for asylum to aliens subject to reinstated orders of removal. View "Lara-Aguilar v. Sessions" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law