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

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Defendant Buzzard and Martin's motions to suppress evidence found when police searched a car they occupied. Given the totality of the circumstances, the court concluded that the officers' question asking whether there was anything illegal in the vehicle related to officer safety and was therefore related to the traffic stop's mission. In any event, the court concluded that the officer's question did not extend the stop by even a second.The court also affirmed the district court's denial of Martin's motion for acquittal at trial and the revocation of his term of supervised release at sentencing. The court concluded that the evidence was more than sufficient for the jury to conclude that Martin possessed the guns. Furthermore, because Martin's challenge to the revocation of his prior term of supervised release is based entirely on his assertion that there was no substantial evidence for his conviction, the court likewise affirmed that decision. View "United States v. Buzzard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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AFGE filed suit challenging two advisory opinions issued by the OSC, the agency tasked by Congress to advise on the way in which the Hatch Act's prohibitions in the federal workplace applied. The original advisory opinion was promulgated on November 27, 2018, and a clarifying opinion was promulgated three days later (jointly, "the Advisory Opinions"). Both opinions bore on conduct related to President Trump's reelection campaign. AFGE sought a declaration that the Advisory Opinions violated its members' rights under the First Amendment; an injunction against OSC's reliance on and enforcement of the Advisory Opinions; and a court order commanding their rescission. The district court dismissed the complaint on ripeness grounds.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action, concluding that AFGE's case is now moot and would otherwise be unripe for review. The court explained that OSC's post-election update of its guidance on impeachment and "the resistance" has removed AFGE's injury-in-fact and, therefore, mooted the case. Furthermore, the issues in this case are not fit for judicial decision and the mere issuance by OSC of a generally addressed advisory opinion falls short of what is required. Finally, the court noted that for it to rule this case justiciable would upend the Hatch Act enforcement scheme whose details Congress has so meticulously set out. View "American Federation of Government Employees v. Office of Special Counsel" on Justia Law

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Appellants filed suit against Dorchester County, seeking compensation pursuant to the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment for the death of their bees. Appellants contend that the bees died after the County sprayed pesticide in an effort to kill mosquitos, and the bees' death amounted to a taking of appellants' private property.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the County's motion for summary judgment, holding that there was no taking because the loss of appellants' bees was only an incidental consequence of the County's action. The court noted that the death of appellants' bees is undoubtedly a tragedy, but the court cannot conclude that it was the foreseeable or probable result of the County's action when it is a clear outlier in terms of collateral damage arising out of the County's mosquito abatement effort. Therefore, because the death of the bees was neither intended nor foreseeable, the Takings Clause does not require compensation. View "Yawn v. Dorchester County" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for drug and firearm offenses. The court concluded that, even if the district court plainly erred by failing to give the 18 U.S.C. 3501(a) instruction to the jury, the error did not affect defendant's substantial rights. The court explained that any prejudice defendant suffered was minimized by the instructions the district court did give, and defendant did not meaningfully challenge the voluntariness or veracity of his confession. The court also concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction for possession of a firearm as a felon (Count 3) and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking (Count 4). Finally, the court concluded that there was no reversible error in the district court's sentencing procedures and the substantive sentence. View "United States v. Hardy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fourth Circuit held that "job sharing" a single full-time position with a willing partner does not qualify as a reasonable accommodation that an employer must provide under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court explained that, if the job share in question did not exist at the time it was proposed as an accommodation, the ADA does not require the employer to create the new position to accommodate a disabled employee.In this case, the court concluded that providing plaintiff with the job share position with another employee was not a reasonable accommodation required by the ADA—not because the position was not "vacant" but because the position she sought did not exist. Therefore, summary judgment should have been granted to Sanofi on plaintiff's failure-to-accommodate claim on this ground. Furthermore, because plaintiff failed to demonstrate the existence of a reasonable accommodation, Sanofi cannot separately be liable for failing to engage in the interactive process. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Sanofi. View "Perdue v. Sanofi-Aventis U.S., LLC" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal is whether the leaders of the North Carolina House and Senate are entitled to intervene, on behalf of the State of North Carolina, in litigation over the constitutionality of the State's voter-ID law. North Carolina's Attorney General, appearing for the State Board of Elections, already is representing the State's interest in the validity of that law, actively defending its constitutionality in both state and federal court. Legislative Leaders moved twice to intervene so that they also can speak for the State.The en banc court affirmed the district court's denial of the Leaders' renewed request for intervention. The en banc court explained that, at this point in the proceedings, the legislative leaders may assert only one interest in support of intervention: that of the State of North Carolina in defending its voter-ID law. The en banc court further explained that it follows that they have a right to intervene under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2) only if a federal court first finds that the Attorney General is inadequately representing that same interest, in dereliction of his statutory duties – a finding that would be "extraordinary." In this case, after reviewing the district court's careful evaluation of the Attorney General's litigation conduct, the en banc court is convinced that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to make that extraordinary finding here. The en banc court concluded that this is enough to preclude intervention as of right under Rule 24(a)(2). The en banc court similarly deferred to the district court's judgment denying permissive intervention under Rule 24(b). View "North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. Berger" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal is whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over an interpleader action commenced by a liability insurance company, whose policy was exposed to conflicting and excess claims. In this case, AmGuard, a Pennsylvania corporation with its principal place of business in Pennsylvania, commenced this action in the nature of an interpleader and for a declaratory judgment against its insured and the claimants to the proceeds of its policy, all of whom were South Carolina citizens.The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the action based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court explained that, because AmGuard disputed the amount that the claimants maintained was available under AmGuard's policy, having acknowledged coverage for only a lesser amount, it was a "claimant" adverse to the other claimants to the proceeds of the policy. Therefore, the diverse citizenship between AmGuard and the South Carolina claimants provided the district court with the minimal diversity needed for jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1335. Furthermore, 28 U.S.C. 1332 also provided the district court with jurisdiction to resolve AmGuard's declaratory judgment claim, yet the district court dismissed the entire action without addressing why it did not have jurisdiction under section 1332. The court concluded that this error also required reversal. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "AmGuard Insurance Co. v. SG Patel and Sons II LLC" on Justia Law

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After petitioner prevailed on an application for a writ of habeas corpus seeking release from federal immigration detention, he sought to recover attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act. The Fourth Circuit has previously held, pursuant to O'Brien v. Moore, 395 F.3d 499, 508 (4th Cir. 2005), that the Act does not apply to a habeas proceeding seeking release from criminal detention. The court held that the same is true for habeas proceedings seeking release from civil detention. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's denial of attorney's fees because the Act does not provide a basis for petitioner to recover attorney's fees. View "Obando-Segura v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Defendants Simmons, Mitchell, and Lassiter were charged in a 38-count Second Superseding Indictment (SSI) for crimes related to their membership in the Nine Trey gang. A jury ultimately convicted defendants of 37-counts charged in the SSI. One of those offenses, Count 30, alleged a violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c), with the predicate "crime of violence" being what the Government characterizes as an "aggravated" form of a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) conspiracy, the charge alleged in Count One. The district court granted defendants' motion to set aside the verdict as to Count 30.The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that a RICO conspiracy, even when denominated as "aggravated," does not categorically qualify as a "crime of violence." In regard to defendants' cross-appeals, the court found merit in two of their contentions: first, the court held that the district court constructively amended Counts 8, 15, 18, 27, and 29 by instructing the jury on the elements of a state law predicate offense not alleged in the SSI; and second, the court held that the evidence was insufficient to support their convictions on one of the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) attempted murder offenses, which also requires reversing their convictions for the related section 924(c) offense. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Simmons" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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While plaintiff was incarcerated in a prison medical unit, his doctor reminded him within earshot of others that he had not taken his HIV medication. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the doctor's conduct violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to privacy and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint, rejecting plaintiff's clam that the doctor's statement violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Rather, the court concluded that when the doctor disclosed plaintiff's HIV status, plaintiff was in prison, a place where individuals have a curtailed expectation of privacy. Furthermore, whatever expectations remain fail to include the diagnosis of or medication for HIV, a communicable disease. The court also rejected plaintiff's HIPAA claim because HIPAA does not create a private right of action that plaintiff may avail himself of. View "Payne v. Taslimi" on Justia Law