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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's 180 month sentence after he pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The court held that defendant's prior conviction for the North Carolina offense of robbery with a dangerous weapon qualifies as a violent felony under the force clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e). View "United States v. Burns-Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's 420 month sentence that was issued on remand. Defendant was convicted of several charges related to his involvement in running brothels in Annapolis. The court held that the district court did not contravene the mandate rule; because defendant did not receive an increased aggregate sentence, his attempt to establish a presumption of vindictiveness failed; and defendant's sentence was procedurally and substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Ventura" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Wells Fargo, alleging that the foreclosure sale of his house was invalid under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), 50 U.S.C. 3953(a), 3953(c), which requires a lender to obtain a court order before foreclosing on or selling property owned by a current or recent servicemember where the mortgage obligation "originated before the period of the servicemember's military service." The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Wells Fargo, holding that plaintiff's mortgage obligation originated when he was in the Navy, it was not a protected obligation under section 3953(a), and his later enlistment in the Army did not change that status to afford protection retroactively. View "Sibert v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the town after a police officer shot and wounded plaintiff as he was driving to escape a mob that had attacked him as he left a party. The district court granted the town's motion for summary judgment. The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that there remained genuine disputes of material fact as to whether plaintiff's car posed an imminent threat to the officers or bystanders, and whether deadly force was necessary to mitigate that threat. View "Lee v. Town of Seaboard" on Justia Law

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The full court granted rehearing en banc and held that Rowan County's practice of lawmaker-led prayer violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The en banc court held that the prayer practice served to identify the government with Christianity and risked conveying to citizens of minority faiths a message of exclusion. Because the commissioners were the exclusive prayer-givers, Rowan County’s invocation practice fell well outside the more inclusive, minister-oriented practice of legislative prayer described in Town of Greece v. Galloway, 134 S. Ct. 1811 (2014). The en banc court explained that the solemn invocation of a single faith in so many meetings over so many years distanced adherents of other faiths from that representative government which affects the lives of all citizens and which Americans of every spiritual persuasion have every right to call their own. View "Lund v. Rowan County, North Carolina" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a landowner, filed suit challenging a comprehensive plan to extend sewer service to South Kent Island and a so-called Grandfather/Merger Provision designed to limit overdevelopment of the area. The Fourth Circuit rejected plaintiff's Fifth Amendment Takings Clause claim, holding that he failed to show that either the extension of sewer service or the Grandfather/Merger Provision goes too far in interfering with his property so as to require compensation. The court also held that there was no substantive due process violation as to the sewer service because plaintiff never had an entitlement to receive sewer service; there was no substantive due process violation as to the Grandfather/Merger Provision because it is a patently legitimate government action; and there was no violation of the Equal Protection Clause where plaintiff failed to show that any difference in treatment plaintiff suffered was rationally related to a legitimate state interest. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in all respects. View "Quinn v. Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The Free Speech Clause does not protect speech expressed in an admissions interview from admissions consequences in a competitive process. After he was denied admission in the Radiation Therapy Program (RTP) at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), plaintiff filed suit alleging that points were deducted from his application score and that he was denied admission because of the expression of his religious beliefs during his interview in violation of the Free Speech Clause, the Establishment Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's claim under the Free Speech Clause where plaintiff's speech was not protected. After applying the Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), test to plaintiff's Establishment Clause claim, the court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants because CCBC had a secular purpose in identifying the best qualified candidates; none of CCBC's actions inhibited religion; and there was no excessive government entanglement. View "Buxton v. Kurtinitis" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit assumed, without deciding, that in some circumstances, federal common law offers prisoners the possibility of credit for time erroneously spent at liberty. The court declined to adopt the Vega v. United States, 493 F.3d 310, 318 (3d Cir. 2007), test because of its failure to adequately consider the multitude of interests an award of credit implicates. Instead, the court turned to the various other interests implicated in a decision to award credit for time erroneously spent at liberty because of a premature release. In this case, defendant's underlying conviction and underlying supervised probation violation involved nonviolent drug offenses, and he proactively brought his erroneous release to the Government's attention. However, defendant sought ten days of credit for a fifteen day sentence; because the magistrate judge allowed him to serve this ten-day period on weekends and other days to accommodate his employment schedule, reincarceration would at most only minimally hinder his reintegration into society; the ten days was short enough to avoid the disruption to a prisoner's life; and the government did not act maliciously. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment and held that it did not improperly deny defendant his credit. View "United States v. Grant" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The federal court's authority under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to correct an alleged failure by the EPA to perform a non-discretionary, CAA-based act or duty, does not extend to review of the EPA's management of its continuous duty to evaluate the potential employment impact of CAA administration and enforcement. Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's judgments insofar as they impact the EPA, and remanded with instructions to have Murray's suit dismissed for want of jurisdiction. The court dismissed as moot Mon Valley's appeal of the denial of its motion to intervene. View "Murray Energy Corp. v. EPA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence of 15 years in prison under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(1). The court applied the categorical approach and held that defendant's three prior convictions under Virginia Code 8.2-55, for inflicting bodily injury, qualified as a violent felony because a defendant must necessarily use force capable of causing physical pain or injury. View "United States v. Reid" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law