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Plaintiff, an indigent state prisoner, filed three pro se civil rights actions in the district court against various employees of the South Carolina Department of Corrections and the City of Allendale. The Fourth Circuit joined the Ninth and Tenth Circuits to reaffirm that a district court's dismissal of a prisoner's complaint does not, in an appeal of that dismissal, qualify as a "prior" dismissal. Accordingly, plaintiff's motions to proceed in forma pauperis under the Prison Litigation Reform Act are granted. View "Taylor v. Grubbs" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling on defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment. The court held that the premise of defendant's argument -- – that the purported filing defect in his case deprived the immigration court of authority to enter a removal order, so that he may collaterally challenge that order in subsequent criminal proceedings -- was incorrect. Rather, there was no defect, because the applicable regulations did not require that the information identified by defendant, a date and time for a subsequent removal hearing, be included in the "notice to appear" that was filed with an immigration court to initiate the proceedings. View "United States v. Cortez" on Justia Law

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Taxpayer filed a tax refund action against the United States, seeking a refund collected from him by the IRS pursuant to a treaty between the United States and Canada, for income taxes that he owed to Canada in 2006. After both countries executed the Convention Between the United States of America and Canada with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital, the Senate ratified it. Under Article 26A, which was later added to the treaty and ratified by the Senate, the United States and Canada agreed to assist each other with the collection of unpaid taxes. The court affirmed the district court's judgment and held that Article 26A merely facilitates collection of an already existing debt and thus did not violate the Origination Clause; Article 26A did not infringe on the Taxing Clause where the Taxing Clause is not an exclusive grant of power to Congress; and thus Article 26A did not require House-originating implementation legislation. The court also held that the IRS can use its domestic assessment authority in pursuit of the collection of a liability owed by a taxpayer to Canada. View "Retfalvi v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, homeless alcoholics, filed suit challenging a Virginia statutory scheme that makes it a criminal offense for those whom the Commonwealth has labelled "habitual drunkards" to possess, consume, or purchase alcohol. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim and the Fourth Circuit affirmed. On rehearing, the en banc court reversed. The en banc court held that the challenged scheme is unconstitutionally vague, because the term "habitual drunkard" specifies no standard of conduct. The en banc court also held that, even if it could be narrowed to apply only to similarly situated alcoholics, plaintiffs have stated a claim that it violates the Eighth Amendment as applied to them. In this case, plaintiffs have alleged that they are addicted to alcohol and that this addiction, like narcotics addiction, is an illness. Plaintiffs therefore alleged that the Virginia scheme targets them for special punishment for conduct that is both compelled by their illness and is otherwise lawful for all those of legal drinking age View "Manning v. Caldwell" on Justia Law

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After Cleaven Williams stabbed and killed his pregnant wife and the unborn child outside of a courthouse where she had just obtained a protective order against him, plaintiffs filed suit against defendant, alleging that he was responsible for Mrs. Williams' death because defendant enabled him to postpone his self-surrender on a misdemeanor arrest warrant, which provided Williams the opportunity to murder his wife. The Fourth Circuit previously affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss the claims based on qualified immunity. Plaintiffs then amended the complaint to add another defendant, and the district court granted summary judgment to both defendants. Plaintiffs appealed. The court affirmed the district court's judgment and held that plaintiffs failed to present sufficient evidence that reasonable jurors could find by a preponderance of the evidence for her. In this case, plaintiffs' version of the events was not supported by sufficient evidence to permit a reasonable jury to conclude that defendants undertook any affirmative acts that would support liability for a state-created danger substantive due process claim. View "Graves v. Lioi" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging section 3-506 of Maryland's Election Law, which regulates access to Maryland’s list of registered voters. Section 3-506 provides, inter alia, that the State Board of Elections shall provide copies of the list only to registered Maryland voters, and confines use of the list to purposes related to the electoral process. The district court dismissed the complaint and denied injunctive relief based on the ground that plaintiff had no First Amendment right to access the list. The Fourth Circuit held that plaintiff has alleged a cognizable First Amendment challenge to the conditions that section 3-506 placed on distribution of the list; section 3-506 did not merit strict scrutiny analysis; and thus plaintiff's free speech claims must be remanded for the district court to conduct the balancing of interests test required by the Anderson-Burdick framework. Finally, the court vacated the dismissal of plaintiff's vagueness challenge and the denial of injunctive relief, remanding for further consideration. View "Fusaro v. Cogan" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's order granting petitioner's motion under Federal of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6), seeking to reopen the district court's final judgment dismissing the intellectual disability claim on the merits under 28 U.S.C. 2254(d). In this case, petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion filed in the district court asserted that his previous claim of intellectual disability was wrongly decided on the merits based upon Hall v. Florida, 572 U.S. 701 (2014), and his new ground for Rule 60(b) relief asserted that his previous claim of intellectual disability was wrongly decided on the merits based upon the state court's 2015 decision. The court held that these were habeas claims not properly brought in a Rule 60(b) motion and, if petitioner was to have a second chance to litigate the merits of his intellectual disability claim, he must do so under section 2244(b). Accordingly, the panel remanded with instructions to dismiss the motion. View "Richardson v. Thomas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that her baby's brain damage was caused by a doctor's medical malpractice. The district court agreed and awarded defendant over $7 million dollars in damages. The Fourth Circuit reversed and held that the district court clearly erred by finding that plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to establish that the doctor violated the applicable standard of care. In this case, the district court's finding on breach was not supported by plaintiff's own expert testimony. Therefore, the district court erred in finding that the doctor was liable for malpractice. View "Butts v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a police misconduct claimant in a settled civil rights action, spoke about the case publicly and claimed that Baltimore violated her First Amendment rights when it enforced the non-disparagement clause against her. Separately, a local news website, the Baltimore Brew, claimed that Baltimore's alleged practice of including non-disparagement clauses in virtually all settlement agreements with police misconduct claimants violates the First Amendment on its face. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the City on the First Amendment claim, holding that the non-disparagement clause in plaintiff's settlement agreement amounts to a waiver of her First Amendment rights and that strong public interests rooted in the First Amendment make it unenforceable and void. The court held that the Baltimore Brew had sufficiently pleaded an ongoing or imminent injury in fact that is both traceable to the City's challenged conduct and redressable by the court. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the City on the website's claim and remanded to give the parties and the district court an opportunity to develop the evidentiary record. View "Overbey v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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The District of Columbia and the State of Maryland lacked Article III standing to pursue their claims against President Trump, in any capacity including his individual capacity, under the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Circuit held that the claims that the District and Maryland assert against the President in his individual capacity are identical to the claims they assert against him in his official capacity and are premised on the same factual allegations. Therefore, the court's decision in appeal No. 18-2486, also decided on the same day and addressing the same standing issue, governs the outcome here. Accordingly, based on this opinion and the court's opinion in No. 18-2486, the court remand with instructions to dismiss the complaint with prejudice. View "District of Columbia v. Trump" on Justia Law