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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief for petitioner where he challenged his state court conviction for computer solicitation of acts of sodomy from a minor under the age of 15, in violation of Va. Code Ann. 18.2-374.3(C)(3) (2007). The court held that Virginia's anti-sodomy statute, as authoritatively construed by the Supreme Court of Virginia, did not criminalize conduct that Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), declared to be protected by the liberty interests guaranteed by the Due Process Clause, and it was thus not facially unconstitutional. The state court's decision to adopt this narrowing construction, under its jurisprudence, was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of applicable Supreme Court precedent. Therefore, the court rejected petitioner's claim that Lawrence required the invalidation of his conviction under section 18.2-374.3(C)(3) merely because it referenced the anti-sodomy statute. View "Toghill v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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Zambrano, a Honduran citizen, joined the Honduran military and helped arrest gang members. After he left the army, gang members tried to get revenge. Zambrano moved frequently and tried unsuccessfully to enter the U.S. five times, finally entering in 2011. The gang’s efforts continued. In 2012, armed men broke into the apartments of Zambrano’s sister and former girlfriend, asking about his location. They threatened his friends and family for more than a year. In 2014, U.S. immigration authorities arrested Zambrano. The gang heard about Zambrano’s potential deportation and increased their efforts, including assaulting one brother and breaking into the home of another. Zambrano sought asylum based on the new assaults. Ordinarily, an alien must apply for asylum within one year after entering the U.S. but the deadline is flexible if the alien can show “the existence of changed circumstances which materially affect the applicant’s eligibility for asylum,” 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(B),(a)(2)(D). Zambrano argued that the 2014 attacks represented changed circumstances due to the increased violence against his family and the new scope of the gang's search, spanning various cities. The IJ and BIA rejected the argument. The Fourth Circuit remanded. New facts that provide additional support for a pre-existing asylum claim can constitute a changed circumstance and may include an intensification of a preexisting threat of persecution or new instances of persecution of the same kind suffered in the past. View "Zambrano v. Sessions" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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After Anderson complained that a fellow inmate, Rilee, had threatened him, Anderson was moved to another cell block in Virginia’s Gloucester County Jail. Jail personnel did not put Rilee on the jail’s “enemies” list. Two days later, Rilee attacked Anderson in the hall, causing him serious injury. Anderson filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against two deputies, alleging that they acted with deliberate indifference to his health and safety, in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishments.” The district court instructed the jury that “[d]eliberate indifference is established only if the defendants . . . had actual knowledge of a substantial risk that Anderson would be injured . . . and if the defendants recklessly disregarded that risk by intentionally refusing or failing to take reasonable measures to deal with the risk.” Anderson objected to the inclusion of the word “intentionally.” The Fourth Circuit affirmed a verdict for the defendants, holding that the district court’s instruction adequately and fairly stated the controlling law. Deliberate indifference is the intentional taking of a risk that the defendant knows might cause harm while lacking any intent to cause such harm. View "Anderson v. Kingsley" on Justia Law

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Stitz, charged with distribution of child pornography by computer, 18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(2)(A), pled guilty, stipulating to the factual basis for the plea. The agreement noted that Stitz understood the stipulation, which states that on three occasions FBI investigators used the ARES file-sharing network to connect Stitz’s IP address and download child pornography and that during an interview, Stitz acknowledged that he was aware his computer was sharing child pornography on that network. At a plea colloquy, Stitz confirmed the stipulation. The court calculated a sentencing range of 151-188 months. Stitz argued that he was entitled to a lower sentence based on the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors because his distribution of child pornography was passive and he did not have the specific intent to distribute, but repeatedly stated that he knew the file-sharing system made his child pornography available to others. The court sentenced Stitz to 121 months, considering that the two-level enhancement (U.S.S.G. 2G2.2(b)(6)) for the use of a computer to distribute child pornography was put in place when the use of a computer was more significant, Stitz’s “horrific childhood,” and rehabilitative efforts. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the court erred in finding a factual basis for his plea because there is no published law in the circuit concluding that use of a peer-to-peer file-sharing program constitutes “distribution” under the statute and that Stitz lacked mens rea. View "United States v.Stitz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Zambrano, a Honduran citizen, joined the Honduran military and helped arrest gang members. After he left the army, gang members tried to get revenge. Zambrano moved frequently and tried unsuccessfully to enter the U.S. five times, finally entering in 2011. The gang’s efforts continued. In 2012, armed men broke into the apartments of Zambrano’s sister and former girlfriend, asking about his location. They threatened his friends and family for more than a year. In 2014, U.S. immigration authorities arrested Zambrano. The gang heard about Zambrano’s potential deportation and increased their efforts, including assaulting one brother and breaking into the home of another. Zambrano sought asylum based on the new assaults. Ordinarily, an alien must apply for asylum within one year after entering the U.S. but the deadline is flexible if the alien can show “the existence of changed circumstances which materially affect the applicant’s eligibility for asylum,” 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(B),(a)(2)(D). Zambrano argued that the 2014 attacks represented changed circumstances due to the increased violence against his family and the new scope of the gang's search, spanning various cities. The IJ and BIA rejected the argument. The Fourth Circuit remanded. New facts that provide additional support for a pre-existing asylum claim can constitute a changed circumstance and may include an intensification of a preexisting threat of persecution or new instances of persecution of the same kind suffered in the past. View "Zambrano v. Sessions" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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Plaintiff Simply Wireless, Inc. appealed a district court order dismissing its complaint against Defendants T-Mobile US, Inc. and T-Mobile USA, Inc. (collectively, “T-Mobile”). Upon determining that the parties’ business relationship was governed by a written agreement containing a mandatory arbitration clause, the district court went on to determine that the scope of that arbitration clause included all of Simply Wireless’s claims against T-Mobile. After review, the Fourth Circuit concluded the district court erred in determining the scope of the parties’ arbitration clause, as the parties "clearly and unmistakably" intended for an arbitrator to resolve all arbitrability disputes. Nonetheless, because the parties intended for an arbitrator to resolve all arbitrability disputes, the district court’s ultimate dismissal of Simply Wireless’s complaint in favor of arbitration was proper. Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal, but on alternate grounds. View "Simply Wireless, Inc. v. T-Mobile US, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated defendant's 272-month sentence after he pleaded guilty to armed bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. The court agreed with defendant that his sentence was procedurally unreasonable because the district court failed to adequately explain the sentence imposed in light of his nonfrivolous arguments for a downward departure. In this case, the district court failed to acknowledge or explain six additional arguments that defendant raised in his sentencing briefs and at his hearing. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Blue" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A disinterested observer could not reasonably conclude that the Commission violated SEC Rule of Practice 900(a). Although Rule 900(a) sets timelines by which the Commission would ideally adjudicate cases, the permissive language of the text could not lead an employee to reasonably conclude that failing to meet such aspirational guidelines would amount to a "violation." Plaintiff petitioned for review of the Board's decision affirming the ALJ's determination that plaintiff was not entitled to relief under the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(8). After plaintiff was fired from his position at the SEC, plaintiff claimed that his supervisor terminated him in reprisal for raising concerns about his section's alleged chronic inefficiency. The Second Circuit held that the ALJ did not err in rejecting plaintiff's Rule 900(a) claim and that the ALJ more than adequately explained why an employee in plaintiff's position could not have reasonably concluded that Rule 900(a) was violated. Because the ALJ did not actually analyze plaintiff's claims that he made protected disclosures when he raised concerns that Adjudication violated Rule 900(b), the court remanded the issue to the ALJ. Finally, the court declined to address plaintiff's claims of evidentiary and discovery error. Accordingly, the court denied in part, granted in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Flynn v. SEC" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of BLC's appeal of the bankruptcy court's confirmed reorganization plan for debtor. The court held that BLC's appeal was not equitably moot. On the merits, the court held that the bankruptcy court did not err in calculating the indubitable equivalent of BLC's claim or in calculating the amount of post-petition interest due to BLC. Therefore, the court affirmed the bankruptcy court's judgment. View "Bate Land Company LP v. Bate Land & Timber LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy

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Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of his in forma pauperis, 42 U.S.C. 1983 action for failure to state a claim and failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Plaintiff, an adherent of the Rastafarian faith, challenged the discontinuation of the Rastafarian worship services in prison. The Fourth Circuit held that failure to exhaust plaintiff's administrative remedies was not a proper basis for dismissal and plaintiff's pro se complaint sufficiently alleged that defendants' refusal to allow the group Rastafarian service substantially burdened his religious practices. However, the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's complaint, except to the extent that the district court dismissed as to Chaplain Menhinick for failure to state a claim. In this case, plaintiff failed to allege involvement by Menhinick necessary to impose liability. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Wilcox v. Brown" on Justia Law