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Three municipalities who use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to carry out their obligations under state law filed suit against the DOD and its constituent military departments, seeking to compel the department to more thoroughly comply with federal law requiring the department to provide records to the NICS. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the municipalities' claim and held that they lacked constitutional standing and failed to establish subject matter jurisdiction under the Administrative Procedure Act. The court explained that there was simply no basis in the APA's text for such a broad incursion into internal agency management. The court noted that the APA did not permit the municipalities' efforts to include judicial supervision of the myriad programmatic workings of the federal government. View "City of New York v. DOD" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's award of summary judgment for Virtus, plaintiff's former employer, in an action seeking to collect on a state court judgment entered against defendants. The court held that plaintiff's claims were not precluded under Virginia's doctrine of res judicata, because he could not have brought those claims at the time of his earlier litigation. In this case, plaintiff could not have brought his fraudulent transfer claims in the arbitration proceedings, because it was only after the state court judgment was entered that plaintiff would have actual notice of any potential fraudulent transfer claims. Similarly, because plaintiff was required to obtain a judgment against Virtus before bringing his alter-ego claim, the claim had not accrued at the time of the arbitration proceedings. View "Bennett v. Garner" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence for two counts of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. The court held the district court failed to address defendant's non-frivolous mitigation arguments and to properly explain its rationale for his term of confinement and his special conditions. The court remanded for the district court to provide a sufficient explanation for the significant deprivation of liberty defendant faced as a result of his criminal conduct. Finally, the court made no assessment regarding the fairness or propriety of defendant's term of confinement or special conditions of supervised release. View "United States v. Ross" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A Reinsurance Participation Agreement (RPA) executed by AUCRA and Minnieland was an insurance contract under Virginia law. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not violate the court's prior mandate by looking at the EquityComp program as a whole; the RPA and insurance policies constituted an integrated transaction and must be read as one contract; and the integrated contract was a contract of insurance under Virginia Code 38.2–312. Finally, the court noted that it was not the first to determine that the program marketed by Applied Underwriters was insurance. View "Minnieland Private Day School v. Applied Underwriters Captive Risk Assurance Co." on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the Board's decision certifying that it had reasonable assurances that activities related to the construction of a natural gas pipeline would not degrade the state's water resources. The Fourth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the Board's certification under section 401 of the Clean Water Act was not arbitrary and capricious. The court held that the decision to reopen the comment period and not to conduct a combined effect analysis did not render the state agencies' issuance of a section 401 certification arbitrary and capricious. The court also held that the state agencies' reasonable assurance determination was not arbitrary and capricious because they relied on existing Virginia water quality standards and regulations to effectively address concerns regarding water quality deterioration, and the state agencies' treatment of karst terrain was not arbitrary or capricious because of the conditions imposed on the certification. View "Appalachian Voices v. State Water Control Board" on Justia Law

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Virginia's Incumbent Protection Act, Va. Code Ann. 24.2-509(B), violates the First Amendment of the Constitution. Subsection 24.2-509(B) limits the broad authority recognized by subsection A, which empowers the duly constituted authorities of the state and local parties to determine the method by which a party nomination shall be made. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to permanently enjoin enforcement of the entire Act. The court agreed with the district court's finding that the fourth sentence of the Act, which protects the nomination prerogatives of incumbent members of Congress among others, violated the First Amendment because it imposed a severe burden on the associational rights of Virginia's political parties and the Commonwealth has been unable to show that it is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. The court also agreed with the district court's decision to enjoin the Act's second and third sentences, which protect the nomination prerogatives of incumbent members of the General Assembly. The court held that the Committee had standing to challenge these provisions and that they were, if anything, even more offensive to the First Amendment than the fourth sentence. View "6th Congressional District Republican Committee v. Alcorn" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's 240 month sentence for willfully shooting and killing the victim while he was unarmed and fleeing arrest. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in making its factual findings and correctly determined, based on those findings, that second-degree murder was the proper cross-reference. In this case, the district court did not reversibly err by inferring defendant's malice from the facts it found credible and by determining that defendant's malice was not negated by sudden quarrel or heat of passion. The court also held that the district court did not plainly err by applying a two-level sentencing enhancement for obstructing justice. View "United States v. Slager" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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South Carolina filed suit to enjoin the United States and others from terminating the construction of a mixed-oxide fuel nuclear processing facility located in the state. The Fourth Circuit held that South Carolina failed to establish standing to pursue its claims and therefore vacated the preliminary injunction imposed by the district court. In this case, South Carolina's alleged injury -- becoming the permanent repository of weapons-grade plutonium -- was too speculative to give rise to a sufficient concrete injury in fact. The court also held that South Carolina's claims failed on ripeness grounds where numerous contingent future events must occur before South Carolina becomes the permanent repository of the nuclear material. View "South Carolina v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's determination that plaintiff was required to wait longer than 180 days to commence a civil action under Title VII and the Rehabilitation Act after amending his initial administrative complaint before the relevant agency. The court held that the text of Title VII, as well as the legislative context and purpose, plainly states that a claimant may commence a civil action 180 days from "the filing of the initial charge." Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Stewart v. Iancu" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment holding that the statute of limitations barred plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit. The court explained that Congress did not provide fixed timing rules in section 1983 or its companion provision, section 1988. Rather, Congress specified that gaps in section 1983 should be filled by state law, as long as that law is not inconsistent with federal law. Because Virginia lacks a generally applicable statute that pauses limitations to accommodate administrative exhaustion requirements, plaintiff sought to borrow a tolling provision in the Virginia Tort Claims Act (VTCA). The court held that the VTCA did not save plaintiff's claims because it operates on a tighter schedule than section 1983 and does not govern suits against state employees. Furthermore, plaintiff could not invoke equitable estoppel under Virginia law. However, the court held that, with no Virginia rule available to toll the limitations period, refusal to do so during a prisoner's mandatory exhaustion period is inconsistent with federal law and the court could not apply it here. Therefore, the court applied federal equitable tolling principles and held that plaintiff's section 1983 complaint was timely because it was filed within two years of the date he exhausted his administrative remedies required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. View "Battle v. Ledford" on Justia Law