Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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The Department sought interlocutory review of the district court's decision that the state waived Eleventh Amendment immunity with respect to claims under Maryland's Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA). The Fourth Circuit exercised its jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine and held that the state has not waived the protection of the Eleventh Amendment. In this case, the state did not waive its Eleventh Amendment immunity as to plaintiff's FEPA claims through a statutory consent to suit provision in Md. Code. Servs. 20-903. In the absence of the state's express consent to suit in federal court, the Department was entitled to the protection of the Eleventh Amendment with respect to the FEPA claims. View "Pense v. Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's conclusion that Alaska's award of damages to TKCA necessarily meant that debtor willfully and maliciously injured TKCA for purposes of section 523(a)(6) of the Bankruptcy Code. The Supreme Court, in Kawaauhau v. Geiger, 523 U.S. 57, 61 (1998), held that section 523(a)(6) requires "a deliberate or intentional injury, not merely a deliberate or intentional act that leads to injury." The court held that, because neither the Alaska district court, nor the bankruptcy court, determined the precise issue of whether debtor intended to injure TKCA, collateral estoppel and summary judgment were inappropriate. Therefore, the court remanded to the district court with instructions to remand to the bankruptcy court for further proceedings. View "TKC Aerospace Inc. v. Muhs" on Justia Law

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In this defendant class action, the defendant class argued that the district court erred in certifying the class without simultaneously appointing counsel for the class and in failing to properly analyze the adequacy of class counsel. The Fourth Circuit agreed that the district court failed to follow Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 on both of these issues, but nevertheless affirmed the district court's judgment in light of the unusual circumstances of this case. The court held that Class Members waived the arguments they now assert regarding the untimely appointment of class counsel and the failure of the court to consider the Rule 23(g) factors, and the litigation has progressed to an extent that it would be difficult if not impossible to remedy the errors Class Members now raise. View "Bell v. Brockett" on Justia Law

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Respondents, Mississippi death row inmates, filed suit challenging the state's lethal injection procedures under the Eighth Amendment. Respondents sought discovery by serving a subpoena on the VDOC. The VDOC provided some documents and then moved to quash the subpoena in district court. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the VDOC's motion to quash the subpoena on the merits, holding that the district court reasonably found that respondents did not have a need for further discovery from the VDOC, a nonparty, that outweighed the burdens the discovery would impose. Accordingly, the court need not reach the state sovereign immunity issue. View "Virginia Department of Corrections v. Jordan" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that the district court erred in denying plaintiffs' motion to remand their case to state court and deciding Bayer's motion to dismiss in an action seeking damages for violations of North Carolina tort and products liability law. The court held that plaintiffs' action did not fall within the small class of cases in which state law claims may be deemed to arise under federal law for purposes of conferring federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgments and remanded with instructions that the action be remanded to North Carolina state court. View "Burrell v. Bayer Corp." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment after a jury found defendant civilly liable to plaintiff under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Plaintiff filed suit against defendant for her role in the sexual abuse that plaintiff suffered at the hands of defendant's husband when plaintiff worked as their housekeeper in housing provided by the Embassy of the United States in Yemen. The court held, in light of RJR Nabisco, Inc. v. European Cmty., 136 S. Ct. 2090 (2016), that the TVPA's civil remedy provision applied to defendant's conduct in Yemen in 2007. The court confined its analysis to the text of 18 U.S.C. 1595 and held that section 1595 applied extraterritorially to defendant's conduct. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting another housekeeper's evidence concerning sexual abuse she suffered while working for defendant and her husband. View "Roe v. Howard" on Justia Law

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The district court did not abuse its discretion by sanctioning plaintiff for her "flagrant and unremitting" violations of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. After plaintiff was constructively discharged as a nurse practitioner by the University, she filed four separate actions alleging claims arising out of the same course of events and alleging state torts of defamation and interference with prospective advantage, as well as violations of the False Claims Act, the Maryland False Health Claims Act, Title VII, and 42 U.S.C. 1981. The Fourth Circuit held that plaintiff's conduct under the procedural rules was inept and abusive to the degree that it rendered virtually useless five years of proceedings before the district court, and such abuse would likely have continued in any future proceedings. View "Rangarajan v. Johns Hopkins University" on Justia 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 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

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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