Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Family Law
Jonathan R. v. Jim Justice
Plaintiffs brought a claim on behalf of thousands of West Virginia’s foster children challenging the State’s administration of child welfare services. Invoking Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), the district court abstained from hearing the case in deference to parallel state-court proceedings. Plaintiffs alleged that a federal class action is the most—if not the only—effective way to achieve the kind of systemic relief they seek.The Fourth Circuit reversed holding that principles of federalism not only do not preclude federal intervention, they compel it. Plaintiffs bring federal claims, and federal courts “are obliged to decide” them in all but “exceptional” circumstances. The court explained that Younger’s narrow scope safeguards Plaintiffs’ rights, bestowed on them by Congress in the Judiciary Act of March 3, 1875, to present their claims to a federal tribunal. 28 U.S.C. Section 1331. The court further wrote For years, West 4 Virginia’s response to any foster-care orders entered as part of the individual state hearings seems to have been to shuffle its money and staff around until the orders run out, entrenching rather than excising structural failures. Thus, forcing Plaintiffs to once more litigate their claims piecemeal would get federalism exactly backward. View "Jonathan R. v. Jim Justice" on Justia Law
Fry v. Rand Construction Corp.
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment entered in favor of Rand in an action brought by plaintiff, a former employee, alleging that Rand unlawfully fired her for taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).The court affirmed and agreed with the district court that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that Rand's justification for the termination was false and merely a pretext for retaliation. In this case, Rand presented a lawful explanation for firing plaintiff: performance problems. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding a former employee's testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 403. View "Fry v. Rand Construction Corp." on Justia Law
Waag v. Sotera Defense Solutions
Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Sotera, alleging that the company violated the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601 et seq. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to Sotera, holding that the district court correctly rejected plaintiff's legal contention that Sotera interfered with plaintiff's FMLA rights by not restoring him to his pre-leave position; no reasonable factfinder could conclude that Sotera failed to place plaintiff in "an equivalent position" or that the differences between the two jobs at issue were more than merely de minimis; and plaintiff failed to create a genuine issue of material fact as to his termination-related claims. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that Sotera was entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's claim that Sotera interfered with his FMLA rights by reinstating him to a sham position and then firing him at the first opportunity. Finally, plaintiff failed to adduce sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact such that a reasonable factfinder could conclude that the adverse employment action was taken for an impermissible reason, such as retaliation. View "Waag v. Sotera Defense Solutions" on Justia Law
Padilla v. Troxell
Petitioner filed a petition for the return of her child under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Oct. 25, 1980, T.I.A.S. No. 11,670, 19 I.L.M. 1501, as implemented by the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA), 22 U.S.C. 9001 et seq. The district court denied the petition. The court concluded that the district court did not clearly err in finding that respondent was "more believable" and petitioner did not challenge that determination. The court agreed with the district court that the preponderance of the evidence demonstrated that petitioner consented to respondent's removal of the child to the United States. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Padilla v. Troxell" on Justia Law
Sharif v. United Airlines, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against United Airlines for retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601 et seq. The district court granted summary judgment for United Airlines. United Airlines had discharged plaintiff for fraudulently taking FMLA leave and for making dishonest representations during the ensuing investigation. The court concluded that, even drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiff as the nonmoving party, Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., plaintiff has failed to create an issue of triable fact that the explanation United Airlines provided for his discharge was a pretext for retaliation for taking FMLA leave. In this case, the evidence taken as a whole plainly paints the picture of an employee who used FMLA leave to avoid interrupting his vacation, and then gave a variety of inconsistent explanations for his behavior upon his return. The court explained that to hold otherwise would disable companies from attaching any sanction or consequence to the fraudulent abuse of a statute designed to enable workers to take leave for legitimate family needs and medical reasons. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Sharif v. United Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law
Tankersley v. Almand
After the Court of Appeals of Maryland suspended Michael Tankersley’s law license when he refused to provide his social security number to the Client Protection Fund of the Bar of Maryland, Tankersley filed suit against the trustees of the Fund, and the judges and the clerk of the Court of Appeals. Tankersley filed suit against these defendants in their official capacities, seeking injunctive relief based on his claim that his suspension violated the federal Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a. The district court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss. Both the Tax Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. 405(c)(2)(C)(i), and the Welfare Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. 666(a)(13)(A), allow states to collect individuals’ social security numbers in specific situations. The court held that the district court erred in relying on section 666 of the Welfare Reform Act to dismiss Tankersley’s complaint. In this case, the court agreed with Tankersley that “applicant” cannot properly be read to include a Maryland attorney who must pay an annual fee to maintain his license. However, the court concluded that section 405 of the Tax Reform Act applies to Tankersley, and the state of Maryland may lawfully compel him to provide his social security number to the Fund or consequently have his law license suspended. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Tankersley v. Almand" on Justia Law
Alcala v. Hernandez
Father petitioned for the return of his children to Mexico pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, T.I.A.S. No. 11670, 19 I.L.M. 1501. The district court declined to order the children returned, and Father appealed. Reviewing the record facts as a whole, the court agreed with the district court that a preponderance of the facts establishes that Son has significant connections demonstrating a secure, stable, and permanent life in his new environment. Son is therefore “settled” within the meaning of the Convention. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s determination that Son is “settled” within the meaning of the Hague Convention and affirmed its decision not to exercise its discretion to order Son returned. View "Alcala v. Hernandez" on Justia Law
Smedley v. Smedley
A German court denied Father's petition under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, T.I.A.S. No. 11,670, 1343 U.N.T.S. 98, and a German appellate court affirmed. Consequently, Mother did not have to return the children to North Carolina. On a one-month visit to North Carolina, Father decided to keep the children. The district court accorded comity to the German appellate court's decision and granted Mother's Hague petition. The children were ordered to return to Germany. Father appealed. The court rejected Father's arguments on appeal and concluded that the district court properly extended comity because the German court's decision neither clearly misinterpreted the Hague Convention nor failed to meet a minimum standard of reasonableness. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Smedley v. Smedley" on Justia Law
Collins v. Pond Creek Mining Co.
Petitioner filed suit for survivor's benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 901-945. Petitioner sought review of an April 2012 decision of the BRB affirming the denial of benefits by an ALJ. The court held that petitioner satisfied the test for survivor's benefits: she is the surviving spouse of a miner whose death was hastened by pneumoconiosis due at least in part to coal mine employment. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with directions to award benefits without further administrative proceedings.View "Collins v. Pond Creek Mining Co." on Justia Law
Bostic v. Schaefer
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging Virginia Code sections 20-45.2 and 20-45.3; the Marshall/Newman Amendment, Va. Const. art. I, 15-A; and any other Virginia law that bars same sex-marriage or prohibits the State's recognition of otherwise-lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions (collectively, the Virginia Marriage Laws). Plaintiffs argued that these laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and enjoined Virginia from enforcing the laws. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that each of the plaintiffs had standing as to at least one defendant, and the court declined to view Baker v. Nelson as binding precedent. The court concluded that strict scrutiny analysis applied in this case where the Virginia Marriage Laws impede the right to marry by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and nullifying the legal import of their out-of-state marriages. Proponents contend that five interests support the laws: federalism-based interests, history and tradition, protecting the institution of marriage, encouraging responsible procreation, and promoting the optimal childrearing environment. The court concluded, however, that these interests are not compelling interests that justify the Virginia Marriage Laws. Therefore, all of the proponents' justifications for the laws fail and the laws cannot survive strict scrutiny. Accordingly, the court concluded that the Virginia Marriage Laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the extent that they prevent same-sex couples from marrying and prohibit Virginia from recognizing same-sex couples' lawful out-of-state marriages. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Bostic v. Schaefer" on Justia Law