Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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This securities fraud lawsuit arises from a series of statements made by K12, Inc., and two of its executives over the spring and summer of 2020. Plaintiffs, a class of K12 shareholders who acquired stock during that time, allege that the statements fraudulently misrepresented the state of K12’s business, thereby artificially inflating the cost of their shares. To survive dismissal under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA), however, they must plead a “strong inference” of scienter, which requires establishing an inference of fraud to be “cogent and at least as compelling as any opposing inference.”   The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs claims because Plaintiffs do not satisfy the “heightened pleading instruction”. The court explained by including the language of “we believe,” the statement reflected not an incontestable fact but an individual perspective. The statement was couched as opinion, not as fact. While it is true that the prefatory clause contains an embedded assertion—that K12 is “an innovator in K-12 online education”— plaintiffs do not seriously contest this point. Nor do Plaintiffs deny, in more than conclusory fashion, that K12 “actually holds” its stated belief. Finally, Plaintiffs fail to show that K12’s opinion omitted necessary context. The company’s opinion was not simply emitted into the ether. It was made within the framework of a 10-K filing, where investors could have parsed the ample disclosures at their fingertips before succumbing to K12’s stated view. View "James Boykin v. K12, Inc." on Justia Law

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Respondent has long struggled with mental illness and a proclivity to violent outbursts. In 2017, Williams assaulted a security guard in Portland, Oregon—a federal crime because it happened at a Social Security office. Respondent pleaded guilty and was sentenced to just over four years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Federal prisoners on the cusp of being released may be civilly committed if they are “presently suffering from a mental disease or defect as a result of which [their] release would create a substantial risk” to the person or property of others. Here, the primary question is whether—in making such a risk assessment—a court must consider any terms of supervision that would govern the prisoner’s conduct post-release.   The Fourth Circuit held that a court must consider any terms of supervision that would govern the prisoner’s conduct post-release. Thus, because the record offers no assurances the district court appropriately considered the terms of Respondent’s supervised release before ordering him committed, the Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "US v. Nathaniel Williams" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff a commercial-real-estate broker specializing in tenant representation sued Newmark Southern Region, LLC (Newmark)—an international real-estate brokerage and advisory firm. Plaintiff alleged eight state law claims, including breach of contract. Newmark counterclaimed, alleging only breach of contract. The district court dismissed each of Plaintiff’s claims at the pleading stage, with the exception of his claim for breach of contract. Following the district court’s judgment against him, Plaintiff appealed. In addition to seeking reversal of the judgment, Plaintiff also sought reversal of the district court’s dismissal of his various claims at the pleading stage.   The Fourth Circuit concluded that this situation warrants vacatur and remand for dismissal without prejudice. The court reasoned that first Plaintiff and Newmark agree that complete diversity did not exist between them at the time of filing, given the North Carolina citizenship of at least one limited partner of Newmark Holdings, L.P.—a great-grandparent entity to Newmark. Consequently, the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claims against Newmark pre-consolidation, so it lacked the power to consolidate the lawsuits in the first place.   Further, neither side of this dispute lacked the means to ascertain Newmark’s citizenship at any point. Whether mutual contentment with the federal forum or genuine obliviousness brought the parties to this unfortunate juncture, the court explained that it will not condone the exercise of jurisdiction where it did not truly exist. View "Timothy Capps v. Newmark Southern Region, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deported Petitioner, a permanent resident of the United States since he was six years old, because the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA or the Board) deemed his altercation with the police an aggravated felony. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the type of offense Petitioner committed no longer qualified as an aggravated felony. Learning of that decision in 2019, Petitioner moved the BIA to reconsider its original removal order and to equitably toll the usual thirty-day deadline for filing such motions in view of the legal change. The BIA declined. It did not dispute that Petitioner is entitled to be readmitted into the country, but it rejected Petitioner’s request to toll the limitations period, believing him insufficiently diligent in discovering his rights.   The Fourth Circuit vacated the Board’s diligence determination, remanding to the BIA to consider the second prong of the equitable-tolling inquiry—whether the change in the law constituted an extraordinary circumstance—as well as the merits of Petitioner’s claim. The court explained that because the BIA determined Petitioner not diligent, it did not consider whether Johnson and Dimaya presented an extraordinary circumstance that would warrant equitable tolling. In previous cases, the BIA has held that Supreme Court decisions that significantly change the legal landscape meet this bar. Thus, the court remanded to the BIA to decide whether the legal changes in Johnson and Dimaya constitute extraordinary circumstances and whether, on the whole, Petitioner’s request to reconsider merits a favorable exercise of discretion. View "Damien Williams v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Petitioner and her minor daughter, natives and citizens of Guatemala, petition for review of the final order of the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissing their appeal from the immigration judge’s order denying Petitioner’s application for asylum and withholding of removal. Petitioners filed their petition for review with this Court one day after the deadline set by 8 U.S.C. Section 1252(b)(1). They contend that the Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 26(c) extends the filing period by three additional days because the Board served the order by mail.   The Fourth Circuit dismissed the petition concluding that Rule 26(c) does not apply to petitions for review governed by Section 1252(b)(1). The court explained that because Section 1252(b)(1) calculates the time to file a petition for review from “the date of the final order of removal,” and not from service of that order, Rule 26(c) does not apply. View "Ana Santos-De Jimenez v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Blenheim Capital Holdings Ltd. and Blenheim Capital Partners Ltd., Guernsey-based companies (collectively, “Blenheim”), commenced this action against Lockheed Martin Corporation, Airbus Defence and Space SAS, and the Republic of Korea and its Defense Acquisition Program Administration (the last two, collectively, “South Korea”), alleging that Defendants conspired to “cut it out” as the broker for a large, complex international military procurement transaction.   Blenheim alleged that the defendants (1) tortiously interfered with its brokerage arrangement and its prospective business expectations; (2) conspired to do so; (3) were unjustly enriched; and (4) conspired to violate federal and state antitrust laws. The district court granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). With respect to the tort claims, it concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction by reason of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act because South Korea was presumptively immune from jurisdiction under the Act and had not been engaged in “commercial activity,”   The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the offset transaction was not commercial activity as excepted from the immunity from jurisdiction conferred in the FSIA, accordingly the court affirmed the district court’s conclusion that it lacked jurisdiction over Blenheim’s tort claims. Further, because Blenheim felt adverse impacts immediately upon Lockheed’s October 2016 termination of the brokerage agreement, the date of the satellite launch is not relevant to the date when the cause of action accrued. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s ruling that Blenheim’s antitrust claims are barred by the applicable four-year statute of limitations. View "Blenheim Capital Holdings Ltd. v. Lockheed Martin Corporation" on Justia Law

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Defendant filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2255, challenging his conviction for using a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence. The district court denied his motion and Defendant appealed.The Fourth Circuit reversed, finding that the federal arson statute which served as the predicate for Defendant's Sec. 924(c) conviction is not categorically a crime of violence. Because the statute Defendant was convicted under criminalized the arson of property fully owned by the defendant, and not just that of the property “of another” as required by Sec. 924(c). View "US v. Cecil Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling denying Appellants’ motion for summary judgment based on a qualified immunity defense to a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 claim for damages. Appellants appealed the district court’s denial of their respective summary judgment motions based on a qualified immunity defense to a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 claim for damages asserted by Appellee. Appellee initiated the underlying action against Appellants, and various other South Carolina state officials after his son, (“Decedent”), was struck and killed by a vehicle while he was a pedestrian on Interstate 95 (“I-95”) in South Carolina.   Appellee alleged that Appellants violated Decedent’s Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right to be free from deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs by failing to ensure Decedent was transported to a hospital or jail where he could receive adequate medical attention. The district court determined that, while Decedent’s right to freedom from deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation, a genuine dispute of material fact barred a ruling on qualified immunity at the summary judgment stage.   Appellants contest the district court’s ruling that Decedent’s constitutional right was “clearly established.” The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that a pretrial detainee’s right to adequate medical care and freedom from deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs was clearly established and particularly recognized by both the Fourth Circuit and the Supreme Court at the time of the events in question. Further, the court wrote that Appellants have also not addressed the court’s “fundamental error” standard, nor have they attempted to show that they can meet it here. Thus, Appellants have not satisfied their burden of identifying a “fundamental error” warranting reversal on a ground not raised before the district court. View "Paul Tarashuk v. Jamie Givens" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff a deaf and blind inmate, claims he was denied the same access and enjoyment available to inmates without disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). And he contends the prison’s head covering policies substantially burdened his Islamic faith as prohibited by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”).   The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court’s order granting summary judgment to the prison on Plaintiff’s ADA claim. But vacated the district court’s order rejecting the RLUIPA claim and remanded. The court held that no reasonable factfinder could conclude on the record that the accommodations provided to Plaintiff did not afford him “meaningful access” to all programs at the prison.   However, the court found that the policy required Plaintiff to either violate his religious beliefs— by refraining from wearing a head covering at all times—or risk discipline at the prison for violating the policy. In other words, the prison’s head-covering policy placed Plaintiff between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Doing so substantially burdens his religious beliefs under the RLUIPA. Thus, the court found that Plaintiff met his burden of showing that the prior policy imposed a substantial burden. Thus, the court vacated that portion of the district court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "David Richardson v. Harold Clarke" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights
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After East Carolina University (“ECU”) dismissed Plaintiff from its School of Social Work’s Master’s Degree program, Neal sued the university alleging that its decision discriminated against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The district court disagreed and granted summary judgment to ECU based on its conclusion that Plaintiff failed to come forward with evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact to support two elements of a prima facie case of discrimination. It determined that the record did not show that (1) she was “otherwise qualified to participate in ECU’s” program or (2) ECU dismissed her “on the basis of” her disability. Plaintiff challenged both grounds on appeal.   The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that for purposes of assessing ADA compliance, universities have a responsibility to the entire academic community and to the public to ensure that a student is qualified to meet the lawful requirements of their program, especially where, as here, conferral of a degree is a prerequisite to state licensure requirements. ECU properly exercised its discretion in that regard and assisted Plaintiff during her enrollment in the MSW Program. It gave her a second chance with the out-of-order readmission in the Spring 2014 semester. She received a third chance in the Fall 2014 semester following the A&R Committee proceeding. And MSW Program faculty gave her a fourth chance as they tried to work with her thereafter. Now, Plaintiff wants to force ECU to provide a fifth chance. The ADA contains no such requirement given an absence of evidence supporting her claim of discriminatory dismissal. View "Olivia Neal v. East Carolina University" on Justia Law