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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of wire fraud, extortion under color of official right, conspiracy to commit such offenses, and two counts of perjury. The court held that the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for acquittal where there was sufficient evidence to support the four convictions arising from his bribery schemes and the honest-services wire fraud convictions; the substantive Hobbs Act extortion conviction was not duplicitous and there was no constructive amendment; and there was sufficient evidence to support the perjury convictions. Finally, the district court did not err in denying defendant's motions for a new trial based on inadmissible testimony, newly discovered evidence, and the jury's failure to fully deliberate. View "United States v. Burfoot" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision and held that the Board correctly determined that petitioner was convicted of a conspiracy related to the distribution of a controlled substance; the conviction rendered him inadmissible under the Controlled Substance Provision; and he was subject to removal under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1)(A). The court also held that section 1229a(c)(3)(B) did not prohibit the Board from considering petitioner's indictment. Finally, the court was without jurisdiction to address a new argument to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence because petitioner did not raise it before oral argument. View "Shaw v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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The Guild appealed the district court's order of forfeiture to the United States of seven ancient Cypriot coins and eight ancient Chinese coins, which were imported into this country by the Guild. The Fourth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court properly determined that the government had satisfied its burden under 19 U.S.C. 2610 with respect to the coins at issue in these forfeiture proceedings. Therefore, the burden shifted to the Guild to prove that the coins were somehow not subject to being forfeited to the United States. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by requiring the Guild to present expert evidence that was particularized to the fifteen defendant ancient coins; the district court did not improperly discount expert testimony regarding the circulation patterns of ancient Cypriot and Chinese coins; and the district court did not improperly reject and discount another expert's particularized evidence about the ancient Cypriot coins. The court rejected the Guild's contention that the Customs regulation promulgated and codified at 19 C.F.R. 12.104 irreconcilably conflicted with 19 U.S.C. 2601(2), and the Guild's claims of discovery errors. Finally, the district court's conclusion in the Strike Opinion and Order did not violate the Guild's due process rights. View "United States v. Ancient Coin Collectors Guild" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that agency decisions that provided necessary approvals for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) were arbitrary and capricious. In Case No. 18-1083, petitioners challenged the Incidental Take Statement (ITS) authorizing the pipeline to take five species listed as threatened or endangered. The court held that, although FWS was not required to set a numeric limit, it can only use a habitat surrogate if it demonstrates a causal link between the species and the delineated habitat, shows that setting a numerical limit was not practical, and set a clear standard for determining when incidental take is exceeded. In this case, FWS failed some or all of these requirements for all five challenged species, and thus the agency's take limits were not enforceable. In Case No. 18-1082, petitioners argued that NPS lacked the authority to grant a right-of-way to a gas pipeline and that doing so violated the statutory mandate that agency decisions not be inconsistent with the Parkway's conservation purpose. The court assumed that NPS had the requisite statutory authority but held that NPS did not explain how the pipeline crossing was not inconsistent with the purposes of the Parkway and the overall National Park System. View "Sierra Club v. National Park Service" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's order granting reconsideration, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), of a predecessor district judge's order which had granted defendants' petition to substitute the United States as a party defendant under the Westfall Act. Judge Boyle had been assigned the case upon retirement of Judge Fox, and reconsidered his predecessor's order. The court held that Judge Boyle did not properly exercise his discretion to overturn Judge Fox's decision based upon the "clear error causing manifest injustice" exception. First Judge Boyle did not conclude that Judge Fox's decision inflicted clear error causing manifest injustice at all. Second, even if the court were to assume that Judge Boyle implicitly concluded that Judge Fox's decision amounted to clear error causing manifest injustice, it was an abuse of discretion to grant plaintiffs' renewed motion to reconsider on that basis. In this case, the ATF churning memorandum that was offered by plaintiffs as new evidence in support of their renewed motion for reconsideration was not a sufficient basis upon which to affirm Judge Boyle's order. View "U.S. Tobacco Cooperative Inc. v. Big South Wholesale of Virginia, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal, on remand, of petitioner's juror bias claim. The court held that the district court failed to recognize the applicability of Supreme Court precedent requiring a hearing in these circumstances; erected inappropriate legal barriers and faulted petitioner for not overcoming them; and ignored judicially-recognized factors in determining whether a hearing was necessary. The court also concluded that the district court erred in Porter I by dismissing petitioner's separate but related juror bias claim pursuant to McDonough Power Equipment, Inc. v. Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548 (1984). Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions for the district court to allow discovery and hold an evidentiary hearing on petitioner's two separate juror bias claims. View "Porter v. Zook" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit denied a petition for review of Virginia's certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act that it had reasonable assurance that certain activities regarding the construction of a natural gas pipeline would not degrade the state's water. As a preliminary matter, the court held that petitioners had standing to assert the claims contained in their petition for review. On the merits, the court held that the state agencies did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in issuing the December 401 Certification. The court held that the DEQ had a sufficient basis to find reasonable assurance that the types of measures, restrictions, and programs in place to prevent excess sediment from entering state waters would be effective to satisfy the requirements of Virginia's antidegradation policy. The court also held that the state agencies' segmented approach to the certification, even if unorthodox, was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Sierra Club v. State Water Control Board" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Hartford Life in an action brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Plaintiff filed suit seeking a continuation of the long-term disability benefits that Hartford Life had terminated based on its conclusion that plaintiff was no longer "disabled," as that term was used in the plan. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that Hartford Life, not Hartford Fire, determined that plaintiff was no longer eligible for long-term disability benefits, and Hartford Life's decision to terminate his long-term disability benefits was not an unreasonable exercise of discretion. In this case, the record demonstrated that plaintiff received a fair and thorough consideration of his claim and Hartford Life's conclusion was reasonably supported by the available evidence where, among other things, video surveillance evidence showed plaintiff walking at a quick pace and moving without observable bracing or support. View "Griffin v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA, Insurance Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's restitution order after defendant was convicted of postal theft. Defendant, a mail handler for the postal service, was convicted of stealing video game discs sent by GameFly. The court held that fair market value was the appropriate measure of value for restitution and the Government failed to sufficiently demonstrate the victim's loss. In this case, the district court abused its discretion by relying on the victim's unsupported estimate of its replacement costs. The court held that the video games that GameFly lost were fungible and nothing in the record indicated that the stolen games had any unique or personal value to GameFly that fair market value could not adequately capture. View "United States v. Steele" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit granted petitions for review of the BLM's decision granting a right of way through federal land for construction and operation of a pipeline proposed by MVP, and the Forest Service's decision to amend the Jefferson National Forest Land Resource Management Plan to accommodate the right of way and pipeline construction. The court held that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by adopting an environmental impact statement (EIS) without undertaking the required independent review of the EIS's sedimentation analysis. Because the Forest Service acted arbitrarily and capriciously, the court remanded for further explanation. The court deferred to the agencies conclusions on the issue of forest effects and rejected petitioners' claims as to the Draft EIS. However, in regard to petitioners' claims under the National Forest Management Act, the court held that the requirements in the 2012 Planning Rule were directly related to the instant Forest Service amendments to the Jefferson Forest Plan and the Forest Service acted arbitrarily and capriciously in concluding otherwise. Therefore, the court remanded to the Forest Service for proper application of the Planning Rule soil and riparian requirements to the Forest Plan amendment. Finally, the court held that the BLM failed to acknowledge its obligations under the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sierra Club v. USFS" on Justia Law