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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

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the school district in an action under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), alleging that the school district failed to provide plaintiff, a former student, with a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The court held that the school district committed a procedural violation of the IDEA by failing to respond to parents' requests and conduct a timely evaluation of whether the student was eligible for special education or related services. Nonetheless, plaintiff failed to show that this defect in the process had an adverse effect on his education. Therefore, plaintiff was not actually deprived of a FAPE. View "T.B. v. Prince George's County Board of Education" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from and action brought by three police officers against the Town, alleging claims related to the officers' termination. On appeal, the officers challenged the district court's post trial rulings. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court erred when it concluded that each plaintiff's claim arose out of the "same" wrongful act and, in the alternative, the meaning of "interrelated" was unambiguous, and that under that unambiguous meaning, plaintiffs' claims arose out of "interrelated" acts. Therefore, the Town waived its governmental immunity for up to $1 million per plaintiff for damages resulting from the three wrongful terminations of plaintiffs, subject to the $3 million Annual Aggregate Limit of the Town's insurance policy. The panel also held that although the police chief was not a final policymaker of the Town regarding plaintiffs' terminations, the town manager was a final policymaker. Therefore, Bralley's unconstitutional actions may fairly be characterized as actions of the Town such that the Town may be held liable to plaintiffs for damages under section 1983. The panel reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's First Amendment claims against the Town and remanded with instructions to enter judgment for plaintiffs. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding Plaintiff Medlin 1.75 years of front pay. View "Hunter v. Town of Mocksville" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' action against Mountain Valley Pipeline, FERC, and the Acting Chairman of FERC, challenging the constitutionality of various provisions of the Natural Gas Act. The court held that it need not reach the merits of the challenges because the claims must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court explained that, under the two-step analysis in Bennett v. SEC, 844 F.3d 174 (4th Cir. 2016), Congress intended to divest district courts of jurisdiction to hear the claims pursued by plaintiffs and instead intended those claims to be brought under the statutory review scheme established by the Natural Gas Act. View "Berkley v. Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC" on Justia Law

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After defendant was convicted of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank and mail fraud for her role in a fraudulent mortgage scheme, the district court ordered her to forfeit over $1 million to cover proceeds that her coconspirators had received and dissipated. The Fourth Circuit originally affirmed the district court's judgment. The Supreme Court subsequently issued Honeycutt v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1626 (2017), and vacated the court's original decision in this case, remanding for reconsideration under Honeycutt. In light of Honeycutt, the court held that 18 U.S.C. 982(a)(2) precludes joint and several forfeiture liability. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's forfeiture orders and remanded for reassessment of the appropriate forfeiture amount. The court reaffirmed the district court's judgment in all other respects. View "United States v. Chittenden" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Secretary appealed the district court's order enjoining him from enforcing a Medicaid policy set forth in a Frequently Asked Questions document (FAQ 33), which purported to clarify the methodology for calculating the maximum amount of financial assistance available to hospitals, like Children's Hospital, that serve a disproportionate number of low-income or special needs patients (DSHs). The Fourth Circuit held that the district court correctly determined that the policy set forth in FAQ 33 constituted a "legislative rule" and thus the Administrative Procedure Act mandated that the agency establish the FAQ 33 policy through notice-and-comment rulemaking. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment enjoining the Secretary from enforcing the policy set forth in FAQ 33 against Children's Hospital. The court declined to reach the substantive challenge and vacated the part of the district court's opinion addressing whether the policy conflicts with the language of 42 U.S.C. 1396r-4(g). View "Children's Hospital v. Azar" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit granted Ergon's petition for review challenging EPA's denial of Ergon's application for an extension of the small refinery exemption from the renewable fuel standard program. The court held that EPA's decision was arbitrary and capricious because EPA relied on DOE's facially-deficient recommendation to an unexplained and unknown degree, and EPA failed to properly address Ergon's petition with regard to renewable identification number costs. View "Ergon-West Virginia, Inc. v. EPA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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18 U.S.C. 2339B prohibits anyone from knowingly providing or attempting to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization. Defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to provide and of providing on numerous occasions material support to al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339B. The Fourth Circuit rejected defendants' contention that the district court erred in denying their motion to suppress evidence obtained pursuant to warrants issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) because the evidence was obtained unconstitutionally in light of FISA's ex parte and in camera judicial review process. The court held that the district court's adoption of a test to determine whether someone was part of a foreign terrorist organization for purposes of section 2339B was unnecessary and resulted from a misunderstanding of what section 2339B required in the context of this case. However, the district court appropriately found both defendants guilty of violating section 2339B. Finally, the district court did not err in applying sentencing enhancements under USSG 2M5.3(b)(1)(E) for support of a foreign terrorist organization with the intent, knowledge, or reason to believe it would be used to assist in the commission of a violent act. View "United States v. Dhirane" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's 24 month sentence after he admitted to four violations of the conditions of his supervised release. The court held that the record amply demonstrated that the district court, in reaching its decision to impose the recommended sentence, considered defendant's arguments for a downward variance and addressed several of them, while highlighting the seriousness of the violations, as well as defendant's extensive criminal history. View "United States v. Gibbs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law