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Voluntary retirement before the onset of a workplace injury's debilitating effects does not preclude the existence of a "disability" under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. 901, 902. In this case, a shipyard employee suffered a workplace injury but did not undergo surgery until after he retired. Plaintiff sought disability benefits for the two-month, post-surgery period during which he was not medically cleared for work. The Fourth Circuit held that the Benefits Review Board misinterpreted the act by denying plaintiff his disability claim. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded. View "Moody v. Huntington Ingalls Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against NIKA under the whistleblower-protection provisions of the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3730(h), and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Pub. L. No. 111-5, 123 Stat. 297–99 (2009). The Fourth Circuit held that the district court applied the wrong legal standard to the section 3730(h) claim. The district court's conclusion that section 3730(h) only protects whistleblowing activity directed at the whistleblower's employer was erroneous, because the plain language of section 3730(h) protects disclosures in furtherance of a viable FCA action against any person or company. Nonetheless, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment because plaintiff's disclosures were not protected under the correct legal standard. In this case, plaintiff's disclosures were not in furtherance of a viable FCA action. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's disposition of the ARRA claim, holding that the undisputed facts established by clear and convincing evidence that NIKA would have fired plaintiff absent any whistleblowing activity. View "O'Hara v. NIKA Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of a motion for post-conviction relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The court held that the standards for plain error and ineffective assistance of counsel were distinct and did not necessarily result in equivalent outcomes for the defendant. In this case, defendant's trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to understand the required legal analysis, and by failing to make an obvious objection to the career offender designation. The court held that these failures by counsel resulted in prejudice to defendant by increasing his sentence by more than seven years' imprisonment. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Carthorne" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment in favor of Aberdeen in a complaint alleging violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 12 U.S.C. 12182. Plaintiff, who uses a wheelchair, alleged that Aberdeen's Marketplace shopping center had unlawful barriers that hindered access to the Marketplace and discriminated against plaintiff. The court held that plaintiff has sufficiently alleged standing to sue and was entitled to pursue his ADA claim. In this case, plaintiff's complaint sufficiently alleged standing to sue under the injury-in-fact element in Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992), because there was nothing conjectural or hypothetical about the injuries plaintiff suffered during his visits to the Marketplace and the complaint sufficiently alleged a likelihood that plaintiff would again suffer such injuries. View "Nanni v. Aberdeen Marketplace, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his criminal conviction years after the Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(b)(1)(A) filing deadline and nearly three months after the district court denied his motion to vacate the conviction under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The Government did not object to the appeal's untimeliness. The Fourth Circuit held that it had the authority to dismiss untimely criminal appeals sua sponte but that it should exercise that authority only in extraordinary circumstances. In this case, given the procedural history of defendant's case, the court found that such extraordinary circumstances were present and thus dismissed the appeal. View "United States v. Oliver" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the revocation of defendant's supervised release. In this case, the district court revoked defendant's original term of supervised release for a technical violation and imposed a second term of supervised release. The district court subsequently revoked the second term of supervised release for a substantive violation. The court held that the district court retained jurisdiction to revoke defendant's supervised release a second time, and properly prescribed the maximum sentence permitted under 18 U.S.C. 3583(e)(3). View "United States v. Harris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Plaintiff, an inmate of the VDOC, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights primarily stemming from a "rough ride" transporting him in a van. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants. In regard to the Eighth Amendment claim, the Fourth Circuit held that plaintiff has shown facts making out a violation of a clearly established right based on failure to ensure safe transport and adherence to VDOC procedures. Therefore, the court reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded as to Officers Cooper (the driver of the van) and Diming. However, because plaintiff failed to show sufficient facts for supervisory liability, the court affirmed the grant of summary judgment for Lt. Thompson, Jennings, and Dolan. In regard to the First Amendment retaliation claim, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Baskerville, Jennings, Ware, Lewis, Dolan, Lt. Thompson, Seay, Blackwell, and White because plaintiff has failed to show any facts that could support an inference that the above officials were aware of his past litigation and grievances or that they acted with retaliatory intent. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to Cooper and Diming because the record supported an inference that they were acting in response to plaintiff being a frequent filer of grievances and litigation. The court reversed the district court's decision to dismiss the state law claims and affirmed in all other respects. View "Thompson, Jr. v. Commonwealth of Virginia" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief for petitioner where he challenged his state court conviction for computer solicitation of acts of sodomy from a minor under the age of 15, in violation of Va. Code Ann. 18.2-374.3(C)(3) (2007). The court held that Virginia's anti-sodomy statute, as authoritatively construed by the Supreme Court of Virginia, did not criminalize conduct that Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), declared to be protected by the liberty interests guaranteed by the Due Process Clause, and it was thus not facially unconstitutional. The state court's decision to adopt this narrowing construction, under its jurisprudence, was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of applicable Supreme Court precedent. Therefore, the court rejected petitioner's claim that Lawrence required the invalidation of his conviction under section 18.2-374.3(C)(3) merely because it referenced the anti-sodomy statute. View "Toghill v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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Zambrano, a Honduran citizen, joined the Honduran military and helped arrest gang members. After he left the army, gang members tried to get revenge. Zambrano moved frequently and tried unsuccessfully to enter the U.S. five times, finally entering in 2011. The gang’s efforts continued. In 2012, armed men broke into the apartments of Zambrano’s sister and former girlfriend, asking about his location. They threatened his friends and family for more than a year. In 2014, U.S. immigration authorities arrested Zambrano. The gang heard about Zambrano’s potential deportation and increased their efforts, including assaulting one brother and breaking into the home of another. Zambrano sought asylum based on the new assaults. Ordinarily, an alien must apply for asylum within one year after entering the U.S. but the deadline is flexible if the alien can show “the existence of changed circumstances which materially affect the applicant’s eligibility for asylum,” 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(B),(a)(2)(D). Zambrano argued that the 2014 attacks represented changed circumstances due to the increased violence against his family and the new scope of the gang's search, spanning various cities. The IJ and BIA rejected the argument. The Fourth Circuit remanded. New facts that provide additional support for a pre-existing asylum claim can constitute a changed circumstance and may include an intensification of a preexisting threat of persecution or new instances of persecution of the same kind suffered in the past. View "Zambrano v. Sessions" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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After Anderson complained that a fellow inmate, Rilee, had threatened him, Anderson was moved to another cell block in Virginia’s Gloucester County Jail. Jail personnel did not put Rilee on the jail’s “enemies” list. Two days later, Rilee attacked Anderson in the hall, causing him serious injury. Anderson filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against two deputies, alleging that they acted with deliberate indifference to his health and safety, in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishments.” The district court instructed the jury that “[d]eliberate indifference is established only if the defendants . . . had actual knowledge of a substantial risk that Anderson would be injured . . . and if the defendants recklessly disregarded that risk by intentionally refusing or failing to take reasonable measures to deal with the risk.” Anderson objected to the inclusion of the word “intentionally.” The Fourth Circuit affirmed a verdict for the defendants, holding that the district court’s instruction adequately and fairly stated the controlling law. Deliberate indifference is the intentional taking of a risk that the defendant knows might cause harm while lacking any intent to cause such harm. View "Anderson v. Kingsley" on Justia Law