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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's determination that defendant violated the conditions of his supervised release and sentence of twenty months in prison. The court held that because supervised release revocation proceedings are not criminal proceedings, the introduction of unwarned admissions made by defendant to his probation officer did not violate his rights under the Self-Incrimination Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Furthermore, because the proceedings were not criminal, the government was not required to present evidence corroborating defendant's admissions. View "United States v. Riley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner filed suit challenging the Director's repeated denial of parole to petitioner. The district court granted the Director's motion to dismiss, holding that juvenile-specific Eighth Amendment protections do not apply to petitioner because he was sentenced to life with parole, and that the Parole Board procedures satisfied procedural due process requirements under the Fourteenth Amendment. Reading petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition as a 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint, the Fourth Circuit declined to extend the Supreme Court's Eighth Amendment jurisprudence to juvenile parole proceedings and find that it is cruel and unusual punishment for a parole board to deny juvenile offenders parole without specifically considering age-related mitigating characteristics as a separate factor in the decisionmaking process. In regard to the Fourteenth Amendment claim, the court held that, although there was no constitutional or inherent right to parole proceedings, Virginia law gives rise to an expectation of parole proceedings that has created a liberty interest in parole consideration. The court held that, nevertheless, to satisfy the due process requirements triggered by this liberty interest, a parole board need only provide an offender an opportunity to be heard and a statement of reasons indicating why parole has been denied. In this case, petitioner's parole proceedings satisfied those requirements. View "Bowling v. Director, Virginia Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment charging him with the crime of illegal reentry. United States v. Mendoza-Lopez, 481 U.S. 828 (1987), held that an administrative removal proceeding marred by due process defects that foreclosed judicial review could not serve as a basis for criminal conviction. Determining that the district court had jurisdiction to consider defendant's argument, the court held that, even assuming that Mendoza-Lopez permitted a constitutional challenge, defendant's claim failed at a more basic level because he failed to assert a due process violation that would render the adjudication of his Temporary Protected Status (TPS) application fundamentally unfair. View "United States v. Guzman-Velasquez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendants' conviction of crimes related to their participation in illegal activities in a street and prison gang known as the Black Guerrilla Family. The court rejected defendants' contention that the district court improperly handled the fears some jurors expressed after learning of the gang's predilection for violence and retaliation, and held that the trial judge made reasoned judgments in walking the line between detecting bias and creating bias. The court also held that the district court had broad discretion in evaluating the significance of potential juror bias and the trial judge acted well within its discretion in denying a mistrial. The court rejected defendants' claim that the district court should have excluded an FBI agent's expert testimony decoding intercepted calls, and held that there were no Confrontation Clause problems with the agent's testimony. Nevertheless, any error would have been harmless. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilt to two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and two counts of distributing heroin. Defendant was sentenced to 57 months in prison in part because his criminal history included a prior sentence of thirty days' imprisonment for an uncounseled misdemeanor offense. The court held that the district court properly counted defendant's prior voluntarily uncounseled misdemeanor offense, because defendant voluntarily proceeded without counsel in the prior proceeding and thus his misdemeanor conviction was constitutionally valid. View "United States v. Hawley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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An elementary school student with a disability, and her parents, filed suit challenging the district court's decision to affirm the ALJ's determination that CCPS provided the student with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that, although CCPS did violate certain procedural requirements of the IDEA, most notably by changing the student's placement without notifying her parents or modifying her individualized education program (IEP), any procedural violations did not deny the student a FAPE. In this case, the combination of reasonably ambitious goals that were focused on the student's particular circumstances, and that were pursued through the careful and attentive instruction of specialized professionals, provided the education that the student was entitled to under the statute. View "R.F. v. Cecil County Public Schools" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of various claims of certain plaintiffs in an action against Ford for an alleged defect in plaintiffs' purchase or lease of vehicles manufactured between 2002 and 2010. At issue were the district court's Daubert decision addressing plaintiffs' proof of their defect theory. The court held that the district court properly considered appropriate factors and did not abuse its discretion in excluding the opinions of plaintiffs' experts based on their lack of relevance and reliability; plaintiffs failed to show that the district court made a clearly erroneous factual finding or error of law by excluding their expert witnesses; and because plaintiffs could not prove their theory of defects, they failed to meet the essential element of causation. View "Belville v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Products Liability

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claims against numerous government officials for alleged illegal intrusions into plaintiffs' electronic devices to conduct unlawful surveillance, and against certain corporate entities for allegedly facilitating those intrusions. The court affirmed the dismissals of Defendant Holder and Donahoe with prejudice for failure to present a cognizable claim under Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents. The court held that plaintiffs' claims did not present a new Bivens context, because Holder and Donahue held much higher ranks than the line-level FBI agents sued in Bivens; a claim based on unlawful electronic surveillance presents wildly different facts and a vastly different statutory framework from a warrantless search and arrest; and plaintiffs sought to hold high-level officials accountable for what they themselves frame as policy-level decisions to target internal leaks to the media. Moreover, various special factors identified in Ziglar v. Abbasi did not support recognizing a Bivens claim here. In regard to plaintiffs' Electronic Communications Privacy Act claim, the court held that, to the extent Holder and Donahoe procured any wrongful interception, use, or disclosure of plaintiffs' electronic communications, they did not violate a clearly established right. Finally, the court affirmed the dismissal of the amended complaint and the parties named therein with prejudice, as well as the dismissal of the unnamed John Doe agents without prejudice. View "Attkisson v. Holder" on Justia Law

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A participant in an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) filed suit after owners of a closely held corporation sold the company to its ESOP. The participant contended that the trustee chosen for the ESOP by the corporation breached its fiduciary duties to the ESOP and overpaid for the stock — improperly enriching the corporation's owners at the expense of its employees. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's careful findings of fact concluding that the trustee had breached its fiduciary duties. In regard to liability, the district court found four major failures involving SRR's report; that the trustee failed to act as a prudent fiduciary solely on behalf of the ESOP participants; that the value of Stock Appreciation Rights (SARs) issued in connection with the ESOP's purchase of Constellis should have been deducted from Constellis's equity value for purposes of SRR’s valuation; and that the ACADEMI sale did not constitute a meaningful comparator. Furthermore, the court found no error in the district court's damages award and fee award. View "Tim Brundle v. Wilmington Trust, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's denial of petitioner and her son's application for relief under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The court vacated the BIA's order with respect to the CAT claim and remanded, holding that the BIA failed to fully consider the evidence in support of petitioner's CAT claim. In this case, petitioner and her son were threatened by members of a local street gang that, if they did not leave their native country of El Salvador within 24 hours, they would be murdered. Petitioner and her son decided to come to the United States after local law enforcement refused to provide any form of aid. The court held that the BIA's wholesale failure to fully consider the country conditions evidence petitioner presented to show government acquiescence in her torture constituted reversible error. View "Cabrera Vasquez v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law