Justia Constitutional Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
Hentosh v. Old Dominion University
Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer, ODU, alleging, inter alia, a claim for retaliation based on the denial of her application for tenure. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment for ODU, arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the retaliation claim that grew out of and was reasonably related to an untimely filed charge of discrimination. The court concluded that the district court properly exercised subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's related tenure retaliation claim where it had subject matter jurisdiction over her administratively exhausted but untimely filed non-retaliation claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Hentosh v. Old Dominion University" on Justia Law
Owens v. Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendants violated his constitutional rights by intentionally withholding exculpatory evidence during his 1988 trial for rape and murder. The district court dismissed the complaint on statute-of-limitations grounds, and, in the alternative, the district court held that the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office enjoyed sovereign immunity, the individual police officers enjoyed qualified immunity, and plaintiff's cause of action against the Baltimore City Police Department (BCPD) failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The court concluded that plaintiff filed suit within the applicable three year statute of limitations for a personal-injury action under Maryland law and his claims were timely; the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office is not an entity amenable to suit; precedent unmistakably provided that, by 1988, a police officer violates clearly established constitutional law when he suppresses material exculpatory evidence in bad faith; the officers in this case were not entitled to qualified immunity where they were clearly on notice of the impermissibility of their conduct in 1988, the time of the alleged violations; and plaintiff has stated a plausible claim against the BCPD. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court to the extent it dismissed plaintiff's claims against the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office; vacated in all other respects; and remanded for further proceedings. View "Owens v. Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office" on Justia Law
Bostic v. Schaefer
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging Virginia Code sections 20-45.2 and 20-45.3; the Marshall/Newman Amendment, Va. Const. art. I, 15-A; and any other Virginia law that bars same sex-marriage or prohibits the State's recognition of otherwise-lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions (collectively, the Virginia Marriage Laws). Plaintiffs argued that these laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and enjoined Virginia from enforcing the laws. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that each of the plaintiffs had standing as to at least one defendant, and the court declined to view Baker v. Nelson as binding precedent. The court concluded that strict scrutiny analysis applied in this case where the Virginia Marriage Laws impede the right to marry by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and nullifying the legal import of their out-of-state marriages. Proponents contend that five interests support the laws: federalism-based interests, history and tradition, protecting the institution of marriage, encouraging responsible procreation, and promoting the optimal childrearing environment. The court concluded, however, that these interests are not compelling interests that justify the Virginia Marriage Laws. Therefore, all of the proponents' justifications for the laws fail and the laws cannot survive strict scrutiny. Accordingly, the court concluded that the Virginia Marriage Laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the extent that they prevent same-sex couples from marrying and prohibit Virginia from recognizing same-sex couples' lawful out-of-state marriages. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Bostic v. Schaefer" on Justia Law
Massey v. Ojaniit
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and North Carolina law against police officers, alleging, inter alia, that they fabricated evidence that led to plaintiff's arrest, convictions, and nearly-twelve-year incarceration. The district court granted the officers' motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c). The court concluded that plaintiff waived his right to appeal the judgment in Officer Ledford's favor. The court also concluded that plaintiff has failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted in regards to Officers Ojaniit and Esposito. Further, plaintiff failed to plead any colorable state law claim as to these two officers. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal as to Officer Ledford and affirmed the judgment as to Officers Ojaniit and Esposito. View "Massey v. Ojaniit" on Justia Law
Al Shimari v. CACI Premier Technology, Inc.
Plaintiffs, foreign nationals, alleged that they were tortured and otherwise mistreated by American civilian and military personnel while detained at Abu Ghraib. CACI, a corporation domiciled in the United States, contracted with the United States to provide private interrogators to interrogate detainees at Abu Ghraib. Plaintiffs alleged that CACI employees instigated, directed, participated in, encouraged, and aided and abetted conduct towards detainees that clearly violated federal and international law. The court concluded that the Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. does not foreclose plaintiffs' claims under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350, and that the district court erred in reaching a contrary conclusion. In light of Kiobel, the court held that plaintiffs' claims "touch and concern" the territory of the United States with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application of the Alien Tort Statute. Because the court was unable to determine whether the claims presented nonjusticiable political questions, the court did not reach the additional issue of the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' common law claims. The court vacated the district court's judgment with respect to all plaintiffs' claims and remanded. View "Al Shimari v. CACI Premier Technology, Inc." on Justia Law
PPL EnergyPlus, LLC v. Nazarian
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging a Maryland program subsidizing the participation of a new power plant in the federal wholesale energy market. Maryland's plan was ultimately formalized in the Generation Order. The district court agreed with plaintiffs' contention that the Maryland scheme was preempted under the Federal Power Act's (FPA), 16 U.S.C. 824(b)(1), authorizing provisions, which grant exclusive authority over interstate rates to FERC. The court concluded that the Generation Order is field preempted because it seeks to regulate a field that the FPA has occupied. The court also concluded that the Generation Order is conflict preempted because it conflicts with the auction rates approved by FERC and conflicts with PJM's new entry price adjustment (NEPA). Accordingly, the court held that the Generation Order was preempted under federal law and affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "PPL EnergyPlus, LLC v. Nazarian" on Justia Law
Smith v. Gilchrist, III
Plaintiff, an assistant district attorney (ADA) for the county, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, against defendant, the elected district attorney (DA) during plaintiff's tenure, alleging that he was fired for exercising his free-speech rights in violation of the United States and North Carolina Constitutions. The district court granted summary judgment against defendants. The court reversed, concluding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to defendant on the First Amendment claim on the basis of qualified immunity. A reasonable DA in defendant's position would have known that he could not fire an ADA running for public office for speaking publicly in his capacity as a candidate on matters of public concern when the speech was critical of a program that substantially reduced the DA's office's caseload but there was no reason to believe the speech would negatively impact the DA's office's efficiency. The court reversed the summary judgment on the state-law claims as well. View "Smith v. Gilchrist, III" on Justia Law
Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corp.
Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer for racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. 1981. Plaintiff's claims were based on two conversations she had with a coworker where the coworker made racially derogatory and highly offensive comments. The court concluded that the district court did not err in excluding plaintiff's answers to interrogatories from consideration as part of the summary judgment record. The court also concluded that, while in the abstract, continued repetition of racial comments of the kind plaintiff's coworker made might have led to a hostile work environment, no allegation in the record suggested that a plan was in motion to create such an environment, let alone that such an environment was even likely to occur. Plaintiff had not presented evidence such that a reasonable juror could find that her workplace was permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment and create an abusive working environment. The statements at issue were singular and isolated. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment View "Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corp." on Justia Law
United States v. Carter
Defendant appealed his conviction for possessing two firearms while being an unlawful user of and addicted to a controlled substance, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(3). Defendant argued that section 922(g)(3) infringed his right to bear arms, in violation of the Second Amendment. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court, agreeing that the government adequately demonstrated a reasonable fit between its important interest in protecting the community from gun violence and section 922(g)(3), which disarms unlawful drug users and addicts. View "United States v. Carter" on Justia Law
Freeman v. Dal-Tile Corp.
Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer, Dal-Tile, alleging claims of racial and sexual hostile work environment, constructive discharge, and common law obstruction of justice. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Dal-Tile. The court reversed the grant of summary judgment on the hostile work environment claims and remanded for further consideration because a reasonable fact-finder could find that there was an objectively hostile work environment based on both race and sex and that Dal-Tile knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to adequately respond. The court affirmed, however, the grant of summary judgment on the claims of constructive discharge and common law obstruction of justice. View "Freeman v. Dal-Tile Corp." on Justia Law