Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Company Doe filed suit to enjoin the Commission from publishing in its online, publicly accessible database a "report of harm" that attributed the death of an infant to a product manufactured and sold by Company Doe. Consumer Groups filed a post-judgment motion to intervene for the purpose of appealing the district court's sealing order as well as its decision to allow Company Doe to proceed under a pseudonym. The court held that Consumer Groups' notice of appeal deprived the district court of jurisdiction to entertain Consumer Groups' motion to intervene, and, therefore, the court vacated the district court's order denying intervention; Consumer Groups were able to seek appellate review of the district court's orders because they met the requirements for nonparty appellate standing and have independent Article III standing to challenge the orders; and, on the merits, the district court's sealing order violated the public's right of access under the First Amendment and the district court abused its discretion in allowing Company Doe to litigate pseudonymously. Accordingly, the court vacated in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions. View "Company Doe v. Public Citizen" on Justia Law

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The EEOC filed suit alleging that an employee retirement benefit plan maintained by the County discriminated against employees in the protected age group of 40 years of age and older, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621-634, by requiring them to pay high contribution rates than those paid by younger employees. In this interlocutory appeal, the court held that the district court correctly determined that the County's plan violated the ADEA, because the plan's employee contribution rates were determined by age, rather than by a permissible factor. The court also concluded that the ADEA's "safe harbor provision" applicable to early retirement benefit plans did not shield the County from liability for the alleged discrimination. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's award of summary judgment on the issue of liability and remanded for consideration of damages. View "EEOC v. Baltimore County, Maryland" on Justia Law

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Carnell, a "minority-owned" corporation, filed suit against the Housing Authority and Blaine based on claims of race discrimination, retaliation, and breach of contract. The court held that a corporation can acquire a racial identity and establish standing to seek a remedy for alleged race discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d, but that the district court properly dismissed one of the defendants from liability on plaintiff's race discrimination claims; the district court abused its discretion in permitting the use of particular impeachment evidence, which should have been excluded as unfairly prejudicial under Federal Rule of Evidence 403; and the district court properly reduced certain damages awarded to plaintiff on its contract claims, but decided that the strict notice requirements of the Virginia Public Procurement Act, Virginia Code 2.2-4300 through 4377, required the court to narrow further the scope of recoverable contract damages. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Carnell Construction Corp. v. Danville RHA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants, companies that contracted with the government to provide certain services at military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, contending that they suffered harm as a result of the contractors' waste disposal and water treatment practices. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' state tort and contract claims prior to discovery, holding that the claims were nonjusticiable, the contractors were immune from suit, and federal law preempted the state tort laws underlying plaintiffs' claims. Because the district court lacked the information necessary to dismiss plaintiffs' claims on these bases, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Metzgar v. KBR, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging his arrests for refusing to obey Officer Early's repeated orders to confine his leafleting to the area designated for protest activities outside the First Mariner Arena in Baltimore. The designated protest area was defined by a written policy of the City and the BCPD. The court held that the policy was facially valid under the First Amendment as a reasonable time, place, and manner restriction. The court found that the district court committed no reversible error as to plaintiff's remaining claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants. View "Ross v. Early" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs raised an as-applied challenge to North Carolina's May 17 petition-filing deadline for the formation of new political parties. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiffs' Rule 50(d) motion where discovery was not necessary to determine the constitutionality of the deadline. Balancing the character and magnitude of the burdens imposed against the extent to which the regulations advanced the state's interests, the court found that North Carolina's choice of May 17 as the operative deadline outweighed the modest burden imposed on plaintiffs. Therefore, the court held that the May 17 petition-filing deadline was constitutional as applied to plaintiffs. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Pisano v. Strach" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against police officers, the County, and the City after officers assaulted them outside of a nightclub. The court affirmed the district court's post-trial determination that plaintiffs' complaint sufficiently stated a cause of action for bystander liability under 42 U.S.C. 1983. In doing so, however, the court vacated and remanded the district court's summary judgment ruling to the opposite effect. The only defendant that the reversal of this issue impacted was Officer Lowery because he was the only defendant against whom the section 1983 count survived dismissal. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Officer Adey on the excessive force and battery counts with respect to all plaintiffs and the grant of summary judgment to Officer Lowery in his alleged role as a principal actor on the section 1983 count with respect to Plaintiffs Howard and Barnett. Because Officer Adey was not liable for either the battery or the excessive force counts as to any of plaintiffs, the County was also not liable under the Maryland constitutional count on the theory of vicarious liability. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiffs' Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend the ruling on summary judgment. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions. View "Stevenson v. City of Seat Pleasant, MD" on Justia Law

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After the City initiated a "quick take" proceeding to take the property of Clear Sky Car Wash, Clear Sky filed suit to challenge the City's actions. Clear Sky alleged that the City's conduct violated the mandatory real property acquisition policies set forth in the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (URA), 42 U.S.C. 4651, which were applicable to state agencies when, as here, federal funds were involved. The district court granted the City's motion to dismiss. The court affirmed, concluding that section 4651 did not create enforceable rights. Therefore, Clear Sky lacked any basis for a private action to remedy violations under the URA. Further, 42 U.S.C. 1983 did not give Clear Sky enforceable rights to file suit. The court rejected Clear Sky's argument that it had an Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq., claim against the USDOT to require it to enforce the policies of section 4651. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Clear Sky Car Wash LLC v. City of Chesapeake, VA" on Justia Law

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North Carolina's House Bill 289 authorized the state's Division of Motor Vehicles to issue, among other specialty license plates, a "Choose Life" plate. However, this law authorized no pro-choice specialty license plate. North Carolina vehicle owners who wanted a pro-choice specialty plate, along with the ACLU, filed suit challenging the statute. North Carolina argued that it could so discriminate because specialty plate messages constituted pure government speech free from First Amendment viewpoint-neutrality constraints. The court concluded that, because the specialty plate speech at issue implicated private speech rights and was not pure government speech, North Carolina's authorizing a "Choose Life" plate while refusing to authorize a pro-choice plate constituted viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment and a permanent injunction in favor of the vehicle owners and the ACLU. View "American Civil Liberties Union v. Tata" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a state prisoner housed at Red Onion State Prison (ROSP), filed suit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000 cc et seq., and 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging ROSP's 2010 Ramadan policy. ROSP had devised a new eligibility policy for 2010 where, in addition to signing up to participate in Ramadan, inmates had to provide some physical indicia of Islamic faith. The court vacated the district court's summary judgment order granting defendants qualified immunity on plaintiff's claims for monetary relief where defendants have failed to establish as a matter of law that the 2010 Ramadan policy, as applied to plaintiff, did not violate his First Amendment rights and where their alleged actions violated plaintiff's clearly established rights; vacated the district court's decision that the prison's abandonment of the policy mooted the claims for equitable relief where defendants failed to meet their "heavy burden" of establishing that it was "absolutely clear" that the 2010 Ramadan policy would not be reinstated; and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wall v. Wade" on Justia Law