Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's order denying the EEOC's request under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) for retroactive monetary relief from the county. The court held that retroactive monetary awards, such as the back pay sought here, were mandatory legal remedies under the ADEA upon a finding of liability. The court's conclusion was not altered by the county's contention that the EEOC unduly delayed in the investigation. Accordingly, the court remanded for a determination of the amount of back pay to which the affected employees were entitled under the ADEA. View "EEOC v. Baltimore County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging a mobile home park's policy requiring all occupants to provide documentation evidencing legal status in the United States to renew their leases as violating the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment for the mobile home park, holding that plaintiffs have made a prima facie case that the policy disparately impacted Latinos in violation of the FHA, satisfying step one of the disparate impact analysis, and that the district court therefore erred in concluding otherwise. The court also held that the district court seriously misconstrued the robust causality requirement described in Tex. Dep't of Housing & Cmty. Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., 135 S. Ct. 2507, 2513 (2015), and erroneously rejected plaintiffs' prima facie claim that the policy disparately impacted Latinos. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Giron de Reyes v. Waples Mobile Home Park LP" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions for possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine based and possession of a firearm, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress statements he made to officers during the execution of a search warrant for his residence; (2) did not abuse its discretion in admitting “other acts” evidence under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b); (3) did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to disclose the identity of a confidential informant who provided information used to obtain the search warrant; and (4) did not err in enhancing Defendant’s sentence on the basis of his prior Maryland convictions. View "United States v. Bell" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a student and two student groups behind a Free Speech Event at the University of South Carolina, filed suit alleging that University officials violated their First Amendment rights when they required one of the students to attend a meeting to discuss complaints about their event. Plaintiffs also alleged a facial challenge to the University's general policy on harassment, arguing that it was unconstitutionally vague and overly broad. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the University defendants, holding that the University neither prevented plaintiffs from holding their Free Speech Event nor sanctioned them after the fact. Plaintiffs failed to show a credible threat that the University would enforce its harassment policy against their speech in the future, and thus they lacked standing to pursue their facial attack on the policy. View "Abbott v. Pastides" on Justia Law

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Virginia's regulation of the consumption, purchase, manufacture, and sale of alcohol through a series of interconnecting provisions found in Title 4.1 of the Virginia Code did not qualify as cruel and unusual punishment because it criminalizes plaintiffs' status as homeless alcoholics and did not violate Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962). Robinson held that, although states may not criminalize status, they may criminalize actual behavior even when the individual alleges that addiction created a strong urge to engage in a particular act. In this case, it is the act of possessing alcohol—not the status of being an alcoholic—that gave rise to criminal sanctions. The interdiction statute was a preventative tool and the state could use this sort of prophylactic device to identify those at the highest risk of alcohol problems and put them on notice that subsequent behavior could be subject to punishment. The Fourth Circuit also held that the interdiction provision did not violate plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment right to due process where interdiction carried no threat of imprisonment and therefore did not result in a loss of liberty. Finally, the interdiction provision did not violate plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. The court applied rational basis review and held that the law was rationally related to Virginia's legitimate interest in discouraging alcohol abuse and its attendant risks to public safety and wellbeing. View "Manning v. Caldwell" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal, on remand, of petitioner's juror bias claim. The court held that the district court failed to recognize the applicability of Supreme Court precedent requiring a hearing in these circumstances; erected inappropriate legal barriers and faulted petitioner for not overcoming them; and ignored judicially-recognized factors in determining whether a hearing was necessary. The court also concluded that the district court erred in Porter I by dismissing petitioner's separate but related juror bias claim pursuant to McDonough Power Equipment, Inc. v. Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548 (1984). Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions for the district court to allow discovery and hold an evidentiary hearing on petitioner's two separate juror bias claims. View "Porter v. Zook" 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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Plaintiff filed suit against State's Attorney Oglesby for violations of his civil rights, and the State of Maryland under Title VII, asserting a vicarious liability claim against Maryland. The Fourth Circuit held that prosecutorial immunity barred plaintiff's claims against Oglesby where the reviewing and evaluating evidence in preparation for trial, making judgments about witness credibility, and deciding which witnesses to call and which cases may be prosecuted all were directly connected to the judicial phase of the criminal process, protected by absolute immunity. The court held, however, that no reasonable employee could believe that Oglesby violated Title VII at the trial-preparation meeting to which plaintiff objected, and thus plaintiff's allegations failed to state a claim under Title VII and should be dismissed. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, and reversed in part, and remanded. View "Savage v. Maryland" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a videographer, and his video production company, filed suit against North Carolina, alleging that plaintiff's copyrights were violated when North Carolina published video footage and a still photograph that he took of the 18th century wreck of a pirate ship that sank off the North Carolina coast. Plaintiff and his company also sought to declare unconstitutional a 2015 state law, N.C. Gen. Stat. 121-25(b), that provided that photographs and video recordings of shipwrecks in the custody of North Carolina are public records. The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss with prejudice the claims against the state officials in their individual capacities and to dismiss without prejudice the remaining claims. The court held that North Carolina did not waive its sovereign immunity when it signed the 2013 Settlement Agreement; the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act did not validly abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity; and the Ex parte Young exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity did not apply in this case. View "Allen v. Cooper" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a habeas petition based on a claim under Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154 (1994). Under Simmons, a defendant is entitled to inform the jury when the alternative to a death sentence is life in prison without parole, but only if the prosecutor puts at issue the risk that he will be a danger to society if released from prison. The court held that the state court reasonably applied Simmons to petitioner's sentence when it held that the prosecutor in his case had not argued future dangerousness in support of the death penalty. View "Warren v. Thomas" on Justia Law