U.S. Fourth Circuit - FindLaw

U.S. Fourth Circuit - The FindLaw 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog


This is an early contender for a Supreme Court case -- assuming, of course, one of the parallel cases in a burgeoning circuit split doesn't make it onto the High Court's docket first.

The facts are relatively unremarkable: Aaron Graham and Eric Jordan were convicted of robbery after prosecutors used a court order -- not a warrant -- to obtain historical cell phone tower location data tied to their phones. This same scenario has played out twice before in appeals cases -- in the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits -- with mixed results.

How is it looking for these two defendants? There was no clear indication from the oral arguments, with the judges expressing concerns over both the government's and defendants' positions.

A landmark Second Amendment case is making its way through the Fourth Circuit, and once again, the state behind the restrictive law is Maryland. Two years ago, it was concealed carry. This year, the issue is the assault weapons ban and magazine capacity limit that went into effect courtesy of the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, a gun control law passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

As you might expect, the case has drawn attention from outside interest groups and amicus groups from all across the United States.

It's extremely hard these days to get indictments against corporate officers for corporate wrongdoing, but the feds managed it in the case of Donald Blankenship, the former chief executive of Massey Energy, one of the country's largest coal mining companies.

Blankenship was indicted on federal conspiracy and false statement charges for allegedly covering up mine safety violations that led to an explosion, killing 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia four years ago. Now, though, a federal court has imposed a gag order on the whole thing.

When Cristina Cruz left the Philippines to come to the United States, she thought she was getting a great opportunity. A friend told her that she could work for Nilda Maypa, a World Bank employee. So Cruz got the job and came to the United States. Her employment contract seemed solid: $6.50 an hour, 35 to 40 hours a week, plus medical insurance.

What she got was entirely different. Maypa paid her $250 a month -- that's a little over $8 a day -- required her to work 17 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, cook, clean, take care of the kids, clean the pool, mow the lawn ... and on and on.

There must have been some degree of pearl-clutching from gay marriage opponents on Tuesday, as the Fourth Circuit denied South Carolina's request to stay last week's federal ruling against the state's gay marriage ban.

When U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel had struck down the Palmetto State's prohibition on gay marriage, he placed on automatic stay on the ruling that's set to expire November 20. For those keeping score at home, that's tomorrow, and it appears that the Fourth Circuit isn't going to step in before gay marriages begin.

But is the Fourth Circuit the last word on South Carolina's same-sex marriage ban?

This was already one of the most ridiculous criminal cases to ever come out of Virginia, and now, it has spawned an equally ridiculous civil lawsuit.

Regular readers might recall the case from earlier this year, where Virginia police obtained a warrant to bring a teen to a hospital and photographed his erect penis, using an injection to induce the erection if necessary. The ridiculous warrant was part of an equally ridiculous prosecution of a 17-year-old kid who sent a picture of his penis to his 15-year-old girlfriend. Both send nude pics, but only he was charged.

So that makes how many now? Notwithstanding what the Sixth Circuit thinks, Judge Richard Gergel of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina has come to the now-unsurprising conclusion that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

In a referendum approved by 78 percent of voters, South Carolina amended its constitution in 2006 to prevent the state from recognizing any marriage other than that between one man and one woman. Gergel's order makes his the 52nd court to strike same-sex marriage bans since U.S. v. Windsor, according to Freedom to Marry.

What's an international custody dispute doing at the Fourth Circuit? Quite a lot. Mark and Daniela Smedley got married in Germany in 2000. Mark was a member of the U.S. Army. They had two kids, in 2000 and 2005, and continued to live in Germany until Mark got transferred to North Carolina. Daniela and the kids came along.

"At this point, the parties' stories diverge," said the court, putting it mildly. If you believe Daniela, she was already unhappy when they lived in Germany. She got homesick for Germany and told Mark she was going back to live there permanently, and she was taking the kids. He said okey-dokey-sure. They agreed she would take a month to reconsider, so she bought round-trip tickets; if she decided to stay, Mark would try to move there, too.

In 2009, U.S. citizen Gulet Mohamed went to the Middle East to study Arabic. He visited to several countries, including Yemen and Somalia. Then he moved to Kuwait. In 2010, he tried to renew his visitor's visa but was instead handcuffed, blindfolded, and held in detention for a week while being tortured.

And you thought renewing your driver's license was hard.

Kuwaiti officials tried to deport him, but it turned out that Mohamed's name was on a No-Fly List, so he can't return to the United States. While being held incommunicado in Kuwait, he was interrogated by FBI agents, who threatened more interrogation and criminal charges if he didn't speak to them.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a case about a controversial North Carolina abortion law yesterday. The Woman's Right to Know Act requires a doctor providing an abortion to give the patient an ultrasound at least four hours before an abortion and requires the doctor to show the woman the fetus on the ultrasound display and describe the fetus. The woman doesn't have to watch or listen, but the doctor is required to go through with the charade even if she doesn't.