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


The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down the Baltimore law targeting pregnancy centers. The law required these centers to post clear notices in their waiting rooms stating that actual abortion services, and referrals to abortion services, are not provided there.

In striking down the law, the appellate court affirmed the district court's conclusion that the government failed to show any actual harm resulted from delays allegedly caused by the pregnancy centers' allegedly deceptive advertising.

Despite the fact that a ruling on similar sets of facts is expected in the coming months from SCOTUS, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that North Carolina's congressional voting map had been unconstitutionally gerrymandered by the state's Republican lawmakers. In issuing the ruling in the two consolidated cases, Common Cause v. Rucho and League of Women Voters v. Rucho, the court gave the state legislature a few weeks to fix it, lest the court step in to do so.

The appellate court found, in a nearly 200 page decision, that there was an attempt to "subordinate the interests of non-Republican voters and entrench Republican domination" via the gerrymandering. Additionally, the opinion notes that the state's Republicans were "motivated by invidious partisan intent" when redrawing the state's congressional map. Clearly, the court used some strong words to suggest that partisan gerrymandering can quickly cross lines.

Posner Going Back to Court -- as an Advocate

Former Judge Richard Posner may have retired, but he definitely is not going away.

He ruled for almost 37 years at the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, then abruptly turned his attention to reforming the court system by helping pro se litigants. However, the U.S. Fourth Circuit said his "advisory counsel" services were "not needed."

But not even a federal circuit, where Posner loomed large for decades, can keep him out of the courtroom. He will be appearing in the Fourth Circuit whether the judges like it or not.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to lift the preliminary injunction blocking President Trump's Executive Order seeking to prohibit transgender individuals from serving in the military. The Stone v. Trump matter is one of a few cases the administration is fighting out over the hastily demanded ban on transgender individuals in the military.

Back in November, a Maryland federal district court granted challengers of President Trump's anti-Transgender proclamation a preliminary injunction to block the executive order from going into effect until the litigation concluded. Similarly to the anti-Muslim travel bans that President Trump struggled with, every court to touch the transgender military ban has blocked it.

In the case of Sims v. Labowitz, the Federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently overturned the lower court's dismissal of the Fourth Amendment 42 USC 1983 claim against the now deceased officer, David Abbott. However, several other claims that were also dismissed, including one against the prosecutor, were left undisturbed or unchallenged.

Qualified immunity is one of the strongest protections police officers have to defend themselves from alleged constitutional violations they commit. But when obvious lines are crossed, even the dead can be made to stand trial. The facts of this case are rather disturbing, but do provide a clear example of when an officer should absolutely know what an obvious constitutional violation looks like.

The case of Stanley Penley v. McDowell County Board of Education may not be that remarkable when it comes to fact patterns. A teacher made an insensitive comment in one of his classes directed at a student. The student's parent complained. The teacher was investigated. The investigation resulted in the teacher's termination. The teacher lost on summary judgment, and now he lost his appeal.

And, sadly for that teacher, the appellate decision isn't even remarkable for the legal principles one could learn from it. Rather, the concurrence is worthy of mention. After getting beaten to the ground on every single appellate claim, which came after getting beaten to the ground on every claim at the district court, after a long and hard fought litigation, a concurrence all but calls this action frivolous.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a rather noteworthy decision for coal miners, operators, and the attorneys that represent them. The case involved the retroactive reach of the Black Lung Benefits Act's revised definition of a mine operator.

Interestingly, due to the framework of the BLBA, the mining company bringing the appeal only sought to challenge their liability, rather than the damages award. Notably, under the BLBA, the injured worker would still be able to receive the awarded damages, even without a finding of liability against the specific company. BLBA is a form of federal worker's compensation for mine workers, so the award comes from a common fund rather than the company.

If you've ever known a public defender personally, or worked the job yourself, you probably know it's a thankless, stressful job with a heavy workload. But for the two federal public defenders representing convicted murderer Dylann Roof in his Fourth Circuit Appeal, it's that last part that's really proving to be more challenging than ever anticipated.

The pair of defenders recently filed a motion requesting an extension to the briefing schedule due to the sheer volume of the record and some other, more significant issues. Given the severity of Roof's crime, his death sentence, and the bumpy ride he put the world through by making inflammatory statements throughout the entire process, all eyes are on Roof's newest set of attorneys.

A lawsuit that reads like some sort of edge-of-your-seat political thriller has just been dismissed by the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia. Plaintiff, Sharyl Attkisson, a former CBS News investigative reporter, claimed that she was subject to unlawful wiretapping for over a year.

Raising massive credibility questions, the plaintiff's claim asserted that the wiretapping was initiated by the Obama administration after she published stories critical of the federal government. She specifically named high level officials, including Eric Holder and Postmaster Ron Donahue, as defendants.

Court: 'Peace Cross' on Public Land Is Unconstitutional

Somewhere, hippies are rolling over in their graves.

"The Peace Cross," a 40-foot monument in Maryland, has been ruled unconstitutional. A divided federal appeals court said it "has the primary effect of endorsing religion and exclusively entangles the government in religion."

It doesn't matter, the court said, that it has been there for 90 years as a memorial to men who died in World War I. Actually, the soldiers may be rolling over in their graves.