U.S. Fourth Circuit - FindLaw

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


It was barely a few months' time before a nominee was put forward to fill Senior Judge Andre Davis' seat. At the time, we were shocked; considering the number of vacancies nationwide, some of which were many years old, a vacancy being filled this quickly was basically a modern miracle.

Pamela Harris was the nominee. And only a few months later, she is now confirmed. Welcome to the Fourth Circuit, Judge Harris!

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

Gay marriage is now 24-0, undefeated in courts since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Windsor barely more than a year ago. The Fourth Circuit, applying strict scrutiny, held today that none of Virginia's arguments could justify discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples.

"We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws," Judge Henry Floyd wrote for the majority of the Fourth Circuit panel in Bostic v. Schaefer.

"The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual's life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance."

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

Seriously, when was the last time you saw a circuit split happen in a matter of hours? The law nerd inside of me is quivering right now, I tell you!

The D.C. Circuit read a statute, 36B, which provides tax credits (subsidies, in essence) to qualifying low-income individuals who purchase plans though an "Exchange established by the State." To them, that text is pretty clear -- state exchanges are eligible for subsidies, while the federal Heathcare.gov exchange is not. It came to the decision "reluctantly," of course, as it notes that if its holding stands, Obamacare will collapse absent legislative intervention. We have more on the D.C. Circuit opinion, and the end of the world as we know it, in our D.C. Circuit coverage.

But wait, there's more: the Fourth Circuit (and a dissenting D.C. Circuit judge) came to a contrary conclusion. How?

Happy Wednesday. We're still waiting on Bostic.

But that's not all that's happening in the Fourth Circuit. There's been a rule change regarding the number of briefs one must file with the court. (Oooh!) And the North Carolina "Choose Life" license plate dispute is headed to the Supreme Court -- they hope. (Aaahhh!) But Family Dollar, the losers in a class action certification dispute, won't be, after the Supreme Court quietly denied certiorari before heading on summer vacation. (Gasp!)

Read on for the roundup ...

Boy meets girl. Both are teens. He, however, is seventeen. She, like the Taylor Swift song, is only fifteen.

Somebody in Prince William County, Virginia, however, is not a fan of teenage love (or lust). Now, because the young man did what lots of young people do with their smartphones, and responded to his former girlfriend's photos with a video of his penis, he's facing two felony child porn charges and the possibility of being a registered sex offender.

It gets worse: Prosecutors are so eager to prosecute the boy for photographing his own penis, that they not only took photos of his penis when he was arrested, but also have obtained a search warrant to take a photograph of his erect penis at a later date for comparison sake.

Note to future lawyers. Here are things you don't do in a deposition, held in an expensive foreign locale, such as Italy: coach witnesses, tell them how to answer questions, or walk out and cancel all remaining depositions without a really good reason.

Such "totally inappropriate" conduct is "deserving of sanctions."

How much in sanctions? Close to a million dollars, with attorneys' fees and expenses included. The original order, however, ordered sanctions against the plaintiffs, not their attorney. After the district court clarified via Rule 60(a), the lawyer's lawyer missed the deadline to appeal.

Lawyer gets stuck with a $1,000,000 tab. Lawyer's lawyer gets a malpractice suit.

Attorney-client? Sure.

Doctor-patient? No problem.

Parent-child? Nice try.

Police respond to a domestic violence call at the Doe household, where they find a pretty sizeable collection of firearms and marijuana plants. The government suspects that Poppa Doe is the owner of these objects, but since others have traipsed through the premises, they need someone to testify. Momma Doe clams up, claiming privilege, as does college-aged Doe Jr. -- and the district court somehow agrees.

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

It's been less than a month since the Fourth Circuit heard oral arguments in Bostic, the gay marriage appeal, and the panel's decision can't come fast enough. Of course, even once that arrives, there will inevitably be an en banc petition, and then, perhaps an appeal to the Supreme Court, if one of the other circuit courts' cases doesn't arrive first.

The importance of the decision can't be understated -- the Fourth Circuit panel, and perhaps an en banc panel, will determine the fate of marriage throughout Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and North and South Carolina. (Indeed, the district courts in West Virginia, and in North Carolina, put those cases on hold pending the Bostic decision.)

With so much at stake, you might be curious: who's deciding the case?

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

Armed Career Criminal Act sentence enhancements: three strikes (and a gun) and you're in prison for a long, long time.

It's not a complicated concept: if you have prior violent felonies or drug-related offenses, and you're caught with a gun or ammo, you're eligible for a sentence enhancement. The question, as always, is this: what violent felonies count?

We've seen confusion over North Carolina's vague sentencing scheme. We've seen prison breaks count as well. The Supreme Court even addressed whether foreign convictions count. And now? The Fourth Circuit addressed whether convictions in a military courts-martial count.

It's not a matter of mandates versus taxes. Nor is it a religious challenge. This time, it's about Obamacare/Affordable Care Act subsidies, the ones that make healthcare affordable to low-income individuals.

We've noted the general premise of these lawsuits repeatedly: the text of the statute appears to support the notion that unless a state forms its own healthcare exchange, no subsidies were supposed to be available. The IRS took a different view and reinterpreted the statute, making subsidies available to everyone, regardless of whether the person used a federal or state exchange.

The stakes are high: no subsidy, no insurance purchases. No purchases, no mandates, per the terms of the statute. No mandates and no demand, no Obamacare.