U.S. Fourth Circuit - FindLaw

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


Within days of each other, two federal district courts in North Carolina have ruled on issues related to the state's ban on same-sex marriage. On October 10, Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. said that, per the Fourth Circuit's opinion in Bostic v. Schaefer, the matter was settled as far as he was concerned. The state law was plainly unconstitutional:

The issue before this court is neither a political issue nor a moral issue. It is a legal issue and it is clear as a matter of what is now settled law in the Fourth Circuit that North Carolina laws prohibiting same sex marriage, refusing to recognize same sex marriages originating elsewhere, and/or threating [sic] to penalize those who would solemnize such marriages, are unconstitutional.

We quipped that the Tenth Circuit's two SCOTUS-bound cases were the most boring you'd hear all year long. Apparently, we were wrong. Meet the case that has twin issues: a "first to file" limit on related qui tam actions, as well as a six-year-statute of limitations that bars claims ... except maybe, when we're in wartime. Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Carter is not a case you'll want to read before operating heavy machinery.

Fortunately, the final case in the Fourth Circuit's four-pack is Whitfield v. U.S., an attempted bank robbery case that includes a botched indictment, a lady who was frightened to death, and a wee bit of statutory interpretation. The second case, folks, is fascinating.

Our "SCOTUS Week" coverage continues with the Fourth Circuit, where the Court has granted certiorari in four cases, with a massive amount of petitions still pending, according to CertPool's tracker. And while some of those pending petitions are likely grants and will be among the most heavily watched of the Court's cases (we're thinking King v. Burwell, the Obamacare subsidies case specifically), today we're looking at the birds in hand, not the ones in the bush.

What've we got? How about a bank robber, alleged fraud on the government, pregnancy discrimination, and a state-sanctioned monopoly on teeth whitening.

One day after the U.S. Supreme Court neutered Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act -- i.e., one day after the preclearance requirement for changes to voting laws in jurisdictions with a history of voter suppression efforts was nullified by that decision -- North Carolina passed House Bill 589.

The bill made a number of significant changes to the way North Carolina voter registration and elections are handled, including eliminating same-day voter registration, the counting of ballots cast in the wrong precinct, the reduction of early voting days, and a voter ID requirement, among others. Multiple lawsuits challenging the bill came just as quickly, but while there seems to be significant questions about the legality of the bill, which rolls back a number of voting procedures originally instituted to increase minority voting, the district court declined to block the changes for this November's election.

Today, after an expedited appeal, the Fourth Circuit released its decision in the case, affirming in part, and reversing in part, the district court's denial of an injunction.

"The story of the conflict between Chevron and the residents of the Lago Agrio region of the Ecuadorian Amazon must be among the most extensively told in the history of the American federal judiciary," begins the Fourth Circuit's opinion in yet another chapter of the litigation.

This time, the case is captioned Chevron v. Aaron Page.

Will this be the basis of David Simon's next big hit?

James Owens was set free in 2008, after serving two decades in prison. This week, the Fourth Circuit reinstated his lawsuit over the false conviction, which he says was obtained via the police department and state's attorneys' withholding of exculpatory evidence.

Now, the detectives on the case, who served as inspiration for characters in Simon's first big hit (NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street") as well as his most critically acclaimed masterpiece (HBO's "The Wire"), will be defendants in his lawsuit, along with the Baltimore Police Department and the prosecutor.

Happy Friday! We know, you're not in the mood to read dense case law right now -- you want something lighter. In fact, you're reading this blog for just that purpose.

We've got your back. Here are three quick, local updates from Fourth Circuit cases, including oral arguments in a prison contraband smuggling sentence appeal, an interesting note on amici in the Supreme Court's UPS pregnancy discrimination case (originally out of the Fourth Circuit), and a federal judge in West Virginia's decision to stay out of the gay marriage controversy until the Supreme Court steps in.

There's that old joke, right? The "you know what they do to guys like that in prison" truism.

Well, David Karl Danser, who was convicted of sexually abusing his 9-year-old daughter, then taking photographs and sharing them with others, was put in the SHU (Special Housing Unit, aka protective custody) at a minimum security prison. SHU inmates are given the choice of outdoor recreation in 10-by-10-foot cages, usually with another inmate or two. Inmates are screened against separation orders, which are based on past conflict and probability of a violent encounter.

There were no red flags between Danser and his attacker. Yet, he ended up in the hospital with broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, punctured lungs, and a few other assorted injuries after a guard broke protocol and left him and the other inmates unattended. Sounds suspicious, right? But fortunately for the prison staff, qualified immunity applies.

Set your clocks folks: An appeal of a denied injunction that would block all or most of North Carolina's new voting laws, including voter ID provisions and restricted early voting times, is set for September 25, less than two weeks from now, reports NC Policy Watch.

The appeal comes from a district court judge's denial of the plaintiffs' request to block House Bill 589 (the "monster voting bill"). Judge Thomas D. Schroeder, in a 125-page decision, held that the plaintiffs were unable to show a substantial likelihood of success and irreparable harm, largely because fewer people vote in mid-term elections.

Crucially, Judge Schroeder didn't dismiss the case altogether, which means the challenge can go forward regardless of the Fourth Circuit's ruling -- this dispute only applies to blocking the laws from applying to this year's November election.

After days of deliberation, the verdict is in: Both Gov. Bob McDonnell and wife Maureen McDonnell have been found guilty of multiple charges.

What were the charges? Each faced 14 in total. The couple faced 13 charges in common, including wire fraud, conspiracy, and false statements, while each faced a single separate charge -- false statements for Bob McDonnell and obstruction for Maureen McDonnell, reports Washington's WAMU Radio.

Out of the 14 counts each, Bob was found guilty of 11 counts, while Maureen was convicted on nine counts.