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


Endangered Species Act Protects Zoo Animals From Disruptive Treatment

Pacing around concrete pits at the Cherokee Bear Zoo, four bears begged for food from visitors.

Patrons obliged, throwing apples and dry bread supplied by the zoo. Two visitors, however, walked away disgusted.

Peggy Hill and Amy Walker, members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, sued for inhumane treatment of the endangered animals. A court decision in the case should cause zoo keepers to re-evaluate their practices.

Homeless Man Gets $ 2.3 Million Judgment Reinstated for Wrongful Arrest, Jailing

Marlow Humbert was homeless, but not anymore.

After Baltimore police wrongly arrested and jailed him for more than a year, a jury awarded him $2.3 million in damages against the city police for constitutional violations. A federal appeals court reinstated the judgment in Humbert v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore.

"[T]he Officers caused legal process to be instituted and maintained against him without probable cause to believe that he committed a crime," the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said.

Gavin Grimm's Transgender Bathroom Case May Be Moot: Trial Court to Decide

In a transgender case of intense interest, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said the trial court should decide whether it is moot.

Gavin Grimm, a transgender student, sued his county school board for the right to use the boys' bathroom when he was a sophomore. He has since graduated, and the school board says now it is a moot point.

The appeals court sent the case, Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, back to resolve that issue.

Rushing Cockpit Not Always a Crime of Violence

It's funny how sometimes your fate can turn on a word.

David Patrick Diaz, who madly yelled "jihad" as he rushed towards the cockpit on a commercial flight, pleaded guilty to interfering with the crew. He was ordered to pay $22,151.77 in restitution because the flight and its passengers had to return to the airport.

But the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the order in United States of America v. Diaz, saying flight crew interference is not always a crime of violence. The decision, as it turned out, was based in part on the word "and."

Court Splits on Government Prayer Debate

You may govern or you may pray, but not both at the same time.

That's about as much direction as the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals gave on government prayers in Rowan County, North Carolina. In Voelker v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the appeals court said county commissioners violated the Constitution by giving prayers and inviting audiences to join in.

On the other hand, the judges acknowledged the "more inclusive, ministered-oriented practice" was legal.

Circuit Court Affirms Immunity in False Arrest

Jan Eshow was driving his family along a Virginia road when police pulled him over for speeding.

Moments later, the police arrested Eshow on a warrant from a fraud case that had been filed against him. They handcuffed the man, placed him in the cop car and drove off while his family watched. It got even worse for his wife, Sadwa Safar.

The problem was, the fraud charges were not true. Safar and Eshow sued the officer and a prosecutor, but a federal appeals court said in Safar v. Tingle that they were immune from civil liability.

Wikimedia Wins Round Against NSA

Wikimedia may continue its case against the National Security Agency for allegedly spying on users' internet communications, a federal appeals court said.

Reversing a trial court decision in Wikimedia Foundation v. National Security Agency, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said the non-profit organization has standing to sue the agency for violating Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful searches. The court rejected the government's argument that Wikimedia's claims were speculative and said the foundation had alleged enough damages.

"[T]here's nothing speculative about it -- the interception of Wikimedia's communications is an actual injury that has already occurred," Judge Albert Diaz wrote.

4th Circuit Rules Against Trump's 2nd Travel Ban

A federal appeals court rebuked President Trump's latest travel ban against people from Muslim-majority countries, saying the executive order "drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination."

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said the First Amendment forbids government from establishing "any religious orthodoxy, or favor or disfavor one religion over another." In ruling on International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, the appeals court affirmed a federal judge's issuance of a nationwide preliminary injunction against the controversial executive order.

"Congress granted the President with broad power to deny entry to aliens, but that power is not absolute," Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote for the divided court. "It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the President wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across the nation."

Court: Anti-Gay Attacks Not Hate Crimes

The West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that anti-gay attacks are not hate crimes under state law.

Affirming a lower court decision, the high court said the legislature did not include "sexual orientation" in defining people protected from hate crimes. In a 3-2 decision, the judges said the court would not re-write the definition of "sex" in the West Virginia Code.

"Through application of the presumption that the Legislature said in West Virginia Code § 61-6-21(b) what it meant and meant what it said, and based upon the common and plain meaning of the word 'sex,' as well as the Legislature's clear intent, we are left with the ineluctable conclusion that the word 'sex' does not include 'sexual orientation'," Chief Justice Allen Loughry II wrote in State of West Virginia v. Butler.

No Failure to Warn of Transvaginal Mesh Danger, 4th Circuit Rules

A federal appeals court affirmed a summary judgment against a woman who sued a manufacturer for failure to warn about the dangers of a transvaginal mesh implant.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said Martha Carlson provided no evidence that she or her doctor knew of the manufacturer's allegedly inadequate warning about the mesh. In Carlson v. Boston Scientific Corporation, the court said she did not even prove the doctor would have read it.

"Appellant woefully failed to meet her burden of production in opposition to summary judgment to establish a triable issue of fact as to proximate cause," the court said.