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


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.

Assistant Prosecutor Loses Political Firing Case

Keri Borzilleri, a former prosecutor, picked a loser.

She was campaigning for her boss, the incumbent for Baltimore's chief city attorney, but voters chose the opposition candidate. The new top prosecutor fired her four days later.

Borzilleri sued, but alas, her case was also a loser. As political purges go, in Borzilleri v. Mosby, it was business as usual.

Following suit with Judge Derrick Watson out of the Federal District Court in Hawaii, Judge Theodore Chuang, in the Federal District Court in Maryland, has issued a preliminary injunction against President Trump's newest "Muslim ban." Presidential Proclamation 9645 has been enjoined from being enforced against the Muslim majority countries.

The written opinion of the court goes to great lengths to explain the history of the executive action, and it chronicles President Trump's public and official statements on the issue. Reading the opinion of Judge Chuang, one can't hardly escape the feeling that they're reading the old childhood story of the boy who cried wolf, as the court relies upon many of the past statements made by President Trump to untangle and translate the true purpose, rather than the stated purpose, behind the proclamation.

Last-Minute Filing Rocks the Boat in Maritime Case

This case is about ships passing in the night, or at least pleadings just missing each other in a maritime case.

Dr. Amr Fawzy sued a boat manufacturer for selling him a defective yacht. Just before the court filed an order dismissing his case, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint.

Fawzy appealed the dismissal, but the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal because the amended complaint was the operative pleading.

The Fourth Circuit's ruling striking down President Trump's second travel ban, EO 13,780, was vacated by the Supreme Court this week. In issuing this ruling, it was ordered that the challenge to the injunction be remanded to the Fourth Circuit Court and dismissed as moot. The High Court explained that because the EO's September 24 expiration date had passed, the appeal no longer presented a live case or controversy, and as such, was moot.

Interestingly though, Justice Sonya Sotomayor dissented. In short, she disagreed with vacating and remanding with instructions to dismiss as moot. Rather, Justice Sotomayor asserts that the High Court should have dismissed the writ of certiorari as "improvidently granted."

Kim Dotcom, the owner of now defunct Megaupload.com, which used to be one of the biggest websites in the world, had his assets seized after the site was shut down by U.S. authorities. After an appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was unsuccessful, Dotcom made a plea to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the High Court just refused to even hear the case.

Kim Dotcom was not born with that unusually modern last name, but rather changed it from Schmitz in 2005. As a teen, Dotcom was known for being a hacker and even was convicted over stolen phone calling cards. However, he founded Megaupload in 2005 and quickly became an internet success.

What may prove to be, at the very least, a legally fascinating case, will be sent up to SCOTUS for review. The Rowan County prayer case involves a county council that starts each one of its public sessions with a prayer.

The lawsuit was brought by three Rowan county citizens who do not think prayer should be part of the public meetings. Initially, a federal court ruled the prayer was unconstitutional, but a three judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and reversed. But after a rehearing en banc, the appellate court changed their minds and agreed with the district court.

Not accepting of its fate, the Rowan County Commission announced this week that it has decided to file an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Dylann Roof's Racist Request for New Counsel Denied

Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church, has not gotten any brighter in prison -- whiter, maybe.

In appealing his convictions, he sought to fire his court-appointed lawyers because they aren't white. But that was yesterday's news; the court denied his request 24 hours later.

"The court denies the motion for substitution of counsel on appeal," the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said.

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.