U.S. Fourth Circuit - FindLaw

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

The government cannot search extended cell phone location records without a warrant, the Fourth Circuit ruled last Wednesday. Cell phone service providers routinely collect and record cell site location information, creating detailed reports of where a phone was and when. Should the government wish to look at that information over an extended time frame -- a phone's location over a 221-day period, for example -- it must obtain a valid warrant, the Fourth ruled.

The ruling, which has been praised by privacy advocates and civil liberties groups, creates a split with several other circuit courts. As commentators note, the issue raised is primed to end up before the Supreme Court in short order.

Jail time is becoming ever more likely for former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who was convicted of public corruption charges last year. McDonnell's conviction stemmed from accepting $177,000 in loans, gifts, and other perks in exchange for promoting a friend's dietary supplements.


McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison but has remained free while he appeals the conviction. The Fourth Circuit rejected his appeal last week, bringing him one step closer to serving time.

The Washington Redskins keep getting tackled in court. The controversially-named NFL team lost another legal battle today when a federal district court ordered the cancellation of their trademark registrations, rejecting their claims that the Lanham Act was overbroad and unconstitutional.

The decision by the E.D. Va. tracked with a previous ruling by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, finding that the Redskins trademark violated the Lanham Act's prohibition on registering marks which "may disparage" others or "bring them into contempt or disrepute." So, touchdown for Native American activists who have long criticized the NFL team for using what many consider to be a racial slur as its name.

Well, I wish I'd known this earlier. Apparently, you can make a career as a treasure hunter, even in these modern times. Though it's not easy, as the Columbus-America Discovery Group learned when they went into receivership after collecting sunken treasure from the S.S. Central America. Their lawyer -- and I suppose lawyers are a type of treasure hunter as well -- moved to claim some of that gold himself as a reward for his aid in "the continuing salvage of the sunken" treasure fleet.

Sadly, the Fourth Circuit didn't find attorney Richard Robol's contribution to be as worthy as he claimed. His "contribution to the recovery" was largely what was required from him by law and his professional duties -- it was not the voluntary assistance that could afford him salvage rights, the Court found.

The South Carolina Coastal Conservation League's lawsuit to prevent the loss of freshwater marshland on the banks of the Back and Savannah Rivers can't go ahead, the Fourth Circuit ruled today. When a developer sought to flood longstanding freshwater marshes with saltwater, the environmental group argued that doing so would remove important habitat and release contaminants.

Except, after the suit was filed, the developers found that the freshwater marshes were in fact already quite salty. Saltier than the ocean water which would flood them. That rendered the League's suit moot, the Fourth Circuit found, since the injury they claimed can no longer be redressed.

Women seeking to end their pregnancies in North Carolina won't be forced to undergo a state-mandated ultra sound and scripted description of the fetus after the Supreme Court rejected the state's petition for cert Monday. Under the North Carolina law, doctors were required to conduct an ultrasound, describe the characteristics of the fetus, and recite a script before performing an abortion.

The Fourth Circuit invalidated that law in late December, 2014, finding it to be a violation of a woman's right to an abortion and her physician's free speech rights. The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case means that Fourth Circuit's opinion stands.

Richard Jesus Amos, an immigrant from the Philippines, committed a sexual crime against a minor. After he served his punishment for the crime, the Department of Homeland Security came knocking.

Since the Attorney General has the power to remove any alien "who is convicted of an aggravated felony," the immigration judge heard a strong case against Amos. As might be expected, the judge ordered Amos to be removed and denied motions for reconsideration. When the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissed Amos' appeal, he brought the case to the Fourth Circuit.

Schools in American have faced many challenges over the years. But at least they no longer have to deal with problems like racial segregation. Or, do they?

This month, the 4th Circuit Court ruled in a split decision that Pitt County Schools in North Carolina are officially desegregated. Although good news for the school district, this comes as a failure for the plaintiffs, who included African-American parents in the community.

Courts must fully resolve issues around the existence of an arbitration agreement, including conducting an evidentiary hearing if there are factual disputes, the Fourth Circuit ruled last Friday.

In a case involving online payday loans, a district court ruled that several banks had failed to meet their burden in showing the existence of an arbitration agreement. When the banks provided further evidence, the court refused to reconsider, finding the issue was already decided. That was wrong, according to the Fourth, who ruled that the court must determine whether arbitration was required.

Citizens of Wake County will be able to go ahead in their challenge to North Carolina's gerrymandered Board of Education election districts, following a ruling by the Fourth Circuit yesterday.

After a regular, time-based redistricting saw the County school board elections swept by a Democratic majority, the state's Republican legislature redrew the voting map, resulting in sizable population differences between districts, each of which elect a single board member. Thirteen Wake County citizens sued, arguing that the gerrymandering violated the principle of "one person, one vote."