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

August 2013 Archives

Restriction on Shady Election Night Robocall Not Unconstitutional

Robocalls restrictions are constitutional because, seriously, who likes robocalls?

Okay, that isn't exactly the court's holding, but it is pretty close. This open-and-shut case was originally disposed of with a per curiam unpublished opinion, which is probably where it belongs.

But when the intervenor-United States asks to publish, you publish.

As for the case itself, a couple of political consultants, working for 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate (and former governor) Robert L. Ehrlich's campaign, sent out a spam robocall to a whole bunch of Democratic voters on election day. The calls name-dropped POTUS and lead the recipients to believe that the Democrat had won (and thereby, possibly, steering a few away from the polls):

U.S. Attorney's Office Gets Called Out for Ethics Violations

Gregory Bartko, a lawyer-turned-convict just had his convictions upheld by the Fourth Circuit, and he may be the least interesting thing discussed in his appellate case. Despite Brady and Giglio violations by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, the evidence against him was too convincing for even ethics to stand in the way of his 23-year prison sentence.

For the U.S. Attorney's Office, however, their repeated mistakes or misbehavior drew the attention of the Fourth Circuit. Whether the ethics violations draw additional scrutiny, and cost jobs or bar licenses, remains to be seen.

4th's Mistake Gives Free Pass to Prison Guard's Excessive Force

Thanks to the Fourth Circuit's mistake in 1994, Demetrius Hill, who was allegedly assaulted (though not severely injured) by Corrections Officer William Crum, will be unable to bring a Bivens suit, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision to the contrary.

According to Hill, in 2007, his cellmate broke the sprinkler in his cell. After the cellmate was removed in hand restraints, Hill, also in restraints, was punched in the abdomen and ribs, and was elbowed in the head, by C.O. Crum, who shouted, "Break another sprinkler, I'll break your neck." On the way out of the cell, Crum knocked Hill's head against the gate.

Dist. Court Dismisses Duke Lacrosse Lawsuit Against Nifong Aide

If you thought the federal case resulting from the malicious prosecution of the Duke Lacrosse team was over with last year's Fourth Circuit defeat, well, you're close. It's near-dead, and now even nearer with last week's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James Beaty, Jr.

According to the Herald Sun, the district court dismissed claims by 38 lacrosse players against an investigator, Linwood Wilson, formerly employed by now-disbarred and forever disgraced former District Attorney Mike Nifong. The ruling should come as no surprise to these players: their attorney conceded that the plain language of last year's Fourth Circuit ruling foreclosed their federal claims.

Strong Hurricane Season Coming; Prep Yourself, Your Practice

All it takes is one bad hurricane for it to be a "bad" hurricane season. Nonetheless, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, this upcoming season could be "more active than normal" and perhaps "very active."

Why? The short answer is because meteorologists said so. The long answer involves warmer than normal Atlantic sea surface temperatures and a strong rainy season in West Africa. Altogether, the season could see 13 to 19 tropical storms, six to nine of which could become hurricanes.

Three to five of those storms are expected to be major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or more.

SCOTUS Rejects Cuccinelli's Stay Request on Va. Sodomy Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied Virginia gubernatorial candidate and state attorney general Ken Cuccinelli's request for a stay of the Fourth Circuit ruling that struck down Virginia's anti-sodomy law as unconstitutional.

Cuccinelli had recently filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the Court to stay the Fourth Circuit's decision while justices decide whether to hear the appeal.

AG Cuccinelli is a fan of the anti-sodomy law, and is fighting to uphold it.

Can't Stop Illegal Immigrants For No Reason

She was eating a sandwich while sitting on a curb, waiting for her shift to start. Roxanna Orellana Santos was eating a freaking sandwich.

Meanwhile, two astute officers, patrolling for wretched criminals, stopped her and asked her for her identification. She initially told them that she lacked an ID, but later found a copy of her El Salvadorian national ID. She was then detained, on the curb, while the officers checked for, and found, a civil immigration warrant that called for her immediate deportation.

The Risen Media Shield Denial Was Correct, Legally

Like it or not, the law regarding media shields, or reporters' privilege, has been mostly settled, at the federal level, since 1972. In Branzburg v. Hayes, the Supreme Court ruled that reporters cannot invoke the First Amendment as justification for refusing to testify before a grand jury. Many states have taken steps to enact media shield laws, but on a federal level, Branzburg is clear.

For James Risen, that means he'll have to either testify, or sit in a jail cell for contempt. He'll have to break his promise of confidentiality to his source, and by extension, harm his ability to gather sources in the future, or he'll be imprisoned. Both outcomes will likely have a chilling effect on his future reporting.