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

September 2013 Archives

4th Cir. Allows Alcohol Ads in 2 Major College Newspapers

As a former resident of the Commonwealth, I must point out one thing: Virginia is pretty uptight about liquor. You can buy beer at a gas station, but if you want hard liquor, you have to drive to your nearest state-owned Alcohol Beverage Control store. This was a foreign concept for someone moving from California.

That same "ABC" administration also apparently regulates alcohol advertising, and has prohibited the advertisement of alcohol in student-run newspapers, unless the booze is flowing from a local restaurant. Obviously, this means less revenue for the papers, leading newspapers from two of the state's largest universities, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, to bring suit.

Dyess Dissent: Rampant Misconduct, Apprendi Warrant Resentencing

Yesterday, we brought you the case of Calvin "Calcutta" Dyess, a former drug kingpin serving a life sentence after pleading guilty and getting a questionably-high sentence.

It wasn't the severity of the sentence that gave us pause, however. It was the entire process, from the investigating officer carrying on an affair with Dyess' wife (the officer and Dyess' wife were later married and divorced), coaching her testimony and suborning perjury, and procedurally, there were Apprendi (facts increasing the sentence must be alleged in the indictment) problems glossed over by the majority opinion, which upheld his life sentence.

The dissent labels this a "life sentence under troubling circumstances," which it "cannot condone."

Dyess Doomed Despite Wife's Affair With Cop, Apprendi Violation

This is an absolutely twisted, twisted case.

Calvin "Calcutta" Dyess is a former drug kingpin who pleaded guilty to drug charges in order to avoid a life sentence. He was supposed to provide material assistance as part of the deal, but apparently didn't, which ended with him receiving the lifetime bid.

During sentencing, two major snafus happened. First, and more importantly, the amount of drugs wasn't included in the indictment -- a mistake that would appear to create Apprendi problems (Apprendi was decided after Dyess' indictment, but before sentencing).

It gets worse.

Details on Lavabit Email Service's Sealed Appeal

The case may be sealed, but that hasn't stopped curious members of the tech community from mining as much information about the Lavabit appeal as possible.

The ultra-secure email service shut its doors in August after it faced surveillance requests, the specifics of which were supposed to be kept quiet per a gag order. Instead of giving the NSA unfettered access to his users' data, the company's founder Ladar Levinson chose to turn off the servers, stating that he was "forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit."

Amicus Briefs, Responses in Risen Reporter Shield Rehearing Request

Will they or won't they?

James Risen, a New York Times reporter and author, was subpoenaed to testify about the source of information in his book, State of War. Nearly everyone is certain that the source of that leak was the defendant, Jeffrey Sterling, but the government argues that Risen can provide the only direct, non-circumstantial proof of the leak.

The Fourth Circuit, back in July, refused to recognize a common law reporter's privilege that the Supreme Court has also chosen not to recognize. The majority of the panel held that the only privilege recognized to date has been in civil cases, while the dissent highlighted the policy considerations that warrant recognizing such a privilege.

Now, according to Courthouse News, Risen and Sterling are seeking an en banc rehearing, and briefs have been submitted on both sides.