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

April 2014 Archives

Updates: SSM Oral Arguments Extended to 1 Hour; Lavabit Denied

We have a couple of updates on ongoing Fourth Circuit litigation for you today.

In the Virginia same-sex marriage battle, oral arguments have been extended to an hour, rather than the typical 30 minutes, to account for the intervening parties.

And last week, the Fourth Circuit denied relief to Lavabit, the private email service that was held in contempt for failing to comply with a court order. The secure email service chose to shut down rather than comply with an order that would have violated its users' privacy. Then the company turned its eyes toward the courts, hoping that the Fourth Circuit would nix the order. Unfortunately, procedural gaffes doomed the company's claims.

Court Can't Seal Case to Protect Accused Company

What do you think of when you hear the name GM? If you've been watching news, you're thinking faulty ignition switches and rolling death traps, even though only thirty-four cars, out of millions recalled, have actually crashed as a result of recalled switches.

Of course, that defect is real. In the case of Company Doe, the report of an allegedly unsafe product, which was linked to a child's death, was labeled "materially inaccurate" by a Maryland federal judge in 2012. He then sealed the case files, hoping to avoid unfairly damaging the company's reputation by releasing the report.

Noble intentions, but with constitutional implications, it seems. The Fourth Circuit yesterday reversed the trial court's ruling and ordered all case files unsealed and unredacted, though likely appeals mean that the public won't hear much about Company Doe or the allegedly defective product any time soon.

Same-Sex Marriage: N.C. Case Held for 4th, but ACLU Argues Urgency

Last week, we reported that a parallel challenge to Virginia's gay marriage ban was being put on hold pending the Fourth Circuit's decision in Bostic v. Schaefer. The Bostic case was the first to be decided, and once the Fourth Circuit issues a ruling, will bind the rest of the state, as well as the rest of the circuit.

It's unsurprising news, then, that a district court in North Carolina appears to be holding a challenge to that state's barely three-year-old ban on gay marriage until after the Fourth Circuit rules. The American Civil Liberties Union, however, is suing to speed up the process, arguing that their clients' health issues make urgency a must.

2nd Va. Marriage Case Put on Hold; Bostic Briefing Begins

Parallel challenges to Virginia's ban on gay marriage have, for all practical purposes, been consolidated, with Bostic v. Schaefer being the caption to watch over the next few months.

The last time we checked in on Virginia's same-sex marriage battle, the parties from a pending distirct court case, Harris v. Rainey, were seeking to intervene in the Bostic case, over the objections of the plaintiffs in that case. The request was granted, and the Harris plaintiffs will have their day at the Fourth Circuit a bit earlier than expected.

That also means that their day in district court will be delayed, per an order from Judge Michael Urbanski of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Meantime, the briefing in the Bostic case has already begun, with two county clerks submitting their opening briefs in defense of Virginia's law.