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

June 2014 Archives

Lawyer Rule 60'd Into Sanctions; Other Firm Escapes Malpractice

Note to future lawyers. Here are things you don't do in a deposition, held in an expensive foreign locale, such as Italy: coach witnesses, tell them how to answer questions, or walk out and cancel all remaining depositions without a really good reason.

Such "totally inappropriate" conduct is "deserving of sanctions."

How much in sanctions? Close to a million dollars, with attorneys' fees and expenses included. The original order, however, ordered sanctions against the plaintiffs, not their attorney. After the district court clarified via Rule 60(a), the lawyer's lawyer missed the deadline to appeal.

Lawyer gets stuck with a $1,000,000 tab. Lawyer's lawyer gets a malpractice suit.

Parent-Child Privilege? Not So Much

Attorney-client? Sure.

Doctor-patient? No problem.

Parent-child? Nice try.

Police respond to a domestic violence call at the Doe household, where they find a pretty sizeable collection of firearms and marijuana plants. The government suspects that Poppa Doe is the owner of these objects, but since others have traipsed through the premises, they need someone to testify. Momma Doe clams up, claiming privilege, as does college-aged Doe Jr. -- and the district court somehow agrees.

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Marriage Equality: W. Va. Paused, 4th's Political Leanings

It's been less than a month since the Fourth Circuit heard oral arguments in Bostic, the gay marriage appeal, and the panel's decision can't come fast enough. Of course, even once that arrives, there will inevitably be an en banc petition, and then, perhaps an appeal to the Supreme Court, if one of the other circuit courts' cases doesn't arrive first.

The importance of the decision can't be understated -- the Fourth Circuit panel, and perhaps an en banc panel, will determine the fate of marriage throughout Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and North and South Carolina. (Indeed, the district courts in West Virginia, and in North Carolina, put those cases on hold pending the Bostic decision.)

With so much at stake, you might be curious: who's deciding the case?

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Can Military Convictions Count as ACCA Priors?

Armed Career Criminal Act sentence enhancements: three strikes (and a gun) and you're in prison for a long, long time.

It's not a complicated concept: if you have prior violent felonies or drug-related offenses, and you're caught with a gun or ammo, you're eligible for a sentence enhancement. The question, as always, is this: what violent felonies count?

We've seen confusion over North Carolina's vague sentencing scheme. We've seen prison breaks count as well. The Supreme Court even addressed whether foreign convictions count. And now? The Fourth Circuit addressed whether convictions in a military courts-martial count.