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

April 2015 Archives

4th Cir. Reverses Guilty Plea; Judge Too Involved in Negotiations

Plea agreements are supposed to be negotiations between prosecutors and the defendant, in which the parties (who have equal bargaining power, of course) come to an understanding enforceable by the court as a contract.

Normally, the court isn't supposed to get involved in plea negotiations; it's just supposed to make sure a plea is knowing and voluntary. Yesterday, though, a panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a plea agreement after finding that the district court stuck its nose a little too far into the matter.

Yelp Doesn't Have to Turn Over Reviewers' Identities

Back in October, the Virginia Supreme Court held oral arguments in a case about the limits of anonymous speech. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning wanted to sue the authors of several anonymous Yelp reviews, claiming that had never even been to the business.

The state appellate could said Yelp had to turn over the identities of the reviewers, but last week, the Virginia Supreme Court said no dice to the disclosure -- though not for the fun reasons.

Judge Roger Gregory is the first African American judge to sit on the Fourth Circuit. He's also the only judge we know to have ever been appointed to the same judicial seat by two separate presidents.

Aside from these distinctions, Gregory is also known for authoring the Fourth Circuit's opinion in King v. Burwell, which upheld the Affordable Care Act's subsidies. That opinion, coming from a court once described as "the most aggressively conservative federal appeals court in the nation," helped maintain a central piece of Obamacare -- a piece that is currently before the Supreme Court.

Security Services of America is not liable for damages caused by its security guard who burned down a subdivision he was charged with protecting, the Fourth Circuit ruled last Friday. A state law, the Maryland Security Guard Act, did not expand the company's liability beyond traditional doctrines of respondeat superior.

Aaron Speed was working as a security guard with SSA when he and several accomplices committed one of the largest arsons in Maryland history, burning down 10 under-construction houses and damaging 16 others. The racially motivated arson, committed in 2004, caused $10 million in damage. Speed had been hired by SSA to guard the construction site.

Where to Stay, Where to Eat, What to Do in the Fourth

If you're arguing before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (or just stopping by on your federal circuit tour of the United States), you're going to end up at the Lewis F. Powell Jr. courthouse in downtown Richmond, Virginia.

You might only be there for a day or two, but that doesn't mean you can't avail yourself of the things Richmond has to offer.

The District Court of South Carolina can't avoid hearing a dispute over who is the proper leader of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the Fourth Circuit held on Tuesday. The unusual case pitted two rival Bishops, the Reverend Mark J. Lawrence and the Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg, against each other, with each claiming that they were the rightful leader of the church and thus entitled to use its trademarks.

The controversy, like all great religious disputes, stems from a schism in the Church. The conservative Diocese of South Carolina split from the more liberal Episcopal leadership over the national denomination's increasing acceptance of gay and lesbian church members. At stake are not just the souls of Southern Episcopalians, but also $500 million in church property and the right to Church trademarks.