U.S. Fourth Circuit - FindLaw

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


There may not be another court to turn to for relief, but two-time Pulitzer Prize winner James Risen still won't back down in a fight to force him to turn over his confidential sources for his 2006 book, "State of War," which contained confidential CIA secrets regarding Iran's nuclear program.

The Fourth Circuit ruled against Risen last year, holding that Branzburg v. Hayes controlled and that there was no reporter's privilege that would keep a reporter off the stand during grand jury proceedings. It was a terrible outcome for press freedom, but as we noted before, it was a precedent required by precedent: The Supreme Court stated in Branzburg it could not "seriously entertain the notion that the First Amendment protects a newsman's agreement to conceal the criminal conduct of his source, or evidence thereof ..."

Only the Supreme Court could have changed that precedent, and it declined to take the case earlier this year. Legally, the battle ended there, but Risen, and his supporters, are still not backing down.

The big news of the week in the Mid-Atlantic region is that the Fourth Circuit has declined to issue a stay pending appeal in Bostic, the same-sex marriage case out of Virginia. For those who were comatose over the past few weeks, a three-judge panel ruled against the state's ban on gay marriages.

The county clerks who are defending the law have filed an appeal with the Supreme Court and want the panel's decision put on hold pending that appeal. Even Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who declined to defend the law, asked for a stay, as even a brief period of legalized gay marriage, as we saw in Utah, leads to confusion regarding the status of those marriages and the extension of benefits to same-sex spouses.

The high-powered world of international espionage can lead to laser beams, women who can kill you with their thighs, and henchmen with metal teeth.

Or it can lead you to the Fourth Circuit Court Appeals, arguing over jurisdiction. Albert R. Broccoli presents ... "Dual Proceedings."

The Bob and Maureen McDonnell indictment was fun reading, but so far, the trial is even more entertaining. Why? A novel defense theory. A passed-up plea bargain. And a major public spectacle that could last for weeks.

So goes the trial of the former Virginia governor and his wife, accused of taking gifts from Johnnie Williams, a nutritional supplement manufacturer, in exchange for favors and "official acts."

Here are three of the highlights, so far:

The Bostic same-sex marriage decision was huge, and not just for Virginians. All across the Fourth Circuit, cases were on hold pending the resolution of that case. And now, with a decision in, states are reacting differently, with some promising to fight on and others declining to fight what they see as a losing battle.

And even in Virginia itself, the decision isn't completely final. Local county clerks, who are defending the state's ban, are pressing forward with their defense of the ban, adding another gay marriage case to the U.S. Supreme Court's cert. pool.

It was barely a few months' time before a nominee was put forward to fill Senior Judge Andre Davis' seat. At the time, we were shocked; considering the number of vacancies nationwide, some of which were many years old, a vacancy being filled this quickly was basically a modern miracle.

Pamela Harris was the nominee. And only a few months later, she is now confirmed. Welcome to the Fourth Circuit, Judge Harris!

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

Gay marriage is now 24-0, undefeated in courts since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Windsor barely more than a year ago. The Fourth Circuit, applying strict scrutiny, held today that none of Virginia's arguments could justify discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples.

"We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws," Judge Henry Floyd wrote for the majority of the Fourth Circuit panel in Bostic v. Schaefer.

"The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual's life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance."

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

Seriously, when was the last time you saw a circuit split happen in a matter of hours? The law nerd inside of me is quivering right now, I tell you!

The D.C. Circuit read a statute, 36B, which provides tax credits (subsidies, in essence) to qualifying low-income individuals who purchase plans though an "Exchange established by the State." To them, that text is pretty clear -- state exchanges are eligible for subsidies, while the federal Heathcare.gov exchange is not. It came to the decision "reluctantly," of course, as it notes that if its holding stands, Obamacare will collapse absent legislative intervention. We have more on the D.C. Circuit opinion, and the end of the world as we know it, in our D.C. Circuit coverage.

But wait, there's more: the Fourth Circuit (and a dissenting D.C. Circuit judge) came to a contrary conclusion. How?

Happy Wednesday. We're still waiting on Bostic.

But that's not all that's happening in the Fourth Circuit. There's been a rule change regarding the number of briefs one must file with the court. (Oooh!) And the North Carolina "Choose Life" license plate dispute is headed to the Supreme Court -- they hope. (Aaahhh!) But Family Dollar, the losers in a class action certification dispute, won't be, after the Supreme Court quietly denied certiorari before heading on summer vacation. (Gasp!)

Read on for the roundup ...

Boy meets girl. Both are teens. He, however, is seventeen. She, like the Taylor Swift song, is only fifteen.

Somebody in Prince William County, Virginia, however, is not a fan of teenage love (or lust). Now, because the young man did what lots of young people do with their smartphones, and responded to his former girlfriend's photos with a video of his penis, he's facing two felony child porn charges and the possibility of being a registered sex offender.

It gets worse: Prosecutors are so eager to prosecute the boy for photographing his own penis, that they not only took photos of his penis when he was arrested, but also have obtained a search warrant to take a photograph of his erect penis at a later date for comparison sake.