U.S. Fourth Circuit - FindLaw

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


The saga of disgraced former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell came to some kind of resolution today as he was sentenced to two years in prison, less than what prosecutors wanted.

McDonnell and his wife Maureen were charged last year with public corruption for taking $177,000 in gifts while McDonnell was governor. The trial turned from a simple bribery case into a sideshow that placed the McDonnell's allegedly troubled marriage in the spotlight.

In 2013, the theme in the Fourth Circuit was guns: concealed carry, criminal penalties for carrying, etc.

This year? It's all about Virginia: a corrupt governor, malicious prosecution, and penile photography by police officers and prosecutors.

For 2014, here are your Top 10 most popular posts from the Fourth Circuit, folks:

On Monday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals became the first federal appellate court to overturn a state's "informed consent" law for abortions. These laws require physicians to recite a state-mandated script before performing an abortion.

In the case of North Carolina, physicians were required to conduct an ultrasound, point out to the patient the fetus and any visible body parts, and advise the patient on alternatives to abortion. All of this, said the Fourth Circuit in stark, uncompromising language, went way too far.

This is an early contender for a Supreme Court case -- assuming, of course, one of the parallel cases in a burgeoning circuit split doesn't make it onto the High Court's docket first.

The facts are relatively unremarkable: Aaron Graham and Eric Jordan were convicted of robbery after prosecutors used a court order -- not a warrant -- to obtain historical cell phone tower location data tied to their phones. This same scenario has played out twice before in appeals cases -- in the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits -- with mixed results.

How is it looking for these two defendants? There was no clear indication from the oral arguments, with the judges expressing concerns over both the government's and defendants' positions.

A landmark Second Amendment case is making its way through the Fourth Circuit, and once again, the state behind the restrictive law is Maryland. Two years ago, it was concealed carry. This year, the issue is the assault weapons ban and magazine capacity limit that went into effect courtesy of the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, a gun control law passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

As you might expect, the case has drawn attention from outside interest groups and amicus groups from all across the United States.

It's extremely hard these days to get indictments against corporate officers for corporate wrongdoing, but the feds managed it in the case of Donald Blankenship, the former chief executive of Massey Energy, one of the country's largest coal mining companies.

Blankenship was indicted on federal conspiracy and false statement charges for allegedly covering up mine safety violations that led to an explosion, killing 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia four years ago. Now, though, a federal court has imposed a gag order on the whole thing.

When Cristina Cruz left the Philippines to come to the United States, she thought she was getting a great opportunity. A friend told her that she could work for Nilda Maypa, a World Bank employee. So Cruz got the job and came to the United States. Her employment contract seemed solid: $6.50 an hour, 35 to 40 hours a week, plus medical insurance.

What she got was entirely different. Maypa paid her $250 a month -- that's a little over $8 a day -- required her to work 17 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, cook, clean, take care of the kids, clean the pool, mow the lawn ... and on and on.

There must have been some degree of pearl-clutching from gay marriage opponents on Tuesday, as the Fourth Circuit denied South Carolina's request to stay last week's federal ruling against the state's gay marriage ban.

When U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel had struck down the Palmetto State's prohibition on gay marriage, he placed on automatic stay on the ruling that's set to expire November 20. For those keeping score at home, that's tomorrow, and it appears that the Fourth Circuit isn't going to step in before gay marriages begin.

But is the Fourth Circuit the last word on South Carolina's same-sex marriage ban?

This was already one of the most ridiculous criminal cases to ever come out of Virginia, and now, it has spawned an equally ridiculous civil lawsuit.

Regular readers might recall the case from earlier this year, where Virginia police obtained a warrant to bring a teen to a hospital and photographed his erect penis, using an injection to induce the erection if necessary. The ridiculous warrant was part of an equally ridiculous prosecution of a 17-year-old kid who sent a picture of his penis to his 15-year-old girlfriend. Both send nude pics, but only he was charged.

So that makes how many now? Notwithstanding what the Sixth Circuit thinks, Judge Richard Gergel of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina has come to the now-unsurprising conclusion that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

In a referendum approved by 78 percent of voters, South Carolina amended its constitution in 2006 to prevent the state from recognizing any marriage other than that between one man and one woman. Gergel's order makes his the 52nd court to strike same-sex marriage bans since U.S. v. Windsor, according to Freedom to Marry.