U.S. Fourth Circuit - FindLaw

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


The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a case about a controversial North Carolina abortion law yesterday. The Woman's Right to Know Act requires a doctor providing an abortion to give the patient an ultrasound at least four hours before an abortion and requires the doctor to show the woman the fetus on the ultrasound display and describe the fetus. The woman doesn't have to watch or listen, but the doctor is required to go through with the charade even if she doesn't.

The Virginia Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in a new type of Yelp case. By now, we're familiar with the defamation and the SLAPPs and the non-disparagement agreements and the not-technically-extortion-but-sounds-like-it.

Well, Yelp v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning is different. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning wanted to sue the authors of critical reviews posted about it on Yelp. This in itself isn't new; businesses have been trying for years to use lawsuits to get critical reviews off Yelp, though it usually doesn't work because the reviews are not only opinions, but because lawsuits can't be used in states that have anti-SLAPP laws.

Being a sex offender is probably a crime of moral turpitude, right? What about the acting of failing to register as a sex offender? The U.S. government thought so; that's why it initiated deportation proceedings against Khalid Mohamed, a citizen of Sudan. Mohamed was convicted of sexual battery in 2010, and in 2011, he failed to register as a sex offender. Finding these to be a conviction for "two or more crimes involving moral turpitude," the government said he had to go, and the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wasn't so convinced. It ordered Mohamed released on September 29, and provided the reasoning for its order in an opinion released October 17.

Within days of each other, two federal district courts in North Carolina have ruled on issues related to the state's ban on same-sex marriage. On October 10, Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. said that, per the Fourth Circuit's opinion in Bostic v. Schaefer, the matter was settled as far as he was concerned. The state law was plainly unconstitutional:

The issue before this court is neither a political issue nor a moral issue. It is a legal issue and it is clear as a matter of what is now settled law in the Fourth Circuit that North Carolina laws prohibiting same sex marriage, refusing to recognize same sex marriages originating elsewhere, and/or threating [sic] to penalize those who would solemnize such marriages, are unconstitutional.

We quipped that the Tenth Circuit's two SCOTUS-bound cases were the most boring you'd hear all year long. Apparently, we were wrong. Meet the case that has twin issues: a "first to file" limit on related qui tam actions, as well as a six-year-statute of limitations that bars claims ... except maybe, when we're in wartime. Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Carter is not a case you'll want to read before operating heavy machinery.

Fortunately, the final case in the Fourth Circuit's four-pack is Whitfield v. U.S., an attempted bank robbery case that includes a botched indictment, a lady who was frightened to death, and a wee bit of statutory interpretation. The second case, folks, is fascinating.

Our "SCOTUS Week" coverage continues with the Fourth Circuit, where the Court has granted certiorari in four cases, with a massive amount of petitions still pending, according to CertPool's tracker. And while some of those pending petitions are likely grants and will be among the most heavily watched of the Court's cases (we're thinking King v. Burwell, the Obamacare subsidies case specifically), today we're looking at the birds in hand, not the ones in the bush.

What've we got? How about a bank robber, alleged fraud on the government, pregnancy discrimination, and a state-sanctioned monopoly on teeth whitening.

One day after the U.S. Supreme Court neutered Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act -- i.e., one day after the preclearance requirement for changes to voting laws in jurisdictions with a history of voter suppression efforts was nullified by that decision -- North Carolina passed House Bill 589.

The bill made a number of significant changes to the way North Carolina voter registration and elections are handled, including eliminating same-day voter registration, the counting of ballots cast in the wrong precinct, the reduction of early voting days, and a voter ID requirement, among others. Multiple lawsuits challenging the bill came just as quickly, but while there seems to be significant questions about the legality of the bill, which rolls back a number of voting procedures originally instituted to increase minority voting, the district court declined to block the changes for this November's election.

Today, after an expedited appeal, the Fourth Circuit released its decision in the case, affirming in part, and reversing in part, the district court's denial of an injunction.

"The story of the conflict between Chevron and the residents of the Lago Agrio region of the Ecuadorian Amazon must be among the most extensively told in the history of the American federal judiciary," begins the Fourth Circuit's opinion in yet another chapter of the litigation.

This time, the case is captioned Chevron v. Aaron Page.

Will this be the basis of David Simon's next big hit?

James Owens was set free in 2008, after serving two decades in prison. This week, the Fourth Circuit reinstated his lawsuit over the false conviction, which he says was obtained via the police department and state's attorneys' withholding of exculpatory evidence.

Now, the detectives on the case, who served as inspiration for characters in Simon's first big hit (NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street") as well as his most critically acclaimed masterpiece (HBO's "The Wire"), will be defendants in his lawsuit, along with the Baltimore Police Department and the prosecutor.

Happy Friday! We know, you're not in the mood to read dense case law right now -- you want something lighter. In fact, you're reading this blog for just that purpose.

We've got your back. Here are three quick, local updates from Fourth Circuit cases, including oral arguments in a prison contraband smuggling sentence appeal, an interesting note on amici in the Supreme Court's UPS pregnancy discrimination case (originally out of the Fourth Circuit), and a federal judge in West Virginia's decision to stay out of the gay marriage controversy until the Supreme Court steps in.