4th Circuit Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Fourth Circuit
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Maryland's Assault Weapon Ban Deserves Strict Scrutiny, 4th Cir. Rules

In a 2-1 decision, the Fourth Circuit vacated a ruling by a Maryland district court which held that the Firearms Safety Act of 2013 was constitutional under the erroneously applied standard of intermediate review. The case, Kolbe v. Hogan, has been sent back to the lower district court for another round under the more exacting strict scrutiny standard.

This practically ensures that the portion of the law banning assault weapons and large capacity magazines will be found unconstitutional. Compare this result to the recently decided Highland Park decision in the Second Circuit. NRA-ILA and other interested groups have been celebrating the Fourth Circuit's decision.

Cops Get Immunity After Tasing Man Suffering Mental Illness

The Fourth Circuit's Court of Appeals laid down clear law in ruling that the police may only use their tasers against persons who pose an "immediate safety risk."

Unfortunately, this law came a little too late for Ronald Armstrong, a mentally ill man who was accidentally killed by police who'd hoped the "excruciating pain" would produce a desired effect of "compliance."

"Drop and give me 14 push-ups! Or 30, if you're a dude." That, in essence, is the gender-based difference in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's physical fitness exam for special agent trainees. Men must be able to complete 30 push-ups to pass the physical exam; women are required to hit just 14.

And that's perfectly fine, the Fourth Circuit ruled on Monday, after a male trainee who was just one push-up short of 30 sued, arguing the test illegally discriminated on the basis of sex.

Officers Can't Lie About a Search Warrant: No 'Good Faith' Exception

The Fourth Circuit's Court of Appeals drew a line in the sand for the Fourth Amendment unreasonable search by declaring that a "good-faith" motivation to protect a witness does not pass the good faith search warrant exceptions under the Exclusionary Rule Doctrine.

Let this be the case that stands for the rule of thumb: "white lies" can taint searches.

Murder-for-Hire Case Ends Badly When Witnesses Fail to Show Up

In a murder-for-hire case that has all the hallmarks of a mafia series, the Fourth Circuit affirmed a lower district court's ruling by denying a petition for review of habeas and essentially affirmed a contested application of the doctrine under AEDPA.

The opinion is long, but the facts of this case are worth it.

ACLU Appeals School's Bathroom Ban on Transgender Student

The ACLU has filed an appeal to the Fourth Circuit in a case involving Gavin Grimm, a transgender student who has sought to overturn a ban against his use of the boys' bathroom at his school. The Gloucester County Public Schools (GCPS) in Virginia put into practice a rule that has the effect of keeping Grimm out of the boys' bathroom, even though he identifies as male.

The ACLU has described the practice as a discriminatory bathroom policy, and has also claimed that the policy is in violation of Equal Protection and Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972.

Women seeking to end their pregnancies in North Carolina won't be forced to undergo a state-mandated ultra sound and scripted description of the fetus after the Supreme Court rejected the state's petition for cert Monday. Under the North Carolina law, doctors were required to conduct an ultrasound, describe the characteristics of the fetus, and recite a script before performing an abortion.

The Fourth Circuit invalidated that law in late December, 2014, finding it to be a violation of a woman's right to an abortion and her physician's free speech rights. The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case means that Fourth Circuit's opinion stands.

Citizens of Wake County will be able to go ahead in their challenge to North Carolina's gerrymandered Board of Education election districts, following a ruling by the Fourth Circuit yesterday.

After a regular, time-based redistricting saw the County school board elections swept by a Democratic majority, the state's Republican legislature redrew the voting map, resulting in sizable population differences between districts, each of which elect a single board member. Thirteen Wake County citizens sued, arguing that the gerrymandering violated the principle of "one person, one vote."

The repeated use of a racial slur in an isolated incident can create a hostile work environment, the Fourth Circuit ruled en banc earlier this month. While the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that outlying incidents of discriminatory language or actions often do not create an hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; at the same time, the Court has emphasized that some instances, when sufficiently severe, can alone create such a violation.

The Fourth Circuit is one of the first courts of appeals to find that a single incidents of racially discriminatory language can create be sufficient enough to violate the Civil Rights Act. Further, the court found that employees who report those isolated incidents of harassment are protected from retaliation.

4th Cir. Permits Class Certification for Workers at Nucor Plant

The ghost of Wal-Mart v. Dukes rides again in this class action case from the Fourth Circuit. The plaintiffs are black South Carolina steel workers alleging racial discrimination.

At this point in the litigation, the Fourth Circuit wasn't even dealing with the merits of the case. As with Wal-Mart, the operative question is whether the steel workers have formed a coherent class. Unlike the ultimate disposition of Wal-Mart, however, the Fourth Circuit held that the workers at Nucor Steel had formed a class.