4th Circuit Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Fourth Circuit
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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.

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?

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.

In 2009, U.S. citizen Gulet Mohamed went to the Middle East to study Arabic. He visited to several countries, including Yemen and Somalia. Then he moved to Kuwait. In 2010, he tried to renew his visitor's visa but was instead handcuffed, blindfolded, and held in detention for a week while being tortured.

And you thought renewing your driver's license was hard.

Kuwaiti officials tried to deport him, but it turned out that Mohamed's name was on a No-Fly List, so he can't return to the United States. While being held incommunicado in Kuwait, he was interrogated by FBI agents, who threatened more interrogation and criminal charges if he didn't speak to them.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Set your clocks folks: An appeal of a denied injunction that would block all or most of North Carolina's new voting laws, including voter ID provisions and restricted early voting times, is set for September 25, less than two weeks from now, reports NC Policy Watch.

The appeal comes from a district court judge's denial of the plaintiffs' request to block House Bill 589 (the "monster voting bill"). Judge Thomas D. Schroeder, in a 125-page decision, held that the plaintiffs were unable to show a substantial likelihood of success and irreparable harm, largely because fewer people vote in mid-term elections.

Crucially, Judge Schroeder didn't dismiss the case altogether, which means the challenge can go forward regardless of the Fourth Circuit's ruling -- this dispute only applies to blocking the laws from applying to this year's November election.