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

4th Cir. Upholds Detention of Marine for Facebook Threats

Brandon Raub, a Marine, made some questionable Facebook posts in the summer of 2012. Some of his fellow Marines expressed concern and contacted the FBI. The FBI interviewed Raub, then local police obtained a temporary detention order to hospitalize him against his will. He remained in hospital for seven days.

Raub filed a civil rights complaint, which the district court dismissed due to qualified immunity. The Fourth Circuit affirmed.

Yelp Doesn't Have to Turn Over Reviewers' Identities

Back in October, the Virginia Supreme Court held oral arguments in a case about the limits of anonymous speech. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning wanted to sue the authors of several anonymous Yelp reviews, claiming that had never even been to the business.

The state appellate could said Yelp had to turn over the identities of the reviewers, but last week, the Virginia Supreme Court said no dice to the disclosure -- though not for the fun reasons.

4th Cir. Overturns Massage School's Reaccreditation

The Professional Massage Training Center, in Springfield, Missouri, became accredited by the Accreditation Alliance of Career Schools in 2005. When PMTC applied for reaccreditation in 2010, AACS denied the application.

That's a big deal: Unaccredited schools don't get access to a whole host of benefits, including the ability to accept federal student loan money. PMTC sued, and a federal district court agreed with PMTC, awarding it $400,000 in damages and reinstating the accreditation. That decision was totally wrong, said the Fourth Circuit, which reversed the reinstatement and ordering the district court to dismiss the case.

Va. County's Panhandling Ordinance Is Unconstitutional, 4th Cir. Says

A few years ago, the Ninth Circuit ruled against the City of Redondo Beach in a dispute over a city ordinance prohibiting standing in the street to solicit anything in exchange for money. The ordinance was really directed toward day laborers; Redondo Beach wanted a way to stop them from soliciting work on certain streets and tried to use a safety ordinance to do it.

Now, from the Fourth Circuit, comes a similar statute prohibiting "standing" in a county roadway to solicit funds or sell merchandise. The plaintiff in Reynolds v. Middleton is, it turns out, a homeless man who solicits donations from stopped cars. A federal district court had granted summary judgment for Henrico County, Virginia, but last week, the Fourth Circuit reversed.

4th Cir. Strikes N.C. 'Informed Consent' Abortion Script for Doctors

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.