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

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A lawsuit that reads like some sort of edge-of-your-seat political thriller has just been dismissed by the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia. Plaintiff, Sharyl Attkisson, a former CBS News investigative reporter, claimed that she was subject to unlawful wiretapping for over a year.

Raising massive credibility questions, the plaintiff's claim asserted that the wiretapping was initiated by the Obama administration after she published stories critical of the federal government. She specifically named high level officials, including Eric Holder and Postmaster Ron Donahue, as defendants.

What may prove to be, at the very least, a legally fascinating case, will be sent up to SCOTUS for review. The Rowan County prayer case involves a county council that starts each one of its public sessions with a prayer.

The lawsuit was brought by three Rowan county citizens who do not think prayer should be part of the public meetings. Initially, a federal court ruled the prayer was unconstitutional, but a three judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and reversed. But after a rehearing en banc, the appellate court changed their minds and agreed with the district court.

Not accepting of its fate, the Rowan County Commission announced this week that it has decided to file an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Homeless Man Gets $ 2.3 Million Judgment Reinstated for Wrongful Arrest, Jailing

Marlow Humbert was homeless, but not anymore.

After Baltimore police wrongly arrested and jailed him for more than a year, a jury awarded him $2.3 million in damages against the city police for constitutional violations. A federal appeals court reinstated the judgment in Humbert v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore.

"[T]he Officers caused legal process to be instituted and maintained against him without probable cause to believe that he committed a crime," the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said.

Gavin Grimm's Transgender Bathroom Case May Be Moot: Trial Court to Decide

In a transgender case of intense interest, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said the trial court should decide whether it is moot.

Gavin Grimm, a transgender student, sued his county school board for the right to use the boys' bathroom when he was a sophomore. He has since graduated, and the school board says now it is a moot point.

The appeals court sent the case, Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, back to resolve that issue.

Court Splits on Government Prayer Debate

You may govern or you may pray, but not both at the same time.

That's about as much direction as the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals gave on government prayers in Rowan County, North Carolina. In Voelker v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the appeals court said county commissioners violated the Constitution by giving prayers and inviting audiences to join in.

On the other hand, the judges acknowledged the "more inclusive, ministered-oriented practice" was legal.

President Trump's revised travel ban was blocked by federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii less than a month ago, when both courts ruled that the executive order, which halted travel and immigration from six majority-Muslim nations, likely violated the Establishment Clause.

Now, the Fourth Circuit has agreed to hear the initial appeal from the Maryland court's ruling en banc, bypassing the typical three-judge panel altogether.

Gavin Grimm just wanted to use the bathroom, but he ended up become the face of transgender civil rights. Grimm, a transgender student in Virginia, sued his school board after it refused to allow him to use the bathroom that matched his gender identity. He won a landmark victory in the Fourth Circuit and was on his way to the Supreme Court when the Trump administration repealed protections for students like Grimm, essentially ending his case.

Now Grimm's legal battle (and his high school years) are winding down. But even though his lawsuit didn't result in a conclusive victory, Grimm remains a civil rights hero, according to judges on the Fourth Circuit.

In determining the constitutionality of President Trump's travel ban executive order, courts shouldn't look back to Trump's statements as a candidate, the Department of Justice says. District courts in Maryland and Hawaii blocked Trump's newest travel ban two weeks ago, finding it to be likely unconstitutional. Both judges relied significantly on the president's public statements when doing so.

In a brief filed with the Fourth Circuit last Friday, the DOJ argues that the travel ban does not discriminate on the basis of religion, despite Trump's calls for a "Muslim ban" during his presidential campaign. Considering such statements would be impermissible "second-guessing" of the president's stated purpose, the brief argues.

The Supreme Court this morning vacated and remanded a Fourth Circuit ruling in favor of Gavin Grimm, a transgender Virginia student who had sought to use the boy's room at his high school. The Fourth ruled last April that courts must defer to Department of Education guidance on the issue, guidance that interpreted Title IX as requiring transgender students to be treated in accordance to their gender identity, even when it came to bathrooms.

But the Trump administration has since rescinded that guidance, leading the Supreme Court to toss the Fourth's ruling and send the issue back to the lower courts.

An en banc Fourth Circuit upheld Maryland's 2013 Firearm Safety Act on Tuesday. That law, passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting that left 20 first graders dead, banned assault weapons and high capacity magazines -- the very type of weapons common in mass shootings.

But the Fourth didn't just rule that the law withstood scrutiny under the Second Amendment. It ruled that the targeted weapons are not protected by the Second Amendment at all.