4th Circuit Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Fourth Circuit
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Transgender Teen Case to Be Heard in Court, 4th Cir. Rules

Gavin Grimm, the transgender teen at the heart of the bathroom controversy in North Carolina, successfully convinced the Fourth Circuit that his case should be heard in court.

Human rights groups have reacted approvingly to the decision, but North Carolina appears not to have moved and House Bill 2 in North Carolina appears to be moving forward despite some calls to repeal it.

Rehabilitation Act Case Affirmed Against Disabled Child by 4th Circuit

Another circuit case involving student bullying was affirmed in favor of the defending education board. Why is it that despite the circumstances of some of these plaintiffs, it so difficult for them to get relief?

The answer is a complex one, and it generally hinges on a SCOTUS case Davis v. Monroe County Board of Ed.

No Qualified Immunity for Cop Who Tased Without Reason

The Fourth Circuit reviewed yet another taser case last Thursday and again found that a cop who went overboard with tasing should not enjoy qualified immunity protection for his actions.

As always, the court went through a thorough and belabored discussion of the appropriateness of qualified immunity. But even without the rigorous judicial analysis, it should be clear to anyone that repeatedly zapping someone on the ground who isn't trying to flee is going to mean legal trouble.

The Fourth Circuit reversed a criminal conviction last week because the defendant's lawyer snoozed through a significant portion of the trial. Nicholas Ragin had been convicted by a federal jury in Charlotte, North Carolina, and sentenced to 30 years for his involvement in prostitution and drug rings. But his lawyer, Nikita Mackey, napped through several parts of his trial.

The attorney's somnolence was so bad, the Fourth Circuit ruled, that Ragin did not need to show that he was actually prejudiced. So lawyers, before your next big trial, please get some sleep.

The Fourth Circuit will reconsider a controversial ruling that found a fundamental right to own assault weapons, the court announced last Friday. Just one month ago, a divided Fourth Circuit panel ruled that the possession of firearms was a "fundamental right" under the Second Amendment. As such, laws impinging on that right, here, a Maryland ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines, must be reviewed under a standard of strict scrutiny.

The ruling was a win for gun rights advocates, but a departure from the conclusions of other circuits. Now, that conclusion is in question as the Fourth prepares to rehear the case en banc.

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.