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

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The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down the Baltimore law targeting pregnancy centers. The law required these centers to post clear notices in their waiting rooms stating that actual abortion services, and referrals to abortion services, are not provided there.

In striking down the law, the appellate court affirmed the district court's conclusion that the government failed to show any actual harm resulted from delays allegedly caused by the pregnancy centers' allegedly deceptive advertising.

Despite the fact that a ruling on similar sets of facts is expected in the coming months from SCOTUS, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that North Carolina's congressional voting map had been unconstitutionally gerrymandered by the state's Republican lawmakers. In issuing the ruling in the two consolidated cases, Common Cause v. Rucho and League of Women Voters v. Rucho, the court gave the state legislature a few weeks to fix it, lest the court step in to do so.

The appellate court found, in a nearly 200 page decision, that there was an attempt to "subordinate the interests of non-Republican voters and entrench Republican domination" via the gerrymandering. Additionally, the opinion notes that the state's Republicans were "motivated by invidious partisan intent" when redrawing the state's congressional map. Clearly, the court used some strong words to suggest that partisan gerrymandering can quickly cross lines.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to lift the preliminary injunction blocking President Trump's Executive Order seeking to prohibit transgender individuals from serving in the military. The Stone v. Trump matter is one of a few cases the administration is fighting out over the hastily demanded ban on transgender individuals in the military.

Back in November, a Maryland federal district court granted challengers of President Trump's anti-Transgender proclamation a preliminary injunction to block the executive order from going into effect until the litigation concluded. Similarly to the anti-Muslim travel bans that President Trump struggled with, every court to touch the transgender military ban has blocked it.

In the case of Sims v. Labowitz, the Federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently overturned the lower court's dismissal of the Fourth Amendment 42 USC 1983 claim against the now deceased officer, David Abbott. However, several other claims that were also dismissed, including one against the prosecutor, were left undisturbed or unchallenged.

Qualified immunity is one of the strongest protections police officers have to defend themselves from alleged constitutional violations they commit. But when obvious lines are crossed, even the dead can be made to stand trial. The facts of this case are rather disturbing, but do provide a clear example of when an officer should absolutely know what an obvious constitutional violation looks like.

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.