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Deported Witness Didn't Matter in Green Card Sting and Conviction

A federal appeals court refused to set aside the convictions of a Chinese man who blamed the government for deporting his main witness in a green card sting.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal said the jury had enough evidence to convict him even though his witness hadn't testified. Moreover, the court said Kaixiang Zhu was responsible for his own predicament in United States of America v. Zhu.

"Indeed, Zhu is in this particular fix because of his own decision to flee arrest and live as a fugitive in another part of the country for more than two years," the court said in the per curiam opinion. "We doubt the government is required to keep a removable alien in the country indefinitely on the off chance that a fugitive from justice is discovered in the distant future and needs the alien as a trial witness."

Game of War is one of the most popular, most addicting games this side of Farmville. A "freemium" mobile game, Game of War allows you to build a pixilated empire, constructing cities, building armies, raiding neighbors.

But it was also an unlawful "gaming device," according to one putative class action. The game allows users to spin a virtual wheel for virtual prizes in a virtual casino. That feature, the suit alleged, violated Maryland gambling laws. But the suit was recently tossed by the Fourth Circuit, which found that the plaintiff hadn't lost money playing the game, and thus had nothing to recover.

Probationer Waived Psychotherapist-Patient Privilege in Sex Offender Treatment

A federal appeals court ruled that a Virginia man waived the psychotherapist-patient privilege in a sex offender treatment program when he agreed to probation.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals also said the defendant voluntarily made statements in the program that waived his privilege against self-incrimination in the case, United States of America v. Lara. The appeals court affirmed rulings by a trial judge, who concluded Juan Elias Lara waived his privileges when he chose to participate in the program as part of his probation.

"Based on the record before us, we conclude that Lara knowingly agreed to disclosure of his treatment records when he signed the form in the state court proceedings acknowledging the terms of his supervised probation," Judge Barbara Milano Keenan wrote for the unanimous panel.

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.

Ford Design Defect Verdict Overturned

Reversing a $3 million verdict for a driver who was injured when his car's accelerator jammed and smashed into a brick wall, a federal appeals court said the plaintiff's expert was not qualified to testify about the accelerator.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said that the expert should not have been allowed to testify because he had not published or given scholarly support for his opinion. The appellate panel said the trial judge had "abandoned his gatekeeping duties" and should have excluded the expert's testimony.

"The fact that an expert witness was 'subject to a thorough and extensive examination' does not ensure the reliability of the expert's testimony; such testimony must still be assessed before it is presented to the jury," the court said.

Things got a little better for parties seeking to recover attorney's fees in the Fourth Circuit this week. On Tuesday, the Fourth ruled that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(d), which seeks to deter forum shopping and "vexatious" lawsuits, allows courts to award attorney's fees, but with limits.

Some courts have fully rejected the idea that Rule 41(d) entitles parties to recover attorney's fees, while others have awarded them almost as a matter of right. The Fourth Circuit's decision places it firmly between these two extremes, allowing recovery of fees only where the underlying statute defines costs to include attorney's fees, or where plaintiffs had acted in bad faith and vexatiously.

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.

The Fourth Circuit just tossed a conviction of a man who photographed himself and a 7-year-old girl having sex, the Associated Press reported.

Now before readers take up pitch-forks and torches, it should be noted that the circuit did nothing more than review whether or not the lower court applied the law correctly.

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.

Schools in American have faced many challenges over the years. But at least they no longer have to deal with problems like racial segregation. Or, do they?

This month, the 4th Circuit Court ruled in a split decision that Pitt County Schools in North Carolina are officially desegregated. Although good news for the school district, this comes as a failure for the plaintiffs, who included African-American parents in the community.