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

Politicians Can't Block Voters on Official Facebook Pages

A federal appeals court said a county supervisor violated free speech rights by blocking a constituent from commenting on the official's Facebook page.

In Davison v. Randall, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said a Virginia county supervisor blocked a man from posting critical remarks about local education. Because the supervisor designated the page as official, the appeals court said, the First Amendment protected the comments.

Free speech advocates called it a "significant ruling" and a warning to politicians that they cannot just block critics on social media.

4th Circuit Sends Maryland Desegregation Case Back to Mediation

Sometimes settlements come because the participants are just worn out. That includes the judges.

You could say that's the case in The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education v. McMillan. The case -- a battle over funding for Maryland's predominantly black schools -- has been dragging on for 13 years.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the parties back to the negotiating table because the judges have seen enough.

Court Resurrects Suit Against 'Bible in School' Program

A federal appeals court revived a lawsuit against a West Virginia school district over its Bible studies program.

In Deal v. Mercer County Board of Education, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said the 30-minute and 45-minute classes marginalized a student who did not want to participate. The elementary school student was not forced to attend, but enrolled in another district over it.

The Bible studies program was also suspended, leading a trial judge to dismiss the case as moot. In reversing, the appeals panel apparently feared a second coming.

Court: Copying Confidential Files Not OK for Title VII Claims

Catherine D. Netter had an unblemished service record for nearly 20 years at the Guilford County Sheriff's Office.

Working as a prison guard, she performed faithfully until one fateful day. She received her first disciplinary sanction, but it disqualified her for a promotion.

That's when everything started going south in Netter v. Barnes. She tried to prove discrimination, and that was the beginning of the end.

Hog Farm Gag Order Went Too Far, 4th Circuit Rules

You can't make silk out of a sow's ear, but the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals did its best.

In re. Murphy-Brown, LLC, a trial judge issued a gag order in a case over conditions at hog farms. The appeals court reversed, saying judges can restrain speech only as a last resort.

The judicial panel said the order "hamstrung" the exercise of First Amendment rights.

Manafort to Be Sentenced Feb. 8

Paul Manafort's guilty plea may have put an end to one trial, but he'll have to wait until early next year to find out his fate after the big jury verdict.

On February 8, 2019, the Manafort will be back in the federal district court for his sentencing, likely again in a prison jumpsuit, as his request to be allowed to wear a suit during sentencing was denied. Legal commentators believe he will receive 7 to 10 years as a result of these charges, but may end up with a longer sentence depending on what happens in Robert Mueller's other case against him that resulted in his plea.

For game developers these days, suing YouTubers is becoming more and more of a thing.

The creators of Fortnite, the current game that the whole world seems to be going crazy over, don't seem to have any qualm with going after the Tubers that are helping other gamers cheat. It was recently reported that the company filed a lawsuit against a video game YouTuber that goes by the handle Golden Modz. Apparently, Mr. Modz wasn't just teaching people how to cheat, he sells his cheating services.

The legal complaint was filed by Epic Games in the North Carolina Federal Court.

Court Tosses Mountain Valley Pipeline Permit

A federal appeals court threw out a critical permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, sending engineers back to the drawing board.

In Sierra Club v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said the defendants could not substitute one construction standard for another to push the pipeline project.

The decision was a setback for the pipeline and a win for environmentalists, and it didn't take long. The appeals court issued its opinion four days after hearing the parties' arguments.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently heard oral arguments in Loudoun County (Virginia) Chair Phyllis Randall's request to overturn the federal district court's ruling that her blocking constituent Brian Davison violated the First Amendment.

The case, like others that have been recently decided, raises many questions about whether and when social media becomes a public forum, and what limits government officials have when it comes to censoring constituents and others on various social media platforms.

In a recent Fourth Circuit appellate argument, Judge Roger Gregory explicitly stated his skepticism over a longstanding precedent allowing eminent domain property seizures prior to landowners being compensated.

The case before the appellate panel was brought by landowners in Virginia and West Virginia who are challenging the taking to create the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-plus mile natural gas pipeline. Unfortunately for the landowners, the district court ruled that the construction could move forward and the companies involved could seize the land, before the landowners have been paid.