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


Veterans Appeal Burn Pits Cases Against Military Contractor

If hell is war, then it looks like the smoldering pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And more than 800 American service members are suing a company that dumped tires, batteries, medical waste and other materials into burn pits there and released toxins into the air. The survivors allege the smoke caused stomach illnesses, neurological problems, cancers and other health issues; twelve died.

A trial judge dismissed their cases last year, but their lawyers told the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that the war is not over. The question, in some quarters, is whether they have a chance at all.

Judges Knock Permit in Pipeline Controversy

A federal appeals court pushed back construction of an Atlantic Coast pipeline, but that's not stopping the main contractor on the project.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said a permit for the project was inadequate to protect environmental concerns. Plaintiffs' lawyers say all work must stop, but the lead developer is pushing forward.

In the meantime, the appeals court said it will address the particulars of the construction soon. For now, the permit and the order are problems.

Controversial Gas Pipeline Cases Heard by 4th Circuit

The Sierra Club filed two lawsuits to stop a gas pipeline, and they converged in arguments at the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In one case, the club says the 303-mile pipeline will violate the Clean Water Act. In the other, the plaintiff argues that construction will harm forest aminals.

But the arguments flowed together over a basic consequence of river water -- sedimentation.

Baltimore's State Attorney Marilyn Mosby was sued by five officers that were charged in the Freddie Gray murder case. Unfortunately for the prosecutor, she had to file an appeal to get the case tossed out as a district court judge was actually going to let the case proceed despite the strong doctrine and public policy in favor of prosecutorial immunity.

In case you forgot, or didn't know, in 2015, Freddie Gray suffered a severe injury and died while in custody. Mosby was the state prosecuting attorney that brought the charges against the officers. After three of the officers' cases were dismissed after a jury trial, the remaining charges were dropped. However, five of the officers that faced charges decided to sue their prosecutor for malicious prosecution.

Court Strikes City's Adult Entertainment License Law

The way the appeals court tells it, the Gentleman's Playhouse decision is just a license case.

In American Entertainer, LLC v. City of Rocky Mount, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals describes a dispute over the city's licensing requirements for adult entertainment. The strip club said the local ordinance gave the police chief too much discretion to deny licenses.

The club also complained about First Amendment violations, age restrictions and other concerns, but the appeals court wouldn't have it. Stripped to the basics, the decision is about a business license.

Julius "Jay" Richardson has a long and distinguished resume. His most high-profile case involved prosecuting the notorious Dylann Roof. Now Richardson can add another notch to his belt: he was just nominated to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Trump.

Interestingly, Richardson's nomination may seem out of left field, but the prosecutor has some experience on the other side of the bench, though not as a judge. He served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, as well as FindLaw favorite, the Seventh Circuit's own bearer of benchslaps, Judge Posner.

Maryland Drug-Pricing Law Overturned

Lawrence Hogan, Jr. is not a lawyer, but he knows a bad law when he sees one.

Hogan, the rare Republican governor of Maryland, told state legislators that he would not sign their bill because it was unconstitutional. It became law without his signature, but that was not the end of it.

The end came two years later when the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck the law against price-gouging sales of prescription drugs. It's unconstitutional, the appeals court said.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has an easy lesson for those individuals looking to set up fantastically named shell companies to funnel their money and lives through: You can still get reverse pierced just like It's Thundertime LLC.

Reverse piercing of the veil applies to situations where a third party is seeking to hold the corporation liable for the member's action. As the owner of It's Thundertime LLC learned the hard way, if you commingle, then the courts will pierce it, in forward or reverse. Direct TV's case against Randy Coley, aka, the owner of It's Thundertime, had a $2.3 million judgment that reverse pierced the veil upheld on appeal.

Groupon Defeats Class Action Strategy

Half the battle is having a strategy to win; the other half is winning the battle.

Erin Keena's lawyers had a strategy to get around an order to arbitrate. It was to request dismissal of their client's complaint, and then appeal from the final judgment.

The strategy may have worked in the past, but not in Keena v. Groupon. The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said it didn't have jurisdiction because the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her case.

The federal district court in Maryland has ruled that the case against President Donald Trump's hotel in Washington, D.C., alleging unfair competition and violation of the emoluments clause, can proceed.

Fortunately for the president, the court did limit the case only to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. That means Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties cannot be included in the lawsuit. Although a similar case out of New York had been dismissed for a lack of standing, the Maryland federal district court found that both D.C. and Maryland had standing to sue over the Trump International Hotel in D.C.