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

November 2011 Archives

Elmore Wins Ineffective Counsel Appeal After 29 Years in Prison

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Edward Lee Elmore's 29-year-old murder conviction on Tuesday.

The court, in a 2-1 decision, ruled that Elmore was entitled to habeas corpus relief on his Sixth Amendment claim of ineffective counsel because his trial lawyers blindly accepted the State's forensic evidence. The court described the situation as "one of those exceptional cases of 'extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems' where habeas relief was appropriate to remedy injustice.

Fourth Circuit Upholds Warrantless Search in Virginia DUI

Can Virginia police forcibly remove your client from his home without a warrant for driving under the influence?

Supreme Court precedent says no. In an unpublished opinion, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently said yes. The Fourth Circuit suggested that its holding is distinguished from Supreme Court precedent due to Virginia DUI penalties.

Fourth Circuit Won't Tolerate Terry Search Abuses

A friend of ours once worked for a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney who joked that he was going to write a book on how to properly conceal a weapon in a car.

Every time the attorney challenged an automobile search, police officers offered the same explanation: I saw something that looked like a gun underneath the seat. In this book-writing alternate universe, the attorney wasn't trying to enable criminal activity; he was mocking the local cops' abuse of the automobile exception and plain view doctrine.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals seems similarly exasperated with Terry search abuses. This week, the Fourth Circuit overturned its fourth Terry search of the year, finding that the government failed to meet its burden of proof to support a finding of reasonable suspicion.

Top 3 Reasons the Wikileaks Twitter Case Matters for Non-Leakers

Finally, we have Wikileaks news that has nothing to do with Julian Assange’s extradition woes.

Today, District Judge Liam O’Grady in Alexandria, Virginia ruled that prosecutors could demand Wikileaks Twitter account information for Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gonggrijp, and Birgitta Jonsdittir in conjunction with a criminal probe into Wikileaks’ disclosure of classified documents. O’Grady also refused to unseal orders and other court documents relating to the three Wikileakers in the case.

Here are three reasons why this decision should matter to every Internet user:

Contribution Prohibition is Lawful Limit on Free Speech Rights

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that lobbyists have no place in North Carolina state elections.

Sarah Preston, a North Carolina registered lobbyist, sued in 2008 to challenge North Carolina’s Campaign Contributions Prohibition, claiming that the law violated her freedom of association and free speech rights.

In an opinion issued Monday, the Fourth Circuit upheld the statute, which prohibits lobbyists from contributing to the campaign of any candidate for the North Carolina General Assembly or the Council of State.

Judiciary Committee Approves Stephanie Thacker's Nomination

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Stephanie Thacker is one step closer to being confirmed for a seat on the bench. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Thacker’s nomination on Thursday.

President Barack Obama nominated Thacker to the Fourth Circuit in early September, so her nomination is proceeding quickly.

Thacker’s home state senator, Jay Rockefeller, firmly supports her nomination.

Does Right to Counsel Include Right to Change Counsel?

Does the right to counsel guarantee a criminal defendant’s request for a new attorney before sentencing?

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s denial of a request for new counsel this week, finding that the court did not abuse its discretion in denying the defendant’s request.

Jose Luis Jaime Perez, was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. After his conviction but before sentencing, Perez moved to have the district court appoint him new counsel. The district court, which had previously appointed him new counsel before trial, denied Perez’s motion without a hearing.