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

March 2012 Archives

Crash and Burn: NASCAR Lawsuit Barred by Indemnity Agreement

Lawsuits are a tough sell when a plaintiff has specifically agreed to not sue the defendant.

Take NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield, for example. In May 2009, Mayfield was suspended from the NASCAR circuit after failing a random drug test. NASCAR announced the reason for the suspension, and Mayfield filed a lawsuit.

This week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Mayfield had no case because he signed two contracts waiving his right to a NASCAR lawsuit, The Associated Press reports.

Next Stop: SCOTUS? William Jefferson Loses Fourth Circuit Appeal

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld all but one of the convictions against Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson this week.

Jefferson had claimed in his appeal that the charges against him were improper because his attempts to influence foreign officials fell outside his congressional job description and because the bribes he received were not part of an explicit quid pro quo agreement. The Fourth Circuit concluded that “an absurd result would occur if we were to deem Jefferson’s illicit actions as outside the purview of the bribery statute simply because he was rewarded by periodic payments to his family’s businesses,” reports the Times-Picayune.

Is the Size of Your Package a Title VII Violation?

It's not enough to give employees equal pay for equal work. According to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Title VII guarantees equal severance packages as well.

Last week, the Fourth Circuit ruled that a former Chester County, Va. government employee could proceed with her $1.1 million claim against the County for a Title VII violation because her severance package wasn't as ... well-endowed as those of her male counterparts.

SCOTUS Affirms Fourth Circuit FMLA Stance in Coleman

The Supreme Court affirmed the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Maryland this week, finding that lawsuits against states under the self-care provision of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are barred by sovereign immunity.

In addition to adding another affirmed notch to the Fourth Circuit's belt, the decision has set off rumblings about increased odds of the Court striking down the Affordable Care Act.

Hughie Stover to Appeal Upper Big Branch Cover-Up Conviction

Hughie Stover, the security chief found guilty of lying to investigators in the Upper Big Branch mine investigation, will appeal his conviction to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Stover’s attorney, William Wilmoth, claims that District Judge Irene Berger erred in denying the defense’s requests for jury instructions, acquittal, and a new trial. He also alleges that the trial was tainted by prosecutorial misconduct. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin maintains that Stover received a fair trial, reports The Washington Post.

Pot Shot: No Medical Necessity Defense for Marijuana

Growing marijuana is illegal, even when it’s cultivated for personal, medicinal use.

According to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, that means a trial court can exclude evidence of a defendant’s medicinal marijuana use during a trial for marijuana possession and manufacturing.

Fourth Circuit to Hold Hearing at NCCU Law School on March 23

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in a special sitting at the North Carolina Central University (NCCU) Law School in Durham, N.C. on March 23, 2012.

The court will hear three cases during the NCCU Law session in March.

Ruling Expands Maryland Gun-Carry Permit Access

The Maryland Attorney General’s office will challenge a federal court opinion relaxing Maryland gun control laws in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling altered the standard for issuing gun permits and expanded the scope of where a permit holder may carry a handgun, reports The Baltimore Sun.

Prior to the ruling, the state used the “may issue” standard when granting Maryland gun-carry permits. Permit applicants were required to prove that they weren’t dangerous felons or addicts, and that they had a “good and substantial reason” for carrying a gun. The Maryland state police had discretion to determine whether an applicant met the good and substantial reason burden.

Greenwood Gets Qualified Immunity in Free Speech Rights Blunder

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that Columbia Christians for Life had a First Amendment right to display graphic photographs of aborted fetuses as part of a 2005 protest, but the ruling wasn't a total win for the pro-life group. The appellate court also affirmed a district court ruling that city officials who told protesters to ditch the signs were protected by qualified immunity.

In November 2005, Greenwood County Sheriff's Department employees asked Steven Lefemine and members of Columbia Christians for Life, a South Carolina anti-abortion organization, to remove large, graphic signs depicting aborted fetuses that they were using as part of a roadside demonstration following complaints from passersby. When Lefemine argued that he had a First Amendment right to display the signs, a Department employee responded that Lefemine didn't "have a right to be offensive to other people in that manner."

Fourth Circuit Affirms Judgment Against Nazi Leader Bill White

This week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment against self-proclaimed American Nazi leader Bill White for Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Virginia law violations, intentional infliction of emotional distress damages, and attorney's fees. The Fourth Circuit, in an unpublished opinion, found no reversible error in the case.

This is not the first civil dispute based on an FHA complaint in which the Fourth Circuit has ruled against White.