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

January 2013 Archives

State Secrecy Upheld in WikiLeaks ECPA Records Request Case

State secrets leaked. Sealed private investigations. It is almost certain that this WikiLeaks debacle will some day become a spy-thriller movie.

We’re all familiar with PFC Bradley Manning’s leak of confidential information to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks. As part of the government’s investigation into possible criminal charges, they requested electronic communications of those two, plus a security researcher, a Dutch hacker, and an Icelandic Parliament member. That’s quite the ensemble cast of characters.

TSA Not Immune to Lawsuit Over Free Speech Stripping Protest

A man removes his clothing at a security checkpoint to reveal the text of the Fourth Amendment painted on his chest. Some might applaud his peaceful protest. Others were probably irritated by the delay in getting to their flights. The Transportation Security Administration certainly wasn’t amused - they called the police and had the protestor arrested by airport police.

Though the disorderly conduct charges were later dropped, and Aaron Tobey made his flight, he still filed a lawsuit alleging violations of his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as a Bivens claim, due to the hour or so that he spent in custody being interrogated by law enforcement and airport security.

Common Sense Escapes 4th Circuit in 'Straw Purchase' Gun Decision?

A guy wants a pistol. His nephew gets a law enforcement discount, so he gives the nephew the money to purchase the gun. The pistol is then legally transferred to the uncle, saving that uncle money.

The nephew is later charged with multiple federal crimes. The Fourth Circuit upheld his punishment earlier this week.

What were the crimes?

I Murdered Him For Business, Not to Prevent Testimony!

Confrontation Clause jurisprudence has had a bit of a shakeup since Crawford and its progeny. Since that landmark ruling, a lot of old rules, exceptions, and case precedent have faced reexamination.

You know what has remained relatively constant? Forfeiture-by-wrongdoing.

If you kill or intimidate a witness to prevent him from testifying, you lose the right to confront that witness in court. Otherwise, the answer to any indictment would be to empty a clip into a snitch and scream Sixth Amendment.

IDEA and FAPE Special Education Services Are Not a 'Buffet'

D.L. was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and anxiety. He is a student at a private Yeshiva seeking special education services. Because Maryland does not allow dual-enrollment in private and public schools, his parents are seeking to have the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners provide these services either part-time at the public school, or at his Yeshiva.

D.L. is eligible for these services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires public school districts to make a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) available to each special needs student in the district. As long as a FAPE is made available, the district will not have to pay for a private education.

Standing Near a Dumpster in Bad Neighborhood: Terry Stop Worthy?

A guy stands next to a dumpster behind a convenience store in a high crime area talking to another guy. There are “no trespassing” signs posted nearby and the store’s owner has previously reported trespassers in the area. In addition, there have been multiple shootings near the store. The moment a police car pulls into the lot, the two individuals take off running.

Can they be subjected to a Terry stop?

A Real Conspiracy to Steal Make-Believe Drugs?

Let's say you have a group of ... oh, six hooligans. Undercover cops "lay the foundation" for said hooligans to rob a drug stash. The hooligans plan their attack, and the cops move in to arrest them before they can execute.

As it turns out, there were no drugs, it was all just a clever ruse to lure in a target.

According to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the hooligans can go to jail for forming a real conspiracy to steal make-believe drugs. The reason? Factual impossibility is not a defense to the crime of conspiracy.

Interstate Firearm Sale Regulations Challenge Fails on Standing

We’re (mostly) all lawyers, but we’re not all gun buyers. In order to fully understand this case, it might help to have some information on interstate gun purchases and Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs). In order to purchase a handgun from another state, it has to be shipped to a dealer holding a valid FFL. That FLL holder then charges their own fee, which typically includes state and local fees as well.

This FFL requirement is the heart of the Lane v. Holder dispute that was decided by the Fourth Circuit on New Year’s Eve. There were three plaintiffs seeking an injunction to stop enforcement of FFL regulations: