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

January 2014 Archives

Developments in Va., W. Va, Gay Marriage Battles

Last week, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced that he wouldn't defend the state's ban on gay marriage, prompting us to wonder: who else could? We've got our answer.

Meanwhile, in West Virginia, a parallel battle has moved forward, though the plaintiffs will be scrambling to locate an additional plaintiff (or two), after the court questioned the existing plaintiffs' standing to challenge the state's refusal to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

It just goes to show: in the gay marriage battle, standing is still sexy.

Today Is Lavabit's (and the 4th, 1st Amendments') Day in Court

Last year, secure email provider Lavabit chose to shut down rather than sell out its customers by complying with a controversial court order.

Today, it is challenging that court order in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

What's at stake? It's not just the company. It's privacy rights and free speech.

VA's Attorney General Won't Defend Marriage Ban; Can Someone Else?

It looks like Virginia may soon join the ranks of the states that recognize gay marriages.

This morning, the new Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia, Mark R. Herring, announced that he would stop fighting to uphold the state's voter-approved ban on gay marriage, and would instead join the other side of the federal lawsuit, reports The New York Times.

And to think, just last year, the then-Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, was fighting tooth-and-nail to uphold the state's anti-sodomy law.

The McDonnell Indictment is Hilariously Good Reading

We've all read criminal cases where we think, "How can they be this stupid?" And we've all seen cases where, out of stupidity, carelessness, or desperation, people pile mistakes upon mistakes.

But it's different when the crimes are allegedly carried out by politicians. We expect them to be smarter. Not so much, for former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen.

The McDonnell indictment contains page after page after page of alleged quid-pro-quo. Gifts and loans were allegedly exchanged for access to the Governor's office and promotion of a private company's nutritional supplement.

4th Circuit's Site Had a Java Problem; Fake Court Email Virus Spreads

Get any emails about last-minute court hearings in unfamiliar cases? They're fake (almost certainly), and the attachments carry a pair of nasty viruses.

Plus, an update to Java, the annoying app that loves to bug you with update reminders, broke the Fourth Circuit's website on Wednesday.

Moral of the Story: Get a Black Lung Lawyer

Elk Run, a coal mining company, did something most of us would find reprehensible. When an employee filed for Black Lung benefits, it had three experts analyze his pathology slides. Two provided unfavorable opinions. They went with the third, and handed that evidence to other experts, who found, based on that single report, that the employee, Gary N. Fox, did not have pneumoconiosis. Elk Run presented this at an administrative hearing in 1999.

Fox represented himself, and lost. He did not obtain the two favorable reports in discovery, did not obtain his own reports, and did not cross-examine the unfavorable report's preparer on his qualifications. A few years later, after obtaining counsel, he tried again. This time, he won.

Unfortunately, due to the previous holding, Elk Run is off the hook for all damages prior to the first trip to the Administrative Law Judge. Unless, of course, Fox's surviving spouse can prove that there was a "fraud on the court" to set aside the judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(3), which otherwise places a one-year limit on collateral attacks.

Year in Review 2013: Highlights From the Fourth Circuit

While fellow FindLaw-er Gabriella Khorasanee may play favorites with the Second Circuit, for me, nothing beats the Fourth.

Why? (Not quite) obscene park ranger gropings. Lots of important Second Amendment issues, including concealed carry of guns. The South trying to rise again and failing -- twice. And, of course, the greatest law school in the history of all law schools, which recently came in second to some other Virginia law school in Above the Law's Insider rankings (take that, Stanford!), is located in the heart of the Fourth Circuit.

Looking for a microcosm of the biggest issues in American law? This year, the Fourth Circuit docket was stuffed with gun regulations, free speech, and stuff that we don't like to talk about in polite company.

Epic's Victory Over Silicon Knights in Video Game Dispute Affirmed

A bit of background for all of you non-gamers out there. Epic Games is the creator of the Unreal Engine (and the criminally-underrated Jazz Jackrabbit), industry-standard software used by many developers to make video games. To date, there have been three versions of the engine released, with a fourth planned for release soon.

Silicon Knights licensed Unreal Engine 3 for use in creating video games for the seventh-generation of PC hardware and consoles (Playstation 3 and Xbox 360), but was unsatisfied with the engine and Epic's support and documentation. They sued, but were slapped with a countersuit for failure to pay royalties, theft of trade secrets, copyright infringement, and breach of contract.

Justice Sotomayor Blocks Obamacare Contraception Mandate

Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction barring the Obama administration from enforcing its contraceptive mandate against the Colorado- and Maryland-based Little Sisters of the Poor and Illinois-based Christian Brothers Services.

The mandate, which requires many employers to provide health insurance coverage for birth control or face penalties, has had confusing implications for non-profit groups that are merely affiliated with religion.