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

Recently in Civil Rights Law Category

Politicians Can't Block Voters on Official Facebook Pages

A federal appeals court said a county supervisor violated free speech rights by blocking a constituent from commenting on the official's Facebook page.

In Davison v. Randall, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said a Virginia county supervisor blocked a man from posting critical remarks about local education. Because the supervisor designated the page as official, the appeals court said, the First Amendment protected the comments.

Free speech advocates called it a "significant ruling" and a warning to politicians that they cannot just block critics on social media.

4th Circuit Sends Maryland Desegregation Case Back to Mediation

Sometimes settlements come because the participants are just worn out. That includes the judges.

You could say that's the case in The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education v. McMillan. The case -- a battle over funding for Maryland's predominantly black schools -- has been dragging on for 13 years.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the parties back to the negotiating table because the judges have seen enough.

Court Resurrects Suit Against 'Bible in School' Program

A federal appeals court revived a lawsuit against a West Virginia school district over its Bible studies program.

In Deal v. Mercer County Board of Education, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said the 30-minute and 45-minute classes marginalized a student who did not want to participate. The elementary school student was not forced to attend, but enrolled in another district over it.

The Bible studies program was also suspended, leading a trial judge to dismiss the case as moot. In reversing, the appeals panel apparently feared a second coming.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently heard oral arguments in Loudoun County (Virginia) Chair Phyllis Randall's request to overturn the federal district court's ruling that her blocking constituent Brian Davison violated the First Amendment.

The case, like others that have been recently decided, raises many questions about whether and when social media becomes a public forum, and what limits government officials have when it comes to censoring constituents and others on various social media platforms.

Discrimination Suit Revived Against Mobile Home Park

A federal appeals court opened the door for Latino residents to sue their mobile home park for requiring them to prove they are legal residents.

In Reyes v. Waples Mobile Home Park, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged the park discriminated against Latinos. The appeals panel vacated a trial court decision to dismiss the case.

However, the battle is far from over. It's not quite an episode of "Trailer Park Wars," but there was a strong dissent.

When former Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner retired to pursue a higher calling of assisting pro se litigants, we all knew some judges would fear the Poz's larger-than-life persona. But the Fourth Circuit, as Above the Law suggests, seems to have just tucked its tail between its legs and scurried off, after eating Posner's steak dinner.

Not only did the panel of judges reject Posner's appeal, which on its face, seems to have quite a bit of merit, they did so rather cursorily, and without even hearing oral argument.

Court: Civil Rights Case to Proceed Against White Supremacists

James Fields Jr. drove into a crowd in Virginia a year ago, killing one woman and injuring 10 other people protesting a rally of white supremacists.

Heather Heyer died that day, and criminal cases proceeded against Fields. Now a federal judge has ruled Charlottesville plaintiffs may proceed with a civil rights lawsuit against dozens of defendants involved in the violence.

In Sines v. Kessler, the judge said there is enough evidence that the defendants came to the city to "implement and then celebrate racially-motivated violence against African-Americans, Jews, and their supporters."

The prayers of the Rowan County commissioners have not been answered. After losing their appeal before an en banc Fourth Circuit, the county commissioners petitioned the Supreme Court for review. Last week, the High Court rejected the petition. Curiously, a dissent was authored by Justice Thomas and signed on by Justice Gorsuch.

The Fourth Circuit ruled that the county commissioners had favored one religion over others, and found that the big problem was that the commissioners would lead prayers themselves, as opposed to inviting local faith leaders and community members to do so. The High Court did not provide an explanation as to why it rejected the matter, and reviewing Justice Thomas's dissent doesn't provide one either.

Teenager's Privacy Rights Search Warrant Case Goes Back to Court

There is no happy ending to this story, but someday Trey Sims may find closure to his disturbing case.

In 2014, police forced the then-teenager to masturbate in front of them ostensibly as part of an alleged sex crime investigation. The boy had texted sexually explicit photos and video of himself to his 15-year-old girlfriend, and they wanted to see if his penis matched the photos.

Sims served probation, then sued the police for violating his privacy. Before his case got to trial, however, the lead detective committed suicide as police came to arrest him for molesting two other boys.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down the Baltimore law targeting pregnancy centers. The law required these centers to post clear notices in their waiting rooms stating that actual abortion services, and referrals to abortion services, are not provided there.

In striking down the law, the appellate court affirmed the district court's conclusion that the government failed to show any actual harm resulted from delays allegedly caused by the pregnancy centers' allegedly deceptive advertising.