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Court Revives 'Ag Gag' Lawsuit in North Carolina

For all the attention on North Carolina's ag-gag law, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals saw the challengers' case as straightforward.

They have standing to sue, the appeals court said in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Stein. Basically, the plaintiffs alleged sufficient injury to proceed in their pre-emptive strike against the statute.

PETA and others had sued before the state enforced the law, which was designed to protect businesses from private undercover investigations. In an unpublished decision, the Fourth Circuit said it's enough that the plaintiffs feared the potential penalties.

Veterans Appeal Burn Pits Cases Against Military Contractor

If hell is war, then it looks like the smoldering pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And more than 800 American service members are suing a company that dumped tires, batteries, medical waste and other materials into burn pits there and released toxins into the air. The survivors allege the smoke caused stomach illnesses, neurological problems, cancers and other health issues; twelve died.

A trial judge dismissed their cases last year, but their lawyers told the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that the war is not over. The question, in some quarters, is whether they have a chance at all.

Judges Knock Permit in Pipeline Controversy

A federal appeals court pushed back construction of an Atlantic Coast pipeline, but that's not stopping the main contractor on the project.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said a permit for the project was inadequate to protect environmental concerns. Plaintiffs' lawyers say all work must stop, but the lead developer is pushing forward.

In the meantime, the appeals court said it will address the particulars of the construction soon. For now, the permit and the order are problems.

Controversial Gas Pipeline Cases Heard by 4th Circuit

The Sierra Club filed two lawsuits to stop a gas pipeline, and they converged in arguments at the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In one case, the club says the 303-mile pipeline will violate the Clean Water Act. In the other, the plaintiff argues that construction will harm forest aminals.

But the arguments flowed together over a basic consequence of river water -- sedimentation.

Court Strikes City's Adult Entertainment License Law

The way the appeals court tells it, the Gentleman's Playhouse decision is just a license case.

In American Entertainer, LLC v. City of Rocky Mount, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals describes a dispute over the city's licensing requirements for adult entertainment. The strip club said the local ordinance gave the police chief too much discretion to deny licenses.

The club also complained about First Amendment violations, age restrictions and other concerns, but the appeals court wouldn't have it. Stripped to the basics, the decision is about a business license.

Julius "Jay" Richardson has a long and distinguished resume. His most high-profile case involved prosecuting the notorious Dylann Roof. Now Richardson can add another notch to his belt: he was just nominated to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Trump.

Interestingly, Richardson's nomination may seem out of left field, but the prosecutor has some experience on the other side of the bench, though not as a judge. He served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, as well as FindLaw favorite, the Seventh Circuit's own bearer of benchslaps, Judge Posner.

Maryland Drug-Pricing Law Overturned

Lawrence Hogan, Jr. is not a lawyer, but he knows a bad law when he sees one.

Hogan, the rare Republican governor of Maryland, told state legislators that he would not sign their bill because it was unconstitutional. It became law without his signature, but that was not the end of it.

The end came two years later when the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck the law against price-gouging sales of prescription drugs. It's unconstitutional, the appeals court said.

Groupon Defeats Class Action Strategy

Half the battle is having a strategy to win; the other half is winning the battle.

Erin Keena's lawyers had a strategy to get around an order to arbitrate. It was to request dismissal of their client's complaint, and then appeal from the final judgment.

The strategy may have worked in the past, but not in Keena v. Groupon. The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said it didn't have jurisdiction because the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her case.

'Disturbing' Law Seeks to Protect Students

Judges are not supposed to read the newspapers in making their decisions, but it's hard to ignore the news.

According to reports, there has been an average of one school shooting each week in 2018. The number of student victims is even more sobering.

In the U.S Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the judges had to look beyond the news when considering a "disturbing schools law." Nobody was close to being shot in Kenny v. Wilson, but apparently lawmakers were not sure about how to keep the troublemakers away.

'Peace Cross' Conflict Continues

An appeals court battle over Maryland's 40-foot 'Peace Cross' is over, but the conflict will go on.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals refused en banc to hear American Humanist Association v. Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. A three-judge panel ruled last year that the World War I memorial had the "primary effect of endorsing religion and exclusively entangles the government in religion."

The en banc court, split by multiple dissenters, declined to reconsider that decision. In the meantime, the "Peace Cross" supporters are taking their fight to the next level.