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

Recently in Property Law Category

Hog Farm Gag Order Went Too Far, 4th Circuit Rules

You can't make silk out of a sow's ear, but the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals did its best.

In re. Murphy-Brown, LLC, a trial judge issued a gag order in a case over conditions at hog farms. The appeals court reversed, saying judges can restrain speech only as a last resort.

The judicial panel said the order "hamstrung" the exercise of First Amendment rights.

In a recent Fourth Circuit appellate argument, Judge Roger Gregory explicitly stated his skepticism over a longstanding precedent allowing eminent domain property seizures prior to landowners being compensated.

The case before the appellate panel was brought by landowners in Virginia and West Virginia who are challenging the taking to create the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-plus mile natural gas pipeline. Unfortunately for the landowners, the district court ruled that the construction could move forward and the companies involved could seize the land, before the landowners have been paid.

The Washington Redskins keep getting tackled in court. The controversially-named NFL team lost another legal battle today when a federal district court ordered the cancellation of their trademark registrations, rejecting their claims that the Lanham Act was overbroad and unconstitutional.

The decision by the E.D. Va. tracked with a previous ruling by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, finding that the Redskins trademark violated the Lanham Act's prohibition on registering marks which "may disparage" others or "bring them into contempt or disrepute." So, touchdown for Native American activists who have long criticized the NFL team for using what many consider to be a racial slur as its name.

Well, I wish I'd known this earlier. Apparently, you can make a career as a treasure hunter, even in these modern times. Though it's not easy, as the Columbus-America Discovery Group learned when they went into receivership after collecting sunken treasure from the S.S. Central America. Their lawyer -- and I suppose lawyers are a type of treasure hunter as well -- moved to claim some of that gold himself as a reward for his aid in "the continuing salvage of the sunken" treasure fleet.

Sadly, the Fourth Circuit didn't find attorney Richard Robol's contribution to be as worthy as he claimed. His "contribution to the recovery" was largely what was required from him by law and his professional duties -- it was not the voluntary assistance that could afford him salvage rights, the Court found.

The South Carolina Coastal Conservation League's lawsuit to prevent the loss of freshwater marshland on the banks of the Back and Savannah Rivers can't go ahead, the Fourth Circuit ruled today. When a developer sought to flood longstanding freshwater marshes with saltwater, the environmental group argued that doing so would remove important habitat and release contaminants.

Except, after the suit was filed, the developers found that the freshwater marshes were in fact already quite salty. Saltier than the ocean water which would flood them. That rendered the League's suit moot, the Fourth Circuit found, since the injury they claimed can no longer be redressed.

Wheelchair Ramp Dispute Tossed: Not Ripe Until Denied

Dan and Debbie Scoggins wanted the best for their son Jacob. After their requests to their Homeowner’s Association for permission to build a wheelchair ramp at the front door of their home and for permission for Jacob to ride an ATV within the housing subdivision went unanswered, they filed suit under the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) on his behalf.

The family made their initial request to allow Jacob, who is partially paralyzed from a childhood accident, to ride an ATV around the property’s unpaved roads in May 2009. The matter was tabled, and mostly ignored, until litigation commenced in October 2010. A few weeks before the lawsuit was filed, the family also requested permission to build a wheelchair-accessible ramp leading to the front door of the house.

Glassman v. Arlington County, 10-1496

Taxpayer's section 1983 suit against a county for violation of the Establishment Clause

Glassman v. Arlington County, 10-1496, concerned a challenge to the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss, in a taxpayer's 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against a county, Commonwealth of Virginia, a church, and a developer, claiming that the county's involvement in the church's development of apartments on the church-owned parcel of land violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

AES Sparrows Point LNG, LLC v. WIlson, No. 09-1539

Petition for review of the State of Maryland Department of the Environment's denial of a request for water quality certification, involving a proposed large-scale liquefied natural gas marine import terminal and pipeline project, is denied where: 1) Maryland waived any potential claim of sovereign immunity in connection with the present petition for review by expressly consenting to defending, in federal court, its decision to deny AES's Request for section 401(a)(1) Water Quality Certification; and 2) AES failed to establish any basis to disturb the Army Corps of Engineers' determination that Maryland had not waived its right to grant or deny AES's section 401(a)(1) Certification Request. 

Read AES Sparrows Point LNG, LLC v. WIlson, No. 09-1539

Appellate Information

Argued: September 24, 2009

Decided: December 22, 2009


Opinion by Circuit Judge  Hamilton


For Appellant:  Jeffrey A. Lamken, Baker Botts LLP

For Appellee:   Adam Dean Snyder, Office of the Attorney General of Maryland

Arthur v. Ticor Title Ins. Co., No. 08-1727

In a Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) action alleging that Defendant charged Plaintiffs title insurance rates higher than the rates Defendant had on file with the state insurance commissioner, the dismissal of the complaint is affirmed where RESPA does not control the prices charged for title insurance.

Read Arthur v. Ticor Title Ins. Co., No. 08-1727.

Appellate Information:

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. Andre M. Davis, District Judge. (1:07-cv-01737-AMD)
Argued: May 12, 2009
Decided: June 18, 2009


Before WILKINSON and KING, Circuit Judges, and HAMILTON, Senior Circuit Judge.
Opinioin by Judge Wilkinson.


ARGUED: Philip Scott Friedman, FRIEDMAN LAW OFFICES, PLLC, Washington, D.C., for Appellants. Darryl J. May, BALLARD, SPAHR, ANDREWS & INGERSOLL, LLP, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF: Martin E. Wolf, Richard S. Gordon, Benjamin H. Carney, QUINN, GORDON & WOLF, CHTD., Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellants. Robert A. Scott, Lisa M. Welsh, BALLARD, SPAHR, ANDREWS & INGERSOLL, LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.