Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the University in an action brought by a sociology professor, alleging claims under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII. The court held that, although plaintiff established a pay disparity between her and two former administrators, she failed to present evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact that the administrators were appropriate comparators. The court also held that, in any event, the University based the administrators' higher pay on their prior service as University administrators, not their sex. View "Spencer v. Virginia State University" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against Officers Strickland and Heroux, alleging that the officers violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights by using deadly force while arresting him. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the officers' motions for summary judgment, holding that the officers started or continued to fire on plaintiff after they were no longer in the trajectory of plaintiff's car and thus violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to freedom from excessive force. The court also held that it was clearly established that using deadly force against plaintiff after the officers were no longer in the car's trajectory would violate plaintiff's right to freedom from excessive force. View "Williams v. Strickland" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Young of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, 18 U.S.C. 2339B, and two counts of attempting to obstruct justice, 18 U.S.C. 1512(c)(2). The Fourth Circuit affirmed the material support conviction, vacated the obstruction convictions, and remanded for resentencing. The court upheld the district court’s admission of the Nazi and white supremacist paraphernalia found during a search of Young’s home; the rejection of an entrapment defense; various evidentiary rulings; and the certification of an expert witness on militant Islamist and Nazi “convergence.” The evidence was insufficient to prove the nexus and foreseeability requirements of the obstruction statute; the government was required to prove Young “corruptly” attempted to “obstruct[], influence[], or impede[]” “an official proceeding. In neither specified situation in which Young made statements to the FBI or to others was Young’s conduct connected to a specific official proceeding, nor was such a specific official proceeding reasonably foreseeable to Young. View "United States v. Young" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, on Plaintiff’s claims asserting violations of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701 et seq., and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FLMA), 29 U.S.C. 2601, et seq., holding that summary judgment was proper as to the Rehabilitation Act and FMLA retaliation claims but was not warranted as to Plaintiff’s FMLA interference claim. Plaintiff, a former employee of Defendant, asserted that Defendant discriminated against her and violated the FMLA by not hiring her for a permanent position following her completion of a five-year term. After exhausting her administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant on all counts. The Fourth Circuit held (1) the district court properly granted summary judgment as to Plaintiff’s Rehabilitation act and FMLA retaliation claims; but (2) summary judgment as to Plaintiff’s FMLA interference claim was precluded because a genuine issue of material fact remained as to whether Plaintiff provided notice of her disability and interest in FMLA leave sufficient to trigger Defendant’s duty to inquire. View "Hannah P. v. Coats" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a student, filed suit alleging that school officials used statements about Islam to endorse that religion over Christianity and thus compelled plaintiff against her will to profess a belief in Islam. At issue in this appeal was whether two statements concerning Islamic beliefs, presented as part of a high school world history class, violated a student's First Amendment rights under either the Establishment Clause or the Free Speech Clause. The Fourth Circuit held that the challenged coursework materials, viewed in the context in which they were presented, did not violate the student's First Amendment rights, because they did not impermissibly endorse any religion and did not compel the student to profess any belief. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. View "Wood v. Arnold" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether a false rumor that a female employee slept with her male boss to obtain promotion can ever give rise to her employer's liability under Title VII for discrimination "because of sex." In this case, plaintiff was terminated after she complained of a hostile work environment stemming from the rumor. The Fourth Circuit held that the allegations of the employee's complaint, where the employer was charged with participating in the circulation of the rumor and acting on it by sanctioning the employee, did implicate such liability. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims alleging discrimination and retaliation for complaining about such a workplace condition. However, the court affirmed the dismissal of the third claim because the employee failed to exhaust it before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. View "Parker v. Reema Consulting Services, Inc" on Justia Law

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The Church and Reverend appealed the district court's dismissal of their claims against the county and board under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the Free Exercise Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and Article 36 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. This action stemmed from the board's dismissal of a second petition to approve the use of plaintiff's property as a church. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court erred by dismissing plaintiffs' RLUIPA claim because plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that the dismissal of the second petition imposed a substantial burden on their religious practice; the complaint plausibly alleged a prima facie claim of religious discrimination; and, while the county may have a significant interest in finality and economy that would ordinarily be served by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, the dismissal of the second petition was not narrowly tailored to serve that interest because the second petition did not seek to revisit the board's decision about the first petition. Accordingly, the court vacated these claims and remanded for further proceedings. The court also vacated the state constitutional claim. View "Jesus Christ is the Answer Ministries, Inc. v. Baltimore County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and the union he represents filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging First and Fourteenth Amendment claims, seeking to reinstate privileges that granted them special access to restricted Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) property. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the transportation officials, holding that the MTA's actions against the union did not amount to unconstitutionally adverse behavior. In this case, plaintiff and the union's interest in maintaining access to restricted MTA property was slight when compared to the government's interest in regulating such access. Therefore, MTA's access policies were not sufficiently adverse to support a First Amendment retaliation claim. The court rejected the Fourth Amendment claims, holding that the police acted reasonably when it escorted plaintiff from MTA property. In this case, plaintiff's lawful purpose did not give him carte blanche to access restricted MTA offices, and the MTA had explicitly barred him from entering its restricted property without permission. Therefore, the police had probable cause to believe that plaintiff was violating the law. Finally, there was no reversible error in denying plaintiff and the union's discovery requests. View "McClure v. Ports" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of petitioner's federal habeas petition, claiming actual innocence of his first degree murder conviction. The court held that no reasonable juror would likely find petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt if it knew the high likelihood that he was misidentified both outside and inside the courtroom as a murder suspect because of impermissibly suggestive procedures. The court held that petitioner has overcome the exacting standard for actual innocence through sufficiently alleging and providing new evidence of a constitutional violation and through demonstrating that the totality of the evidence, both old and new, would likely fail to convince any reasonable juror of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Finch v. McKoy" on Justia Law

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Virginia's Incumbent Protection Act, Va. Code Ann. 24.2-509(B), violates the First Amendment of the Constitution. Subsection 24.2-509(B) limits the broad authority recognized by subsection A, which empowers the duly constituted authorities of the state and local parties to determine the method by which a party nomination shall be made. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to permanently enjoin enforcement of the entire Act. The court agreed with the district court's finding that the fourth sentence of the Act, which protects the nomination prerogatives of incumbent members of Congress among others, violated the First Amendment because it imposed a severe burden on the associational rights of Virginia's political parties and the Commonwealth has been unable to show that it is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. The court also agreed with the district court's decision to enjoin the Act's second and third sentences, which protect the nomination prerogatives of incumbent members of the General Assembly. The court held that the Committee had standing to challenge these provisions and that they were, if anything, even more offensive to the First Amendment than the fourth sentence. View "6th Congressional District Republican Committee v. Alcorn" on Justia Law