Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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J.D., by his father and next friend, filed suit against the restaurant for violating the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Virginians with Disabilities Act. The restaurant refused to allow J.D., a child on a strict gluten-free diet, to eat his homemade gluten free meal inside the restaurant, making him eat his meal outside and apart from the rest of his classmates. The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment to the restaurant. The court held that, while the district court correctly determined that J.D. has raised a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether he is disabled within the meaning of the ADA, the district court erred in finding as a matter of law that J.D.'s proposed modification was not necessary to have an experience equal to that of his classmates. In this case, the district court incorrectly overlooked the testimony that J.D. repeatedly became sick after eating purportedly gluten-free meals prepared by commercial kitchens. Therefore, there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the restaurant's proposed accommodation (by making him a gluten-free meal) sufficiently accounts for his disability; whether J.D.'s requested modification was reasonable; and whether granting J.D.'s request would fundamentally alter the nature of the restaurant experience. View "J.D. v. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged that the government's decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy (and its changes to policies governing the use of information provided by DACA applicants) violates the Fifth Amendment, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and common law principles of estoppel. The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that plaintiffs' challenges were subject to judicial review and that the government's decision to rescind DACA did not require notice and comment under the APA. However, the court held that the decision violated the APA because—on the administrative record before the court—it was not adequately explained and thus was arbitrary and capricious. The court also held that the district court erred in ordering the government to comply with its policies promulgated in 2012 on the use of information provided by DACA applicants and enjoining it from altering those policies. The court declined, under the doctrine of constitutional avoidance, to decide whether plaintiffs' Fifth Amendment rights were violated. The court also declined to address plaintiffs' remaining arguments. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, dismissed in part, and remanded. View "Casa De Maryland v. DHS" on Justia Law

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After a prison official deployed a taser three times against plaintiff when plaintiff refused to hold still for an identification photograph, plaintiff filed an Eighth Amendment excessive force suit. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff, holding that a reasonable jury could find that the officer used multiple shocks not to induce plaintiff's cooperation, but to punish him for his intransigence through the wanton infliction of pain. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Brooks v. Jacumin" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision holding that conditions of confinement on Virginia's death row violated the Eighth Amendment and enjoining reinstatement of those conditions. Virginia death row inmates spent between 23 and 24 hours a day alone, in a small cell with no access to congregate religious, educational, or social programming. Inmates were denied access to any form of congregate recreation, either indoor or outdoor, and were not allowed to eat meals outside of their cells. The court held that the challenged conditions on Virginia's death row deprived inmates of the basic human need for meaningful social interaction and positive environmental stimulation. Furthermore, the undisputed evidence established that deprivation posed a substantial risk of serious psychological and emotional harm and state defendants were deliberately indifferent to that risk. View "Porter v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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WCBA appealed the district court's dismissal of its action against NACCAS, alleging due process violations in an accreditation proceeding and seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. The Fourth Circuit held that there was insufficient evidence that WCBA was deprived of an impartial decisionmaker as a result of a Commissioner's speculative pecuniary interest so as to justify a departure from the deferential standard due to an accreditation agency; NACCAS's rules did not impose a higher standard than the general common law duty to provide an impartial decisionmaker such that a violation of those rules leads to a due process violation in this case; and WCBA failed to preserve the issue of whether it was denied due process on the theory that the Commissioners who reviewed WCBA's accreditation improperly prejudged the decision by acting as both investigators and adjudicators. View "Wards Corner Beauty Academy v. National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, nine Latino men who live in areas of Northern Virginia that were home to many residents of Latino ethnicity, filed suit against ICE agents, seeking money damages to redress the ICE agents' alleged violations of their rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Plaintiffs alleged that ICE agents stopped and detained them without a reasonable, articulable suspicion of unlawful activity; invaded their homes without a warrant, consent, or probable cause; and seized them illegally. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the ICE agents' motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The court held that a remedy under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), was not available under the circumstances of this case. The court explained that there was no statute authorizing a claim for money damages, and it was a significant step under separation-of-powers principles for a court to impose damages liability on federal officials. Because plaintiffs sought to extend Bivens liability to a context the Supreme Court has yet to recognize and there are special factors counseling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress, plaintiffs' action for damages should be dismissed. View "Tun-Cos v. Perrotte" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the FCC and the Government, in an action alleging that part of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) contravenes the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. In relevant part, the Act prohibits calls to cell phones by use of an automated dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice, subject to three statutory exemptions. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that one of the statutory exemptions to the automated call ban — created by a 2015 TCPA amendment — is facially unconstitutional under the Free Speech Clause. Although the Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that strict scrutiny review applied in this case, it held that the debt collection exemption fails to satisfy strict scrutiny, constitutes an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech, and therefore violates the Free Speech Clause. The court concluded that the flawed exemption could be severed from the automatic call ban. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "American Association of Political Consultants, Inc. v. FCC" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to WCI on all of plaintiff's claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. 1981. The court held that the district court erred by finding that plaintiff, who is black, had failed to establish an appropriate comparator and to produce evidence of pretext. In this case, plaintiff produced evidence that a white employee with the same supervisor, who had several workplace infractions, was permitted to return to his job after the employee became angry and yelled at his supervisor before quitting. The court held that the record as a whole could permit a reasonable factfinder to conclude that plaintiff and that employee were proper comparators. Furthermore, plaintiff has produced evidence that WCI's reason for his termination has changed substantially over time, and therefore has presented sufficient evidence of pretext. View "Haynes v. Waste Connections, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The court held that the district court erred in substituting a previously unidentified conviction to sustain petitioner's career offender designation. Petitioner claimed ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel's failure to challenge his designation as a career offender. In this case, the district court found that one of the predicate offenses identified by the State did not qualify as a crime of violence and thus could not support a career offender designation, but nevertheless found no prejudice from counsel's error. The district concluded that the career offender designation could be supported by another conviction in petitioner's record, even though the State did not identify this conviction as a basis for the designation at sentencing. View "United States v. Winbush" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court granted a certificate of appealability on his claim that he has made a showing of actual innocence such that the district court erred in dismissing his petition as untimely. The court held that petitioner failed to meet the exacting standard for the procedural gateway claim of actual innocence. In this case, none of the new evidence identified by petitioner contradicted the evidence of his guilt presented at trial. View "Hayes v. Carver" on Justia Law