Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of habeas relief and remanded with instructions to dismiss petitioner's habeas application with prejudice under the court's decision in United States v. Surratt, 855 F.3d 218 (4th Cir. 2017) (en banc). Petitioner was sentenced to 118 years in prison for nonhomicide crimes that he committed when he was 15 years old. Petitioner sought habeas relief after the Supreme Court decided Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), which prohibited juvenile offenders convicted of nonhomicide crimes from being sentenced to life without parole. While the application was pending, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell issued petitioner a partial pardon, reducing his sentence to 40 years' imprisonment. The court reasoned that had the district court properly applied Surratt, it would have been required to conclude that Governor McDonnell's valid partial pardon reducing petitioner's sentence to 40 years' imprisonment rendered his habeas application moot and that the district court was therefore without jurisdiction to address it and opine on the constitutionality of petitioner's original sentence under Graham. View "Blount v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment in an action by plaintiffs, five officers charged in a homicide case, alleging claims of malicious prosecution, defamation, and false light against a state attorney. Plaintiffs alleged that defendant's role in independently investigating their conduct stripped her of absolute prosecutorial immunity and that their allegations of malice or gross negligence overcame Maryland's statutory immunity protections. The court rejected plaintiffs' invitation to cast aside decades of Supreme Court and circuit precedent to narrow the immunity prosecutors enjoyed. The court also found no justification for denying defendant the protection from suit that the Maryland legislature has granted her. In this case, defendant's alleged wrongs fell squarely within the umbrella of absolute immunity where plaintiffs challenged specific conduct that she performed in her role as an advocate. View "Nero v. Mosby" on Justia Law

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Rocky Mount regulated sexually oriented businesses by requiring them to obtain a license prior to operation. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of American Entertainers' First Amendment overbreadth and Equal Protection challenge to Rocky Mount's licensing ordinance. However, the court held that the district court erred by rejecting American Entertainers' prior restraint claim where the challenged provision was insufficiently narrow, objective, and definite to pass constitutional muster. Accordingly, the court held as unconstitutional the relevant denial provision in the ordinance and remanded to the district court to consider whether and to what extent the provision was severable from the remainder of the ordinance. View "American Entertainers, LLC v. City of Rocky Mount, NC" on Justia Law

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D.S. and S.P are high school students. D.S. (who is black and has learning disabilities) was charged with violating South Carolina’s Disturbing Schools Law, S.C. Code 16-17-420(A), “after becoming involved in a physical altercation which she did not initiate and in which she was the only person" injured. S.P. (who is white and suffers from disabilities) was charged with violating the Disorderly Conduct Law, S.C. Code 16-17-420(B), after she cursed at a student who had been teasing her and refused to leave as instructed. Other Plaintiffs include young black adults who were previously arrested and charged with violating the Disturbing Schools Law when they expressed concerns about police conduct and an afterschool program serving at-risk youth with two members (Latina and black girls) who were charged under the Disturbing Schools Law. The Fourth Circuit vacated the dismissal, for lack of standing, of a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging the laws as unconstitutionally vague. At least some of the plaintiffs do not rely on conjecture or speculation; they attend schools where they were previously arrested and charged under the statutes, and they do not know which of their actions at school will be interpreted to violate the statutes in the future. Plaintiffs also allege that the laws chill their exercise of free expression, forcing them to refrain from exercising their constitutional rights or risk arrest and prosecution. View "Kenny v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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D.S. and S.P are high school students. D.S. (who is black and has learning disabilities) was charged with violating South Carolina’s Disturbing Schools Law, S.C. Code 16-17-420(A), “after becoming involved in a physical altercation which she did not initiate and in which she was the only person" injured. S.P. (who is white and suffers from disabilities) was charged with violating the Disorderly Conduct Law, S.C. Code 16-17-420(B), after she cursed at a student who had been teasing her and refused to leave as instructed. Other Plaintiffs include young black adults who were previously arrested and charged with violating the Disturbing Schools Law when they expressed concerns about police conduct and an afterschool program serving at-risk youth with two members (Latina and black girls) who were charged under the Disturbing Schools Law. The Fourth Circuit vacated the dismissal, for lack of standing, of a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging the laws as unconstitutionally vague. At least some of the plaintiffs do not rely on conjecture or speculation; they attend schools where they were previously arrested and charged under the statutes, and they do not know which of their actions at school will be interpreted to violate the statutes in the future. Plaintiffs also allege that the laws chill their exercise of free expression, forcing them to refrain from exercising their constitutional rights or risk arrest and prosecution. View "Kenny v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the administrator of detective David E. Abbott's estate under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the search of his person violated his Fourth Amendment right of privacy or, alternatively, his right of substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff also brought a claim under 18 U.S.C. 2255(a), alleging that, as a result of the search, he was the victim of manufactured child pornography. The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment as to the section 1983 claim alleging a Fourth Amendment violation because a reasonable police officer would have known that attempting to obtain a photograph of a minor child's erect penis, by ordering the child to masturbate in the presence of others, would unlawfully invade the child's right of privacy under the Fourth Amendment. The court remanded plaintiff's section 1983 claim alleging Fourth Amendment violation to the district court for further proceedings; vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim for damages under 18 U.S.C. 2255 as an alleged victim of child pornography, and remanded that claim for consideration by the district court in the first instance; and affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's remaining claims. View "Sims v. Labowitz" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the administrator of detective David E. Abbott's estate under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the search of his person violated his Fourth Amendment right of privacy or, alternatively, his right of substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff also brought a claim under 18 U.S.C. 2255(a), alleging that, as a result of the search, he was the victim of manufactured child pornography. The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment as to the section 1983 claim alleging a Fourth Amendment violation because a reasonable police officer would have known that attempting to obtain a photograph of a minor child's erect penis, by ordering the child to masturbate in the presence of others, would unlawfully invade the child's right of privacy under the Fourth Amendment. The court remanded plaintiff's section 1983 claim alleging Fourth Amendment violation to the district court for further proceedings; vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim for damages under 18 U.S.C. 2255 as an alleged victim of child pornography, and remanded that claim for consideration by the district court in the first instance; and affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's remaining claims. View "Sims v. Labowitz" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an inmate at the Red Onion State Prison, appealed the dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim that certain officials at Red Onion denied him medical treatment for serious mental and physical health needs, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. The Fourth Circuit applied the continuing violation doctrine and held that plaintiff's claims were not time-barred; plaintiff sufficiently alleged deliberate indifference by certain defendants to his serious mental health needs; but he has not adequately alleged deliberate indifference to his physical health needs. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "DePaola v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an inmate at the Red Onion State Prison, appealed the dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim that certain officials at Red Onion denied him medical treatment for serious mental and physical health needs, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. The Fourth Circuit applied the continuing violation doctrine and held that plaintiff's claims were not time-barred; plaintiff sufficiently alleged deliberate indifference by certain defendants to his serious mental health needs; but he has not adequately alleged deliberate indifference to his physical health needs. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "DePaola v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the personal representative of Jamycheal Mitchell, filed suit against defendant and 49 others, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law. Jamycheal died from severe malnutrition in Regional Jail while awaiting a bed in the Hospital. Defendant was the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services, the agency responsible for overseeing state mental health hospitals. The Fourth Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to review the district court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss the state law claims and remanded those claims to the district court. The court also held that Eleventh Amendment absolute immunity did not bar the suit where defendant was being sued in her personal capacity and plaintiff sought to recover only from defendant, not the Commonwealth of Virginia. Finally, the court held that defendant was entitled to qualified immunity from suit on the section 1983 claims where no clearly established law dictated that housing mentally ill inmates in prisons, rather than transferring them to state mental health facilities, automatically and alone amounted to an objectively excessive risk to inmate health and safety. View "Adams v. Ferguson" on Justia Law