Articles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

by
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging Virginia Code sections 20-45.2 and 20-45.3; the Marshall/Newman Amendment, Va. Const. art. I, 15-A; and any other Virginia law that bars same sex-marriage or prohibits the State's recognition of otherwise-lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions (collectively, the Virginia Marriage Laws). Plaintiffs argued that these laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and enjoined Virginia from enforcing the laws. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that each of the plaintiffs had standing as to at least one defendant, and the court declined to view Baker v. Nelson as binding precedent. The court concluded that strict scrutiny analysis applied in this case where the Virginia Marriage Laws impede the right to marry by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and nullifying the legal import of their out-of-state marriages. Proponents contend that five interests support the laws: federalism-based interests, history and tradition, protecting the institution of marriage, encouraging responsible procreation, and promoting the optimal childrearing environment. The court concluded, however, that these interests are not compelling interests that justify the Virginia Marriage Laws. Therefore, all of the proponents' justifications for the laws fail and the laws cannot survive strict scrutiny. Accordingly, the court concluded that the Virginia Marriage Laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the extent that they prevent same-sex couples from marrying and prohibit Virginia from recognizing same-sex couples' lawful out-of-state marriages. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Bostic v. Schaefer" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner filed suit for survivor's benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 901-945. Petitioner sought review of an April 2012 decision of the BRB affirming the denial of benefits by an ALJ. The court held that petitioner satisfied the test for survivor's benefits: she is the surviving spouse of a miner whose death was hastened by pneumoconiosis due at least in part to coal mine employment. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with directions to award benefits without further administrative proceedings. View "Collins v. Pond Creek Mining Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, by and through her adoptive parents, brought this action challenging South Carolina's reduction of monthly adoption assistance benefits, claiming that the reduction violated the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, 42 U.S.C. 670 et seq. The court held in this case that section 673(a)(3) did set forth a privately enforceable right under 42 U.S.C. 1983, but that the parents have failed to plead any violation of that right by defendants. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Hensley v. Koller" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner initiated this action for wrongful removal under the Hague Convention, seeking the return of his son to Switzerland. The district court found that respondent breached no rights of custody in removing the child and denied the petition for return. Respondent had sole custody of her son when she traveled with him to the United States and Swiss law gave her a unilateral right to remove the child while he was in her sole custody. Petitioner failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that respondent's removal of the child abused her rights under Swiss law or breached any rights of custody petitioner held at the time of removal. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "White v. White" on Justia Law

by
Albert DiFederico, a former naval commander, was serving as a civilian contractor for the State Department in Pakistan when he was killed in a terrorist attack on the Marriott Islamabad Hotel. His widow and their three sons brought this wrongful death action and survivorship claim alleging that Marriott was liable for its failure to adequately secure its franchise hotel. The district court granted Marriott's motion to dismiss on the basis of forum non conveniens, finding that Pakistan was an available, adequate, and far more convenient forum to hear the case. Plaintiffs brought their suit in the forum of Marriott's principal place of business, the District of Maryland. The court found that plaintiffs were entitled to heightened deference in their choice of forum. The court concluded that it would be a perversion of justice to force a widow and her children to place themselves in the same risk-laden situation that led to the death of a family member. Plaintiffs were inconvenienced by the fear, emotional trauma, and associated logistical complexity that would afflict them if this case were dismissed and decided in Pakistan. The court's review of several of the applicable public and private factors provided additional support for the court's conclusion that the district court abused its discretion in dismissing the case. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "DiFederico v. Marriott Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment for her employer, the UPS, pursuant to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), 42 U.S.C. 2000e(k), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. The court held that plaintiff presented no direct evidence of pregnancy discrimination where the UPS policy at issue, that did not provide light duty work to pregnant workers but did for certain other employees, treated pregnant and nonpregnant workers alike and therefore complied with the PDA. Plaintiff also failed to offer sufficient evidence to make out a prima facie case of discrimination under the McDonnell Douglas framework. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Young v. UPS" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff claimed that FedEx violated the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601 et seq., by terminating her employment in retaliation for her decision to take medical leave and by failing to restore her to an equivalent position upon her return from leave. Plaintiff worked for FedEx as a mail courier and FedEx claimed that she was terminated for falsifying her delivery records. Because plaintiff failed to point to any evidence that FedEx treated similarly situated employees who had not taken FMLA leave more favorably, and because the record showed that FedEx would have suspended and terminated her employment regardless of her decision to take leave, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of FedEx. View "Laing v. Federal Express Corp." on Justia Law

by
This case involved a widow's claim for survivors' benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA), 30 U.S.C. 901-944, as amended by the the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Pub. L. No. 111-148, Section 1556, 124 Stat. 119, 260. The PPACA amendments revived Section 422(l) of the BLBA, 30 U.S.C. 932(l), which provided that an eligible survivor of a miner who was receiving benefits at the time of his death was automatically entitled to survivors' benefits without having to establish that the miner's death was due to pneumoconiosis. Relying on an amended section 932(l), the Benefits Review Board, ruled that the miner's widow was entitled to survivors' benefits. On appeal, petitioner raised a variety of constitutional and statutory challenges to the PPACA's restoration provision. The court held that because retroactive application of amended Section 932(l) was hardly arbitrary or irrational, petitioner's substantive due process argument was unavailing. Because amended Section 932(l) merely required petitioner to pay money - and thus did not infringe a specific, identifiable property interest - the Takings Clause was not applicable. The court also held that the miner's widow was derivatively entitled to survivors' benefits pursuant to Section 932(l). Finally, because petitioner made its contention, that 30 U.S.C. 901, 921(a), and 922(a)(2) prevented the miner's widow from receiving automatic survivors' benefits, for the first time at oral argument, the court held that it was waived. Accordingly, the judgment of the Board was affirmed.

by
Petitioner requested innocent spouse relief from her tax liability under I.R.C. 6015(f) more than two years after the IRS began its efforts to collect the deficiency from an audit of the petitioner and her husband's joint income tax return for the year 2000. At issue was whether Treasury Regulation 1.6015-5(b)(1), 26 C.F.R. 1.6015-5(b)(1), establishing a two-year limitations period within which to request equitable innocent spouse relief from joint and several income tax liability under I.R.C. 6015(f), was a valid regulation. The court held that a two-year time period for requesting relief under section 6015(f) was a reasonable approach to filling the gap left in section 6015. Therefore, because section 6015(f) was ambiguous as to an appropriate limitations period and Regulation 1.6015-5(b)(1) was not arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to the statute, the court held that it was a valid regulation. Per petitioner's request, the court remanded the case to the Tax Court for determining whether petitioner was entitled to an extension under Treasury Regulation 301.9100-3. The court finally rejected petitioner's request for innocent spouse relief under the doctrine of equitable tolling where she waived the issue. Accordingly, the judgment of the Tax Court was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.