Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Michael Adjei v. Alejandro Mayorkas
At issue is whether the Commonwealth of Virginia would recognize a divorce granted by a foreign nation to its own citizens when neither spouse was domiciled in that nation at the time of the divorce. The question arises from Petitioner’s marriage to a woman after the woman and another man — both Ghanaian citizens — divorced pursuant to Ghanaian customary law. At the time of the divorce, the woman and man were lawful permanent residents of the United States, and neither was present or domiciled in Ghana. Based on his marriage to the woman, Petitioner became a lawful permanent resident of the United States. But when Petitioner applied to become a naturalized citizen, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determined that he and the woman were not validly married. USCIS reasoned that under controlling Virginia law, the Commonwealth would not recognize a divorce granted by a nation where neither spouse was domiciled at the time of the divorce. Petitioner sought a review of the decision in the district court, which granted summary judgment to USCIS. Petitioner then brought this appeal. The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded with instructions to grant Petitioner’s naturalization application. The court concluded as a matter of comity, Virginia would recognize this otherwise valid divorce granted by a foreign nation to its own citizens, regardless of the citizens’ domicile at the time. The court explained it rejected only USCIS’s argument that pursuant to present Virginia law, the Commonwealth would refuse to recognize a divorce granted by a foreign nation to its own citizens simply because neither was domiciled in the foreign nation at the time of the divorce. View "Michael Adjei v. Alejandro Mayorkas" on Justia Law
Jonathan R. v. Jim Justice
Plaintiffs brought a claim on behalf of thousands of West Virginia’s foster children challenging the State’s administration of child welfare services. Invoking Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), the district court abstained from hearing the case in deference to parallel state-court proceedings. Plaintiffs alleged that a federal class action is the most—if not the only—effective way to achieve the kind of systemic relief they seek.The Fourth Circuit reversed holding that principles of federalism not only do not preclude federal intervention, they compel it. Plaintiffs bring federal claims, and federal courts “are obliged to decide” them in all but “exceptional” circumstances. The court explained that Younger’s narrow scope safeguards Plaintiffs’ rights, bestowed on them by Congress in the Judiciary Act of March 3, 1875, to present their claims to a federal tribunal. 28 U.S.C. Section 1331. The court further wrote For years, West 4 Virginia’s response to any foster-care orders entered as part of the individual state hearings seems to have been to shuffle its money and staff around until the orders run out, entrenching rather than excising structural failures. Thus, forcing Plaintiffs to once more litigate their claims piecemeal would get federalism exactly backward. View "Jonathan R. v. Jim Justice" on Justia Law
Fry v. Rand Construction Corp.
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment entered in favor of Rand in an action brought by plaintiff, a former employee, alleging that Rand unlawfully fired her for taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).The court affirmed and agreed with the district court that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that Rand's justification for the termination was false and merely a pretext for retaliation. In this case, Rand presented a lawful explanation for firing plaintiff: performance problems. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding a former employee's testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 403. View "Fry v. Rand Construction Corp." on Justia Law