Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

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

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These appeals concerned whether Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were exempt from the payment of state and local taxes imposed on the transfer of real property in Maryland and South Carolina. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac claimed that they were exempt from such transfer taxes under 12 U.S.C. 1723a(c)(2) and 1452(e) respectively. The district courts in Maryland and South Carolina rejected the Counties' claims, concluding that the general tax exemptions applicable to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, while not applicable to real property taxes, did cover real property transfer taxes, thus making a distinction between property and transfer taxes. The district courts also concluded that Congress acted within its Commerce Clause power. The court held that the real property exclusions from the general tax exemptions of section 1723a(c)(2) and 1452(e) did not include transfer and recordation taxes; in the absence of a particular constitutional right that would trigger heightened scrutiny, the court held that a congressional exemption from state taxation under the Commerce Clause was subject to rational-basis review; Congress could exempt Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from state and local transfer taxes, even though they were collected in the context of interstate transactions, because the taxes could substantially interfere with or obstruct the constitutionally justified missions of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in bolstering the secondary mortgage market; and the Counties' remaining arguments for finding the statutory tax exemptions unconstitutional were rejected. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district courts. View "Montgomery County, Maryland v. Federal National Mortgage Assoc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action suit challenging the legality of the toll charged by the MWAA for use of the Dules Toll Road. The district court dismissed the complaint on numerous grounds. The court concluded that plaintiffs' claims were barred neither by the standing requirement of Article III nor the prudential restrictions the court has recognized on its own judicial power; under the Elizabeth River Crossings OpCo, LLC v. Meeks framework, the tolls charged for passage on the Dules Toll Road are user fees, not taxes, under Virginia law; and therefore, their collection by the MWAA did not run afoul of the Virginia Constitution and did not violate the due process rights of motorists. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' complaint. View "Corr v. Metropolitan Washington" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a class action challenging the constitutionality of the issuance and form of automated speeding citations issued under Maryland's speed camera program. The court found that the notice and hearing afforded by Maryland's speed camera statute satisfied due process where notice sent by first-class mail was reasonably calculated to provide actual notice of the speeding violation and civil penalties; the availability of a trial in state court, upon plaintiffs' election, provided adequate opportunity to be heard on any objections prior to the imposition of the statutory penalties; and any flaws in the citation or enforcement process could have been challenged in the state courts and plaintiffs failed to do so. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the towns. View "Snider Int'l Corp. v. Town of Forest Heights, MD" on Justia Law

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After individuals associated with Occupy Columbia were removed by law enforcement from a 24-hour per day protest on the grounds of the South Carolina State House, Occupy Columbia filed suit against defendants, including the Governor, seeking injunctive relief and damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the South Carolina Constitution, and South Carolina's common law. The court granted in part and denied in part. On appeal, defendants sought review of the district court's denial of qualified immunity to defendants. The court affirmed, concluding that Occupy Columbia has alleged a violation of a clearly established First Amendment right - the right to protest on State House grounds after 6:00 p.m. in the absence of a valid time, place, and manner restriction. View "Occupy Columbia v. Haley" on Justia Law

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Relators filed suit under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729-33, against Purdue. The district court dismissed the action on res judicata grounds because it gave preclusive effect to the court's decision in United States ex rel. Radcliffe v. Purdue Pharma L.P. Although the court rejected relators' assertion that Radcliffe was a jurisdictional dismissal, the court nonetheless agreed that the district court erred by giving Radcliffe preclusive effect. Because the Release executed by Mark Radcliffe did not bar non-signatories from proceeding against Purdue, the judgment enforcing the Release could not bar such claims. Accordingly, the court erred by dismissing this action as barred by principles of res judicata. The court also concluded that the pre-2010 version of the Act's public disclosure bar, 31 U.S.C. 3730(e)(4), applied in this case. Because the district court has not made the factual findings necessary to determine whether the public-disclosure bar precluded this action, the court must remand to the district court for discovery and further proceedings. View "US ex rel. Steven May v. Purdue Pharma L.P." on Justia Law

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Sandlands and EDS challenged the validity of Horry County's Flow Control Ordinance. The Ordinance prohibits disposal of waste generated in the county at any site other than a designated publicly owned landfill. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the county, concluding that the Ordinance did not violate the Dormant Commerce Clause because the Ordinance provides the same types of benefits and imposes the same types of burdens as the ordinances upheld in United Haulers Ass'n v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority. Further, the Ordinance did not violate the Equal Protection Clause because Sandlands and EDS have failed to show that they have been intentionally treated differently from other similarly situated companies. View "Sandlands C&D LLC v. Horry County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed personal injury and wrongful death claims against the United States and Coast Guard under the Suits in Admiralty Act (SIAA), 46 U.S.C. 30901-30918. Plaintiff and her husband fell overboard their boat and her husband subsequently died of drowning. The court concluded that the Coast Guard neither increased the danger facing plaintiff and her husband nor induced reliance on the part of either plaintiff, her husband, or a third party. Accordingly, plaintiff could not prove that the Coast Guard breached its duty to her or her deceased husband, and the district court properly entered summary judgment on plaintiff's tort claims. The court also found that the rulings on the issues of spoliation and the timeliness of the motion reflected proper exercises of the district court's discretion and the court affirmed as to these issues. The court also affirmed the district court's ruling that the Coast Guard's response to plaintiff's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, request satisfied its duty under that Act. View "Turner v. United States" on Justia Law

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Phillip Morris sought review of the USDA's decision regarding the implementation of the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act (FETRA), 7 U.S.C. 518 et seq. Phillip Morris challenged the USDA's decision to use 2003 tax rates instead of current tax rates in calculating how these assessments were to be allocated across manufacturers of different tobacco products. The court concluded that USDA's decision was a permissible interpretation of FETRA; there was no clear indication in the text of the statute, or in Congress's prior or subsequent action, that Congress intended for USDA to take a different course; and there was similarly no basis for concluding that USDA filled that gap with an unreasonable interpretation. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of USDA's motion for summary judgment. View "Philip Morris USA, Inc. v. Vilsack" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b), alleging that the Army was negligent and therefore liable for an Army Specialist's sexual assault against plaintiff. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the government, concluding that plaintiff failed to establish that the sexual assault was foreseeable under North Carolina law, and thus the Army did not breach a duty owed to plaintiff as landlord of Fort Bragg; the Army did not have a special relationship with the assailant for purposes of an FTCA claim; the government did not breach a voluntarily assumed duty to plaintiff; and, because discovery would serve no purpose, it was not error for the district court to reach the merits of plaintiff's claim at this stage of the litigation. The court also concluded that, although the government's ability to control a tortfeasor must be independent of the tortfeasor's status as a government employee, knowledge of the tortfeasor's propensity for violence or criminal history did not, per se nullify an FTCA claim. Accordingly, the district court's dismissal on this alternative basis was erroneous. View "Durden v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Sheriff of the City of Hampton, Virginia, in his individual capacity and in his official capacity, alleging that the Sheriff retaliated against plaintiffs in violation of their First Amendment rights by choosing not to reappoint them because of their support of his electoral opponent. The court concluded that, as to the claims of Plaintiffs Sandhofer, Woodward, and Bland, the district court properly analyzed the merits of the claims; as to the claims of Plaintiffs Carter, McCoy, and Dixon, the district court erred by concluding that plaintiffs failed to create a genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether the Sheriff violated their First Amendment rights; nevertheless, the district court properly ruled that the Sheriff was entitled to qualified immunity on Carter's McCoy's, and Dixon's claims seeking money damages against the Sheriff in his individual capacity, and that the Sheriff was entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity against those claims to the extent they sought monetary relief against him in his official capacity; and the Sheriff was not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity on Carter's, McCoy's and Dixon's claims to the extent the remedy sought was reinstatement. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bland v. Roberts" on Justia Law