Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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In an action arising from a condemnation proceeding, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's partial grant of summary judgment to MVP based on its right to condemn certain temporary and permanent easements on the properties of several landowners, including WPPLP. In this case, MVP was authorized by FERC to exercise its rights of eminent domain to construct a natural gas pipeline. The court also affirmed the district court's grant of MVP's motion for a preliminary injunction allowing MVP immediate access to the easements described in MVP's complaint. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding evidence regarding potential damage to WPPLP and WPPLLC's coal as a result of the pipeline; the district court did not err by declining to join WPPLLC as an indispensable party; there was no genuine dispute of material fact as to MVP's claim to invoke eminent domain powers; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the Winter factors favored a grant of a preliminary injunction to MVP. View "Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC v. Western Pocahontas Properties" on Justia Law

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The Sanitary Board challenged the EPA's decision disapproving a revised standard for the receiving waters of the Board's wastewater treatment facility along the Kanawha River. The district court dismissed the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) claims as moot following the issuance of a new permit to the Board. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the EPA on the merits, finding that the agency did not violate the APA. The court held that, on the record, it was evident that the EPA reached a justified conclusion and its decision was not arbitrary, capricious, nor contrary to law. In this case, the EPA employed the scientific expertise and grounded judgment that the Clean Water Act contemplates. View "Sanitary Board of the City of Charleston v. Wheeler" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his action against the Department of Education for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Plaintiff's action stemmed from defendants' treatment of an allegedly fraudulent student loan in plaintiff's name. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action based on lack of jurisdiction because Congress had not waived sovereign immunity for suits under the FCRA. The court held that the purported FCRA waiver in this case fell short of being unambiguous and unequivocal. View "Robinson v. US Department of Education" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from FERC's approval of Mountain Valley's application to construct a natural gas pipeline through West Virginia and Virginia. Mountain Valley successfully negotiated easements allowing access onto the land of most of the affected landowners, but in order to obtain the rest of the easements it needed, it initiated condemnation proceedings. Three district courts granted partial summary judgment to Mountain Valley and issued preliminary injunctions granting immediate possession of the easements. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's orders and held that East Tennessee Natural Gas Co. v. Sage, 361 F.3d 808 (4th Cir. 2004), squarely foreclosed the Landowners' argument that the district courts lacked the authority to grant immediate possession in a Natural Gas Act condemnation. The court also held that the district courts did not abuse their discretion in granting preliminary injunctive relief to Mountain Valley under the test in Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). View "Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC v. 6.56 Acres of Land" on Justia Law

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The temporary, ex parte emergency order presented by plaintiff did not qualify as a predicate state court custody order for the special immigrant juvenile application. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that it properly concluded that the USCIS did not impose an ultra vires requirement for permanent custody orders within the SIJ application process. Therefore, the agency did not act arbitrarily, capriciously or contrary to law, or abuse its discretion in determining that plaintiff failed to present a qualifying predicate order in support of his SIJ petition. Finally, the court held that the Full Faith and Credit Act was inapplicable under the facts presented in this case. View "Perez v. Cissna" on Justia Law

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SOS challenged the agencies' decision to replace a segment of North Carolina Highway 12 (NC-12) with a bridge across the Pamlico Sound. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the agencies' motion for summary judgment, holding that they did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or the Department of Transportation Act (DTA) when they approved the bridge. In this case, the agencies were not required to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement to consider the alignment of the Jug-Handle Bridge or to consider beach nourishment alternatives; the agencies adequately considered the effects of construction traffic as a result of the Jug-Handle Bridge in the 2016 record of decision; and the agencies' choice of the Jug-Handle Bridge was not impermissibly predetermined. The court also affirmed the district court's denial of SOS's motion to amend its complaint. View "Save Our Sound OBX, Inc. v. North Carolina Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Three municipalities who use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to carry out their obligations under state law filed suit against the DOD and its constituent military departments, seeking to compel the department to more thoroughly comply with federal law requiring the department to provide records to the NICS. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the municipalities' claim and held that they lacked constitutional standing and failed to establish subject matter jurisdiction under the Administrative Procedure Act. The court explained that there was simply no basis in the APA's text for such a broad incursion into internal agency management. The court noted that the APA did not permit the municipalities' efforts to include judicial supervision of the myriad programmatic workings of the federal government. View "City of New York v. DOD" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the Board's decision certifying that it had reasonable assurances that activities related to the construction of a natural gas pipeline would not degrade the state's water resources. The Fourth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the Board's certification under section 401 of the Clean Water Act was not arbitrary and capricious. The court held that the decision to reopen the comment period and not to conduct a combined effect analysis did not render the state agencies' issuance of a section 401 certification arbitrary and capricious. The court also held that the state agencies' reasonable assurance determination was not arbitrary and capricious because they relied on existing Virginia water quality standards and regulations to effectively address concerns regarding water quality deterioration, and the state agencies' treatment of karst terrain was not arbitrary or capricious because of the conditions imposed on the certification. View "Appalachian Voices v. State Water Control Board" on Justia Law

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Relator brought a qui tam action against four student loan corporations, including PHEAA, alleging that they violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by defrauding the Department of Education. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the jury's unanimous verdict in favor of PHEAA, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding a 2004–2007 Performance Audit as irrelevant; plaintiff failed to preserve his challenge to the failure to give his proposed jury instructions; and the district court did not plainly err in instructing the jury. View "United States ex rel. Oberg v. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency" on Justia Law

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Relator appealed the district court's dismissal of his qui tam action against his former employer, United Airlines, under the False Claims Act. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's complaint as to the substantive claims under 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(A)–(B), because he failed to plead his claims with the requisite particularity. However, the court held that plaintiff pleaded retaliation under section 3730(h), and the district court therefore erred in holding that plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to withstand the motion to dismiss. In this case, under the objective reasonableness standard, plaintiff sufficiently alleged that he was engaged in protected activity, United knew about the protected activity, and United terminated plaintiff because he engaged in the protected activity. View "United States ex rel. Grant v. United Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law