Fourth Circuit Survey

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Week of January 28, 2019 through February 1, 2019

Williams v. Stirling (Agee 1/28/2019): The Fourth Circuit held a PCR court unreasonably denied petitioner post-conviction relief due to ineffective assistance of counsel. Counsel had an obligation to fully investigate mitigating circumstances, including the potential that the petitioner had fetal alcohol syndrome, and present that information to the sentencing jury. The PCR court’s holding was also unreasonable under Strickland prejudice and a clear violation of established law. Full Opinion

U.S. v. Azua-Rinconada (Niemeyer 1/28/2019): The Fourth Circuit held that there was no warrantless search or Fifth Amendment violation where residents consented to police entry into their home, even if the entry ended in an arrest for illegal entry into the United States. While the officers should not have threatened to breakdown the door, such a statement did not negate the voluntariness of the consent. Because of consent to enter, no warrant was necessary. Full Opinion

Perez v. Cissna (Quattlebaum 1/29/19): The Fourth Circuit held agency action in denying a SIJ application for permanent custody of a child was appropriate. The child filed a SIJ action, seeking statuts as a special immigrant juvenile, on his 18th birthday, just days after his brother was granted emergency custody, but before any notice was given to his parents, in Guatemala. In review, the Court noted deferential status given to agency action. The granting of emergency custody did not necessitate the granting of SIJ status. Full Opinion

 McClure v. Ports(Motz 1/29/2019): The Fourth Circuit held there was no constitutional violation where state government limited a union’s access to non-public spaces. A union was denied access to some areas owned by the Maryland Transit Authority for violation of the collective bargaining agreement stating union business should not be conducted on the transit authority’s property. The government’s interest substantially outweighed any interest the union may have in accessing areas and conducting union business on the property. Full Opinion

Cruz-Quintanilla v. Whitaker (Harris 2/1/2019): The Fourth Circuit remanded review of an action seeking relief under the Convention Against Torture, because as a mixed question of law and fact, the Board of Immigration Appeals used the wrong standard of review. Convention against torture inquires require a showing that torture is more likely than no to occur upon deportation and that the government would acquiesce in the torture. As there are many relevant criteria of law and fact to consider in the acquiescence prong, the Board should review de novo, not for abuse of discretion by the immigration judge. Full Opinion


Highlight Case

Equal Employment Opportunity Comm’n v. McLeod Health, Inc., No. 17-2335

Decided: January 31, 2019

The Fourth Circuit remand a District Court’s granting of summary judgment for a potential ADA violation where an employee had an existing disability.

An employee at McLeod Health had a disability since birth and was forced to undergo a work-related medical exam when her supervisor expressed concerns that declining health may prevent the employee from doing the tasks necessary to her employment. The employee was the editor of an internal employee newsletter and traveled between the various campuses collecting content. In a four-month period before being placed on leave, the employee fell once at work and twice outside of work. Her supervisor requested she have a health-evaluation, which lead to further testing. Employee arguably was reluctant in submitting to the evaluations. Employee requested the accommodations made from the testing because she thought the testing required her to. Because of the requested accommodations, supervisors believed employee could not successfully complete tasks necessary to her position. They encouraged her to look elsewhere within the company, but the available positions paid less, so employee did not apply. Employee was later terminated.

The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court’s granting of summary judgment. On remand, at least the questions of if travel between campuses is necessary as part of the employee’s job and if the ADA was violated by discharging the employee because of her disability must be sent to the jury. The discharge took place according to medical exams that might not be lawful. As the answer to both questions was not clear, it was improper to grant summary judgment in favor of the employer.

Full Opinion

Maura Ashton