Week 32 (2019)
Week of August 5, 2019 through August 9, 2019
Life Techs. Corp. v. Govindaraj (Keenan 7/24/2019) (amended 8/7/2019): The Fourth Circuit held that the president of the defendant corporation could not be held personally liable as he was not personally named as a party in the case and was never notified during the ensuing litigation that the plaintiff was attempting to impose liability on him personally. Furthermore, the Court held that the president could not be held personally liable for the defendant corporation’s acts of trademark infringement solely based on his position as an officer with the corporation because due process requires the claim of personal liability to have been pleaded in the complaint. As such, the Court vacated the judgment for damages and attorney’s fees entered against the president. However, the Court affirmed the District Court’s judgment holding the president in contempt of court for repeatedly violating orders related to discovery. Finally, the Court “remanded for further proceedings to determine whether any portion of the damages and fees awarded against [the president] [were] imposed as a sanction for his contempt of court and, if so, the amount of that sanction. Full Opinion
United States v. Walker
Decided: August 9, 2019
The Fourth Circuit held that the District Court committed plain error by finding the defendant guilty of brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Accordingly, the Court vacated the defendant’s conviction under § 924(c) and remanded, instructing the District Court to resentence the defendant.
The defendant, Donald Eugene Walker, pled guilty to kidnapping under 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a) and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence under18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Section 924(c)(3) has two relevant clauses that determine what qualifies as a “violent crime.”
(A) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or
(B) that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.
Section 924(c)(3)(A) is referred to as the “force clause,” and § 924(c)(3)(B) is referred to as the “residual clause.”
The Fourth Circuit reasoned the District Court committed plain error by finding the defendant guilty under the residual clause because, “at the time of appellate consideration,” both the Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit had expressly held the residual clause to be unconstitutionally vague.
Additionally, the Fourth Circuit determined the District Court committed plain error by finding the defendant guilty via the force clause as well. The government themselves acknowledged that kidnapping did not qualify as a crime of violence under the force clause because one of the elements of kidnapping, inveigle, means “to lure or entice through deceit or insincerity.” Thus, it would be possible to accomplish the crime of kidnapping in the absence of force if the defendant “inveigled” their victim. Therefore, the Court reasoned the defendant could not be convicted of brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence because kidnapping could not qualify as a crime of violence as it could be accomplished without force.
The Court also rejected the government’s argument that “even though physical force or the threat of physical force is unnecessary to accomplish the first element of the crime of kidnapping, it is necessary to accomplish the second “holding” element.” The Court determined that the “holding” of a victim could also entail “mental restraint” of a victim. The Court reasoned that because the holding of a victim could potentially be accomplished without force, kidnapping would still not qualify as a violent crime.
Finally, the Court held that because the defendant was sentenced to an additional term of imprisonment for an offense he did not commit, the plain error affected the defendant’s “substantial rights as well as the fairness, integrity, and public reputation of judicial proceedings.” Accordingly, the Court vacated the defendant’s conviction under § 924(c) and remanded for entry of judgment of acquittal on that count and resentencing.
William S. Anderson