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Week 2 (2020)

Week of January 13, 2020 through January 17, 2020

Husley v. Cisa (Rushing 1/17/20): The Fourth Circuit held that although federal district courts generally may not review state court decisions, such criterion is not satisfied by mere overlap between the plaintiff’s litigation in state and federal court. The federal action must be filed specifically to review the decision of the state court. The Court vacated and remanded to the District Court for the District of South Carolina’s grant of defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Full Opinion

Wojcicki v. SCANA Corp. (Thacker 1/14/20): The Fourth Circuit held that a pro se plaintiff may not maintain a qui tam action pursuant to the False Claims Act because a pro se plaintiff cannot represent the Government’s interest in a qui tam suit. The Court affirmed the District Court for the District of South Carolina’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint. 

Full Opinion

Iraq Middle Market Development v. Harmoosh (Motz 1/13/20): The Fourth Circuit held that in an international loan repayment dispute, a debtor defaults his right to arbitrate if he fails to assert that right before the foreign trial court issues final judgment against him. The Court vacated and remanded to the District Court for the District of Maryland’s grant of defendant’s motion for summary judgment

Full Opinion

Highlight Case

Roe v. DOD

Decided: January 14, 2020

The Fourth Circuit held that a servicemember’s discharge for contracting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may violate the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) when a plaintiff alleges that the Department of Defense (DOD) acted arbitrary and capricious by failing to follow its own regulations. In the alternative, DOD may violate the APA if its regulations do not reflect current medical evidence concerning effects medical conditions have on a servicemember’s ability to deploy. 

In early 2019, the Air Force determined that two enlisted members who were diagnosed with HIV were unfit for continued military service, setting discharge dates for each of them. The Air Force, DOD, and Central Command (CENTCOM) have various regulations in place for instances where a servicemember contracts the HIV virus. Central Command regulations are critical because eighty percent of all Air Force deployments fall under this major command. Both Richard Roe and Victor Voe each contracted HIV in 2017, approximately five years after their respective enlistments. Since contracting the virus, each began antiretroviral treatment shortly thereafter. Doctors for Roe and Voe stated that both airmen had undetectable viral loads and recommended allowing the airman to continue their service. Despite these recommendations, the Air Force’s Informal Physical Evaluation Board recommended discharge for both airmen. The Secretary of the Air Force Personnel Council affirmed the discharge decisions, reasoning that their HIV status precluded the airman from deploying world-wide without a waiver and rendered them ineligible for deployment to CENTCOM. 

Roe and Voe sought a preliminary injunction to their discharge decisions while they challenged the discharges. The District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted the injunction, concluding that the airman were likely to succeed on their claims that their HIV discharges were arbitrary and capricious under the APA. Also, the district court found that they were likely to succeed on their claims that the discharges violated their equal protection rights. The Government appealed the district court’s order denying their motion to dismiss and granting in part the airmen’s motion for a preliminary injunction. 

A party seeking a preliminary injunction must show that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm without such relief, that the balance of equities favors him, and that the injunction is in the public interest. The Fourth Circuit focused its analysis on the first element and reasoned that the airmen have shown they are likely to succeed on the merits. First, the deployment policies permit airmen to seek a waiver for deployment to CENTCOM. In light of this, the Court reasoned that the Air Force discharged the airmen without individualized assessments of their fitness. Rather, the Air Force stated that HIV status alone meant that they could not deploy. In the alternative, even if the Air Force were correct that CENTCOM’s policies rendered the airmen categorically ineligible to deploy, the airmen have shown that the government may have violated the APA because the government cannot reconcile this policy with current medical evidence. Finally, the Court determined that the other three elements weighed in favor of the airmen; therefore, the Court affirmed the district court’s grant of the plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction. 

Full Opinion

 Carl Petkoff