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Week 26 (2020)

Week of June 22, 2020 through June 26, 2020

UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Kurbanov (Gregory 6/26/2020): The Fourth Circuit held that the defendant-appellee, Tofig Kurbanov, was subject to personal jurisdiction in federal court and remanded the case to the district court for the required reasonability analysis. The court reversed the district court’s ruling. The district court ruled that Kurbanov failed to avail himself of the privilege to conduct activities in Virginia and that the appellants’ claims did not arise out of forum-related activities. Instead, the Fourth Circuit said that Kurbanov had “plentiful” contacts in Virginia. In its analysis, the court reasoned that Kurbanov’s websites had numerous repeat users that created a commercial relationship via Kurbanov’s selling of their information to ad brokers; that Kurbanov’s contracts with American companies and servers served as a strategy for safeguards under U.S. law; that the websites were accessed by many Virginia citizens with no attempts to limit their access; and that Kurbanov collected Virginia users’ data. Full Opinion

Cedillos-Cedillos v. Barr (Harris 6/26/2020): The Fourth Circuit held that the immigration judge did have jurisdiction over Cedillos’ removal proceeding, even though his notice to appear did not have a time and date with it. To reach that conclusion, the court relied on its recent decision in United States v. Cortez, 930 F.3d 350, 355 (4th Cir. 2019). Further, the court concluded that Cedillos had not met his burden to show eligibility for asylum when his petition for review failed to meet the nexus requirement. For the nexus requirement, the petitioner must “show[] that such persecution was or will . . . [occur] ‘on account of’ his ‘membership in a particular social group.’” 2020 WL 3476981, at *4 (4th Cir. June 26, 2020) (quoting 8 C.F.R. § 1208.13(b)). But the petitioner failed to show that his family membership was at least a central reason for the harm that he suffered or that he had a well-founded fear of future persecution. Therefore, the court dismissed in part and denied in part Cedillos’ petition for review. Full Opinion

United States v. Gutierrez (Agee 6/26/2020): The Fourth Circuit held, first, that the district court properly empaneled an anonymous jury to avoid potential attempts to interfere with the judicial process, and the court adopted reasonable safeguards to minimize the risk of infringing on the accused defendants’ rights. Second, the court held that Judge Whitney (W.D.N.C.) was not required to recuse himself even though he recused himself in a previous case that involved a member of the defendants’ gang, United Blood Nation (UBN), because the facts that led to the judge’s recusal in the previous case were unrelated to the defendants’ case. Third, the Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion during the jury selection process. Fourth, the court held that one defendant’s motion to suppress was properly denied because the disputed evidence was uncovered following a search incident to a lawful arrest and the evidence was properly authenticated. Fifth, the court held that there was sufficient evidence to support the defendants’ conviction for racketeering under 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d). Sixth, the court held that the refusal to issue a special verdict form was within the district court’s discretion and rejection on withdrawal was warranted.

Additionally, the Fourth Circuit dispensed with the defendants’ claims on civil forfeiture because the jury’s civil forfeiture verdict was supported by evidence that the commissary funds were gang dues from UBN members or gains from criminal activities, such as robbery and drug trafficking, in violation of federal law. And finally, the court held that the appellants’ sentences were procedurally and substantively reasonable because the preponderance of the evidence standard was properly applied, the sentencing judge considered the parties’ arguments and used those assessments in determining each sentence on a reasoned basis, and the sentences were reasonable when measured against the § 3553(a) factors. Full Opinion

Grace Brown