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Week 27 (2019)

Week of July 1, 2019 through July 5, 2019

Board of Trustees v. Four-C-Aire, Inc. (Agee 7/3/2019): The Fourth Circuit held that a multiemployer pension plan’s governing agreements and a former participating employer’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) required participating employers to pay an exit contribution when they no longer have a duty to contribute to the plan due to the expiration of the underlying CBA, and therefore the complaint alleged a viable claim. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s grant of the former participating employer’s motion to dismiss, vacated the judgement as to the exit contribution claim, and remanded for further proceedings. Full Opinion

Williams v. Big Picture Loans, LLC (Gregory 7/3/2019): The Fourth Circuit held that the entities claiming arm-of-the-tribe immunity bore the burden of proving their entitlement to immunity, and found that a proper weighing of the factors set forth in Breakthrough Management Group, Inc. v. Chuckhansi Gold Casino & Resort, 629 F.3d 1173 (10th Cir. 2010), demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that the entities were entitled to tribal sovereign immunity. Therefore, the court reversed the district court’s order and remanded with instructions to grant the entities’ motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Full Opinion

United States v. Courtade (Gregory 7/3/2019): The Fourth Circuit held that a defendant who pled guilty to possession of child pornography failed to show that it was more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him. The court reasoned that a reasonable jury could have found the video of a teenage girl showering depicted a “lascivious exhibition of the anus, genitals, or pubic area” and convicted the defendant of possessing child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B). Additionally, the court held defendant’s ineffective assistance claim failed because counsel was not constitutionally deficient in failing to consult with defendant about taking an appeal. The court thus affirmed the district court’s denial of defendant’s 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. Full Opinion

United States v. Dinkins (Keenan 7/1/2019): The Fourth Circuit held that North Carolina common law robbery qualifies as a predicate offense under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) under the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Stokeling v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 544 (2019), which abrogated the court’s prior holding in United States v. Gardner, 823 F.3d 793 (4th Cir. 2016). The court also held that a conviction under North Carolina law for being an accessory before the fact of armed robbery qualifies as a violent felony because that offense incorporates the elements of armed robbery, which itself is a violent felony. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of petitioner’s 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion arguing that his prior convictions no longer qualified as an ACCA predicate in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). Full Opinion

Highlight Case

Doe v. Meron

Decided: July 3, 2019

The Fourth Circuit held that District of Columbia law applies when allegedly tortious conduct occurs in a foreign country, and that, contrary to Plaintiff Doe’s argument, the pertinent law of the District of Columbia and Maryland are materially the same. The court also held Doe failed to satisfy his burden in challenging the scope of employment certification and that although the district court need not have considered the defendants’ evidence, the evidence only served to reinforce the conclusion that the defendants were acting within the scope of their employment, investigating allegations of child abuse or neglect. The court further held that conduct occurring on an American military base in a foreign country falls within the foreign country exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Finally, applying the Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1842 (2017), the court held that Doe lacks an implied cause of action under the constitution and thus the district court did not err in dismissing his constitutional claims. 

Doe filed suit against United States Navy officers and employees in response to conduct which allegedly occurred at a United States Navy base in a foreign country. The allegations arose from a 2015 investigation at the navy base, during which Doe claims defendants conspired to seize, interrogate and batter his three minor children and to seize and batter him. Doe alleged intentional torts under state law and constitutional violations under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Doe appealed the district court’s decision denying Doe’s motion to set aside the government’s scope of employment certification and granting the government’s motion to dismiss.

In affirming the denial of Doe’s motion to set aside the certification, the court reasoned that, even if it credited the speculative and conclusory statements in Doe’s evidence, Doe failed to demonstrate that all the defendants were solely motivated by a personal desire. The court thus held that the government was properly substituted for the individual defendants under the Westfall Act. 

Next, the court agreed with decisions from the 3rd and 9th circuit and determined the district court was correct in finding that the foreign country exception to the FTCA applied because the conduct arose on a foreign military base.

Finally, the court applied the Abbasi framework and concluded that although Doe’s constitutional claims present new Bivens contexts, multiple special factors counsel against such an extension. The special factors were that Doe’s claims arose in a military context, his claims would extend Bivens extraterritorially, and an alternative remedial scheme existed. Thus, the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Doe’s constitutional claims. 

Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s judgment for defendants. 

Full Opinion

Kate Heil