Week 30 (2020)

Week of July 20, 2020 through July 26, 2020

Fauconier v. Clarke (Niemeyer 7/20/2020): The Fourth Circuit held that a plaintiff can move forward with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claims for damages against the defendants in their official capacities. The court found plaintiff’s ADA and § 1983 equal protection claims were both timely filed. Additionally, the court found that the plaintiff plausibly alleged a violation of Title II of the ADA and sufficiently alleged an equal protection claim. The court agreed with the district court that the plaintiff can only move forward on claims against the defendants in their official capacities rather than individual capacities. Therefore, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case. Full Opinion

Gibbs v. Haynes Invs., LLC (Agee 7/21/2020) & Gibbs v. Sequoia Cap. Operations (Agee 7/21/2020): The Fourth Circuit held that the district court had the authority to decide whether arbitrations agreements were valid. The court found that the language of both sets of arbitration agreements provide that tribal law preempts the application of any conflicting law, and that the effect of such provisions is to thereby make unavailable to the borrowers the effective vindication of federal statutory protections and remedies, the arbitration agreements at issue amount to a prospective waiver. Therefore, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment that arbitration clauses were invalid because the choice-of-law clauses amounted to a prospective waiver, making the arbitration agreement unenforceable. Haynes Opinion; Sequoia Opinion

Baten v. McMaster (Niemeyer 7/21/2020; Amended: 7/27/2020): The Fourth Circuit held that South Carolina’s winner-take-all system does not violate the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, or § 2 of the Voting Rights Act. In its decision, the court concluded that the appellants’ challenge to South Carolina’s winner-take-all system was justiciable and that the appellants had Article III standing. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court’s judgment. Full Opinion

Owens v. Stirling (Diaz 7/22/2020): The Fourth Circuit held that the state court reasonably denied defendant’s postconviction relief under Strickland. The court found that the defendant exhausted his Strickland claims because his capital sentencing counsel thoroughly investigated and presented available evidence in mitigation, and did not neglect a viable Confrontation Clause objection to his disciplinary record. Additionally, the court found the Strickland claim insubstantial under Martinez. Therefore, the court upheld the judgment of the district court. Full Opinion

Farabee v. Clarke (Gregory 7/22/2020): The Fourth Circuit held that the appellant had a due process right to counsel in his revocation proceedings. Further, the court held that the appellant adequately alleged his claims, had sufficient facts to show an unreasonable delay, was prejudiced by the unreasonable delay—of over a decade—and adequately stated a substantive due process claim, which was improperly dismissed below. Finally, the court concluded that the appellant pleaded enough facts to excuse any procedural default. Therefore, the court vacated the dismissal below and remanded the case. Full Opinion

Zachary Turner