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Week 4 (2017)

Week of January 23, 2017 through January 27, 2017

Brown & Pipkins, LLC v. Service Employees Int’l Union (Diaz 1/23/2017): The Court held that a deferential standard of review is applied to arbitration awards and “serious error” alone is insufficient to overturn the award. Therefore, the Court affirmed the district court’s confirmation of the arbitration awards and found that the Union waived its request for attorneys’ fees. Full Opinion

US v. Shaquille Robinson (Niemeyer 1/23/2017): The Fourth Circuit held that a law enforcement officer may frisk an individual lawfully stopped when the officer reasonably believes the person is armed and without regard to whether a person may legally be entitled to carry a firearm. The Court sitting en banc vacated its earlier panel’s judgment and affirmed the district court’s ruling. Full Opinion

US v. Kofi Agyekum (Niemeyer 1/24/2017): The Court held that when reviewing “relevant conduct” under the Sentencing Guidelines, “during the commission of” the charged offenses is not narrowly construed to only the days when the charged offenses occurred. It also includes those acts that are temporally and qualitatively linked. The Court also rejected appellant’s argument that the district court failed to adequately inform appellant of the procedural protections he was waiving. The Court affirmed the district court’s sentencing decision. Full Opinion

Lawrence Gwozdz v. Healthport Technologies, LLC (Wilkinson 1/24/2017): The Court held that Tax Injunction Act deprives federal courts of jurisdiction when the tax is a state tax and a remedy may be had in the courts of that state. The Court vacated and remanded the decision of the district court with instructions to return the action to state court. Full Opinion

Ihar Sotnikau v. Loretta Lynch (King 1/24/2017): The Court held that Virginia’s voluntary manslaughter offense did not involve moral turpitude, and therefore, a non-citizen legal resident found guilty of the offense is not subject to removal proceedings for that offense. The Court vacated the final order from the Board of Immigration Appeals which had deemed appellant subject to removal and remanded for further proceedings. Full Opinion

Mario Salinas v. Commercial Interiors, Inc. (Wynn 1/25/2017): The Court held that “joint employers” for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act exists when two entities codetermine the terms and conditions of a worker’s employment and the two entities’ combined influence renders the worker an employee rather than an independent contractor. The Court reversed the district court’s ruling that granted summary judgment to Commercial. Full Opinion

Marlon Hall v. DIRECTV, LLC (Wynn 1/25/2017): The Court held joint employment under FLSA exists when the entities are found to jointly employ a particular worker. The Court listed six non-exhaustive factors for the lower court to consider when making the determination. The Court also held that to meet the Twombly and Iqbal plausibility standard, when asserting an overtime claim, a plaintiff must do more than merely assert that they regularly worked more than forty hours per week without overtime pay. However, the standard does not require plaintiffs to identify a particular week in which they worked overtime hours. The Court reversed the district court’s 12(b)(6) dismissal of Plaintiff’s claim and remanded for further proceedings. Full Opinion

US v. Juan Moreno-Tapia (Harris 1/26/2017): The Court held that Padilla v. Kentucky did not apply retroactively to defendants who were convicted before Padilla was decided. The Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying appellant’s motion to vacate the 2009 removal. Full Opinion

Jo Huskey v. Ethicon, Inc. (Motz 1/26/2017): The Court held that if a reasonable jury could find that the medical product did not meet parameters of § 402A cmt. k of the Restatement (Second) of Torts then appellant (Ethicon) could not find relief under comment k. The Court affirmed the district court’s denial of appellant’s motion for JMOL. Full Opinion

Ceres Marine Terminals, Inc. v. DOWCP (Gregory 1/27/2017): The Court held that the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, unlike the zone-of-danger negligence test, does not require that psychological injuries be accompanied by actual or threatened physical harm. Therefore, the Court denied CMT’s petition for review. Full Opinion

Billy Prince v. Sears Holdings Corporation (Motz 1/27/2017): The Court held that when a plaintiff challenges the administration of the ERISA plan, directly or indirectly, the second and third prong of the ERISA preemption test can be met regardless of whether a plaintiff’s claims focus solely on defendant’s action prior to the actual denial of benefits. The Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing the claim without prejudice because ERISA preempted the plaintiff’s state law claims. Full Opinion

Highlight Case

US v. Shaquille Robinson, No. 14-4902

Decided: January 23, 2017

The Fourth Circuit, en banc, vacated a Fourth Circuit panel and held that a law enforcement officer may frisk an individual lawfully stopped when the officer reasonably believes the person is armed and therefore dangerous and without regard to whether a person may legally be entitled to carry a firearm.

On March 24, 2014, an anonymous tipster notified the West Virginia Police Department that a black male in a bluish greenish Toyota Camry with a white female driver had just loaded a firearm and concealed it in his pocket. The man was seen at a gas station known for drug trafficking incidents and located in the city’s highest crime area. Officer Hudson immediately responded to the call, located the vehicle, and lawfully stopped the vehicle after seeing that the occupants were not wearing their seatbelts. After asking for the driver’s license, Officer Hudson started to ask for defendant’s license, but instead asked defendant to step out of the vehicle fearing that defendant would pull a gun out of his pocket. Captain Roberts arrived and asked defendant if he had a weapon on him, defendant did not verbally answer and gave suspicious facial expressions. Captain Roberts frisked defendant, removed a loaded gun, and arrested defendant for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the firearm arguing that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. The district court denied the motion and found that the anonymous tip, defendant’s suspicious facial expressions, and defendant’s failure to respond gave the officers reasonable suspicion to believe defendant was armed and dangerous.  The Fourth Circuit panel reversed the lower court and the Fourth Circuit granted government’s petition for rehearing en banc where they reversed the panel. On appeal, defendant admitted that the officers lawfully stopped the vehicle and had reasonable suspicion that defendant was armed. However, defendant argued that to conduct a lawful frisk, the officers must believe the defendant was not only armed, but also dangerous.

The Court stated that the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that traffic stops are dangerous for the police officers. However, without more, the general risk to the police officers is not enough to justify a frisk of an automobile’s occupants. To conduct a frisk within the bounds of the Fourth Amendment the officer must have lawfully stopped the individual and the officer must reasonably suspect that the person is armed and dangerous. The Court cited to Terry and Mimms for the proposition that “armed” and “dangerous” are deliberately linked and that being armed is equivalent to being dangerous.

Defendant noted that at the time of the frisk, West Virginia residents with a State license could lawfully carry a concealed firearm. Therefore, defendant argued that carrying a weapon in his pocket could be innocent behavior and was not enough for the officer to reasonable believe he was dangerous. The Court rejected the defendant’s argument that the possibility of the individual being legally permitted to possess a firearm negates the “dangerous” aspect of armed and dangerous. The Court reasoned that the argument fails as a matter of logic because the risk inherent in a forced stop of a person armed exists even when the firearm is legally possessed.

Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit reversed the panel and affirmed the district court’s decision.

Full Opinion

Cate Cardinale