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Week 47 (2020)

Week of November 16, 2020 through November 20, 2020

Ergon-West Virginia, Inc. v. EPA (Agee 11/17/2020): The Fourth Circuit concluded that while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did answer most of the questions brought to its attention on remand, it failed to account for the flawed analysis regarding Section 1(b) of the Scoring Matrix. The EPA was able to show that two of the decisions it made regarding whether to allow Ergon an exemption, via the Scoring Matrix, were not made arbitrarily or capriciously because it was able to offer additional information that was independent from the Department of Energy’s determination. However, the Fourth Circuit concluded that the EPA’s contradictory application of the term “refinery” in the Scoring Matrix was arbitrary and capricious and remanded the case to address that matter. Full Opinion 

Elledge v. Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC (Wilkinson 11/18/2020): The Fourth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Lowe’s where the appellant (Elledge) argued that he was forced out of his job in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Elledge contended that he could perform his job duties with reasonable accommodations under the ADA, but the court found in the record that essential duties of Elledge’s job required him to be on his feet for large portions of the day. Similarly, the court concluded that Elledge could not make a prima facie case that his job termination violated the ADEA because he could not show that he could perform the essential functions of his job even with reasonable accommodations. Full Opinion

United States v. Moriello (Floyd 11/18/2020): The Fourth Circuit held that administrative regulations upon which the district court based its decision to convict the defendant (Moriello) for failing to follow the directions of an immigration judge and courtroom bailiff were constitutional and there was enough evidence to uphold Moriello’s conviction. Moriello argued her conviction should be overturned based on five contentions: (1) the regulations are unconstitutionally vague; (2) the regulations violate the nondelegation doctrine; (3) the regulations violate the Tenth Amendment; (4) the district court did not properly interpret the regulations; and (5) there is not sufficient evidence to support the  conviction. The court concluded that the regulations were constitutional and there was sufficient evidence to support Moriello’s convictions. Full Opinion

McKiver v. Murphy-Brown, LLC (Thacker 11/19/2020): The Fourth Circuit affirmed a jury verdict as to liability for compensatory and punitive damages against a hog production facility, but it vacated the award for punitive damages and remanded for a rehearing on evidentiary issues. The court found that while the jury could consider punitive damages, there should have been limits on the evidence the jury could consider when awarding those damages. The court found that the inclusion of the parent company’s financial information made it appear that the farm had more money than it actually did and could have influenced the jury’s award of punitive damages. Full Opinion

Probst v. Saul (Wynn 11/20/2020): The Fourth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision allowing appellants to raise an Appointments Clause challenge even though they did not preserve the issue before the Social Security Administration (SSA). A Supreme Court decision, decided after the appellants argued their case before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), determined that ALJs must be appointed by the President or—if permitted by Congress—by a court or department head. The Fourth Circuit, therefore, concluded that the appellants did not forfeit their Appointments Clause challenge even though they did not preserve the issue in the administrative proceedings because the ALJ in the appellants’ case was not properly certified under the Supreme Court’s decision. Full Opinion

Kristen Soucy