Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
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Appellant challenges the district court’s dismissal of his complaint -- which alleges whistleblower protection and discrimination claims relative to his employment at the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (the “DEA” or the “Agency”) -- for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Fourth Circuit concluded that the district court correctly held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the whistleblower protection claims, and the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of those claims. However, the court remanded the case to the district court so that it may consider in the first instance whether it possesses subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the merits of Appellant’s discrimination claims.   The court explained that Appellant points out that if an IRA appeal cannot serve as the basis for a mixed case, then an employee alleging both WPA claims and discrimination claims would be required to pursue those claims separately. But because the MSPB cannot consider an employee’s discrimination allegations as part of his IRA appeal, his WPA claims and his discrimination claims are, by necessity, already bifurcated.   Lastly, Appellant argues that even if he failed to allege a mixed case, the district court should still have considered his discrimination claims. However, the district court considered only whether Appellant’s discrimination claims were properly before it as part of a mixed case, not whether it could adjudicate the Title VII claims independently of the other claims. Accordingly, remand is necessary for the district court to decide in the first instance whether it may address the merits of Appellant’s Title VII claims. View "Robert Zachariasiewicz, Jr. v. DOJ" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff is an inmate at United States Penitentiary (“USP”) Hazelton who filed a pro se civil action in United States district court alleging violations under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) for denied and delayed medical care of his chronic illnesses. Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). Following the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation, the district court denied Plaintiff’s IFP motion on the grounds that he did not meet the “imminent danger of serious physical injury” exception. Plaintiff now appealed to the Fourth Circuit.   The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded. The court explained that a plain reading of the statute requires that litigants allege sufficient specific facts to demonstrate a nexus between the claims presented and the imminent danger alleged. Here, both parties agree that it is a “commonsense requirement that a prisoner’s allegation of imminent danger must relate to their underlying claims.” Moreover, the Government concedes that “a fairly traceable relationship exists between Plaintiff’s alleged imminent danger and the claims set forth in his FTCA complaint, as they both arise from his allegations of delay and denial of medical treatment.” Plaintiff has passed this threshold because he alleged that the prison’s continued denial and delay in providing medical treatment are directly causing his worsening physical and medical conditions which present an imminent danger of serious physical injury.   Finally, the court remanded writing that the district court did not have access to Defendant’s medical records and, thus, did not have a complete record to determine whether Defendant satisfied the “imminent danger” exception based on the court's clarified standard. View "Marc Hall v. US" on Justia Law

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The National Labor Relations Board petitioned the Fourth Circuit to enforce its order imposing obligations on an employer. The charged employer, Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood, LLC, consented in a stipulated settlement agreement to the enforcement of the order, skipping a process of agency prosecution and adjudication. Constellium agreed to a factual statement, waived any defenses, and now dutifully agrees that the Fourth Circuit should enter a judgment against it.The Fourth Circuit dismissed the petition. The court held that it lacks jurisdiction to exercise judicial power when it would have no real consequences for the parties and would only rubberstamp an agreement the parties memorialized in writing and consummated before ever arriving on a federal court’s doorstep. The court further explained that the parties agree on every relevant question potentially before the court. That agreement led the parties to resolve this dispute among themselves before ever coming to federal court, leaving nothing for the court to do that would have real consequences in the world. And the Board agrees that Constellium has complied with the order and continues to do so. View "NLRB v. Constellium Rolled Products" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency alleging religious discrimination and retaliation under Title VII. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The court explained that because the alleged discrimination and retaliation arose from Plaintiff’s failure to satisfy additional security requirements and would require the court to review the merits of the security-authorization decision, the court is bound by the decision in Department of the Navy v. Egan, 484 U.S. 518 (1988), to affirm the district court’s dismissal of this matter for lack of jurisdiction.   The court explained that it agrees that courts must exercise caution in expanding the reach of Egan. Nevertheless, the court declined to adopt the hardline position, urged by Plaintiff, that Egan’s rationale may only ever apply to determinations explicitly labeled “security clearances.” Rather, as in Foote and Sanchez, this case requires a more detailed analysis of whether the judgment at issue is of the type that Egan intended to shield from judicial review. Furhter, the court held that the CIA’s decision to stop Plaintiff’s assignee-security authorization processing is the kind of discretionary predictive judgment shielded from judicial review by Egan. View "Nathan Mowery v. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued the City of Virginia Beach and several local officials, claiming that the City’s exclusive use of at-large voting to elect members of its City Council diluted the votes of minority voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Before the district court ruled on that claim, however, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law eliminating at-large voting for most of the seats on the City Council. Even so, the district court held, that the case was not moot, the City’s old all-at-large electoral system violated Section 2, and the plaintiffs were entitled to an injunction remedying that violation going forward.   The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s decision concluding that the district court erred in reaching the merits. The General Assembly’s action left Plaintiffs challenging – and the district court assessing – an electoral system that no longer governs elections in Virginia Beach. The court explained that HB 2198 prevented the City from conducting any future City Council elections under the electoral system that Plaintiffs challenged, and other aspects of state and local law precluded the City from returning unilaterally to its old ways. Under those circumstances, Plaintiffs’ challenge is moot, and the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider its merits.     However, because Plaintiffs may have residual claims against the City’s new method for electing its Council, the district court may consider on remand whether Plaintiffs should be granted leave to amend their complaint, or develop the record more fully, to bring any new challenges as part of this proceeding. View "Latasha Holloway v. City of Virginia Beach" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff entered into a share purchase agreement with Defendants for the sale of her business, which agreement the parties later amended (the contract, or the amended agreement). Plaintiff filed suit in December 2019 in North Carolina state court, alleging that Defendants had not made interest and earnout payments as required under the amended agreement. Defendants removed the case to federal district court in the Middle District of North Carolina, where they argued that the state or federal courts in New York were the exclusive forums for Plaintiff’s complaint under the contract’s forum selection clause. Defendants also argued that Plaintiff’s claims were not yet ripe because, at the time the complaint was filed, all payments that were due under the contract had been made. The district court remanded the case to the North Carolina state court, and Defendants appealed.   The Fourth Circuit initially concluded that Plaintiff’s claims are ripe, both as originally pleaded and under the facts developed prior to the district court’s judgment. The court also agreed with the magistrate judge that Plaintiff’s claims do not relate to a setoff and that under the contract’s forum selection clause, the state or federal courts in New York are the exclusive forums for Plaintiff’s  claims. The court therefore vacated and remanded with instructions that the district court transfer this case to the Southern District of New York. View "Pamela Whitaker v. Monroe Staffing Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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Pro se Plaintiff sought to pursue a civil action in the Eastern District of Virginia against several Commonwealth officials, alleging that the Old Dominion’s 2021 House of Delegates election contravened the federal and state constitutions. More specifically, Plaintiff alleged that Virginia was constitutionally required to use 2020 U.S. Census data to draw the legislative districts for the 2021 House of Delegates election. On October 12, 2021, the district court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against the Governor of Virginia and the State Board of Elections on grounds of Eleventh Amendment immunity.   On remand, the three-judge district court dismissed the entirety of Plaintiff’s complaint, ruling that he lacks Article III standing to sue. The court later reviewed the Standing to Sue Ruling, and found that the court possesses jurisdiction to review the Standing to Sue Ruling. The court then rendered an opinion to resolve both the Plaintiff’s Appeal and the Commonwealth’s Appeal.   The Fourth Circuit held that the three-judge district court properly ruled that Plaintiff does not possess the Article III standing to sue that is required to pursue this civil action. In making that determination, the court adopted the well-crafted and reasoned analysis of the Standing to Sue Ruling. Plaintiff cannot satisfy Article III’s injury in fact requirement, either as a voter or as a candidate for public office. However, the court modified the judgment of the three-judge district court to reflect that its dismissal of Plaintiff’s civil action is without prejudice. The court further, dismissed the Commonwealth’s Appeal as moot. View "Paul Goldman v. Robert Brink" on Justia Law

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While working for a company that makes skin grafts, Plaintiff caught wind of a kickback scheme operating in a Veterans Administration hospital. The scheme involved the sale of skin grafts to the VA by commission-based salespeople who were paid based on how much they sold. If true, that would likely violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. Section 1320a-7b, which would then make each commission-induced sale a violation of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. Section 3729 et seq. So Plaintiff brought a qui tam suit as a False Claims Act relator on behalf of the United States government and an analogous state-law claim under North Carolina law.   After the United States declined to intervene in the suit, Plaintiff prosecuted it. Because he used conclusory language in his original Complaint, the district court dismissed the Complaint with prejudice for failure to state a fraud claim with particularity under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b).   The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court’s dismissal of the original Complaint for a lack of particularity. Given that it is largely made up of conclusory allegations, the original Complaint may even have failed Rule 8’s lower standard of plausibility. The court also found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying leave to amend for bad faith. Although the court affirmed the district court’s decision, because the district court did not take jurisdiction over the state-law claim, the court modified the decision to clarify that the state-law claim should be dismissed without prejudice. View "US ex rel. Haile Nicholson v. Medcom Carolinas, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a claim on behalf of thousands of West Virginia’s foster children challenging the State’s administration of child welfare services. Invoking Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), the district court abstained from hearing the case in deference to parallel state-court proceedings. Plaintiffs alleged that a federal class action is the most—if not the only—effective way to achieve the kind of systemic relief they seek.The Fourth Circuit reversed holding that principles of federalism not only do not preclude federal intervention, they compel it. Plaintiffs bring federal claims, and federal courts “are obliged to decide” them in all but “exceptional” circumstances. The court explained that Younger’s narrow scope safeguards Plaintiffs’ rights, bestowed on them by Congress in the Judiciary Act of March 3, 1875, to present their claims to a federal tribunal. 28 U.S.C. Section 1331. The court further wrote For years, West 4 Virginia’s response to any foster-care orders entered as part of the individual state hearings seems to have been to shuffle its money and staff around until the orders run out, entrenching rather than excising structural failures. Thus, forcing Plaintiffs to once more litigate their claims piecemeal would get federalism exactly backward. View "Jonathan R. v. Jim Justice" on Justia Law

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Genesis Healthcare was a healthcare provider participating in the federal “340B Program,” which was designed to provide drugs to qualified persons at discounted prices. Under the Program, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) enters into agreements with drug manufacturers to sell drugs at discounted prices to entities such as Genesis Healthcare, which could, in turn, sell the drugs to their patients at discounted prices. After Genesis Healthcare purchased the covered drugs from the manufacturers, it dispensed them to patients through its wholly owned pharmacies or contract pharmacies. After the Health Resources and Services Administration (“HRSA”) conducted an audit of Genesis Healthcare in June 2017 for Program compliance, HRSA removed Genesis Healthcare from the 340B Program. The audit report found, among other things, that Genesis Healthcare dispensed 340B drugs to individuals who were ineligible because they were not “patients” of Genesis Healthcare. HRSA rejected Genesis Healthcare’s challenges; Genesis Healthcare, in turn, filed suit seeking a declaration it did not violate the requirements of the Program, and injunctive relief requiring HRSA to reinstate it into the Program and to retract any notifications that HRSA had provided to manufacturers stating that Genesis Healthcare was ineligible under the Program. In response to the lawsuit, HRSA ultimately: (1) notified Genesis Healthcare by letter that it “ha[d] voided” all audit findings and that Genesis Healthcare “ha[d] no further obligations or responsibilities in regard to the audit” and (2) filed a motion to dismiss Genesis Healthcare’s action as moot based on the letter. The district court granted HRSA’s motion, finding that the action was moot. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's finding the case was moot: Genesis Healthcare continued to be governed by a definition of “patient” that, Genesis maintained, was illegal and harmful to it. Therefore, there remained a live controversy between the parties. View "Genesis HealthCare, Inc. v. Becerra" on Justia Law