Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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After the Court of Appeals of Maryland suspended Michael Tankersley’s law license when he refused to provide his social security number to the Client Protection Fund of the Bar of Maryland, Tankersley filed suit against the trustees of the Fund, and the judges and the clerk of the Court of Appeals. Tankersley filed suit against these defendants in their official capacities, seeking injunctive relief based on his claim that his suspension violated the federal Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a. The district court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss. Both the Tax Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. 405(c)(2)(C)(i), and the Welfare Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. 666(a)(13)(A), allow states to collect individuals’ social security numbers in specific situations. The court held that the district court erred in relying on section 666 of the Welfare Reform Act to dismiss Tankersley’s complaint. In this case, the court agreed with Tankersley that “applicant” cannot properly be read to include a Maryland attorney who must pay an annual fee to maintain his license. However, the court concluded that section 405 of the Tax Reform Act applies to Tankersley, and the state of Maryland may lawfully compel him to provide his social security number to the Fund or consequently have his law license suspended. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Tankersley v. Almand" on Justia Law

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NAAMJP filed suit challenging the conditions placed on the privilege of admission to the Bar of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland in Local Rule 701. Among other things, the Rule contains requirements based on the state of licensure and, in some instances, the location of the attorney’s law office. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss and denied NAAMJP's motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that Rule 701 does not violate the First Amendment where it qualifies as a general applicable licensing provision, prescribing which attorneys may practice in the District Court based on their state of licensure in relation to the location of their principal law office; Rule 701 does not violate the Equal Protection Clause where it does not infringe a fundamental right or disadvantage a suspect class; Rule 701 does not violate the Rules Enabling Act, 28 U.S.C. 2071, where the Rule does not violate any Acts of Congress or any federal rules of practice and procedure adopted by the Supreme Court pursuant to section 2072; and Rule 701 does not violate the Supremacy Clause where it remains a federal rule prescribed pursuant to federal statute. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "NAAMJP v. Lynch" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of charges related to his involvement in prostitution and drug rings. This appeal presents an issue of first impression in this Circuit: whether a defendant’s right to effective assistance of counsel is violated when his counsel sleeps during trial. The court held that a defendant is deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel when counsel sleeps during a substantial portion of the defendant’s trial. In this case, multiple witnesses testified that counsel was asleep during multiple occasions. The court concluded that the fact that counsel was sleeping during defendant's trial amounted to constructive denial of counsel for substantial periods of that trial. Furthermore, the facts of this case are equally -if not more - egregious than the facts presented in cases where other circuits have presumed prejudice. Accordingly, the court vacated the conviction and sentence, directed entry of judgment in favor of defendant on his 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion, and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Ragin" on Justia Law

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NOM appealed the district court’s denial of its motion under 26 U.S.C. 7431(c)(3) to collect attorneys’ fees from the IRS. NOM had filed suit against the IRS seeking damages for unlawful inspection and disclosure of confidential tax information by IRS agents. NOM sought statutory damages, actual damages, punitive damages, and costs and attorneys’ fees. the district court concluded that NOM was not a “prevailing party” under section 7430(c)(4)(A) because (1) it did not “substantially prevail[] [in litigation against the IRS] with respect to the amount in controversy, or . . . the most significant . . . issues presented,” and, alternatively, (2) the government’s position in the litigation was “substantially justified” under 7430(c)(4)(B). The court could not say that the government acted unreasonably prior to the summary judgment stage of the litigation by waiting to see what NOM’s evidence was and then challenging its sufficiency. In this case, the government adopted a reasonable strategy in conceding statutory damages, but challenging the existence and amount of both actual and punitive damages. The court agreed with the district court that the government’s litigation position was “substantially justified,” which, by itself, is sufficient to find that NOM was not a “prevailing party” under the statute. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "National Org. for Marriage v. IRS" on Justia Law