Articles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

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College Newspapers challenged the ABC's ban on alcohol advertisements as violative of the First Amendment. The court concluded that the challenged regulation violated the First Amendment as applied to the College Newspapers where a regulation of commercial speech must satisfy all four Central Hudson Gas & Elec. Corp. v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n of N.Y. prongs in order to survive an as-applied challenge, and the regulation at issue here did not satisfy the fourth prong. The district court erred in concluding that the challenged regulation was appropriately tailored to achieve its objective of reducing abusive college drinking. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the ABC. View "Educational Media Co. v. Insley" on Justia Law

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South Carolina requested a waiver of its maintenance-of-effort condition under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(18), for approximately $67.4 million for its fiscal year 2010. The Secretary granted the waiver in part, but denied it to the extent of the $36.2 million. South Carolina subsequently filed this petition for review, challenging the Secretary's denial of its request for a full waiver and its request for a hearing. The court concluded that the Secretary's action in partially denying the request for a waiver was a determination made with respect to the eligibility of the State for funding and that therefore the court had jurisdiction to consider the State's petition for review. The court also concluded that the Secretary's denial of the State's request for a full waiver was a determination that South Carolina was not eligible to receive a grant in the amount of $36.2 million and that therefore the Secretary was required to provide the State with notice and an opportunity for a hearing before he made a final determination with respect to the waiver request. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for review and remanded for further proceedings. View "SC Dept. of Educ. v. U.S. Sec. of Educ." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was convicted in 1993 of carnal knowledge of a minor without the use of force. In this appeal, plaintiff challenged Va. Code sections 9.1-900 et seq. and 18.2-370.5, which, together, classified her as a sexually violent offender and prevented her from entering the grounds of a school or daycare without first gaining permission from the Virginia circuit court and the school board or the owner of the daycare. Unless plaintiff gains such permission, she is not able to meet with her stepson's teachers at school, attend his school functions, or drop him off at or pick him up from school. Plaintiff's complaint included four counts: she alleged that defendants have violated her substantive due process, procedural due process, associational, and free exercise rights. The injuries she alleged with respect to the first, third, and fourth counts stemmed from impediments the Virginia statute and the school board policy placed on her ability to access school and church property. The court held that because she had not yet attempted to undertake the requisite steps to access these properties, she could not demonstrate that these claims were justiciable. While plaintiff's second count was justiciable, she failed to state a procedural due process claim upon which relief could be granted. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of her claims. View "Doe v. Virginia Dept. of State Police" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, by and through her parents, sued the school principals and school board pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of her First Amendment right to free speech and expression and her Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. Defendants prohibited plaintiff from wearing and on one occasion punished her for wearing Confederate flag shirts at school. When, as here, student speech threatened to disrupt school, school officials could prohibit or punish that speech. The school officials therefore did not violate plaintiff's First Amendment right when they refused to allow her to wear Confederate flag shirts and protest shirts at school, and the dress codes and their enforcement did not infringe on plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment rights. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants. View "Hardwick v. Heyward" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, D.L. and his parents, appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the BCBSC and Baltimore City Public Schools, contending that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794, compelled BCBSC to provide D.L. education services related to certain disorders even though D.L. was enrolled exclusively in a private religious school. Because plaintiffs retained full discretion over school enrollment and because BCBSC has taken reasonable measures to fulfill its mission, the court found that BCBSC's policies placed no undue burden on plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Because the court did not read Section 504 to apply an affirmative obligation on school districts to provide services to private school students and because plaintiffs retained full educational discretion, the court affirmed the district court's ruling. View "D. L. v. Baltimore City Bd. of Sch. Comm." on Justia Law

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South Carolina’s Spartanburg County School District Seven adopted a policy allowing public school students to receive two academic credits for off-campus religious instruction offered by private educators. The parents of two students at Spartanburg High School filed suit against the School District, alleging that the policy impermissibly endorses religion and entangles church and State in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The School District filed a motion for summary judgment, contending (1) that plaintiffs lacked standing because they were not injured by the policy, and (2) that the policy was constitutional in that it was neutrally stated and administered and that it had the secular purpose of accommodating students’ desire to receive religious instruction. Plaintiffs filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, arguing that that the purpose and primary effect of the School District’s policy was to promote Christianity. The district court rejected the school district’s standing argument but agreed with it on the merits and, accordingly, granted summary judgment to the School District. Upon review, the Fourth Circuit affirmed: "[the Court saw] no evidence that the program has had the effect of establishing religion or that it has entangled the School District in religion. As was the General Assembly and School District’s purpose, the program properly accommodates religion without establishing it, in accordance with the First Amendment." View "Moss v. Spartanburg Cty. Sch. Dist. 7" on Justia Law

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Relator brought a qui tam action under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq., alleging that appellees defrauded the United States Department of Education by knowingly making fraudulent claims by engaging in various non-economic transactions to inflate their loan portfolios eligible for Special Allowance Payments (SAP), a federal student loan interest subsidy. The district court granted appellees' motions to dismiss on the ground that they were "state agencies" and therefore not subject to suit under the FCA as interpreted in Vermont Agency of Natural Resources v. United States ex rel. Stevens. Because the district court did not employ the arm-of-the-state analysis in determining whether each of the appellees was a state agency subject to suit under the FCA, the court vacated its judgment and remanded the case for the court to apply this analysis in the first instance. View "US ex rel. Jon H. Oberg v. Kentucky Higher Ed., et al." on Justia Law

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In 2010, appellants unsuccessfully sought to enjoin the implementation of the 2011-2012 student assignment plan by the school board. On appeal, appellants argued that the district court committed legal error by failing to apply, and requiring the school board to rebut, a presumption that racial disparities in the 2011-2012 assignment plan resulted from the school board's prior unconstitutional conduct in operating a racially segregated school district. The court agreed and therefore vacated the district court's order and remanded for reconsideration. View "Everett v. Pitt Cty. Brd. of Educ." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff initiated this proceeding in the district court alleging that the Board violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., by failing to reasonably accommodate her hearing disability. Plaintiff's complaint sought back pay, future pay, compensatory damages of $1,000,000, punitive damages of $1,000,000, plus attorney's fees and costs. The Board subsequently appealed the district court's partial rejection of the Board's assertion of immunity. The court held that the district court properly adhered to the Bd. of Educ. of Balt. Cnty. v. Zimmer-Rubert decision in ruling that the immunity provision effected a waiver of the Board's Eleventh Amendment immunity for claims of $100,000 or less. View "Lee-Thomas v. Prince George's County Public Sch." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, contending that in disciplining her for a MySpace.com webpage, which was largely dedicated to ridiculing a fellow student, defendants violated her free speech and due process rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff alleged, among other things, that defendants were not justified in regulating her speech because it did not occur during a "school-related activity," but rather was "private out-of-school speech." The court held that defendants' imposition of sanctions was permissible where plaintiff used the Internet to orchestrate a targeted attack on a classmate and did so in a manner that was sufficiently connected to the school environment as to implicate defendants' recognized authority to discipline speech which "materially and substantially interfere[d] with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school and collid[ed] with the rights of others." Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants. View "Kowalski v. Berkeley County Schools, et al." on Justia Law