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South Carolina Law Review produces weekly, Fourth Circuit Survey summaries.

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Younger v. Crowder

Case Type: Prisoner Civil Rights
Appeal From: DMD
Originating Judge: Bennett
Author: Richardson

The Fourth Circuit affirmed a federal jury’s award of $700,000 to Younger, a pretrial detainee, after three Maryland corrections officers viciously beat him.  Crowder, the officer’s responsible warden and a defendant in the underlying action, knew of the attack and failed to properly report it to an investigative division.  The Fourth Circuit held Crowder was not entitled to qualified immunity because Younger clearly established Crowder’s knowledge of and failure to act following the officers’ retaliatory attack against Younger constituted deliberately indifferent conduct in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. 

In re: Weldon Stewart, Jr.

Case Type: Successive Habeas Corpus
Appeal From: DSC
Author: Quattlebaum

The Fourth Circuit denied Stewart’s application to file a successive habeas petition, finding that Stewart failed to meet the “rigorous newly discovered evidence requirements” under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(2)(B), specifically to demonstrate that given the new evidence, no reasonable factfinder would find Stewart guilty of voluntary manslaughter in his girlfriend’s death. In his successive petition, Stewart alleged he remembered a repressed memory of his girlfriend dying by suicide.  When compared to the extensive evidence offered by the state against Stewart, Stewart’s discovered memory was not reasonably likely to meet the § 2244 standard.  Neither could the alleged memory suffice for an independent substantive ground for relief absent any constitutional error in Stewart’s underlying state proceeding.

211680.U Progressive Northern Insurance Company v. Donald Ladue

Case Type: Civil Private
Appeal From: DSC
Originating Judge: Norton

The Fourth Circuit held that, for purposes of motor vehicle coverage, a Class II Insured cannot stack UIM coverage limits, even when his carriers agreed that the policy was portable. It is well-settled under South Carolina law that a Class II insured can not stack UIM coverage limits. Because the accident at issue did not involve a covered vehicle, it was undisputed that Donald Ladue was a Class II insured, and thus could not stack coverages.

Ladue attempted to avoid this prohibition by arguing that Allstate and Progressive could not place limits on the portability of UIM coverage under South Carolina law. The court held that, while this was true, Ladue was still attempting to stack UIM coverages as a Class II insured, which is prohibited. Thus, the court affirmed the district court’s order.

221430.U Harold Hoblick v. US

Case Type: Civil U.S.
Appeal From: DSC
Originating Judge: Norton

The Fourth Circuit held that the United States’s hiring and retention decisions were grounded in public policy, and therefore the discretionary function exception did not apply. Thus, the United States was immune from suit.

Harold and Miriam Hoblick brought a negligence claim against the United States after Harold was assaulted and injured by a crewmember on board the USNS Maury. The district court dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that the United States was entitled to sovereign immunity on the Hoblicks’ claims.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the United States is generally immune from suit. However, there is a limited waiver to this immunity known as the discretionary function exception, which requires the application of a two-prong test. At issue here was the second prong: whether the challenged conduct is based on considerations of public policy. The court found that the United States’ hiring practices were grounded in public policy, and therefore the exception did not apply.

222034.P John and Jane Parents 1 v. Montgomery County Board of Education

Case Type: Civil Private
Appeal From: DMD
Originating Judge: Grimm


The Fourth Circuit dismissed a claim that the Montgomery County Board of Education’s “Guidelines for Gender Identity for 2020-2021” unconstitutionally usurped parents’ fundamental right to raise their children under the Fourteenth Amendment. Before reaching the merits of this argument, the court dismissed the case for lack of standing, as the parents did not allege a current injury, certainly impending injury, or substantial risk of future injury.


The Montgomery County Board of Education adopted Guidelines for Gender Identity for 2020–2021 that permit schools to develop gender support plans for students. The Guidelines allow implementation of these plans without the knowledge or consent of the students’ parents. They also authorize the schools to withhold information about the plans from parents if the school deems the parents to be unsupportive.In response, three parents with children attending Montgomery County public schools challenged the portion of the Guidelines that permit school officials to develop gender support plans and then withhold information about a child’s gender support plan from their parents. Terming it the “Parental Preclusion Policy,” the parents alleged the policy unconstitutionally usurped the parents’ fundamental right to raise their children under the Fourteenth Amendment.

However, before reaching the merits of the parents’ argument, the parents must have alleged that that the Parental Preclusion Policy caused an injury to them sufficient to give them standing. The Fourth Circuit determined that they had not. The parents did not allege that that their children had gender support plans, were transgender or were even struggling with issues of gender identity. As a result, they had not alleged facts that the Montgomery County public schools had any information about their children that was currently being withheld or that there was a substantial risk information will be withheld in the future. Thus, under the Constitution, they did not allege the type of injury required to show standing. The court went on to state that, “Absent an injury that creates standing, federal courts lack the power to address the parents’ objections to the Guidelines. That does not mean their objections are invalid. In fact, they may be quite persuasive. But, by failing to allege any injury to themselves, the parents’ opposition to the Parental Preclusion Policy reflects a policy disagreement. And policy disagreements should be addressed to elected policymakers at the ballot box, not to unelected judges in the courthouse. So, we remand to the district court to dismiss the case for lack of standing.”

US v. Michael Young

Case Type: Criminal
Appeal From: DSC
Originating Judge: Seymour


The Fourth Circuit held that a 180-month mandatory minimum sentence does not plainly violate the Eighth Amendment. The Court affirmed that Apellant Michael Kenneth Young’s term-of-years sentence was not grossly disproportionate to his crime – two counts of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon – and thus, did not violate the Eighth Amendment.

221066.P US v. Ilana Bangiyeva

Case Type: Civil U.S.
Appeal From: EDVA
Originating Judge: O'Grady


The Fourth Circuit held that the Government’s rights had been violated when the district court ordered that the wife of a tenant in common was allowed to stay in the tenant’s home after the Government assumed his ownership rights. The Government argued that as a now tenant in common of two-thirds of the property, it was entitled to seek the partition and sale of the property. By only allowing the Government a lien on the property, the district court stripped it of core property rights otherwise enjoyed by tenants in common under New York state law. The Court agreed and overturned the district court’s ruling.

221320.P John Massey, Jr. v. Virginia Polytechnic Institute

Case Type: Civil Private
Appeal From: WDVA
Originating Judge: Dillon

John Massey filed a lawsuit in Virginia state court asserting federal claims against his former employer, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (“Virginia Tech”). After taking a voluntary nonsuit of the action and refiling in federal district court ten days later, Virginia’s motion to dismiss the case on statute of limitation grounds was granted. Massey then appealed, arguing that under VA law, a voluntary nonsuit tolls the limitations period as long as the action is refiled within six months after the nonsuit was granted. The Court of Appeals agreed with Massey, vacated the district court’s order, and remanded for further proceedings on Massey’s complaint.

John Massey, a long-term employee of Virginia Tech, had a double hernia that caused pain and limited his daily life activities. Massey had surgery in April 2019 and took ten days of leave to recover. On July 29, 2019, Virginia Tech informed Massey that his position would be abolished on October 31, 2019, because of financial issues. Believing this termination to be retaliation based on his disability, Massey filed an action against Virginia Tech in Virginia state court asserting claims under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“RA”), 29 U.S.C. § 794. Massey later filed a motion for a voluntary nonsuit, which was granted by the court, dismissing Massey’s complaint. Massey then refiled in federal district court on January 29, 2021.

Virginia Tech immediately moved to dismiss this new complaint, arguing that the claim was not filed within the applicable one-year limitation period. Massey argued that the claim was timely because Virginia’s nonsuit statute tolled the statute of limitations. Virginia Tech’s reply brief relied on Fourth Circuit opinions Shofer v. Hack Co. and Woodson v. Allstate, stating that Virginia had not waived sovereign immunity for RA claims filed in state court, and therefore the state court did not have jurisdiction over Massey’s complaint, making state court a “clearly inappropriate forum”, and thus rendering the tolling statute inapplicable. See Shofer v. Hack Co., 970 F.2d 1316, 1319 (4th Cir. 1992); Woodson v. Allstate, 855 F.3d 628, 634 (4th Cir. 2017). The district court agreed and granted the motion to dismiss. This appeal followed.

After analyzing the applicable statutes to RA claims in Virginia, the Court overturned the ruling, holding that “It would thus appear from the plain language of the statutes that Massey complied with the requirements of the nonsuit statute and is entitled to the tolling of the limitations period granted by Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-229(E)(3).” The Court disagreed with Virginia Tech’s argument that Shofer and Woodson controlled this issue, as they were distinguishable from the issue presented.

Those cases both involved claims subject to exclusive federal jurisdiction. However, federal and state courts have concurrent jurisdiction as to claims brought under the Rehabilitation Act. Thus, state court was not a “clearly inappropriate forum” as defined by Shofer and Woodson.

Virginia Tech also argued that the state court was an inappropriate forum within the meaning of Shofer and Woodson because Virginia retains sovereign immunity against RA claims in state court. Because Virginia has not passed a law consenting to private suits asserting violations of the RA, state court was a clearly inappropriate forum. The Court disagreed with this argument as well. Once again, the Court distinguished Shofer and Woodson, stating that these cases were applying federal law and tolling rules, while the question the Court needed to resolve was whether tolling is available under Virginia law. The Court ultimately held that Massey’s complaint was valid and triggered the tolling provisions of Va. Code § 8.01-229(E)(3). Thus, Massey’s complaint was timely filed. The Court vacated the district court’s order and remanded for further proceedings on Massey’s complaint.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.