April 16, 2014 4th Circuit published opinions

Company Doe v Public Citizen

Public filed an objection to Company’s motion to file its lawsuit under seal and to use a false name. The district court ultimately granted the motion and, after Public filed its notice of appeal, denied Public’s motion to intervene. The panel, with one judge concurring in judgment, vacated in part, reversed in part and remanded. The majority held that the district court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the intervention motion because the notice of appeal deprived it of jurisdiction. It next held that Public had nonparty appellate standing because it participated in the proceedings below and had an interest in access to information. The majority ruled the 1st amendment and common law rights to accessing information provided Article III standing as well given Supreme Court precedent that information deprivation can support such standing. The majority held that there is constitutionally protected access rights to docket sheets, pleadings and motions for summary judgment as well opinions on those motions to allow the public to check on the work of the judiciary and allows the judiciary to retain legitimacy. The majority held Company’s interest in preventing financial and reputational harm and keeping the false claim its product contributed to child’s death out of the public’s and media’s knowledge did not overcome the right to access. Thus, the case was remanded for the unsealing of the entire docket. The majority finally held that allowing the use of a false name here was error as the interests cited by company were not the sort of extraordinary circumstances which justify the sue of false names in federal litigation. The concurrence argued that the sealing order had to be reversed only because Company failed to submit sufficient proof that financial harm would result from not proceeding under seal.

In re Under Seal (United States v Lavabit, LLC)

Lavabit was held in contempt for failing to capture metadata of a criminal target’s email on its system and failing to provide the encryption keys to the government as subpoenaed. The panel affirmed. It held that Lavabit had waived review of its challenges to the metadata order because it did not raise the issues presented on appeal before the district court. Applying plain error review, the panel held that all review of the metadata order was waived as Lavabit did not challenge the legal basis of the underlying order and thus no review was need as to the subpoena.

 

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April 16, 2014 South Carolina Court of Appeals published opinions

Hudson v Hudson

The family court found the parties prenuptial agreement unconscionable as to property division and awarded wife equitable distribution of the parties’ property. The panel reversed. It held the waiver of rights in the agreement was not unconscionable as wife had the option to not marry husband, she testified she would have signed even if unfair, was not under duress at the time of the signing and no change in circumstances existed making the agreement unfair given wife’s nearly identical financial situation at the time of signing and the time of the divorce hearing.

Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v Marian Amphitheatre, LLC

Wells Fargo sought foreclosure of property owned by Marian and another entity. The entity cross-claimed against Marian and two individuals. The individual defendants defaulted and the special referee entered judgment for the cross claiming entity based solely on an affidavit by an officer of the entity as to the real property’s value. The panel reversed. It held that the value of real property is subjective and is not a liquidated damage amount, sum certain or readily calculated. Thus, the damage award was unsound and the case was remanded for a hearing on damages.

Moorhead Construction, Inc. v Enterprise Bank of South Carolina

Moorhead sued to foreclose mechanics liens on property which Bank lent money for the construction project. The master granted Moorhead a money judgment without foreclosing the liens. The panel, with one judge partially dissenting, vacated and remanded. The panel held that there was no legal basis to award judgment to Moorhead as the only potential liability by Bank was under the lien. The majority remanded for the master to determine if the lien should be foreclosed. The dissent argued the lien claim no longer existed as Bank had posted a bond. Thus, the dissent would remand for a damages determination only.

Goodwyn v Shadowstone Media, Inc.

Goodwyn sued media under South Carolina Code 41-10-10 et seq. claiming failure to pay wages owed. The jury awarded part of the wages sought and the trial judge awarded treble damages under 41-10-80. The panel, with one judge concurring only in result, reversed the treble damages. The majority held that there was a good faith dispute as tot eh wages owed based on the terms of the hiring letter, the change in payment structure during Goodwyn’s employment and the jury award of less than the amount sought. As good faith precludes treble damages, the award was reversed.

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April 15, 2014 4th Circuit published opinion

United States v Galloway

Galloway was convicted of drug trafficking. The panel affirmed. It held that the record did not plainly demonstrate ineffective assistance of counsel because there were only allegations by Galloway and denials by the attorney in the record and the district court appointed new counsel and offered to continue the trial. The panel held that the restrictions on Galloway’s access to discovery when he prepared for a pro se defense were reasonable given the security challenges in federal detention centers and the steps taken by standby counsel to mitigate the lack of electrical outlets in the room set aside for Galloway to review discovery. The panel affirmed the use of wiretap evidence as the affidavits in support gave detailed accounts of the investigation into Galloway’s trafficking, the difficulties experienced and the need for wiretapping Galloway’s cell phones. The panel finally held that the district court did not plainly error in allowing federal agents to testify about coded language among drug dealers as they had experience sufficient to qualify as experts, explained their method of using context to interpret the code and the district court reminded the jury that it did not need to accept anything the witnesses said.

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Check out the Library’s LibGuides

libguidesThe library acquires and organizes information to make information retrieval easier for its patrons.  One way that we do this is via the preparation of research guides that we publish under the title of LibGuides.

What are LibGuides?  LibGuides are the electronic version of a print bibliography.  They list the materials, in print and electronic formats, available in the library as well as relevant websites, journal articles, primary sources of law, background information and timelines when appropriate.  They provide the researcher with information to begin answering his or her questions.

Two new LibGuides include the Baby Veronica Case–Reference Guide and Multiple Choice Practice Resources.  Deborah Turkewitz, the library’s current intern, prepared the Baby Veronica guide while the ILL/Evening Reference Librarian, Price Cook, prepared the Multiple Choice guide.

Other popular LibGuides include ones on Bar Exam Resources, Career Resources, Mobile Apps for Lawyers, and South Carolina Legal Research.  Check them out here.

 

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April 14, 2014 South Carolina Supreme Court published opinion

Amisub of South Carolina, Inc v South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

Governor Haley vetoed the line item containing funding for the Certificate of need program administered by department. The South Carolina House of representatives sustained the line item veto. Department announced it would suspend the program for fiscal year 2013-14. Amisub and other entities involved with the program sued in the Court’s original jurisdiction seeking an order requiring department to administer the program. The Court, with one justice concurring in part and dissenting in part, granted relief. The majority held that a governor’s line item veto is only effective as to the funding in the item involved and does not repeal the permanent law funded by the item. It also held that legislative intent to suspend the program was not proven here given the lack of an irreconcilable conflict between the vetoed funding and the permanent program, and reasoning that holding otherwise would transfer legislative power to the governor and allow repeal of law without both chambers approval. The majority finally ordered Department to resume the program be either charging fees or transfer other monies in its budget. The dissent argued that because the funding for the program was vetoed and the veto was sustained, the program is suspended until the legislature revives it with new appropriations. It argued that allowing the transfer of funds would allow agencies to negate the veto and charging fees would allow agencies to defy both governor and legislature.

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April 14, 2014 4th Circuit published order

Antonio v SSA Security, Inc.

Antonio and other plaintiffs sued SSA for negligence, violation of Maryland’s security guard statute and other claims arising from a series of home arsons perpetrated by an employee of SSA. The district court granted summary judgment on all claims to SSA and refused to certify a question as to the scope of the security guard statute. The panel affirmed as to negligence and certified the question. As to negligence, the panel held that there was no liability under Maryland law because Antonio and the other plaintiffs did not own or reside in the homes at the time of the arsons and SSA did not have prior notice of any emotional harm. The panel certified the question about eh scope of the statute holding the language as ambiguous as to whether it codified common law respondeat superior or created labiality for intentional tortious and criminal conduct by employees. Concluding that neither Maryland case law or legislative history or the case law of other jurisdictions resolved the ambiguity, the panel certified the question and ordered it sent to the Maryland Court of Appeals.

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Celebrate National Library Week

nlw2014  April 14th – 19th is National Library Week.  The theme this year is Lives change @ your library.  Stop by the library and indulge in some chocolates and peeps that we will have available for you later this week.  Browse some of our resources available on the database page, check the library’s catalog, The Gavel, to look for materials, and check out some of our libguides .  Please stop by this week!

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