June 15, 2012 4th Circuit published opinions

Project Vote/Voting for America, Inc. v Long

Project Vote sought the completed voter registration applications for persons who applied in 2008, but, were not entered onto the voter rolls. Long, the responsible local voting official, refused. Project Vote field suit under the National Voter Registration Act. The district court granted Project Vote summary judgment, but, stayed judgment during appeal. The panel affirmed and remanded. The panel first held voter registration forms are programs and activities which concern the implementation of state efforts to keep the voter rolls accurate and current and submitted registration forms are records that must be disclosed under the statute. It rejected arguments that the disclosure requirement is limited to voter removal records noting “shall include” is not the same as “limited to”. The panel noted that the Help America Vote Act concerned provisional votes and explicitly did not replace any provision of the National Voter Registration Act and that an act concerning military personnel and other citizens abroad only protected requests for forms from disclosure thus neither provided a basis to refuse disclosure. The panel finally rejected privacy arguments noting the trial court ordered Social Security numbers redacted and that disclosures of information about an applicant’s sex, criminal background and mental health are not protected form disclosure.

Deyton v Keller

Deyton and two accomplices invaded a church and robbed the worshipers of the week’s donations and other personal property. They pled guilty to several felony counts. At their sentencing, the sentencing judge indicated that invading a church and taking god’s money was “just outrageous” and required a stern sentence. Each received 10 consecutive sentences totaling a minimum of approximately 53 years. The defendants unsuccessfully sought state post conviction relief and sought federal habeas relief. The district court denied the petition. The panel affirmed. It noted the deference provided state sentencing judges in making pronouncement at sentencing and the requirement of a defendant to show the statements at sentencing rendered the sentencing fundamentally unfair. The panel found that there was no binding United States Supreme Court authority which prohibited taking the religious component of the case into account for sentencing purposes. Indeed, the panel declared that all fair minded people would support the judge here in defending the free exercise rights of the victims and joined the unanimous judicial determination that the crime called for a stern punishment.

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