May 29, 2013 4th Circuit published opinions

Libertarian Party of Virginia v Judd

Party challenged Virginia’s requirement of a resident petition signature gatherer or resident witness of nonresident signature gathering. The district court found Party had standing and the residency requirement violated the First Amendment. The panel affirmed. It held that, although Party has been successful in gathering the needed signatures, it has standing because the residency requirement restricts the number of gathers it can use and thus the amount of political speech it can saw in Virginia. It held that an individual plaintiff had standing because the restriction applied to him whether healthy or, as is the case now, with an injured knee. The panel held that strict scrutiny applied and the requirement violates the First Amendment because a requirement for nonresidents to comply with subpoenas is less restrictive and Virginia did not produce any evidence that such a requirement would be unworkable.

United States v Castellanos

A police officer seized an SUV on a commercial car carrier in which 23 kilos of cocaine were found in the gas tank. Castellanos came to claim the SUV and was subsequently indicted. His motion to suppress was denied and he pled conditionally guilty. The panel, 2-1, affirmed. The majority held that, because Castellanos presented no evidence that he owned the SUV, was the person the SUV was being transported to or otherwise had an interest in the SUV, he had no expectation of privacy in the SUV and his rights were not violated. The dissent argued that all evidence known to the government, both introduced at the hearing, stipulated to at sentencing or in their filings in the case, including the lengthy investigation of Castellanos for drug running, his use of the name on the shipping slip as an alias and the mere typo on the address on the shipping slip, should have been considered. It further argued that when the whole picture is viewed, Castellanos has an interest in the SUV, that interest was not lost when he had the SUV placed on a commercial car carrier, the gas tank was a closed container protected by the fourth Amendment and the officers seizure and search were unsupported by probable cause. Thus, the dissent would grant the motion to suppress and remand for further proceedings

United States v Jones

Jones was convicted of arranging fraudulent marriages between US sailors and foreign nationals. He challenged the introduction of jailhouse conversations, his attorney’s failure to dismiss a conservative talk show host from the jury and his sentence. The panel affirmed. It held that the participants in the jailhouse conversations were not preparing to bear witness against Jones and thus the statements were not testimonial. So, no Confrontation clause violation occurred. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the radio host to remain on the panel as it could reasonably accept her three assurances that she would serve impartially. As tot eh sentence, the panel held that the district court properly chose to group the more serious witness tampering offense with the underlying marriage fraud counts as that course was dictated by the sentencing guidelines and application notes. The panel finally held that the inclusion of wrongfully obtained housing benefits after two of the sailors confessed was reasonably foreseeable particularly as Jones impeded the investigation through witness intimidation and was properly included in the loss calculation for the restitution award.

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