October 29, 2013 4th Circuit published opinions

Othi v Holder

Othi was a legal permanent resident who left the country for a brief visit to India. He was detained at the airport and the government sought his removal based on drug and murder convictions. Othi argued he was not seeking “admission” as his visit to India was brief and casual. The board of immigration appeals rejected his argument. The panel denied his petition. It held, consistent with all other circuits to decide the issue that the 1996 amendments to the immigration statute abrogated the United States Supreme Court ruling that permanent residents were not seeking entry after brief trips abroad. It held that the plain language of 8 USC 1101 mandates this outcome as Congress include legal permanent residents with drug and other convictions in the provisions allowing every reentry to the United States to be treated as seeking “admission” to the country. The panel noted that even if the language of ambiguous, under the Chevron doctrine, the board’s interpretation of 1101 is reasonable given the legislative history and must be sustained. The panel finally held that Othi received notice and an opportunity to be heard and thus received all the process due him.

United States v Johnson

Johnson moved to suppress statements he made to 0police and a firearm recovered from his home. The district court denied his motion. The panel affirmed. It held that district court did nto clearly error in accepting the consistent testimony of the police officers involved that the temporary tag on the car Johnson was driving was folded up and illegible at a distance. Thus the stop was supported by probable cause. The panel also held that an officer asking “What do you mean?’ to Johnson’s offer of information was not custodial interrogation or its equivalent as the officer could nto reasonably foresee that Johnson would incriminate himself by volunteering the location of a firearm which as a felon Johnson was prohibited form possessing.

United States v Hashime

Hashime was interrogated without Miranda warnings for two hours during the execution of a search warrant and made incriminating statements. He moved to suppress those statements which was denied by the district court. He pled guilty to some charges and was found guilty of others and sentenced to the minimum 15 years in prison. The panel, with one judge adding a concurrence, reversed. It held that given 15 to 30 agents in the home, Hashime being woken at gunpoint, restricted in his movements, isolated form his family and interrogate for three hours, custodial interrogation occurred without proper Miranda warnings and those statements must thus be suppressed. The panel declined to rule on the proportionality of the mandatory minimum sentences, but, did call on the prosecutors to rethink their charging decisions in this matter. One judge added a concurrence arguing proportionality review is available in these circumstances.

Radford v Colvin

Radford sought social security disability benefits which the administrative law judge denied. The district court reversed that decision and remanded for an award of benefits. The panel vacated and remanded. It held the district court correctly ruled that the applicable regulation only required the claimant prove four symptoms are present not that they are simultaneously present or present in near temporal proximity to each other. The panel rejected Chevron deference as the agency had never viewed the regulation as requiring temporal closeness for the four symptoms until this case and in any event the regulations meaning was unambiguous. The panel remanded, however, because the normal remedy for inadequate explanation is remand for the administrative law judge to provide adequate explanation. Here, the judge summarily rejected the claim and thus is now required to explain why the nonexaminig doctor’s opinions were more persuasive than the treating physicians’ opinions.

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