December 3, 2013 4th Circuit published opinions

Jaffe v Samsung Electronics Company, Limited

Jaffe was the administrator of a bankrupt German manufacturer. He filed a Chapter 15 petition to be appointed administrator of the manufacturer’s United States assets which were almost entirely patents. The bankruptcy court approved his petition but ultimately refused to allow Jaffe to cancel licenses to other semiconductor manufacturers. The panel, with one judge concurring in part and in judgment, affirmed. It held under 11 USC 1521 and 1522, the bankruptcy court must balance the interest of the debtor and the creditors of the estate including the interests of licensees to retain their licenses. The panel also held that this conclusion is consistent with the commentary on the United Nations model law which chapter 15 is patterned after. The panel held that the factual record developed in the four day hearing supported the bankruptcy court’s decision. The majority also stated that its decision furthered the public policy of the United States in protecting semiconductor manufactures settled interest in their licenses in order to prevent the loss of technological development or the slowdown of that development. The concurrence argued the discussion of public policy was dicta and refused to join that part of the opinion.

United States v Robinson

Robinson moved to suppress the firearm discovered during a pat down. The district court denied his motion. The panel, 2-1, reversed. The majority held that based on the officer’s testimony alone and under the totality of the circumstances- five officers in three vehicles converging on a sheltered bus stop, Robinson observing the other men at the stop being handled by officers, Robinson being asked if anything illegal on him and being motioned forward by the officer, Robinson did not consent to the pat down but merely grudgingly surrendered to the officer’s order. Thus, the firearm must be suppressed. The dissent argued that the district court’s factual findings, including that Robinson consented to the search, were not clearly erroneous and thus must be affirmed.

United States v Kerr

Kerr was convicted of felon in possession of a firearm and sentenced on remand as an armed career criminal. The panel, 2-1 affirmed. The majority held that under 4th Circuit precedent, North Carolina breaking and entering convictions count as violent felonies if the defendant faced a sentence of more than one year under North Carolina’s structured sentencing act. Here, while the state sentencing judge found mitigating circumstances outweighed aggravating circumstances and chose to sentence in the lower mitigated range, Kerr still faced a sentence of up to 14 months and thus all his convictions counted as violent felonies. The majority affirmedd Kerr’s conviction on similar reasoning and held his ineffective counsel argument was moot as his conviction stood. The dissent argued that none of the breaking and entering convictions count for career criminal purposes because the actual sentencing range, not the hypothetically retained power to sentence at a higher range, controls the characterization of North Carolina convictions. The dissent also argued the majority ignored United States Supreme Court and 4th Circuit precedent which points to reversal here, failed to give proper deference to North Carolina’s determination of the seriousness of Kerr’s crimes and failed to prevent an outrageous sentence from being imposed and served.

Sandlands C &D LLC v County of Horry

County passed an ordinance requiring all trash to be hauled to public dumps. Sandlands sued arguing the ordinance violated the commerce clause and equal protection clause. The district court granted summary judgment to County. The panel affirmed. Applying United States Supreme Court precedent, the panel held that the ordinance did not violate the commerce clause because it permissible treated all private entities the same by prohibiting them from hauling off trash to private dumps. Additionally, the revenues generated by the public dump and the green energy produced there and educational programs on recycling were sufficient to meet the balancing test for nondiscriminatory acts. The panel finally rejected the equal protection augment on the same reasoning.



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