December 10, 2013 4th Circuit published opinions

Durham v Jones

Durham used force to arrest a suspect. He was coerced into deleting references to the use of force in his incident report by Jones’ sheriff’s department and complained to other law enforcement agencies and the press. He was eventually terminated and sued under 42 USC 1983. The district court denied Jones’ motion to dismiss on qualified immunity grounds and a jury returned a verdict in Durham’s favor. The panel affirmed. It held qualified immunity did not apply as Jones violated Durham’s First Amendment rights as the complaints were about falsification of evidence at a law enforcement agency and drew attention form the local press. Thus, it was a matter of public importance. Additionally, the panel held that Jones failed to present any evidence of disruption or any other possibility that the complaints would undermine a functioning department. The panel finally held that the right in question was firmly established at the time of termination under circuit precedent.

United States v Savage 

Savage was found to be a sexually dangerous person and ordered confined. He argued that as a District of Columbia prisoner, he was not “in custody” of the Bureau of Prisons. The panel rejected his argument and affirmed. It held that under the District of Columbia Code, all prisoners convicted in the District are transferred to the custody of the Attorney General and remain in the legal custody of his authorized representatives in the Bureau wherever they may be held. Thus, he was in custody at the time of the petition to commit. The panel noted this was consistent with the views of the DC Circuit and with the treatment of prisoners under the revised DC self-government act of 1997.

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