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4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Black Steelworkers Can Proceed with Racial Bias Class Action

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ruled that black employees of a Nucor Corp. steel plant can proceed as a class with their claims that their employer violated the Civil Rights Act with discrimination in job promotions, the Daily Labor Report's Lisa Nagele-Piazza reports.

The Fourth Circuit, 2-1, reversed a lower decision to decertify the class action in which the black steelworkers allege that they faced disparate treatment and disparate impact from discrimination in promotions. The lower court had found that the class did not meet the U.S. Supreme Court's heightened standard in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes for whether there are questions of law or fact common to the class.

Conservative Judge Authors Decision Striking Down Abortion Ultrasounds

The Fourth Circuit struck down North Carolina's requirement that doctors and ultrasound technicians perform an ultrasound at least four hours but not more than 72 hours before the abortion is to take place, display an image of the sonogram and "and specifically describe the fetus to any pregnant woman seeking an abortion, even if the woman actively 'averts her eyes' and 'refuses to hear,'" Slate's Dahlia Lithwick reports. The court ruled the requirement violates the First Amendment rights of healthcare providers. Doctors who did not follow the law could face damages and lose their licenses to practice, Lithwick also notes.

Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, who authored the opinion for the panel, is a conservative jurist and was shortlisted for John Roberts' seat as chief justice of the Supreme Court, Lithwick notes.

The ruling presents a circuit split with the Fifth and Eighth Circuits, which have upheld similar laws.

Fourth Circuit Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Ban in Virginia

The Fourth Circuit has become the second circuit court of appeals to uphold a state ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. The Tenth Circuit already ruled that Utah's ban and Oklahoma's bans are unconsitutional, and now the Fourth Circuit has ruled the same for Virginia's ban. The Fourth Circuit, 2-1, ruled today that "'denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the (U.S. Constitution's) Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance,'" Reuters reports.

Instant Circuit Split! Fourth Circuit, D.C. Circuit Come Down On Different Sides of Obamacare Subsidies

Just hours after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit threw out the federal tax regulation that implements the Obamacare subsidies available to people with annual incomes of up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, the Fourth Circuit has upheld them, the National Law Journal's Marcia Coyle reports: "In King v. Burwell, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rejected arguments that the subsidies—tax credits offsetting the cost of insurance for low- and moderate-income persons—are limited only to insurance purchased through state-created exchanges under the health insurance law."

Fourth Circuit Appears Divided On Same-Sex Marriage

The Fourth Circuit became the second federal appellate court to consider a decision to strike down a ban on same-sex marriage,'s Marcia Coyle reports: "Judging by comments made by the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit hearing Virginia’s case, the fate of the state’s ban, one of the most restrictive in the country, could hang on the vote of one judge."

Some of the plaintiffs are represented by the same legal team that successfully challenged California's ban on same-sex marriage but did not get a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether states can limit marriage to unions between men and women, Coyle writes.

When the judges on the 10th Circuit heard an appeal of Utah's ban on same-sex marriage being struck down, they also appeared divided.

Court Rules 'Company Doe' Can't Litigate Safety Complaint in Secret

The Fourth Circuit ruled that 'Company Doe' should not have been able to litigate in secret its dispute with the Consumer Product Safety Commission about whether a safety complaint--that a lower-court judge said was "materially inaccurate"--can be posted online, the Wall Street Journal reports. The appellate court held "'that the district court’s sealing order violates the public’s right of access under the First Amendment and that the district court abused its discretion in allowing Company Doe to litigate pseudonymously,"' WSJ further reports.

Politico: Supreme Court May Get Reporter's Privilege Plea

New York Times reporter James Risen has asked the Fourth Circuit to put on hold its ruling denying that a reporters privilege applies in a criminal case in which he could be forced to testify, Politico reports. Meanwhile, Risen will seek for the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue.

The underlying criminal case involves former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who "has been indicted for leaking Risen information about a CIA operation to provide Iran with flawed nuclear designs as part of an effort to set back that country's alleged nuclear weapons program," according to Politico.

Risen has vowed to go to jail before revealing who his source was.

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