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Judge Stephanie Dawn Thacker

Jan 5, 2023

Lawsuit against TSA agents dismissed

Where a man alleged that two Transportation and Security Administration, or TSA, officers, violated the First Amendment by prohibiting him from recording a pat-down search and the Fourth Amendment by seizing him and seizing and searching his cell phone, but there were special factors “counselling hesitation” in allowing a claim in this context, including that […]

Dec 21, 2022

Appeal doomed by party’s own conduct

Where a party argued that it should not be required to exhaust administrative remedies because the administrative process would effectively result in a complete preclusion of review, but then admitted that it was currently participating in an administrative appeal where it was able to present its arguments, that concession was fatal to its claims. Background […]

Dec 21, 2022

Counsel didn’t render ineffective assistance

Where the government obtained the defendant’s historical cellular site location information, or CSLI, in good-faith reliance upon then-existing law, the defendant’s counsel did not render ineffective assistance by failing to move to suppress the information. The motion likely would not have been meritorious. Background Gloria Patricia Taylor appeals the district court’s order denying relief [...]

Dec 8, 2022

Detainee can’t sidestep § 2225’s requirements

Where a detainee’s motion for compassionate release argued that his convictions and sentence were unlawful, his motion was denied. Because 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is the exclusive method of collaterally attacking a federal conviction or sentence, a criminal defendant is foreclosed from the use of another mechanism to sidestep § 2255’s requirements. Background While serving […]

Sep 24, 2022

First Step Act decisions must be procedurally, substantively reasonable

Where procedural and substantive reasonableness requirements are necessary to ensure the broad remedial purposes of the First Step Act, but the district court here did not explain why it believed a large upward variance was warranted when it resentenced the defendant under § 404 of the First Step Act, its sentence was vacated. Background Mitchell […]

Sep 8, 2022

Federal employee’s suit not a ‘mixed case’

Where a federal employee claimed his suit challenging the Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA’s, failure to select him for any of the GS-15 positions for which he applied was a “mixed case” under the law, but guidance from prior cases and the mechanics of the Civil Service Reform Act, or CSRA, show otherwise, the district […]

Jul 7, 2022

Preliminary injunction doesn’t confer ‘prevailing party’ status for attorneys’ fees

Where the plaintiffs obtained a preliminary injunction against enforcement of a Virginia statute that triggered the automatic suspension of driver’s licenses for nonpayment of court costs and fines, and the General Assembly then repealed the statute, the plaintiffs weren’t entitled to attorneys’ fees under binding Fourth Circuit precedent. Although this precedent is an outlier among [&hellip[...]

May 9, 2022

Conviction affirmed despite victim impact statements

Although the district court should not have allowed (1) the employees of two robbed jewelry stores to testify about how the emotional aftermath of the robberies affected their lives or (2) a law enforcement agent to give lay testimony about coded language defendant used in a recorded telephone call, the government’s other evidence of defendant’s […]

Apr 11, 2022

Denial of church’s zoning requests didn’t violate law

Where a church was aware of zoning restrictions when it purchased property, it could not have had a reasonable expectation of religious land use, dooming its claim under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, or RLUIPA. Because the land use restrictions were rationally related to the government’s interest in protecting the region’s watershed, […]

Mar 8, 2022

Borrower’s letter triggered RESPA protections

Where a borrower’s letter to his loan servicer included the name, account number and other information that would “enable[] the servicer to identify” the account, and it explained why the borrower believed the account was in error, it constituted a qualified written request, or QWR, under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or RESPA. Background […]

Mar 8, 2022

Abortion providers have standing to challenge SC law

Where abortion providers challenged South Carolina legislation that bans abortions after an ultrasound detects a “fetal heartbeat,” they had third-party standing to do so because they would suffer an injury-in-fact from enforcement and could reasonably be expected to frame the issues and present them with the necessary adversarial zeal. Background Three abortion providers challenge South [&hel[...]

Feb 8, 2022

SC governor, attorney general dismissed from mask ban suit

Where the South Carolina governor had no responsibility for enforcing a provision in the state budget that prohibits school districts from using appropriated funds to impose mask mandates, and the South Carolina attorney general had neither implemented nor threatened to implement his enforcement authority against the districts where plaintiffs’ children attend school, the plaintiffs lacked [&hel[...]

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