4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
The district court did not err in dismissing the plaintiffs’ suit against a doctor for his actions as an expert witness in administrative hearings for the Federal Black Lung Program. In this RICO litigation, Wheeler was entitled to the Witness Litigation Privilege, which protects witnesses who testify in judicial and quasi-judicial proceedings from later civil liability. Once the privilege attaches, it bars all civil claims stemming from the witness’s participation before a tribunal. Neither expert witnesses who appear voluntarily nor those who engage in deliberate fraud are entitled to less protection than other witnesses. Judge King dissented.
The district court entered an injunction that required the U.S. Department of Energy to remove not less than one metric ton of defense plutonium from the State of South Carolina within two years. Contrary to the government’s arguments on appeal, the district court properly enforced statutory responsibilities imposed on the Department by Congress and appropriately crafted and entered the injunction. The Department claims compliance will be impossible but offered the district court no evidence to support that position.
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