Docket – December 18, 2018

4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Sneha Media & Ent. LLC v. Assoc’d Broad. Co. P Ltd. (P), 4th Cir. (Niemeyer) from EDVA at Alexandria (Brinkema).

A Virginia company and an Indian company sued another Indian company, Associated Broadcasting, for breach of contract and related causes of action arising from a dispute over the plaintiffs’ right to distribute TV programming in the U.S. that Associated Broadcasting produced in India. The district court correctly held that the plaintiff companies failed to demonstrate that Associated Broadcasting had the minimum contacts with Virginia that are sufficient to satisfy the Due Process Clause.

Associated Broadcasting carries on its business solely in India and, by a contract executed in India, it gave one plaintiff the right to distribute its TV9 programming elsewhere. The only relevant contact that Associated Broadcasting had with Virginia was a single meeting, which involved the plaintiffs’ CEO’s expression of interest in distributing Associated Broadcasting TV9 content in the U.S. That discussion was informal and limited, leading to no arrangement.

Plaintiffs’ counsel also stated at the hearing that Associated Broadcasting used a plaintiff’s media office in Virginia as its broadcast center and sent files back to India. But the plaintiffs do not explain which personnel were allegedly involved (if not reporters), what content was broadcast, or what files were transferred to India. Moreover, there’s no suggestion whether the asserted activity included creation of any content. The use of the plaintiff’s office to transmit files to India could at most, if assumptions are made, be a weak, insufficient contact to establish jurisdiction.


United States v. Abdallah (P), 4th Cir. (Wynn) from EDVA at Newport News (Jackson).

The district court reversibly erred in refusing to suppress inculpatory statements the defendant made during a custodial interrogation, and also in not conducting an in camera review of confidential law enforcement records requested by the defendant when he established that the confidential records plausibly contained materially favorable information.

Even though the defendant stated he wasn’t going to say anything all, he was immediately asked an express question – “Do you even know why you’re under arrest?” – that reasonably required him to discuss his substantive offense. The defendant reasonably responded with several incriminating statements, which were ultimately used to convict him.

In this case, the government presented no pre-request context to suggest that the defendant’s statement was nothing more than an “angry response” or otherwise casting ambiguity on the defendant’s clear request to remain silent. Without pre-request context, the defendant’s unambiguous statement that he “wasn’t going to say anything at all” cannot be construed as anything but an unambiguous request to remain silent. There’s no requirement that Miranda invocations be measured, polite, or free of anger, in the assessment of the officers to whom they are directed.

Because of the particularly damaging nature of confessions, and because the defendant’s confession was integral to every count he was convicted of, his coerced statements weren’t harmless as to any count.

Rather than conduct an in camera review, the district court relied solely on law enforcement’s representation that there would not be exculpatory information in officers’ emails. Relying upon this representation was error.

Reversed and remanded.

U.S. District Court – Virginia Eastern

United States v. Habteyes, EDVA at Alexandria (Ellis).

The defendant, who has been indicted for making false material representations to immigration/naturalization officials regarding his background in Ethiopia, seeks to exclude from the court’s consideration a ledger of firearms distributions to supporters of Ethiopia’s military council (which was waging a campaign of violence against its political opponents).

The proffered document is properly classified as an ancient document pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 901(b)(8). Four entries from the ledger are also admissible under rule 803(16), the ancient-document exception to the hearsay rule; in the alternative, they are not hearsay but rather adoptive admissions.

Motion in limine denied.

U.S. District Court – Virginia Western

Stepp v. U.S. Bank N.A., WDVA at Harrisonburg (Dillon).

The plaintiff alleges that U.S. Bank failed to comply with regulations applicable to her home loan, specifically those requiring the bank to offer, attempt, or conduct a face-to-face meeting with her before foreclosing on her property. However, the bank had no branch office within 200 miles of the plaintiff’s home and so was exempt from the face-to-face meeting requirement.

Under a definition of a branch office that requires an office engaging in some type of mortgage-related business, it is clear that U.S. Bank’s Richmond branch does not qualify. That office is a separate office, not open to the public, and does not perform mortgage-related functions.

Motion to dismiss granted.

Virginia Court of Appeals

Brown v. Commonwealth (U), CAV (Beales) from Petersburg (Martin).

Evidence was sufficient to support the appellant’s conviction for obtaining money by false pretense. The appellant was not acting as an agent for his acquaintance in receiving money from him. The acquaintance gave the appellant $500 because the appellant was a salesman and the acquaintance wanted to buy a truck. When the acquaintance tendered the money, he conveyed both title and possession of the money to the appellant, as is required for a conviction of obtaining money by false pretense.

The facts and circumstances that followed support the conclusion that appellant intended to take the acquaintance’s money but never sell him the truck. After agreeing to sell him a truck from the dealership where he then worked, and after accepting $500 for that vehicle, the appellant took the acquaintance to a completely different dealership located a considerable distance away. There, he represented to the acquaintance that he was an employee of that dealership and tried to sell him a completely different truck. As the acquaintance then attempted to secure insurance on the vehicle, the appellant drove away and left the acquaintance at the dealership. He then avoided further contact with the acquaintance until just prior to his trial.

In his defense, appellant testified that his children had accidentally burned the $500 in the fireplace, preventing him from immediately returning it. The trial court found appellant’s story incredible.


Garza v. Garza (U), CAV (Haley) from Stafford (Willis).

The circuit court’s equitable distribution ruling was largely correct, but it erred in awarding the wife both a 50-percent share of the husband’s Thrift Savings Plan and a monetary award from a residence the husband purchased after the separation, which amounted to a “double dip” into the account proceeds.

The circuit court found that husband withdrew funds from his TSP account and, then, bought the home in Washington with some of those funds. The circuit court awarded wife 50 percent of husband’s TSP as of January 1, 2016, which reflected the value of the account before husband withdrew funds, some of which he used to purchase the Washington home. The circuit court also awarded wife $42,500 for her share in husband’s Washington home. These awards allowed wife to “double dip” into husband’s TSP account.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Categories: Daily Dockets

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