Docket – January 22, 2019

U.S. District Court – Virginia Eastern

UMG Recordings Inc. v. Kurbanov, EDVA at Alexandria (Hilton).

In this copyright infringement case, the court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendant.

The plaintiffs are 12 record companies, all Delaware companies with principal places of business variously in New York, California, and Florida. The defendant is a Russian national living and working in Russia; he operates websites that “rip” audio files without authorization from streaming services. Last year, about 500,000 people in Virginia allegedly visited each website. Before 2018, the websites were hosted by servers in Virginia.

Still, the court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendant because of the lack of personal targeting of either Virginia or the United States. There’s no significant period of prolonged engagement between users and the sites that creates an ongoing relationship. Users don’t create an account, sign in, or register when they unilaterally interact with the free website. Thus, the defendant didn’t purposefully avail himself of benefits within Virginia’s or the United States’s jurisdiction, and personal jurisdiction would be unconstitutional.

Motion to dismiss granted.

Ga. Vocational Rehab. Agency Bus. Enter. Program v. United States, EDVA at Newport News (Morgan).

The government will be enjoined from awarding a contract for food services at Fort Benning until the plaintiff’s challenge to the bidding process has been resolved in arbitration.

The plaintiff’s claim that the government violated federal law by not referring the issue of the price-reasonableness of the plaintiff’s contract proposal to the Secretary of Education is likely to succeed on the merits. It appears that the government violated its own regulations: No competitive rate was actually determined; the government simply picked a number and selected the only bidder whose bid was originally lower than that number.

The plaintiff has also established that it will suffer irreparable harm by losing employees and training resources if they lose the contract they sought. And because the government violated its own policies and its witnesses gave inconsistent or incredible testimony, the balance of equities and the public interest favors injunctive relief.

Motion for preliminary injunction granted.

Court of Appeals of Virginia

Commonwealth v. Briggs (U), CAV (Russell) from Brunswick (Tomko).

The circuit court properly concluded that the defendant should have received Miranda warnings before he was questioned by a private prison investigator while incarcerated.

The defendant was subjected to substantial restraints on his liberty in addition to those he experienced every day as an inmate, and the totality of the circumstances reasonably suggested a coercive environment. Thus, he was in custody for Miranda purposes when the investigator questioned him about 72 strips of Suboxone found in his cell.

The questioning was part of “a criminal investigation” based on a tip that the defendant had drugs in his cell. The quantity of drugs discovered suggested an intent to distribute. And the nature of the suspected offense and the questioning support the conclusion that it was an interrogation. Given his knowledge of the tip and the discovery of drugs, the investigator’s questioning was likely to elicit an incriminating response.

The prison was operated pursuant to a state contract to house inmates. Housing convicted felons who are serving sentences imposed by the courts of the Commonwealth is, at its core, a governmental, as opposed to a private, function. Further, running a prison holding such inmates is certainly a law enforcement activity by any reasonable definition. That the Commonwealth, for administrative, economic, or other reasons, chose to perform this core governmental function through the use of private contractors didn’t alter the fundamental character of the activity.


Categories: Daily Dockets

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