Docket – April 16, 2019

4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Reyna v. Hott (P), 4th Cir. (Niemeyer) from EDVA at Alexandria (O’Grady).

The district court properly dismissed the complaint on grounds that the plaintiffs did not sufficiently allege that the government’s practice of transferring detained immigrants among various interstate detention centers violated a substantive due process right. Accordingly, the court also properly dismissed procedural due process claims and one plaintiff’s request for habeas relief.

Contrary to the government’s contentions, the district court had jurisdiction to hear this case, as does this court. On the merits, the plaintiffs do not challenge either their arrest; the government’s right to detain them; their detention in Farmville, Virginia; the conditions of their confinement; or their bond-hearing procedures. Instead, they argue that transferring them from the Farmville facility near their families to a facility in Texas away from their families violated a substantive due-process right to “family unity.”

Like the district court, this court is unable to find an existing substantive due-process right to family unity in the context of immigration detention pending removal. And the court is hardly free to create a new right in view of U.S. Supreme Court decisions cautioning courts from innovating in this area. The court declines the plaintiffs’ urging to recognize such a right where there are virtually no objective criteria for assessing how strong the familial ties must be, how short the distance between family and detention must be, or how weak the countervailing governmental interests must be.

Affirmed.

Court of Appeals of Virginia

Taylor v. Commonwealth (P), CAV (Petty) from Chesterfield (Rockwell).

The trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress a warrantless blood draw.

At the time the officer arrested the defendant, Virginia law was that the defendant had, by driving on the highway, impliedly consented to provide a blood or breath sample after being arrested for DUI. While it can be argued that Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016), invalidated implied consent statutes that threaten criminal sanctions for refusing to provide a blood sample, Birchfield didn’t conclude that its holding was retroactive. And there is no evidence in the record that the officer engaged in willful or negligent conduct in obtaining the blood sample. Under these circumstances, no deterrent purpose exists that would be served by excluding otherwise relevant evidence.

Affirmed.

Loudoun County v. Richardson (P), CAV (O’Brien) from Va. WCC.

The Workers’ Compensation Commission properly awarded permanent partial disability benefits to a claimant who was injured during his employment by Loudoun County as a fire department battalion chief. As a result of his injury, he received a total hip replacement.

Code § 65.2-503 enumerates the body parts eligible for compensation under the Act. Although legs are listed in the statute, hips are not. But here, the medical evidence supports the Commission’s finding that the claimant’s hip injury manifested in a functional loss of use to his leg. Thus, the Commission didn’t err in determining that the claimant’s hip injury that manifested in his leg was compensable.

Moreover, functional loss of use is measured by a claimant’s impairment before the implantation of a corrective device. Nothing in the Workers’ Compensation Act indicates that loss of use to a leg or other extremity should be measured after the necessary implantation of a mechanical device. Although advancements in medical technology may ultimately warrant a different analysis for prosthetic joints, any such change in the law is within the province of the legislature.

Affirmed.

Eley v. Commonwealth (P), CAV (Decker) from Newport News (Mills).

In the defendant’s conviction for carrying a loaded firearm equipped with a high-capacity magazine, the statutory exemption in Code § 18.2-308(C)(8) for a firearm carried in “a personal, private motor vehicle” did not apply because the defendant knew that the truck in which he secured the firearm was stolen.

The word “personal” in the phrase “a personal, private motor vehicle” must mean something different from the word “private.” By using the adjective “personal,” the legislature meant at the very least to require that the vehicle in which one secures a firearm, in addition to being a “private” or non-public one, must also be one that the person claiming the exemption lawfully possesses or occupies.

Affirmed.

U.S. District Court – Virginia Eastern

Fluor Enters. Inc. v. Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Sys. Ams. Inc., EDVA at Richmond (Lauck).

In this dispute arising from the parties’ business contract, the court will strike the defendant’s demand for a jury.

The defendant doesn’t dispute that its jury-trial waivers in the parties’ agreement were knowing and voluntary. It contends that the jury-trial waivers can still apply to its defamation counterclaim because the statements at issue were wholly independent of the agreement and impugned the defendant’s business across a variety of unrelated projects. But the statements related to and arose from the defendant’s performance under the agreement. Simply because the plaintiff mentioned in the allegedly defamatory statement that other projects similarly fell short does not take the defamation counterclaim out of the scope of the jury trial waivers at issue here.

Because the counterclaim pertains to the defendant’s performance on the parties’ contract and the quality of its products, the litigation results from, arises out of, or relates to the contract or transactions that the contract contemplates. Thus, the jury waivers apply.

Motion to strike granted.

Gratz v. Gratz, EDVA at Richmond (Payne).

In this action asserting several business tort claims, the court will exercise specific personal jurisdiction, though not general jurisdiction, over the defendant, who is the plaintiff’s stepmother. In a nutshell, the plaintiff claims that his stepmother intentionally drove a wedge between him and his father, causing his father to violate or terminate various contracts and thereby cause losses to the plaintiff.

According to the plaintiff, the defendant owns some real property and keeps personal property in Richmond; she communicated with the plaintiff’s father about the contracts at issue while he was in Richmond; she has visited Richmond numerous times on business; and her company purportedly does business in Richmond. But these allegations do not make a prima facie showing of general personal jurisdiction. The defendant is a citizen of Florida, and the plaintiff has not establish that she is “essentially at home” in Virginia.

However, there is a prima facie showing that the defendant purposely availed herself of conducting activities in Virginia, directly and through the plaintiff’s father. She admits that she and the plaintiff’s father own real property in Richmond and that she has had numerous communications with him over the last ten years while he has been physically present in Virginia. She also maintained personal property in Richmond, including a vehicle that she allowed the plaintiff’s father to use while he was in Richmond.

Based on these considerations, Virginia is certainly not a foreign forum to the defendant. Moreover, the properties that are the subject of the contract dispute are in Virginia, and the plaintiff is a Virginia resident; therefore, Virginia has a much stronger interest in this case than does any other jurisdiction. Under these circumstances, the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over the defendant is constitutionally reasonable.

Motion to dismiss denied.

Virginia Circuit Courts

In re Estate of Kevin Joseph Connolly, Fairfax (Smith).

The court will grant a son’s petition to strike a provision in his father’s will conditioning his inheritance on no longer being married to his wife. The petitioner has been married to his wife for more than 20 years, and they have four children together.

The language of the will conclusively shows the testator’s intent for the petitioner to divorce his wife. Evidence is that the father adamantly opposed the marriage at the time, refused to attend the wedding ceremony, and repeatedly expressed contempt for the petitioner’s wife following the marriage. Virginia courts have long held that provisions in contracts that encourage divorce are prohibited as against public policy. The next logical step is that a stipulation in a will that encourages a devisee to divorce his or her spouse, absent an intent to financially protect the devisee, is as loathsome as an absolute prohibition on marriage and therefore violates public policy.

Because this provision threatens to cut off the petitioner’s remainder if he does not obey the testator’s demand, the court strikes that condition. The Petitioner will be entitled to a share of the proceeds when the house is sold.

Petition granted.



Categories: Daily Dockets

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