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    The Lawletter Blog

    EMPLOYMENT: Virginia Values Act—Employment & Public Accommodation Discrimination Against LGBT

    Posted by April Wimberley on Fri, Mar 27, 2020 @ 11:03 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 45 No 2

    April Wimberley—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         Virginia is poised to become the first Southern state to prohibit discrimination based on a person's "sexual orientation" or "gender identity." The Virginia Values Act ("VVA") was passed by the General Assembly on February 26, 2020 and is expected to be signed by Governor Ralph Northam. The bill will have a significant impact on the law governing discrimination in employment, public accommodations, housing, banking, and education, and it creates a new cause of action for unlawful discrimination in public accommodations.

         The VVA will amend several existing statutes to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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    Topics: unlawful employment discrimination, April Wimberley, Virginia Values Act, public accommodation discrimination, LGBT

    CIVIL RIGHTS: Solitary Confinement of Juvenile Offenders Struck Down in Florida

    Posted by John M. Stone on Fri, Mar 27, 2020 @ 10:03 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 45 No 2

    John Stone—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         Juvenile offenders and their parents brought a civil rights action against the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the Secretary of the Department, challenging the constitutionality of state-wide policies and practices of isolating juvenile offenders in solitary confinement, and alleging claims for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Rehabilitation Act. Their claims withstood a motion to dismiss. G.H. ex rel. Henry v. Marstiller, No. 4:19CV431‑MW/CAS, 2019 WL 6694738 (N.D. Fla. Dec. 6, 2019).

         The source for the constitutional challenge was the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth Amendment.

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    Topics: ADA, civil rights, John M Stone, Eighth Amendment, solitary confinement, deliberate indifference

    CRIMINAL LAW: Fourth Circuit Panel Rules That Probable Cause Is a Mere Click Away

    Posted by Jason Holder on Wed, Feb 5, 2020 @ 11:02 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 45 No 1

    Jason Holder—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                On what the court in United States v. Bosyk, 933 F.3d 319 (4th Cir. 2019), described as a "secretive online message board," id. at 322, a link appeared with a message explaining that the link would lead to multiple videos of child pornography.  On the same day that this link appeared, an IP address associated with Bosyk's house accessed the link to view the advertised materials.  Id.  Armed with these facts, and a brief description regarding the characteristics of individuals who possess and access child pornography, investigators were able to obtain a search warrant for Bosyk's residence authorizing the seizure of "computers, digital devices, storage media, and related evidence."  Id. at 323.

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    Topics: probable cause, criminal law, search warrant, hyperlinks

    CONSTITUTIONAL LAW:  Court Upholds Ordinance Prohibiting Discrimination Against Public Assistance Recipients

    Posted by John M. Stone on Wed, Feb 5, 2020 @ 11:02 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 45 No 1

    John Stone—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                A survey conducted in Minneapolis, Minnesota, indicated that barely half of the residential rental listings surveyed were affordable for persons receiving vouchers from the federal government's "Section 8" program, and only about a quarter of those affordable properties were willing to accept such vouchers. The backdrop was a vacancy rate in the city for low-income households of only about 2%.

                Citing this data and its desire to broaden housing opportunities for residents receiving the federal vouchers, the City enacted an ordinance that made it an unlawful discriminatory practice for a landlord to use "any requirement of a public assistance program as a motivating factor" to refuse to sell, rent, or lease real property.

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    Topics: constitutional law, public assistance recipients, Section 8 vouchers, housing ordinance

    CIVIL PROCEDURE:  Is Virginia Inching Toward The Federal Twiqbal Pleading Standards?

    Posted by Paul A. Ferrer on Wed, Feb 5, 2020 @ 11:02 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 45 No 1

    Paul Ferrer—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                Practitioners in federal court are by now aware of the revolution in federal pleading fashioned by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), which are often referred to jointly using the portmanteau "Twiqbal." Under the Twiqbal analysis, a district court considering the legal sufficiency of a complaint on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim initially separates factual allegations, which are still entitled to the presumption of truth, from legal conclusions (such as "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action"), which are not.

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    Topics: sufficient factual allegations, civil procedure, federal pleading standard, Twombly, Iqbal, legal sufficiency of complaint

    PROPERTY: When Partition by Division of Sale Proceeds Is Appropriate

    Posted by Matthew T. McDavitt on Wed, Dec 18, 2019 @ 10:12 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 44 No 6

    Matthew McDavitt—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                Any co-owner possessing an interest in realty has a right, under common and/or statutory law, to the partition of such realty, as no owner may be forced to remain in co-ownership. Physical partition is preferred and should be made where such realty may be divided without substantial prejudice to the other co-owners. Partition may be made over the objections of the other co-owners, and the fact that the other owners possess property or use interests cannot prevent partition. Fesmire v. Digh, 385 S.C. 296, 683 S.E.2d 803 (Ct. App. 2009).

                In some states, if the realty sought to be partitioned constitutes an owner's constitutionally or statutorily protected homestead, then such homestead status is an affirmative defense to partition, see Morris v. Figueroa, 830 So. 2d 692 (Miss. Ct. App. 2002); conversely, other jurisdictions hold that a cotenant's homestead interest in the property does not preclude partition, premised upon the absolute right of co-owners to exit co-ownership at will, see Wisner v. Pavlin, 2006 SD 64, 719 N.W.2d 770.

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    Topics: Matthew T. McDavitt, property sale, partition, sale proceeds

    PATENTS: A Federal Agency Is Not a "Person" for Purposes of Review of the Validity of a Patent Under the Leahy-Smith Act

    Posted by Anne B. Hemenway on Wed, Dec 18, 2019 @ 10:12 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 44 No 6

    Anne Hemenway—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                In Return Mail, Inc. v. USPS, 139 S. Ct. 1853 (2019), the U.S. Supreme Court held that a federal agency is not considered a "person" for purposes of seeking review of the validity of a patent under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 ("AIA"), 35 U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq.  The AIA, enacted on September 16, 2011, changed the patent system from a first-to-invent to a first-inventor-to-file system.  The transition to a first-to-file system took place over a period of approximately 18 months.

                The AIA also created the Patent Trial and Appeal Board and established three types of administrative review proceedings before the Board.  See 35 U.S.C. § 6.  The reviews include an "inter partes review," a "post-grant review," and a "covered-business-method" ("CBM") review.  See id. §§ 311, 321.

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    Topics: Anne B. Hemenway, patents, Leahy-Smith Act, first-inventor-to-file system

    PERSONAL INJURY: Medical Malpractice—Liability Without a Doctor-Patient Relationship

    Posted by Alfred C. Shackelford III on Wed, Dec 18, 2019 @ 09:12 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 44 No 6

    Fred Shackelford—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                Can a hospitalist be held liable for advising against admitting a patient to a hospital when he has no doctor-patient relationship and no direct contact with the patient? In Warren v. Dinter, 926 N.W.2d 370 (Minn. 2019), Susan Warren arrived at a health clinic with symptoms of abdominal pain, fever, and chills. A nurse practitioner (Simon) ordered tests and concluded that the patient had an infection that required hospitalization. Simon then called a local hospital to seek admission for the patient, and her call was randomly assigned to Dr. Richard Dinter, a hospitalist on call. Although the facts were disputed as to the nature of the conversation between Simon and Dr. Dinter, the Warren court accepted the nurse's account that Dr. Dinter decided that the patient did not need to be admitted to the hospital.

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    Topics: medical malpractice, personal injury, doctor-patient relationship, hospitalist, foreseeability of harm

    CIVIL PROCEDURE: Contractual Waivers of the Statute of Limitations Unenforceable in Virginia

    Posted by Paul A. Ferrer on Mon, Dec 16, 2019 @ 12:12 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 44 No 6

    Paul Ferrer—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                In a decision with far-reaching implications in the commercial world, the Virginia Supreme Court has decided that contractual waivers of the right to plead the statute of limitations that do not meet specified statutory criteria are unenforceable under Virginia law. See Radiance Capital Receivables Fourteen, LLC v. Foster,  ___ Va. ___, 833 S.E.2d 867 (2019), available at http://www.courts.state.va.us/opinions/opnscvwp/1180678.pdf. The statute in question provides that unless the failure to enforce a promise not to plead the statute of limitations would operate as a fraud on the promisee, a written promise not to plead the statute of limitations is valid and enforceable only "when (i) it is made to avoid or defer litigation pending settlement of any case, (ii) it is not made contemporaneously with any other contract, and (iii) it is made for an additional term not longer than the applicable limitations period." Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-232(A).

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    Topics: Paul A. Ferrer, statute of limitations, civil procedure, contractual waivers, unenforceable contract

    APPELLATE PRACTICE:  Sanctions Including Dismissal and Fines Imposed over Noncompliant Briefs

    Posted by Nicole Prysby on Mon, Dec 16, 2019 @ 09:12 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 44 No 6

    Nicole Prysby—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                The appellate process is already an expensive and difficult process. Why sink your chances of a win by presenting the court with a brief that is not compelling or, even worse, is noncompliant with court rules?

                In very egregious cases, a noncompliant brief may result in the denial of the appeal. In 2019, a North Carolina court concluded that dismissal was an appropriate sanction. In Ramsey v. Ramsey, 826 S.E.2d 459 (N.C. Ct. App. 2019), the appellant failed to file the record on appeal within 15 days of the date the record was settled and included a discussion of relevant facts in the argument section, instead of in a separate fact statement. He included the standard of review in only one of his three argument sections and had a litany of minor errors, such as a failure to identify the specific names of persons served in the Certificate of Service. And although the brief met word limits, the Certificate of Compliance stated the word count, rather than the required statement that the brief contains no more than the permitted number of words. The court declined to make its own "voyage of discovery through the record" in order to glean the relevant circumstances for the appeal and dismissed the appeal. Id. at 464.

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    Topics: appellate procedure, appeal dismissal, Nicole Prysby, noncompliant brief, sanctions

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