By Thomas Cain and Noah Hock
In this civil case, Appellant Wood claimed teaching and assessment materials from a high school world history class violated her First Amendment rights under either the Establishment Clause or the Free Speech Clause. At issue were a statement comparing Islamic and Christian faiths and a worksheet requiring Wood to demonstrate her knowledge of some of the tenets of Islam. Considering the challenged materials within the context of the world history curriculum, the Fourth Circuit found the materials did not violate the Establishment Clause because they did not impermissibly endorse any religion and did not violate the Free Speech Clause because they did not compel Wood to profess any religious belief. As such, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s ruling granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants.
In this case, Petitioner Rodriguez-Arias sought review of the final order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) which denied his claim for protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The Fourth Circuit joined the Ninth and Third circuits in holding that when deciding a CAT case, the risks of torture from all sources should be combined when determining whether a CAT applicant is more likely than not to be tortured in a particular country. The Court held that the BIA failed to properly aggregate the risks of torture and failed to meaningfully engage with the documentary and additional evidence about the risk of torture that Petitioner faces in El Salvador. Thus, the Court vacated the BIA’s order and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
In this civil case, Appellant Norfolk Southern Railway sought review of the district court’s order granting summary judgment for the City of Roanoke on Appellant’s claims of discriminatory taxation in violation of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 (4-R Act). The case hinged on the characterization of the “stormwater management charge” as either a tax or a fee. After weighing the relevant factors, the Fourth Circuit ultimately held that the charge was a fee, as it was more so a part of a regulatory scheme with the purpose whose purpose is to remedy the environmental harms and to hold stormwater dischargers responsible. Thus, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision granting summary judgement for the defendants because only taxes are subject to challenge under the 4-R Act.