U.S. Court of Appeals Holds Session at Marshall


Courtesy of The Herald Dispatch

The Fourth Circuit US Court of Appeals in session at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center in November 2022

Matthew Schaffer, News Editor

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held a special session at Marshall on Wednesday, March 22, to hear oral arguments in front of an auditorium full of students and community members.

The event took place at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse, with Judges Albert Diaz, Stephanie Thacker and Chief Judge Roger Gregory hearing three cases—two criminal and one immigration—as part of an initiative to visit universities and law schools across the country.

Thacker is a Marshall alumna. During a Q&A after the three cases were heard, she expressed her gratitude for the education she received at Marshall. Meanwhile, Gregory described her return to her alma mater as throwing a “rope of destiny” to guide current students as they make their own way after college. 

The first case heard was Ullah Shaker v. Merrick Garland, a Board of Immigration appeal that summarized the events of a Pakistani citizen, Shaker, who faced persecution from the Taliban in his country which led to a relocation ruling.

The appellant’s argument stated that the BIA violated federal regulations found in previous cases, as well as its precedent, by failing to identify a specific location within Pakistan that would ensure Shaker’s safety or if such a location exists within the country. 

The appellant further stated that the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for showing the victim a place in which they can avoid further persecution.

The appellee argued that the ruling should stand because the DHS had met its responsibility by suggesting relocation from the victim’s remote area to an urban area outside of the Taliban’s control, specifically naming Islamabad despite the victim having been previously threatened over the phone there.

The following case was US v. Jacobs, in which the appellant argued that a district court made a strutural error in the process of delivering a life sentence for Ross Jacob’s crimes of sexual abuse and pornography of children. 

The appellant argued the sentencing relied on a witness who, despite having had an intimate relationship with Jacobs, could not recognize the defendant with a mask on.

The appellee argued that the court made no structural error in its sentencing and the ruling towards Jacobs was proportional to his conduct. Additionally, the appelle argued that the  information provided by the witness was corroborated by other witnesses and therefore not wholly reliant on their testimony. 

The last case heard was US v. James Podbielski, which dealt with whether an officer’s suspicion was reasonable in delaying Podbeilski’s traffic stop as they waited for a drug dog to arrive. This led to Podbeilski’s charges of operating without a license and drug trafficking.

The appellant, meanwhile, argued the delay was unreasonable based on the officer’s suspicion, while the appellee argued that the officer’s suspicions were justified.

Following the hearings, the three judges hosted  a Q&A with students and community members. Students asked questions about the judges’ careers, law school experiences and advice for those pursuing a career in law before thanking the judges for the opportunity.