The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is the intermediate federal appellate court having jurisdiction over Maryland,Virginia, West Virginia and North and South Carolina. It handles appeals from the Eastern District of Virginia, the venue preferred by federal prosecutors in many cases, including terrorism cases.
The Fourth Circuit was traditionally the most conservative federal appellate court in the United States. It upheld the right of the Virginia Military Institute to refuse admission to women in United States v. Virginia, 44 F.3d 1229 (1995), a case subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court. In FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co., 153 F.3d 155 (1998), which the Supreme Court upheld, it ruled that the Food and Drug Administration had no authority to regulate tobacco. The court also ruled that confessions are admissible even when a defendant has not been read his Miranda rights (United States v. Dickerson, 166 F.3d 667 (1999)).
However, the court turned left after President Obama appointed six judges to its bench in his first term. For example, in 2012 it allowed civil lawsuits against private contractors working at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to proceed (al-Shimari v. CACI International, 679 F.3d 205, en banc, overruling two 2011 decisions by a three-judge panel: 658 F.3d 413 and Al-Quraishi v. L-3 Servs., Inc., 657 F.3d 201).
- Frank Green, "4th Circuit shedding conservative reputation" Richmond Times Dispatch, November 19, 2012, retrieved 07-12-2013.