Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Under the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Housing Choice Voucher Program, 42 U.S.C. 1437f, housing agencies use HUD funds to issue housing subsidy vouchers based on family size. The Montgomery County, Maryland Housing determined, based on a medical form, that Angelene has a disability and requires a live-in aide. HUD regulations mandate that any approved live-in aide must be counted in determining family size. The Commission issued Angelene a two-bedroom voucher. Angelene’s sister was Angelene’s live-in aide. Angelene decided to move to the District of Columbia. Program vouchers are portable. Angelene obtained a two-bedroom voucher from the D.C. Housing Authority. The sisters moved into a two-bedroom District apartment. Within weeks, they received a letter revoking Angelene’s right to a live-in aide and her legal entitlement to a two-bedroom voucher. They sued, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12132, Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794, and Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(1). The court denied motions for a temporary restraining order and to seal their complaint, medical records, and “nondispositive materials.” While the case was pending, the Authority sent another letter reaffirming that Angelene’s request for a live-in aide was denied, but stating that the decision did not reverse the two-bedroom voucher. The court dismissed, finding no allegation of injury-in-fact. The D.C. Circuit reversed with respect to the motion to seal and the dismissal. At the pleadings stage, plaintiff’s allegation that the government denied or revoked a benefit suffices to show injury-in-fact. Angelene’s loss of a statutory entitlement traces directly to the Authority’s letter and would be redressed by a court order to approve her aide request. View "Hardaway v. District of Columbia Housing Authority" on Justia Law

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In 1935, Yueh-Lan married Y.C., who founded the Formosa Plastics Group in 1954. In 2008, Forbes magazine ranked Y.C. as the 178th wealthiest person in the world. Y.C. remained married to Yueh-Lan, but had children with other women. Yueh-Lan helped to rear at least one of those children, Winston. In 2005, allegedly to reduce Yueh-Lan’s share of the marital estate, Y.C. made transfers, including to the New Mighty U.S. Trust. Y.C. died in 2008. In 2010, Winston—a citizen of Taiwan, allegedly acting as Yueh-Lan’s attorney-in-fact—sued New Mighty, its trustee, and one of New Mighty’s beneficiaries. Ruling on a motion to dismiss, the district court concluded that a traditional trust is an artificial entity that “assumes the citizenship of all of its ‘members’ for purposes of diversity jurisdiction” under 28 U.S.C. 1332(a). Reasoning that New Mighty’s “members” included its beneficiaries, the court instructed the defendants to produce a list of all beneficiaries and their citizenship. The list included entities that were citizens of the British Virgin Islands, so that complete diversity did not exist. After the notice of appeal was filed, Yueh-Lan died. Winston and her Taiwanese executors moved to substitute the executors as Yueh-Lan’s personal representative. The D.C. Circuit reversed the dismissal and granted the motion to substitute, citing the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision, Americold Realty Trust, stating that a “traditional trust” carries the citizenship of its trustees. View "Wang v. New Mighty U.S. Trust," on Justia Law

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In 2013, Winston & Strawn filed a lawsuit against McLean, and, weeks later, moved for summary judgment. The district court informed McLean that he was required to respond by August 18, 2014, and advised him that if he did not the court might treat the motion as conceded. He emailed his response to Winston & Strawn and mailed it to the court on August 18, but it did not arrive until August 20. On August 19, the court granted the motion, relying solely on Local Rule 7(b), under which the court has discretion to treat a motion “as conceded” if the nonmoving party fails to timely file an opposition. The court denied reconsideration. The D.C. Circuit reversed. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Rule 56(a)), a motion for summary judgment cannot be “conceded” for want of opposition. “The burden is always on the movant to demonstrate why summary judgment is warranted.” There is nothing to indicate that the district court considered whether Winston’s assertions warranted judgment under Rule 56. A court must always engage in the analysis required by Rule 56 before acting on a motion for summary judgment. View "Winston & Strawn, LLP v. James P. McLean, Jr." on Justia Law
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Kennedy, a D.C. fireman, had a beard. Department policy required him to shave it. Because of a medical condition, he could not do so without discomfort and infection. The Department refused to accommodate his condition. Kennedy sued, alleging 28 counts, including disability discrimination, arguing that his condition was a “disability” as defined by the Americans With Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008. The district court dismissed eight counts resting on that definition. Kennedy appealed that order on an interlocutory basis under 28 U.S.C. 1292(b), which provides an appellate court with jurisdiction to review an interlocutory order “if application is made to it within ten days after the entry of the order.” Kennedy filed a notice of appeal in the district court two days after the court denied reconsideration but waited several weeks before filing his application in the D.C. Circuit. The Circuit Court dismissed, rejecting Kennedy’s argument that the notice of appeal and the order denying reconsideration, both of which were transmitted to the Circuit Court within the statutory period, served the same purpose as an application. Even assuming the “functional equivalent” of an application satisfies section 1292(b) and Rule 5 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, the notice and order here did not meet that description. View "Kennedy v. Bowser" on Justia Law

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This appeal stems from the government's long-running Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961–68, case against the nation’s major cigarette manufacturers. The government alleged a conspiracy to deceive the American public about the dangers of cigarettes. The district court issued a comprehensive remedial order ten years ago. RJR sought to dissolve the order as void under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4) and unjust under Rule 60(b)(6), but the district court denied the motion. The court explained that the Supreme Court made clear in United States Student Aid Funds, Inc. v. Espinosa, that relief under Rule 60(b)(4) is available “only in the rare instance where a judgment is premised either on a certain type of jurisdictional error or on a violation of due process.” The court concluded that none of those defects exists in this case. The court also concluded that, although RJR could have challenged its remedial obligations under Rule 60(b)(6), it failed to do so. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's denial of RJR's motion. View "United States v. Philip Morris USA Inc." on Justia Law
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In these consolidated appeals, debtor filed numerous, frivolous challenges to the settlement and the district court entered a pre-filing injunction barring him from filing any new civil actions in the district court without court permission. At issue is whether the injunction encompasses appeals to the district court from bankruptcy court. The court concluded that, as written, the injunction does not cover those appeals with sufficient clarity, and that the district court thus erred in striking these three appeals for violating the pre-filing injunction. Nonetheless, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of two of the three appeals (adversary proceeding numbers 14-10024 and 14-10043) for failure to state a claim, and remanded for the district court to resolve the third appeal (number 14-10014). View "US ex rel. Yelverton v. Federal Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are victims of terrorist attacks and their family members who hold substantial unsatisfied money judgments against defendants Iran, North Korea, and Syria. The money judgments arise out of claims brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605. In order to satisfy the judgments, plaintiffs seek to attach Internet data managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and, accordingly, served writs of attachment on ICANN. The district court quashed the writs because it found that the data was unattachable under D.C. law. The court rejected ICANN’s challenge to the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction, and assumed without deciding that local law applies to the determination of the “attachability” of the defendant sovereigns’ country-code top level domain names (ccTLDs), and without so holding that local law does not operate to bar attachment of the defendant sovereigns’ ccTLDs. The court concluded that those plaintiffs seeking to attach the underlying judgments in Haim I, Weinstein and Stern have forfeited their claims in toto. Those plaintiffs seeking to attach the underlying judgments in Haim II, Rubin, Wyatt and Calderon-Cardona have forfeited all but their claim grounded in the terrorist activity exception to attachment immunity. Finally, because of the enormous third-party interests at stake - and because there is no way to execute on plaintiffs’ judgments without impairing those interests - the court cannot permit attachment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Weinstein v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that Urban Outfitters’ and Anthropologie’s zip code requests at the cashier stand violated two District of Columbia consumer protection laws. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice for failure to state a claim. The court concluded that the district court lacked jurisdiction to decide the merits of the case because neither plaintiff has alleged a concrete Article III injury tied to disclosure of her zip code that could support standing. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for dismissal of the case. View "Hancock v. Urban Outfitters, Inc." on Justia Law

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Mohamed Tawid Al-Saffy, an Egyptian-American Muslim employed by the Foreign Agricultural Service, filed suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., alleging that the Agriculture and State Departments each discriminated against him based on religion and national origin, and retaliated against him for filing an EEO complaint. The district court granted summary judgment to the government. The court concluded that, because Title VII requires final agency action to notify the employee of his right to appeal and the governing time limitation, the order dismissing the 2012 Complaint did not trigger the ninety-day deadline for Al-Saffy to file suit. Instead, given the lack of timely final action by the agency, Al-Saffy could have and did file a civil action more than 180 days after the filing of the 2012 Complaint with the agency. Therefore, Al-Saffy’s October 10, 2013 filing in district court thus preserved his claims from the 2012 Complaint. The court also concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for the government on Al-Saffy's claims against the State Department because there are genuine issues of material fact regarding whether Al-Saffy had an employment relationship with the State Department within the meaning of Title VII, and whether Al-Saffy knew about the State Department’s alleged role in discrimination against him prior to 2013. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Al-Saffy v. Vilsack" on Justia Law

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Alaska Native tribes filed suit against the Department, challenging the regulation implementing the prohibition barring the Department from taking land into trust for Indian tribes in Alaska. After the district court held that the Department’s interpretation was contrary to law, the Department, following notice and comment, revised its regulations and dismissed its appeal. Alaska intervened and now seeks to prevent any new efforts by the United States to take tribal land to trust within the State's borders. In this case, Alaska intervened in the district court as a defendant and brought no independent claim for relief. The court concluded that once the Department rescinded the Alaska exception, this case became moot. Even assuming, as Alaska argues, that the district court’s interpretation of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), 43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq., injured the State, such injury cannot extend the court's jurisdiction by creating a new controversy on appeal. Accordingly, the court dismissed Alaska's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Akiachak Native Community v. DOI" on Justia Law