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

Articles Posted in Family Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit seeking damages from the District, the Family Services Agency, and District employees after plaintiffs' children were removed from their home after they were sexually abused by plaintiffs' other children. The court vacated the dismissal of plaintiffs' Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims against the District and remanded those claims to the district court to determine whether there is municipal liability under Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the First Amendment, tort, and post-adoption services claims. View "Doe v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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Shabban, an Egyptian national, met Hernandez, a Mexican national, in Washington, D.C. They had a son in 2001. They entered into a consensual order giving Hernandez primary physical custody of the boy. Shabban had unsupervised visitation rights; their son was not to be removed from the country without the written consent of both parties. Three years later, Shabban sold his business and had his roommate to take over their apartment lease. Shabban and his son boarded a flight, with Shabban flying under the name “Khaled Rashad.” Days later, Shabban called and told Hernandez that they were in Egypt. Hernandez worked with the FBI for 22 months to convince Shabban to bring the child back to the U.S. During taped conversations, Shabban referred to their son’s difficulty learning to communicate and told Hernandez that he had taken the child to learn a single language, Arabic, rather than the three he was hearing at home, Arabic, Spanish, and English. Shabban admitted taking the child without permission. Charged with international parental kidnapping, 18 U.S.C. 1204(a), Shabban argued that he lacked the specific intent to obstruct Hernandez’s parental rights because his sole purpose was to place the child in an environment that would improve his speech. The trial judge sentenced him to 36 months’ imprisonment. The D.C. Circuit affirmed. Regardless of his motive, Shabban was aware his actions would obstruct Hernandez’s parental rights. View "United States v. Shabban" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her employer, Capitol Police, alleging violations of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2615, when Capitol Police interfered with her exercise of FMLA rights and retaliated against her for that exercise. Plaintiff sought leave from a system allowing an employee to obtain a pre-approval of a "bank" leave. After the grant of her leave, police superiors ordered plaintiff to submit to a "fitness for duty examination," and told her that the facts supporting her FMLA requests were the basis for the order. Plaintiff's "police powers" were revoked and she was assigned to administrative duties while she waited to take the examination. In regards to the retaliation claim, the court concluded that the district court erred in granting Capitol Police's motion to dismiss where plaintiff's allegations amply supported the inference of retaliatory purpose and are enough to defeat the motion. In regard to the interference claim, the court held that an employer action with a reasonable tendency to "interfere with, restrain, or deny" the "exercise of or attempt to exercise" an FMLA right may give rise to a valid interference claim under section 2615(a)(1) even where the action fails to actually prevent such exercise or attempt. Plaintiff's claim satisfies this element as well as the second element of prejudice. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the interference claim. View "Gordon v. United States Capitol Police" on Justia Law

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John and Melissa married in 1984. John enrolled in his employer’s retirement plan and designated Melissa as the beneficiary of a qualified joint and survivor annuity. John retired in 1994. The survivor annuity irrevocably vested in Melissa; John began receiving benefits. In2002, they divorced, agreeing to a decree awarding John all “benefits existing by reason of [John’s] past, present, or future employment.” John remarried and sought to designate his new wife as the survivor annuity beneficiary. The plan advised John that this designation would be permissible if done by qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) that would not require the plan to increase benefits beyond actuarial estimates of John’s and Melissa’s life expectancies, 29 U.S.C. 1056(d)(3)(D). On John’s motion, a Texas court entered a purported QDRO divesting Melissa of all ownership interests in the survivor annuity. The employer terminated its pension plan. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) became the plan’s statutory trustee and determined that the supposed QDRO was invalid because it would require “a form of benefit, or [an] option, not otherwise provided under the plan” and because, unless waived in accordance with statutory procedures within 90 days, a spouse’s right to the survivor annuity irrevocably vests on the annuity start date. The district court upheld the determination and found John’s contract and unjust enrichment claims against Melissa preempted. The D.C. Circuit affirmed. View "Vanderkam v. Vanderkam" on Justia Law
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Appellant sued her former employer alleging violations of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601 et seq. At issue was whether the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the employer on appellant's interference claim and entered a judgment as a matter of law on her retaliation claim. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the interference claim where appellant's allegations "focus[ed] on precisely the sorts of de minimis, intangible, and unmeasurable aspects of a job that the regulations specifically exclude[d]" pursuant to Montgomery v. Maryland. The court also agreed with the district court that no reasonable jury, relying on the evidence presented at trial, could conclude that the 2005 realignment proximately caused appellant's termination in 2008. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law on the retaliation claim.