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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

By
In 2011, EPA issued policy letters that explained and arguably changed two EPA policies with respect to publicly owned water treatment facilities. A group representing interests of municipalities prevailed in the Eighth Circuit on their challenge to the new EPA policy letters. In 2013, EPA made statements indicating that it would not acquiesce in or follow the Eighth Circuit's decision outside of that circuit. Petitioner filed suit raising multiple challenges to EPA's non-acquiescence statement's legality. The court explained that the non-acquiescence letter merely articulates how EPA will interpret the Eighth Circuit's decision. To the extent petitioner seeks to directly challenge EPA's non-acquiescence statement, it must first sue in district court under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 702-704. To the extent petitioner seeks to directly challenge the 2011 policy letters, petitioner was well outside the 120-day window to directly challenge the letters in this court. To the extent petitioner believed EPA was violating the Eighth Circuit's mandate, the proper course of action was to seek mandamus or other appropriate relief in the Eighth Circuit. Accordingly, the court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to directly review EPA's non-acquiescence statement and dismissed the petition. View "Center for Regulatory Reasonableness v. EPA" on Justia Law

By
Under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-289, 122 Stat. 2654, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) became the conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2012, FHFA and Treasury adopted the Third Amendment to their stock purchase agreement, which replaced the fixed 10% dividend with a formula by which Fannie and Freddie just paid to Treasury an amount (roughly) equal to their quarterly net worth. Plaintiffs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stockholders, filed suit alleging that FHFA's and Treasury's alteration of the dividend formula through the Third Amendment exceeded their statutory authority under the Recovery Act, and constituted arbitrary and capricious agency action in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A). The court held that plaintiffs' statutory claims are barred by the Recovery Act's strict limitation on judicial review; the court rejected most of plaintiffs' common law claims; insofar as the court has subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs' common-law claims against Treasury, and Congress has waived the agency's immunity from suit, those claims are also barred by the Recovery Act's limitation on judicial review; in regard to claims against FHFA and the Companies, some are barred because FHFA succeeded to all rights, powers, and privileges of the stockholders under the Recovery Act, and others failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted; and, as to the remaining claims, which are contract-based claims regarding liquidation preferences and dividend rights, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Perry Capital LLC v. Mnuchin" on Justia Law

By
Two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq., requesters challenged the fees assessed against them by the DOJ for processing their requests for records. The district court awarded summary judgment to the DOJ. The court concluded that there remains a genuine issue of material fact concerning whether the direct costs of producing a CD exceed $15. Therefore, the court vacated as to this claim. The court affirmed as to the district court's grant of summary judgment in regard to the request for a public-interest fee waiver. View "National Security Counselors v. DOJ" on Justia Law

By
Judicial Watch filed suit against the DOD, alleging that the Department violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, when it failed to release copies of documents related to a 2014 determination by the Secretary of Defense about the transfer of five Guantanamo Bay detainees to Qatar. At issue is a document Judicial Watch believed was entitled: a memo from Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Lumpkin to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. The court agreed with the district court that the memo was a privileged deliberative document and therefore exempt from disclosure under FOIA. In this case, when the memo was drafted, it was both predecisional and deliberative. The court rejected Judicial Watch's claim that the Secretary expressly adopted the memo and thus the court could not treat the memo as a decisional document subject to disclosure. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Judicial Watch, Inc. v. DOD" on Justia Law

By
Plaintiff filed suit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 704, seeking to compel the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to meet its disclosure obligations under the "reading room" provision of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(2). The district court dismissed the complaint. The court concluded that, despite some mismatch between the relief sought and the relief available, FOIA offers an "adequate remedy" within the meaning of section 704 such that plaintiff's APA claim is barred. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. DOJ" on Justia Law

By
Continental extracts gas from leased federal land and pays royalties to the Interior Department. An agency within the Interior Department began an administrative proceeding against Continental by issuing an order demanding more than $1.7 million in additional royalties. The district court subsequently dismissed Continental's suit for judicial review of the Department's decision. At issue is whether Continental filed its action more than 180 days after its “receipt of notice” of Interior’s “final decision” pursuant to 30 U.S.C. 1724(j) & (h)(2)(B). The court held that because Continental could not have known the date of final agency action until July 29, 2013, receipt of notice could not have occurred before then. Therefore, the court concluded that Continental's complaint was timely. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Continental Resources, Inc. v. Jewell" on Justia Law

By
After the FLRA ordered the Air Force to bargain collectively with its civilian employees over access to an on-base shopette, the Air Force challenged the decision arguing that the issue is not a proper subject of bargaining. The court agreed with the Air Force that Congress has given the military unfettered discretion to determine whether civilians may patronize commissaries and exchanges, though for reasons that are slightly different from those offered by the Air Force. Given the relevant legislative directives, the court cannot imagine that Congress intended to empower a civilian agency like the Federal Labor Relations Authority to second-guess the military’s judgment about non-military access to commissaries and exchanges. In this case, by requiring negotiation over the Shoppette proposal, the Authority has similarly second-guessed the Secretary’s judgment in deciding how best to use a military benefit to achieve military purposes. Therefore, the court held that civilian access to commissaries and exchanges is not a proper subject of collective bargaining because Congress has vested the military with “unfettered discretion” over the matter. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for review and vacated the Authority's order. View "USAF v. FLRA" on Justia Law

By
This appeal arises from efforts to recover Secretary of State Clinton's private emails during her time at the State Department. Although the current Secretary (with the help of the National Archivist) has made efforts to recover those emails, neither the Secretary nor the Archivist has asked the Attorney General to initiate enforcement proceedings, as provided for in the Federal Records Act, 44 U.S.C. 3105(1). Appellants Judicial Watch and Cause of Action filed suit for agency action unlawfully withheld in violation of Section 706(1) of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(1). The district court dismissed the suits as moot. The court concluded that, because the current Secretary and Archivist have neither asked the Attorney General for help nor shown that such a request could not lead to recovery of additional emails, the suits were not moot. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment. The court remanded the case so that the district court can consider the merits in the first instance. View "Judicial Watch v. Kerry" on Justia Law

By
Plaintiff, a retired Major in the Marine Corps and a certified NJROTC instructor, filed suit after he was decertified to contest his removal from the NJROTC program. The district court granted summary judgment to the Navy. The court found no merit in plaintiff's contention that the regulation on which the Navy relied to revoke his certification is unconstitutionally vague; that the Navy denied him due process because it failed to accord him adequate notice and opportunity to be heard when determining whether he should be permitted to continue to serve as a NJROTC instructor; and that the Navy’s decertification decision was arbitrary and capricious and unsupported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Crooks v. Mabus, Jr." on Justia Law

By
After the Postal Service determined that appellants were ineligible for a discounted rate for folded self-mailers, the Postal Service assessed revenue deficiencies for over $1.25 million. The Postal Service determined that appellants were ineligible for the discounted rate because their mailers, which exceeded seven inches in length, had been sealed only on the left edges, and not on the top and bottom edges. The PCSC upheld the assessments. Appellants then filed suit in district court to overturn the PCSC's decision, but the district court affirmed. The court found no inconsistency in the Postal Service’s interpretation of the Domestic Mail Manual. The court also found that the Postal Service’s interpretation of the sealing requirements is perfectly consistent with the terms of the Manual and entirely reasonable. Accordingly, the court denied appellants' challenges and affirmed the judgment. However, the court reversed and vacated the district court's award of surcharges after the government confessed error. View "Sears Roebuck Co. v. USPS" on Justia Law