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

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These consolidated cases, on appeal from a judgment of the district court, present competing claims to a blocked electronic funds transfer. The parties are the United States, which blocked the transaction because terrorists initiated it. On the other side are victims of Iran-sponsored terrorism who have obtained multimillion-dollar judgments against the Iranian government.   After learning of the government’s forfeiture action, attorneys for two groups of victims of Iranian terrorism and their relatives, holding judgments against Iran, filed separate writs of attachment. Plaintiffs sought to attach the funds at Wells Fargo pursuant to two federal statutes. The first, 28 U.S.C. Section 1610(g) of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”). The second is Section 201(a) of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (“TRIA”).   The district court ruled that Iran lacked any property interest in the blocked funds held by Wells Fargo. The court, therefore, quashed Plaintiffs’ writs of attachment. The DC Circuit court reversed and remanded. The court explained that tracing resolves this case in Plaintiffs’ favor. The government admits that the $9.98 million blocked funds at Wells Fargo “are traceable to Taif” and thus to Iran. The premise of the government’s forfeiture action is that the funds are traceable to Iran. The district court, therefore, erred in concluding that Plaintiffs had failed to show that the blocked funds were, under Section 201(a) of the TRIA, the blocked assets of [a] terrorist party. View "Estate of Jeremy I. Levin v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Bloomberg L.P. (“Bloomberg”) seeks review of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (the “Commission” or “SEC”) decision to approve new reporting requirements proposed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”), Intervenorfor-Respondent, affecting underwriter members in the corporate bond market. The Commission ultimately concluded that FINRA’s proposal would impose a limited burden on competition and enable market participants to obtain broad, uniform access to corporate bond reference data before the first transaction in a new-issue bond. Accordingly, the Commission approved FINRA’s proposal.   The DC Circuit granted Bloomberg’s petition for review in part and denied in part. The court held that the Commission’s approval of FINRA’s proposed reference data service was arbitrary and capricious in one respect: the Commission failed to respond adequately to Bloomberg’s concerns about the cost of building and maintaining the program and the extent to which those costs—which could conceivably amount to millions, or tens of millions, of dollars—will be borne by market participants. As such, the Commission violated the Administrative Procedure Act and failed to engage in reasoned decision-making. However, the court wrote, that Bloomberg’s remaining arguments lack merit. Therefore, Bloomberg’s petition for review is otherwise denied. View "Bloomberg L.P. v. SEC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Securities Law
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The government seeks the forfeiture of a trust established by Pavel Lazarenko, a former Prime Minister of Ukraine, located abroad on the island of Guernsey. Since 2004, a Guernsey court order has prohibited Lazarenko from accessing the trust, and a federal district court order has prohibited him from challenging the Guernsey order abroad. Lazarenko contends that the district court lacked statutory authority to issue the latter order and that, in any event, the order violated principles of international comity.   The DC Circuit rejected both challenges on procedural grounds. The daughters claim an interest in being able to litigate in Guernsey themselves, which might be impaired by a decision in favor of the government in this appeal. But Lazarenko himself adequately represents that interest. A would-be intervenor is adequately represented when she “offer[s] no argument not also pressed by” an existing party. Here, the daughters seek to raise precisely the same arguments as their father. Moreover, the daughters have revealed by their conduct that they find his representation adequate. In their cross-motion below, they adopted his arguments wholesale. And in this appeal, they declined the court’s invitation to appear at oral argument. The court, therefore, denied the daughters’ motion to intervene.   Further, the court wrote that Lazarenko could have pressed his current objections more than a decade and a half ago, and excusing his delay would risk wasting the considerable time and resources that the parties have invested in the district court proceedings. Under these circumstances, the district court reasonably denied his motion to modify the restraining order. View "USA v. All Assets Held at Credit Suisse" on Justia Law

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Appellees work at the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. When they are away from work, they want to express support for their preferred candidates in partisan elections. AO employees could do that for the first 79 years of the agency’s history. But since 2018, the AO has forbidden it. That prohibition violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Appellees but limited its injunction against the first seven restrictions to apply only to Appellees. The court reversed its grant of summary judgment to the AO on the other two restrictions, and the court remanded for it to enjoin their application to Appellees as well. The court explained that absent the belief that precedent directs it, there is no reason to treat driving voters to the polls and organizing political events differently from the other seven prohibited modes of political expression. They all implicate core First Amendment rights. And the AO has failed to show that they present any non-speculative threat to its operations.Further, the court wrote, that the AO is a government entity with an independent duty to uphold the Constitution. The court explained that it trusted that upon receipt of our judgment, it will reconsider the contested restrictions for employees whose work is comparable to (or less sensitive than) the work Appellees do. View "Lisa Guffey v. Roslynn Mauskopf" on Justia Law

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Appellant has been convicted of two child-sex crimes. After his second conviction, the district court revoked Appellant’s supervised release for his first conviction and sentenced him to three years in prison — to run consecutive to his Maryland sentence — followed by a new term of supervised release.First, Appellant says that the district court erred when it required GPS monitoring for the first two years of his new term. Because that requirement falls within the district court’s wide discretion to impose conditions on supervised release, we will not disturb it. Second, regarding the length of Appellant’s new term of supervised release, Russell sees a contradiction between the district court’s oral pronouncement and its written judgment.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to require GPS monitoring for the first two years of Appellant’s new term of supervised release and remanded for the district court to clarify the length of that term. The court held that the district court did not abuse its wide discretion when it concluded that two years of GPS monitoring was “reasonably necessary.” The court explained that GPS monitoring’s potential to protect children — from a serial child-sex predator who will otherwise be better able to sexually assault children — outweighs the effect of that monitoring on Appellant’s liberty.However, the court remanded for clarification about Appellant’s new term, explaining that the district court’s oral pronouncement of a sentence controls over a written judgment, and the district court’s aside at the revocation hearing created ambiguity about the length of Appellant’s new term of supervised release. View "USA v. Mark Russell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) regulates childcare facilities, including by setting minimum qualifications for their workers. OSSE issued a rule requiring many childcare workers to obtain an associate’s degree or its equivalent in a field related to early childhood education. Two childcare workers and a parent filed a lawsuit to challenge the new college requirements. They allege violations of their substantive due process and equal protection rights, as well as of the nondelegation doctrine.On remand, the district court dismissed, this time on the merits. In rejecting Plaintiffs’ substantive due process and equal protection claims, the court concluded that the college requirements are rational, including in the distinctions they draw between different classes of daycare workers. And in rejecting Plaintiffs’ nondelegation doctrine claim, the court held that the statute granting regulatory authority to OSSE bears an intelligible principle to guide the agency’s work.The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that under rational-basis review, the policy choices of the political branches are “not subject to courtroom fact-finding and may be based on rational speculation unsupported by evidence or empirical data. And here, as Plaintiffs acknowledge in their complaint, OSSE issued its regulations in part based on a report from the National Academies recommending a bachelor’s degree requirement for all educators of children ages zero to eight. Thus, the court found that a conceivably rational justification for the college requirements is readily apparent, and, in this context, that is all due process requires. View "Altagracia Sanchez v. Office of the State Superintendent of Education" on Justia Law

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In implementing an Omnibus Amendment that establishes industry-funded monitoring programs in New England fishery management plans, the National Marine Fisheries Service (Service) promulgated a rule that required industry to fund at-sea monitoring programs. A group of commercial herring fishing companies contend that the statute does not specify that industry may be required to bear such costs and that the process by which the Service approved the Omnibus Amendment and promulgated the Final Rule was improper.On appeal, Appellants’ challenge to the Final Rule presents the question how clearly Congress must state an agency’s authority to adopt a course of action. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the Service based on its reasonable interpretation of its authority and its adoption of the Amendment and the Rule through a process that afforded the requisite notice and opportunity to comment. The court explained that when an agency establishes regulatory requirements, regulated parties generally bear the costs of complying with them.Here, the Act’s national standards for fishery management plans direct the Service to “minimize costs” of conservation and management measures and to minimize adverse economic impacts” of such measures on fishing communities. Those statutory admonitions to reduce costs seem to presume that the Service may impose some costs, as “minimize” does not mean eliminate entirely. View "Loper Bright Enterprises, Inc v. Gina Raimondo" on Justia Law

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Chevron U.S.A. Inc. intends to decommission two oil platforms located off the coast of California. The activity of those platforms is generally subject to the Clean Air Act. Chevron asked the Environmental Protection Agency for guidance on whether, as the process of decommissioning the two oil platforms moves forward, the platforms will cease to qualify as regulated sources under the Clean Air Act. EPA responded in a letter to Chevron. Unsatisfied with the views set out in EPA’s letter, Chevron now seeks judicial review of EPA’s response.The DC Circuit dismissed Chevron’s petition for review. The court wrote that it does not reach the merits of Chevron’s petition for review. In the circumstances of this case, the Clean Air Act’s venue provision allows for judicial review in this court only if EPA’s challenged action is “nationally applicable,” as opposed to “locally or regionally applicable.” 42 U.S.C. Section 7607(b)(1). The court concluded that EPA’s response letter is locally or regionally applicable, and that venue over Chevron’s challenge lies exclusively in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. View "Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Telematch, Inc. is a commercial vendor of agricultural data. In 2018 and 2019, it submitted to USDA seven FOIA requests for records containing farm numbers, tract numbers, and customer numbers. USDA withheld the numbers under Exemptions 3 and 6. But it released or offered to release a statistical version of the files in accordance with section 8791(b)(4)(B). It also released payment information for the 2018 Conservation Reserve Program pursuant to section 8791(b)(4)(A). Telematch sued to challenge the USDA’s withholding of the farm, tract, and customer numbers. Both parties moved for summary judgment and attached statements of material facts to their motions.   The district court granted the government’s motion for summary judgment. The court held that USDA properly withheld the farm and tract numbers under Exemption 3, because the numbers are “geospatial information” covered by section 8791(b)(2)(B). Telematch appealed.   The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that farm and tract numbers identify a specific area of farmland in a specific location. They serve as a shorthand reference to individual plots of land. In this respect, they are analogous to a street address or latitude and longitude coordinates. They are, therefore “geospatial information” properly withheld under section 8791(b)(2)(B). Further, the court explained it need not definitively resolve whether farm and tract numbers meet these two statutory definitions. Neither of them applies to section 8791. Thus, the court held that the USDA permissibly withheld the requested farm, tract, and customer numbers. View "Telematch, Inc. v. AGRI" on Justia Law

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Part of the Transportation Equity Act required the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “consider, in consultation with the Secretary [of Transportation], spectrum needs for the operation of intelligent transportation systems. The FCC allocated that spectrum in 1999. In 2019, the FCC began a new rulemaking process to ensure that the 5.9 GHz band was put to its best use. The FCC also proposed changing the technology that would be used by intelligent transportation systems; vehicles would need to start using “vehicle-to-everything” communications (in which they send communications to cell towers and other devices) rather than the “dedicated short-range” communications originally permitted in 1999.   The Intelligent Transportation Society of America and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (“Transportation Petitioners”) now petition for review. They argue that the court should vacate the part of the order reallocating the lower 45 megahertz of spectrum but leave in place the rest of the order dealing with what technology intelligent transportation systems use.   The DC Circuit dismissed the appeal and denied the petitions for review. The court found that the FCC adequately explained its conclusion that “30 megahertz is sufficient for the provision of core vehicle safety related [intelligent transportation system] functions. Further, the court reasoned that FCC may modify the licenses it issues when such modifications promote the public interest. View "Intelligent Transportation Society of America v. FCC" on Justia Law