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

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The Environmental Protection Agency registered a new pesticide without first determining, as required by the Endangered Species Act, whether it would have an adverse effect on endangered species. Then, five years ago, the DC Circuit Court ordered EPA to fulfill that statutory obligation. Notwithstanding Congress’s mandate and the court’s order, EPA has failed to make the required determination. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety sought the only legal relief left that would force the EPA to comply with the statute: a writ of mandamus.   The DC Circuit granted the writ. The court explained that the mandamus petition, in this case, arises from relatively unique circumstances that implicate two distinct sources of mandamus jurisdiction under the All Writs Act: the court’s power to compel unreasonably delayed agency activity and its power to require compliance with our previously issued orders. Further, weighing in favor mandamus is the potential threat cyantraniliprole poses to endangered species. Moreover, the court explained that whether EPA’s internal deadline demonstrates that it is acting in good faith is beside the point. The court need not find bad faith to find unreasonable delay. Thus, the court ordered the EPA to its previous order with an order consistent with the ESA by September 2023. EPA is directed to submit status updates every 60 days between now and September 2023. The court explained that should EPA fail to meet its September deadline, Petitioners are free to renew their motion for vacatur of cyantraniliprole’s registration order. View "In re: Center for Biological Diversity, et al." on Justia Law

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Ohio Nuclear-Free Network (Ohio Nuclear) and Beyond Nuclear petitioned for review of a decision of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC, Commission), issuing an amended materials license to American Centrifuge Operating, LLC (American Centrifuge). The amended license authorizes American Centrifuge to produce high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) at a facility near Piketon, Ohio pursuant to a demonstration program with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Petitioners contended that the NRC issued the amended license without first preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which they assert was required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).   The DC Circuit dismissed their petition. The court concluded that because Petitioners failed to properly intervene in the manner required by 42 U.S.C. Section 2339 and the NRC’s AEA regulations, they were not parties to the licensing amendment proceeding they asked the DC Circuit to review. Accordingly, under the Hobbs Act, 28 U.S.C. Section 2344, the court dismissed their petition for review for lack of jurisdiction View "Ohio Nuclear-Free Network v. NRC" on Justia Law

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Appellant  agreed to plead guilty to one section 924(c) charge and one cocaine possession charge in exchange for dismissal of the remaining four charges. The parties agreed that the career offender sentencing guideline, U.S.S.G. Section 4B1.1(a), applied. The district court sentenced Appellant to eight years. Appellant waived any right to challenge the sentence on direct appeal or by motion under 28 U.S.C. Section 2255, except to the extent such a motion was based on newly discovered evidence or a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Appellant filed a motion for compassionate release. He argued that the narrowed stacking provision, the commission of a Winstead error to trigger the career offender guideline, and the pre-Borden threat of a 15-year minimum sentence under ACCA were extraordinary and compelling circumstances warranting early release.   The DC Circuit affirmed and held that the district court properly denied Appellant’s motion. The court explained that Appellant is correct that factors may sometimes become extraordinary and compelling when considered together. And here the district court did not explicitly address the combined weight of Appellant’s arguments. Still, the court did not abuse its discretion. It correctly determined that Appellant’s arguments factors about the intervening changes in sentencing law were legally irrelevant to the compassionate-release determination. That left only arguments about his own health and family circumstances. The court reasonably found that these circumstances were minimally significant, so it did not need to say explicitly that their combined force did not rise to the level of extraordinary and compelling circumstances. View "USA v. Curtis Jenkins" on Justia Law

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The Secretary of Homeland Security promulgated the challenged OPT Rule pursuant to the Executive’s longstanding authority under the INA to set the “time” and “conditions” of nonimmigrants’ stay in the United States. Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (Washtech) argues that the statutory definition of the F-1 visa class precludes the Secretary from exercising the time-and-conditions authority to allow F-1 students to remain for school-recommended practical training after they complete their coursework. The district court sustained the OPT Rule’s authorization of a limited period of post-coursework Optional Practical Training if recommended and overseen by the school and approved by DHS, for qualifying students on F-1 visas.   The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court explained that Washtech is right that section 1324a(h)(3) is not the source of the relevant regulatory authority; it just defines what it means for an alien to be “unauthorized” for employment. But that was never the government’s point. What matters is that section 1324a(h)(3) expressly acknowledges that employment authorization need not be specifically conferred by statute; it can also be granted by regulation, as it has been in rules promulgated pursuant to DHS’s statutory authority to set the “conditions” of nonimmigrants’ admission to the United States. The OPT Rule’s authorization for F-1 students to work in jobs that provide practical training related to their course of study is just such a rule. Washtech’s claim that the OPT Rule conflicts with the congressional prohibition against unauthorized aliens’ employment therefore fails. View "WA Alliance of Tech. Workers v. DHS" on Justia Law

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Petitioner petitioned for review of the Securities and Exchange Commission order granting him a whistleblower award for providing original information leading to successful enforcement action against Citigroup, Inc. Although the SEC agreed the original information Petitioner and his team provided to the Commission warranted an award equal to 15 percent of the fine levied against Citigroup, Petitioner objected to the Commission’s determination that he and his former co-worker were to divide the award equally as joint whistleblowers.   The DC Circuit dismissed Petitioner’s petition for want of jurisdiction insofar as he challenges the amount of the award granted to his co-worker. The court denied the petition insofar as it challenges the co-worker’s eligibility for an award because the Commission’s decision was not arbitrary and capricious, or otherwise contrary to law, nor was its finding of fact unsupported by substantial evidence.   The court explained that the SEC whistleblower statute does not ask who developed the original information that led to a successful resolution of a covered action; instead, it asks who provided that information to the Commission. The SEC did not err as to the law, nor did it lack substantial evidence as to the facts, in determining that both parties acted as joint whistleblowers when they provided information to the Commission, making the co-worker eligible for an award. View "Michael Johnston v. SEC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff worked as a secretary for the Navy. In 2017, Plaintiff filed a charge alleging that a Navy contractor, had subjected her to a hostile work environment. In 2018, the Navy issued a final decision concluding that Plaintiff failed to prove that the contractor harassed her. On appeal, the EEOC agreed with the Navy’s conclusion, but it raised two distinct claims that Plaintiff had not charged. A motions panel denied Plaintiff’s motion in full and granted the Navy’s motion as to the first three claims.   On appeal, the relevant question was whether the employee may pursue a retaliation claim in court without first exhausting it before the Navy. The DC Circuit affirmed the order dismissing Plaintiff’s claims, holding that an employee may not pursue the relevant claim without first exhausting it before the Navy. Here, Plaintiff failed to present her retaliation-by-disclosure claim to the Navy before filing a lawsuit. The court explained that the fact that the EEOC told Plaintiff she had a right to sue does not change this analysis. The EEOC itself recognizes that an employee must describe in her charge “the action(s) or practice(s) that form the basis of the complaint.” View "Katrina Webster v. Carlos Del Toro" on Justia Law

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Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc., a generation and transmission cooperative, admitted Mieco, Inc., a natural gas supplier, as a member. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) concluded that owing to the admission of Mieco (1) Tri-State was subject to its jurisdiction and (2) the Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over the exit charge levied by Tri-State upon a member that leaves the cooperative. United Power, Inc., (United) a utility and member of Tri-State, opposed the admission of Mieco and wants United’s exit charge adjudicated in a state forum. United challenged the FERC’s conclusions as ultra vires and arbitrary and capricious.   The DC Circuit dismissed the petitions for review insofar as they raise objections that have not properly been exhausted before the agency, and denied the petitions in all other respects. The court first explained that it was reasonable for the FERC to conclude that providing such clarity was a prudent and efficient use of a declaratory order. Further, the FERC has exclusive jurisdiction over an exit charge. A state proceeding adjudicating whether an exit charge is just and reasonable is therefore preempted because it is “unmistakably and unambiguously directed” at something that is in “the FERC’s exclusive domain.” View "United Power, Inc. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Appellant was working as a bus ticketing agent in Washington, D.C. when a person attempted to sneak onto a bus headed to New York without a ticket. After Appellant ordered the person off the bus the two women got into a scuffle. District of Columbia Metropolitan Police officers arrived in response to the unticketed person’s call reporting Appellant for assault.   Officers grabbed Appellant, pressed her against the wall, and then forced her to the floor and handcuffed her. The police charged her with simple assault on the person attempting to get on the bus and with assaulting a police officer while resisting arrest. Appellant subsequently sued the District of Columbia and the police officers, alleging civil rights violations during this arrest and a second arrest that occurred in April 2016. She appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the District and its officers.   The DC Circuit agreed in part and reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the District and its officers on Appellant’s 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 wrongful arrest, common law false arrest, and respondeat superior claims. The court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to Appellant’s other claims. The court explained that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the District on Appellant’s wrongful arrest and common law false arrest claims because there is a genuine dispute of material fact over whether probable cause for the simple assault arrest had dissipated and required the police officers to release Appellant. View "Xingru Lin v. DC (PUBLIC)" on Justia Law

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Appellants were charged with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) statute and various other crimes. After a three-week trial, the jury returned guilty verdicts as to all three Appellants. Appellants now challenge their convictions and sentences on various grounds.   The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s rulings finding none of Appellants’ challenges persuasive. The court explained that because “the factors upon which the probative value/prejudice evaluations were made are readily apparent from the record, and there is no substantial uncertainty about the correctness of the ruling,” reversal is not required. Further, the court found that the district court abused its discretion by allowing the Agent to testify regarding specific distances and ranges of distances because such testimony was neither disclosed pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16 nor vetted as required by Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and 403. Nevertheless, because the error was harmless, reversal is not warranted. View "USA v. Noe Machado-Erazo (AMENDED)" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging that all members of the DC Circuit court violated his First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights based on the actions and inactions he alleges they took in the prior litigation. The district court dismissed the case sua sponte. Plaintiff appealed.   The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims. The court explained that the district court properly denied Plaintiff’s request for a change of venue. The court wrote that the case was properly dismissed on the independent ground that Plaintiff had an adequate remedy at law and was therefore not entitled to injunctive or declaratory relief. Moreover, Plaintiff’s claims would be barred by issue preclusion, a form of res judicata also known as collateral estoppel. Additionally, the district court correctly dismissed this case because it lacked jurisdictionFurther, because two of the named Defendants sit as judges on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Plaintiff argues that all the judges of that court should have been recused or disqualified on the basis that their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” He argued that because every judge of the district court should have been recused or disqualified, his complaint should have been transferred to another judicial district. First, the mere fact that this case challenges rulings made by other judges of the same court would not “lead a reasonable, informed observer to question the District Judge’s impartiality. Moreover, Plaintiff cites no authority for the proposition that recusal or disqualification of all judges in a judicial district is a basis for transfer of venue. View "Larry Klayman v. Neomi Rao" on Justia Law