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

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Defendant and his export business, Wing-On LLC, appealed their convictions of conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), unlawful export in violation of the AECA, and conspiracy to launder money. The DC Circuit held that the district court erred in admitting the deposition testimony of a key witness because the government failed to make reasonable efforts before it deported the witness to procure his presence at trial; the jury instruction defining the "willfulness" element of unlawful exportation of defense articles was correct, but the court suggested clarification of the willfulness instruction to more squarely require a finding that defendants were aware of and knowingly violated their legal obligation not to commit the charged actus reus; and the district court did not err by admitting defendant's non-Mirandized statements because he was not in custody where, even assuming language proficiency is relevant to the custody inquiry, a reasonable officer would not have thought defendant's imperfect English meant a reasonable person in his position would have believed himself detained during the interview. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment in light of the error in admitting the key witness's deposition testimony, because the error was not harmless. View "United States v. Burden" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioners challenged the Wehrum Memo, which declares that the plain language of section 112 of the Clean Air Act compels the conclusion that a source of toxic emissions classified as "major" can reclassify to an "area source," and thereby ease its regulatory burden, at any time after it limits its potential to emit to below the major source threshold. The DC Circuit held that the Wehrum Memo was not final agency action and therefore dismissed the petitions for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Act. The court emphasized that, when assessing the nature of an agency action (including whether it is final), courts should resist the temptation to define the action by comparing it to superficially similar actions in the caselaw. The court held, instead, that courts should take as their NorthStar the unique constellation of statutes and regulations that govern the action at issue. The court also emphasized that, although all legislative rules are final, not all final rules are legislative, and the finality analysis is therefore distinct from the test for whether an agency action is a legislative rule. View "California Communities Against Toxics v. EPA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The Association challenged the NCUA's promulgation of a final rule that makes it easier for community credit unions to expand their geographical coverage and thus to reach more potential members. The DC Circuit considered the Federal Credit Union Act's text, purpose, and legislative history, and held that the agency's policy choices were entirely appropriate for the most part. With respect to the qualification of certain Combined Statistical Areas as local communities and the increased population cap for rural districts, the court directed the district court to issue summary judgment in favor of the NCUA. With respect to the elimination of the urban-core requirement for local communities based on Core Based Statistical Areas, the court directed the district court to issue summary judgment in favor of the Association and to remand, without vacating, the relevant portion of the 2016 rule for further explanation. View "American Bankers Assoc. v. National Credit Union Administration" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review challenging the Commission's 2018 rule allowing investment companies to post shareholder reports online and mail paper copies to shareholders upon request. Petitioners argued that the SEC did not adequately consider the interests of shareholders who prefer reports in paper form. The court held, however, that the consumer organization lacked Article III standing. In this case, the organization could not reasonably have believed that its barebones affidavit, vaguely describing the preferences and burdens of unnamed members and others, sufficed to prove its representational standing; nor could it reasonably have believed that its standing was self-evident from the rulemaking record. The court also held that the paper-industry representatives asserted interests beyond those protected or regulated by the securities laws. Applying Hazardous Waste Treatment Council v. Thomas, 885 F.2d 918, 921–22 (D.C. Cir. 1989), the court held that the conflict between the interests of paper sellers and those of shareholders is likely to increase over time, and this suggests a systematic misalignment with shareholder preferences, which makes paper companies distinctly unqualified to advance the interests of shareholders. View "Twin Rivers Paper Co., LLC v. SEC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs won the 2017 diversity visa lottery but were denied visas pursuant to the State Department's Guidance Memo. The Guidance Memo instructed consular officers reviewing diversity visa applications about how President Trump's Executive Order temporarily prohibiting nationals of specific countries from entering the United States (EO2) affected visa eligibility. In this case, plaintiffs were denied visas because they were from Iran and Yemen—countries subject to the entry ban—and could not qualify for exemptions or waivers or satisfy the bona fide relationship requirement in Trump v. Int'l Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP I), 137 S. Ct. 2080, 2088 (2017). After EO-2 expired, it was replaced by President Trump's third iteration of the travel ban, the Proclamation. After the Supreme Court explained that challenges to the expired EO-2 were moot, and the government then filed a motion to dismiss this case as moot. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's determination that this case was moot, and held that plaintiffs' claims -- seeking a court order instructing the government to stop implementing the Guidance Memo, process their visa applications, and issue them diversity visas -- were not moot because whether the district court retains the authority to award plaintiffs relief is a merits question. The court held that neither plaintiffs' claim that such relief was legally available nor their claim that they were entitled to that relief was so implausible as to deprive the district court of jurisdiction. Furthermore, there was some chance that this relief would be effective at securing their immigration to the United States. View "Almaqrami v. Pompeo" on Justia Law

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At the motion-to-dismiss stage, dismissal on statute-of-limitations grounds is permissible only if a plaintiff's claims are conclusively time-barred on the face of the complaint. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's determination that Capitol Services' lawsuit was barred by the statute of limitations because Capitol Services was on "inquiry notice" of defendant's alleged interference with its contract long before the limitations period expired. The record was inconclusive as to whether Capitol Services had knowledge of Vesta's role prior to August 28, 2014, three years before this suit against Vesta was filed. Therefore, when during that intervening period Capitol Services had inquiry notice of Vesta's potential role was an open factual question that could not be resolved at this time in the proceedings. Finally, Vesta's collateral estoppel claim failed because critical elements of collateral estoppel have not been established. View "Capitol Services Management v. Vesta Corp." on Justia Law

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A group of children's hospitals that receive Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments under the Medicaid Act filed suit challenging the Secretary's promulgation of a regulation defining "costs incurred" in furnishing hospital services to low income patients (the 2017 Rule). The DC Circuit reversed the district court's decision vacating the 2017 Rule and reinstated it, holding that the rule did not exceed the Secretary's statutory authority under the Medicaid Act and rejecting plaintiffs' reasons for why the statute did not grant the Secretary authority to require that payments by Medicare and private insurers be considered in calculating a hospital's "costs incurred;" the 2017 Rule is consistent with the statute's context and purpose, both of which suggest DSH payments are meant to assist those hospitals that need them most by covering only those costs for which DSH hospitals are in fact uncompensated; and the 2017 Rule was not a product of arbitrary and capricious reasoning. View "Children's Hospital Association of Texas v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged one of the FCC's orders paring some regulatory requirements for the construction of wireless facilities. The Order exempted most small cell construction from two kinds of previously required review: historic-preservation review under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Furthermore, the Order effectively reduced Tribes' role in reviewing proposed construction of macrocell towers and other wireless facilities that remain subject to cultural and environmental review. The DC Circuit granted the petitions in part because the Order did not justify the Commission's determination that it was not in the public interest to require review of small cell deployments. In this case, the Commission did not adequately address possible harms of deregulation and benefits of environmental and historic-preservation review pursuant to its public interest authority under 47 U.S.C. 319(d). Therefore, the Order's deregulation of small cells was arbitrary and capricious. The court denied the petitions for review on the remaining claims. View "United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma v. FCC" on Justia Law

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MEBA filed suit against Liberty, alleging that its contract with Liberty required the parties to submit the underlying dispute to arbitration. The district court ruled in favor of MEBA and granted judgment on the pleadings, compelling arbitration. The DC Circuit affirmed and held that the district court had jurisdiction over MEBA's claim under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (LMRA), which provides federal jurisdiction over suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization. In this case, MEBA's claims regarding the arbitrability of the dispute clearly fell within the district court's statutory jurisdiction. The court rejected Liberty's argument under the Garmon preemption doctrine, and held that federal courts retain jurisdiction over hybrid claims raising both contractual and representational issues. Finally, although jurisdiction was proper here, the court reversed and remanded because material facts remained in dispute regarding the existence of an applicable arbitration clause. View "District No. 1 v. Liberty Maritime Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The United States government thought that three banks, headquartered in China, held records that might clarify how North Korea finances its nuclear weapons program. After the government subpoenaed those records, the Banks resisted and claimed that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction, that the Patriot Act subpoena exceeded the government's statutory authority, and that compelling production would run afoul of comity principles. The district court overruled the Banks' objections and subsequently held the Banks in civil contempt for failing to produce the requested records. The DC Circuit affirmed the contempt orders, holding that the Banks' jurisdictional challenges were meritless where Banks One and Two consented to jurisdiction when they opened branches in the United States and, although Bank Three has no U.S. branch and executed no such agreement, its choice to maintain correspondent accounts in the United States established an adequate connection to the forum and the enforcement action to sustain jurisdiction. The court also held that records "related to" a U.S. correspondent account, under 31 U.SC. 5318(k)(3)(A)(i), include records of transactions that do not themselves pass through a correspondent account when those transactions are in service of an enterprise entirely dedicated to obtaining access to U.S. currency and markets using a U.S. correspondent account. In this case, Bank Three's subpoena under the Patriot Act did not exceed the Attorney General's statutory authority, because all records pertaining to the Company's Bank Three account and its correspondent banking transactions, no matter where they occurred, are "related to" the Bank's U.S. correspondent accounts. In regard to the Banks' comity concerns, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by enforcing the subpoenas despite the fact that the United States chose not to pursue the process designated in the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement (MLAA) between the United States and China. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by issuing the civil contempt orders in light of the circumstances. View "In re: Sealed Case" on Justia Law