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

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President Trump filed suit alleging that the House Committee on Oversight and Reform's investigation into his financial records serves no legitimate purpose. He sued to prevent Mazars, an accounting firm, from complying with the Committee's subpoena. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Committee, holding that the Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply. The court held that, in issuing the challenged subpoena, the Committee was engaged in a legitimate legislative investigation, rather than an impermissible law enforcement inquiry; at bottom, the subpoena is a valid exercise of the legislative oversight authority because it seeks information important to determining the fitness of legislation to address potential problems within the Executive Branch and the electoral system; it does not seek to determine the President's fitness for office; and the documents sought are reasonably relevant to the Committee's legitimate legislative inquiry. Finally, the court held that it had no need and no authority to interpret the House Rules narrowly to deny the Committee the authority it claims. View "Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed the district court's order authorizing the government to medicate him without his consent for the purpose of rendering him competent to stand trial. Defendant was indicted for threatening bodily harm to the President and for conveying false information concerning the use of an explosive. At issue were the district court's rulings on two of the four Sell factors for determining whether the government had met its burden of proof. In regard to the second Sell factor, the DC Circuit held that the government established that the administration of the drugs was substantially likely to render defendant competent to stand trial, even if the psychiatrist did not personally examine defendant. Furthermore, the district court did not clearly err in concluding that the prescribed medication was substantially unlikely to cause side effects impairing defendant's ability to assist his counsel. In regard to the fourth Sell factor, the court held that defendant presented no basis for concluding that the district court clearly erred in relying on the psychiatrist to conclude that involuntary medication would be in defendant's best medical interests. View "United States v. Gamarra" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The DC Circuit declined to vacate the FCC's 2018 Order in its entirety, which classified broadband internet access services as an information service under Title I of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Specifically, the 2018 Order classified broadband internet as an "information service," and mobile broadband as a "private mobile service." In the Order, the Commission adopted transparency rules intended to ensure that consumers have adequate data about Internet Service Providers' network practices, and the Commission applied a cost-benefit analysis, concluding that the benefits of a market-based, "light-touch" regime for Internet governance outweighed those of common carrier regulation under Title II. The court held, under the guidance of National Cable & Telecomms. Ass'n v. Brand X Internet Servs., 545 U.S. 967, 980–981 (2005), that the Commission permissibly classified broadband Internet access as an "information service" by virtue of the functionalities afforded by DNS and caching. The court also held that, even though petitioners' reading of a functional equivalence in 47 U.S.C. 332(d)(3) was not foreclosed by the statute, the agency's interpretation of that term, and its application to mobile broadband, were reasonable and merit Chevron deference. Furthermore, the court held that the Commission's rationales in favor of its reading of Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act was reasonable, and agreed that the transparency rule was authorized by 47 U.S.C. 257. Therefore, the court upheld the 2018 Order with two exceptions. The court held that the Commission has not shown legal authority to issue its Preemption Directive, which would have barred states from imposing any rule or requirement that the Commission "repealed or decided to refrain from imposing" in the Order or that is "more stringent" than the Order. Accordingly, the court vacated that portion of the Order. The court also remanded the Order to the agency on three discrete issues regarding public safety, pole attachments, and the Lifeline Program. View "Mozilla Corp. v. FCC" on Justia Law

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After the University terminated plaintiff, she filed suit under the False Claims Act's (FCA) anti-retaliation provision. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the action and held that the district court's decision reflected too narrow a view of the Act's protection for whistleblowers. The court held that the complaint sufficiently alleged that plaintiff's actions were undertaken to try to prevent what she reasonably believed would be the presentation of false claims by the University regarding the conditions of laboratory animals. The court held that the district court erred by defining protected activity as requiring plaintiff to have investigated matters that reasonably could lead to a viable FCA case, which only applied to the first prong of Section 3730(h)(1), but not the second prong. Furthermore, the district court wrongly required plaintiff to allege that her efforts were outside the scope of her responsibilities as Attending Veterinarian. The court also held that plaintiff adequately alleged termination of her position, the University's awareness of her protected activity, and facts connecting her termination to that protected activity. View "Singletary v. Howard University" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit held that the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today Act (PROTECT Act) was constitutional as applied to defendant, who was indicted for producing child pornography and sexually abusing a child while residing in Vietnam in 2015. The court reversed the district court's dismissal of the indictment and held that each of the provisions of the Act that defendant challenged was rationally related to implementing the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. The court held that the provisions of the PROTECT Act that criminalize child sexual abuse and production of child pornography by U.S. citizens living abroad help to fulfill the United States' responsibility under the Optional Protocol to criminalize, "as a minimum," child prostitution and child pornography production by U.S. nationals wherever that conduct occurs. Furthermore, the Foreign Commerce Clause supports application of U.S. law to economic activity abroad that could otherwise impair the effectiveness of a comprehensive regulatory regime to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children. View "United States v. Park" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted a petition for review challenging the Postal Services' stamp price increase for the "Forever Stamp," which was part of the Postal Regulatory Commission Order 4875. The court held that the price hike did not meet the Administrative Procedure Act's requirements for reasoned decisionmaking, because the Commission failed to provide an adequate explanation of the increase and failed to respond to public comments challenging the increase under relevant statutory factors and objectives included in the Commission's organic statute, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA). Accordingly, the court vacated Order 4875 addressing rate adjustments for the category of first-class mail. View "Carlson v. Postal Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the EPA's rule implementing the "Good Neighbor Provision," which requires upwind states to eliminate their significant contributions to air quality problems in downwind States, by promulgating a regulation addressing the interstate transport of ozone, or smog. The DC Circuit held that the rule was inconsistent with the Clean Air Act, because it allows upwind States to continue their significant contributions to downwind air quality problems beyond the statutory deadlines by which downwind States must demonstrate their attainment of air quality standards. The court held that EPA acted lawfully and rationally in all other respects. Accordingly, the petitions for review were granted in part and denied in part. View "Wisconsin v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the Commission's order authorizing Nexus Gas to construct and operate an interstate natural gas pipeline and exercise the right of eminent domain to acquire any necessary rights-of-way. Although the DC Circuit rejected many of petitioners' arguments, the court agreed with petitioners that the Commission failed to adequately justify its determination that it was lawful to credit Nexus Gas's contracts with foreign shippers serving foreign customers as evidence of market demand for the interstate pipeline. Accordingly, the court remanded without vacatur to the Commission for further explanation of this determination. View "City of Oberlin v. FERC" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated cases, petitioners challenged the EPA's final 2018 Rule, which established overall targets for the fuel market and imposed individual compliance obligations on fuel refineries and importers. The DC Circuit held that all these challenges lacked merit, except for one: that the EPA violated its obligations under the Endangered Species Act by failing to determine whether the 2018 Rule may affect endangered species or critical habitat. Therefore, the court granted the petition for review filed by the Gulf Restoration Network and Sierra Club and remanded without vacatur for the EPA to comply with the Act. The court denied all other petitions for review. View "American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers v. EPA" on Justia Law

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First Student petitioned for review of a decision and order of the NLRB finding it was a "perfectly clear" successor employer and violated the National Labor Relations Act by changing the terms and conditions on which it would hire the incumbent employees without bargaining with their union. The DC Circuit denied the petition, holding that not only is the Board's finding that First Student was a perfectly clear successor consistent with Board precedent, it also rests on a reasonable interpretation of the perfectly clear successor doctrine. The court explained that the Board's interpretation was consistent with the Supreme Court's understanding that the doctrine applies where it is perfectly clear that the new employer plans to retain all the employees in the unit. Furthermore, the Board's interpretation also protects the incumbent employees. The court also rejected First Student's alternative claim that the general manager's statements at the March 2nd meeting gave unit employees adequate notice of its intent to impose new terms of employment. Accordingly, the court denied First Student's petition for review and granted the Board's cross-petition for enforcement of its order in full. View "First Student, Inc. v. NLRB" on Justia Law