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

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Khochinsky, a Russian national living in the U.S., contacted the Republic of Poland seeking restitution for the loss of his family’s land during the Nazi invasion. In exchange, Khochinsky offered a painting in his possession that he believed resembled one reported missing by Poland. Poland did not respond to the offer but unsuccessfully sought Khochinsky’s extradition from the U.S. on the ground that he was knowingly in possession of a stolen painting. Khochinsky spent a week in jail, followed by home monitoring before the government determined that there was no evidence that the painting had been stolen. He then sued Poland, alleging that the effort to extradite him was tortious and infringed his rights.The D.C. Circuit affirmed the suit's dismissal. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1602, which affords the exclusive basis for a U.S. court to obtain jurisdiction over claims against a foreign state, gives Poland immunity from Khochinsky’s action. Poland did not implicitly waive its sovereign immunity by seeking Khochinsky’s extradition. Khochinsky’s claims for quiet-title related to the painting and for aiding-and-abetting-trespass related to his family land do not fall within the FSIA’s counterclaim exception. His claims for First Amendment retaliation and for tortious interference with business relations do not fall within the FSIA’s noncommercial tort exception. View "Khochinsky v. Republic of Poland" on Justia Law

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The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) includes expedited procedures to remove certain inadmissible aliens arriving at the border, 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1). The plaintiffs, inadmissible aliens caught trying to enter the country, sought asylum, or claimed to fear persecution had received adverse credible-fear determinations. They challenged the administration of credible-fear interviews under IIRIRA and the Transit Rule, which provides that aliens seeking to enter the U.S. at the southern border are ineligible for asylum unless they have already applied for asylum in a country through which they traveled while en route.They cited 11 sub-regulatory policies: Aliens receive no meaningful guidance on how interviews are conducted; interviewers are improperly trained; interviewers make decisions before the interview is complete; interviewers do not produce an adequate record. interviews are adversarial; interviews occur without adequate notice; interviews occur without access to counsel; interviewers do not apply the proper circuit precedent; credible-fear determinations are automatically reviewed for fraud; interviewers do not adequately state the basis for their decisions; children are subjected to long, adversarial interviews.The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. IIRIRA barred its review of 10 of the cited policies because either the policy was unwritten or the challenges to it were untimely View "M.M.V. v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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In 2009, defendant was sentenced to nearly 21 years in prison for selling 21.1 grams of crack cocaine. After Congress enacted the First Step Act in 2018, defendant filed a motion for sentence reduction. The district court reduced his sentence only by the ten months needed to comply with the new statutory maximum. At issue on appeal is whether the law mandated that the district court provide defendant the opportunity to allocute before ruling on his motion for a sentence reduction.The DC Circuit held that no right to allocute applies to motions to reduce a sentence under the First Step Act and thus affirmed the district court's judgment. In this case, the court explained that defendant was not categorically entitled to an opportunity for allocution as part of his Section 404 proceedings under the First Step Act, and he has made no claim that allocution was necessary in the particular circumstances of his case. View "United States v. Lawrence" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The DC Circuit dismissed, based on lack of jurisdiction, petitions for review of the SEC's order directing stock exchanges to submit a proposal to replace three plans that govern the dissemination of certain types of data with a single, consolidated plan. The exchanges specifically challenge provisions of the order requiring them to include three features relating to plan governance.The court concluded that the Commission has yet to decide whether the challenged features will make it into the new plan, and that section 25(a) of the Securities Exchange Act confers authority on the courts of appeals to review only final orders. In this case, although the Governance Order was definitive on the question whether the three challenged plan elements had to be included in the proposal, it was not a "definitive statement of position" on the question the Commission had initiated proceedings to answer—whether the three features should be included in the eventual plan. View "The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress a firearm seized from his waistband, holding that the officers who seized the gun had reasonable suspicion that defendant was involved in criminal activity. The court concluded that the record facts support the findings of the district court where the officers were responding to late-night reports of gunfire; the officers saw that defendant was the only person on the block; defendant was walking quickly away from the location of the shooting, failing to initially respond to an officer's repeated efforts to get his attention; and, although the officer did not see that defendant was wearing earbuds, it was reasonable for her to treat defendant's non-responsiveness as grounds for suspicion. Furthermore, the district court viewed the bodycam footage and credited the officers' testimony, and nothing in the record suggests that the district court's findings were clearly erroneous. The court rejected defendant's arguments to the contrary, concluding that the combination of the facts found by the district court raised reasonable suspicion. View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In 2009, defendant was sentenced to 324 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to multiple counts of conviction stemming from his role in a kidnapping and attempted murder. In 2020, following a change in law, the district court set aside one of defendant's judgments and resentenced him to 300 months. On appeal, defendant argued that the judge wrongly treated his original sentence as a sentencing package and misapplied the sentencing guidelines.The DC Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence, concluding that defendant failed to show that the district judge obviously erred at resentencing by characterizing defendant's original sentence as an aggregate package. The court explained that, to the extent defendant separately argues that the district judge erroneously overlooked defendant's request for a lower sentence reflecting his alleged rehabilitation, the argument runs aground on the record: the district judge did consider defendant's progress before imposing the new sentence. The court also concluded that defendant's challenge to his kidnapping offense level failed where the district judge applied USSG 2A2.1(b)(1)(A), for causing life-threatening bodily injury during an attempted murder, based on the boxcutter slashing, not on the attempted shootings. View "United States v. Lassiter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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During repair operations in M-Class's underground mine, a miner experienced chest pains and difficulty breathing. At a hospital, a physician examined him and notified the police that a miner was suffering from CO poisoning. The police called the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) hotline. An MSHA Inspector arrived at the mine that night, issued a section 103(k) order to suspend operations in the affected area, reviewed a report based on the mine’s gas detectors and data from one miner’s personal gas spotter, entered the mine, detected no elevated CO level, and allowed mining to resume. The Inspector also started the diesel air compressor and detected no elevated CO level but modified the Order to remove the compressor from service pending an investigation. MSHA tested the compressor but ultimately found no evidence that it was the source of the miner’s illness. MSHA insisted that M-Class submit an action plan governing the compressor use's before the Order would be terminated. MSHA rejected M-Class’s submission.M-Class filed a notice of contest. MSHA terminated the Order. The ALJ declined to dismiss the contest and concluded that the [terminated] Order was appropriate. The Commission concluded that the case was not moot but vacated the terminated Order, finding no substantial evidence that an accident occurred. The D.C. Circuit vacated the decision, finding the matter moot. MSHA terminated the challenged Order. Apart from the speculative, it no longer poses a risk of legal consequences. View "Secretary of Labor v. M-Class Mining, LLC" on Justia Law

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Thomas, a resident of Jamaica, pleaded guilty to interstate communication with intent to extort, 18 U.S.C. 875(b), after botching a lottery scam. Thomas waived most of his rights to appeal, retaining only the rights to claim he received ineffective assistance of counsel and to appeal an upward departure from the sentencing guidelines range. The district court applied an offense level enhancement not mentioned in the plea agreement because it found Thomas “demonstrated the ability to carry out” his threats, then applied upward departures for extortion that “involved organized criminal activity” and for “a threat to a family member of the victim,” and sentenced Thomas to 71 months’ imprisonment, 30 months more than the maximum estimated in the agreement.The D.C. Circuit remanded some of Thomas’s ineffective assistance claims based on counsel’s failure to argue for a Smith variance based on his status as a deportable alien; raise mitigating facts contained in the sentencing exhibits; review the sentencing exhibits with Thomas; and submit character letters Thomas’s family and friends had written. The government did not plainly breach the plea agreement; it never sought the challenged sentencing enhancement. Assuming, without deciding, that the waiver was ineffective, the court rejected an argument that the district court abused its discretion by departing upward from the guidelines range. View "United States v. Thomas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Slot-machine technicians at Palace Casino voted to organize. The NLRB certified Local 501 to represent them. The union asked Palace to produce documents. Palace refused, believing that the union should not have been certified. Certification is not a final agency action, so an employer cannot seek judicial review but must first refuse to bargain and suffer an unfair labor practice charge to obtain judicial review, with the claimed invalidity of certification serving as an affirmative defense.The Board found that Palace violated 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1) and (5). Palace claimed that an order to furnish all requested information would require disclosure of confidential information, like its plans to combat illegal gaming activity and money laundering. The Board concluded that Palace raised a specific confidentiality interest that was “legitimate on its face,” and ordered Palace to bargain over the union’s request. Separately, the Board ruled that the customer complaints requested by the union were not presumptively relevant to the union’s duty as the employees’ bargaining representative but might be relevant in a particular case, and remanded that issue “for further appropriate action.” The D.C. Circuit affirmed with respect to the confidentiality order but dismissed the “customer complaints” remand and not being a final order subject to review. View "National Labor Relations Board v. NP Palace LLC" on Justia Law

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A 1993 Communications Act amendment required the FCC to collect regulatory fees to recover the costs of its activities. “Space stations” (satellites) were included in the schedule but there were blanket exceptions for governmental or nonprofit entities. Initially, the FCC limited regulatory fees to those entities it licensed, which does not include foreign-licensed satellites. In 2013, the FCC invited comment on that conclusion but declined to decide the issue. The 2018 “Ray Baum’s Act,” 47 U.S.C. 159, changed the FCC’s authority to adjust the fee schedule based on the number of “units” (satellites) subject to fees rather than either the number of units or licensees and added the power to adjust fees based on factors “reasonably related to the benefits provided" by FCC activities.In 2019, the FCC again sought comment, noting that foreign-licensed satellites that serve U.S. customers benefit in the same manner as their U.S.-licensed competitors. The FCC concluded it should adopt regulatory fees for non-U.S. licensed satellites with U.S. market access. Foreign-licensed satellite operators must petition the FCC to access the U.S. market. The FCC devotes significant resources to processing such petitions. The current exemption “places the burden of regulatory fees" solely on U.S. licensees; commercial foreign-licensed satellites with general U.S. market access did not exist until 1997. The D.C. Circuit denied a petition for review. The petitioners have not shown that the FCC unreasonably interpreted the Act or provided inadequate notice of the Order. View "Telesat Canada v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law