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

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The case involves John Maron Nassif, who was convicted of four misdemeanor offenses for his role in the January 6, 2021, riot at the United States Capitol. He was sentenced to seven months in prison. On appeal, Nassif challenged one of his convictions and his sentence. The challenged conviction was for demonstrating in a United States Capitol building. Nassif argued that the statute’s prohibition against parading, demonstrating, or picketing in Capitol buildings is facially overbroad and void for vagueness in violation of the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause.The district court rejected Nassif’s overbreadth claim, holding that the interior of the Capitol building is a nonpublic forum where the government may limit First Amendment activities so long as the restrictions are reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum and are viewpoint neutral. The court reasoned that, in enacting section 5104(e)(2)(G), Congress permissibly determined that its institutional interest in peaceful space in which to do its lawmaking work supports the challenged limitation on demonstrating inside the Capitol buildings.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court concluded that the prohibition is reasonable and that it clearly applies to Nassif’s conduct, so it rejected his facial challenges and affirmed the conviction. The court also rejected Nassif’s challenges to his sentence and affirmed it. View "United States v. Nassif" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute between CP Anchorage Hotel 2, LLC, doing business as Hilton Anchorage, and Unite Here! Local 878, AFL-CIO, a union representing the hotel's housekeepers. The conflict arose in 2018 when the hotel underwent substantial renovations, including replacing old bathtub showers with walk-in, glass-walled showers in about half of the guest rooms. After the renovations, the hotel required the housekeepers to meet the same room-cleaning quotas as before, despite the housekeepers' claims that the rooms were now harder to clean and required different skills and equipment. The hotel also threatened to discipline housekeepers who failed to meet these quotas. The union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), arguing that the hotel's unilateral actions affected bargaining unit employees.The NLRB found that the hotel had committed unfair labor practices by failing to provide the union with requested information relevant to bargaining, unilaterally changing its housekeepers' duties by increasing the work required per room but maintaining the same room-cleaning quota, and threatening its housekeepers with discipline if they failed to comply with the increased workload requirements. The NLRB ordered the hotel to rescind the unlawful changes to the housekeepers' working conditions and to compensate the housekeepers for any loss of earnings due to the hotel's unlawful conduct.The hotel petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for review, arguing that decisions like the renovation decision did not require bargaining with a union. The court disagreed, finding that the hotel had an obligation to give the union a meaningful opportunity to bargain over the changes to the housekeepers' duties. The court denied the hotel's petition for review and granted the NLRB's cross-application for enforcement of its order. View "CP Anchorage Hotel 2, LLC v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The case involves a challenge to a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reinstate a waiver granted to California under the Clean Air Act. The waiver allows California to set its own standards for automobile emissions, which are stricter than federal standards. The petitioners, a group of states and fuel industry entities, argued that the EPA's decision was not authorized under the Clean Air Act and violated a constitutional requirement that the federal government treat states equally in terms of their sovereign authority.The lower courts had upheld the EPA's decision, finding that the petitioners lacked standing to challenge the decision. The petitioners appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower courts' decisions. The court found that the fuel industry petitioners lacked standing to raise their statutory claim, and that the state petitioners lacked standing to raise their preemption claim, because neither group had demonstrated that their claimed injuries would be redressed by a favorable decision by the court. The court also rejected the state petitioners' constitutional claim on the merits, holding that the EPA's decision did not violate the constitutional requirement of equal sovereignty among the states. View "Ohio v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated an investigation into potentially anti-competitive practices in the real estate industry by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In November 2020, the DOJ and NAR reached a settlement, and the DOJ sent a letter to NAR stating that it had closed its investigation and that NAR was not required to respond to two outstanding investigative subpoenas. However, in July 2021, the DOJ withdrew the proposed consent judgment, reopened its investigation, and issued a new investigative subpoena. NAR petitioned the district court to set aside the subpoena, arguing that its issuance violated a promise made by the DOJ in the 2020 closing letter. The district court granted NAR’s petition, concluding that the new subpoena was barred by a validly executed settlement agreement.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed with the district court's decision. The court held that the plain language of the disputed 2020 letter permits the DOJ to reopen its investigation. The court noted that the closing of an investigation does not guarantee that the investigation would stay closed forever. The court also pointed out that NAR gained several benefits from the closing of the DOJ’s pending investigation in 2020, including relief from its obligation to respond to the two outstanding subpoenas. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment of the district court. View "National Association of Realtors v. United States" on Justia Law

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The case involves two Chinese-owned companies, Hikvision USA, Inc. and Dahua Technology USA Inc., that manufacture video cameras and video-surveillance equipment. They challenged an order by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that implemented the Secure Equipment Act (SEA), which prevented the marketing or sale in the U.S. of their products listed on the “Covered List,” a list of communications equipment considered a threat to U.S. national security.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the SEA ratified the composition of the Covered List and left no room for the petitioners to challenge the placement of their products on that list under a predecessor statute. However, the court agreed with the petitioners that the FCC’s definition of “critical infrastructure” was overly broad.The court concluded that the FCC's order prohibiting the authorization of petitioners' equipment for sale and marketing in the U.S. for use in the physical security surveillance of critical infrastructure was upheld. However, the portions of the FCC’s order defining “critical infrastructure” were vacated, and the case was remanded to the Commission to align its definition and justification for it with the statutory text of the National Defense Authorization Act. View "Hikvision USA, Inc. v. FCC" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around the appellant, Joey Green-Remache, who was charged with interstate violation of a protective order, following a jury trial. Green-Remache was also charged with first-degree burglary and kidnapping, but the jury hung on these charges. He later pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary, and the Government dismissed the kidnapping charge. The charges were based on the Government's claim that Green-Remache broke into his on-again-off-again girlfriend's apartment and forcibly transported her from D.C. to Maryland, contrary to a civil protective order. At trial, the Government presented a Clinical Psychologist who testified about the characteristics of coercive control relationships between sexual partners. The appellant claimed that the jury was likely heavily influenced by this "opinion testimony," which he argues was not connected to the circumstances of this case. Therefore, he requested that the case be remanded to determine whether counsel's failure to object to the Psychologist's testimony constituted ineffective assistance that prejudiced him.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied the appellant's request for a remand. The court held that the record conclusively demonstrated that the appellant was not prejudiced by his counsel's alleged errors. The court noted that the Government introduced considerable evidence to support its theory that the appellant caused his girlfriend to travel with him to Maryland by force, coercion, duress, or fraud, apart from the Psychologist's testimony. This evidence included the girlfriend's grand jury testimony, recorded interviews, a 911 call, testimony from a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, and testimony from two eyewitnesses. The court concluded that this "overwhelming" evidence against the appellant undercut his claim that, but for his counsel's alleged errors, the outcome of the trial would have been different. The court affirmed the judgment of the District Court. View "USA v. Green-Remache" on Justia Law

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The case involves two separate petitions for review of decisions made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to grant extensions of time for the completion of natural gas pipeline projects. The petitioners are Sierra Club and Public Citizen, and the respondents are FERC and the project developers, National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation, Empire Pipeline Inc., Cheniere Corpus Christi Pipeline L.P, and Corpus Christi Liquefaction LLC.The petitions primarily contend that FERC was overly generous in finding "good cause" to grant extensions for the completion of the pipeline projects. The petitioners argue that due to changes in circumstances, such as the introduction of New York's 2019 Climate Act, FERC was obliged to reconsider its original findings of market need for the projects.The court upheld FERC's decisions, finding that it exercised its broad discretion reasonably in both cases. It concluded that FERC's determinations of "good cause" were supported by the record, including National Fuel's litigation over water-quality certification and Cheniere's disrupted investment decision due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The court also found that FERC appropriately decided not to reevaluate its prior findings of market need for the pipeline projects. The court ruled that the petitioners' proposed stricter approach to assessing extension requests was unsupported by the Natural Gas Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. Therefore, the petitions for review were denied. View "Sierra Club v. FERC" on Justia Law

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In a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Stern Produce Company, Inc. was charged with unfair labor practices by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The case revolved around two incidents. In one, an employee who was known to be pro-union received a text from his supervisor after covering a camera in his truck during his lunch break. The text stated that covering the camera was against company rules. The second incident involved another pro-union employee who received a written warning for making derogatory comments to a coworker. The NLRB concluded that these actions constituted unfair labor practices because they created an impression of surveillance of pro-union activity and were motivated by anti-union animus.The court disagreed with the NLRB's findings. In regard to the text message, the court found that the driver had no reason to believe that the company was monitoring him for union-related reasons. The text was a one-time event, and the company had clear and emphatic language in its manuals stating that drivers could be monitored at any time. As for the written warning, the court found insufficient evidence to suggest that the punishment was motivated by the employee's pro-union activities. The court ruled that while the timing of the warning could potentially indicate improper motives, it did not in this case. The court also noted that the company's past labor-law violations did not necessarily indicate a continuous pattern of anti-union animus. Given these findings, the court vacated the NLRB's decision and denied its application for enforcement. View "Stern Produce Company, Inc. v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was tasked with evaluating a previous decision by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) regarding cost allocation between the United States Postal Service's (USPS) market-dominant and competitive products. United Parcel Service (UPS), a competitor of the USPS, challenged the PRC's formula for allocating institutional costs.The USPS offers both market-dominant products, like standard mail (where it holds a near-monopoly), and competitive products, like package delivery (where it competes with private companies like UPS). The PRC's task is to ensure that the USPS's competitive products cover an "appropriate share" of institutional costs. In 2020, the court had remanded the PRC's Order that adopted a formula for this "appropriate share", and asked the PRC to better explain its reasoning.On remand, the PRC revised its analysis but maintained the same formula. The court of appeals concluded that the PRC had adequately addressed the previous issues identified and reasonably exercised its statutory discretion in adopting the formula. Consequently, UPS's petition for review was denied.The court found that the PRC's interpretation of the distinction between costs attributable to competitive products and costs uniquely or disproportionately associated with competitive products was reasonable. It also found the PRC's decision to not include attributable costs directly in the appropriate share to be reasonable, to avoid double-counting. The court rejected UPS's claim that the PRC was required to allocate all of the USPS's institutional costs between market-dominant and competitive products, and it also found that the PRC had adequately considered competitive products' market conditions. Lastly, the court upheld the PRC's proposed formula for setting the appropriate share. View "United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Postal Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the designation of Samark Jose Lopez Bello as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker (SDNT) by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. OFAC had simultaneously designated Bello and Tareck Zaidan El Aissami as SDNTs under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act), which authorizes sanctions against individuals playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking and those materially assisting in such trafficking.Bello sued OFAC and its Acting Director in the district court, alleging that his designation was arbitrary and capricious, exceeded OFAC's statutory authority, deprived him of fair notice and resulted in an unconstitutional seizure of property. Bello also claimed that OFAC failed to provide sufficient post-deprivation notice. The district court dismissed his claims, and Bello appealed.The appeals court affirmed the district court's decision. It held that the Kingpin Act does permit simultaneous designation of Tier 1 and Tier 2 Traffickers and that this did not deprive Bello of fair notice of prohibited conduct. The court also found that OFAC had provided sufficient post-deprivation notice to satisfy due process, given the government's strong interest in preventing asset dissipation. View "Bello v. Gacki" on Justia Law