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

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The petitions for review sought reversal of a refund order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) upon finding a discrepancy in petitioner Ameren Illinois’s self-reported operational costs. Instead of reporting construction-related materials and supplies costs on line 5 of page 227 of Form 1, Ameren Illinois reported these costs on line 8 with the result that it over-collected for transmission costs. The Commission found that this reporting error was contrary to Ameren Illinois’s filed rate, which, prior to June 1, 2020, did not allow it to recover costs recorded to line 5 of page 227.   The DC Circuit affirmed the Order, denying review and reconsideration. The court explained that the Commission’s decision that Ameren lacked the discretion to report construction-related costs on line 8 was not unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious, or otherwise contrary to law. The court reasoned that although the Commission “may not retroactively alter a filed rate to compensate for prior over- or underpayments,” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. FERC, 571 F.3d 1208, 1211 (D.C. Cir. 2009), that is not what occurred here. All the Commission has done is require Ameren Illinois to correct a reporting error that resulted in overcharging customers for expenses not allowed under Ameren Illinois’s then-registered formula rate. Its contrary arguments fail to demonstrate that the refund order was unjust or contrary to the law. View "Ameren Illinois Company v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) challenges a rule governing the elections in which employees vote on whether to be represented by a union. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) promulgated the 2019 Rule without notice and comment, asserting that it falls within the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA) exception. The NLRB argues that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act), mandates direct review from the Board to the circuit court. The Board also asserts that, even if the district court had jurisdiction, it erred in holding that five challenged provisions of the Rule fall outside the APA’s procedural exception. The AFL-CIO cross-appeals, arguing that the 2019 Rule as a whole is arbitrary and capricious and that the provision concerning ballot impoundment specifically is arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law.   The DC Circuit held that the statutory provision for direct review in federal appellate courts of NLRB orders regarding unfair labor practices did not divest the district court of jurisdiction over rules that are exclusively concerned with representation elections, as is the 2019 Rule. The court held that the district court erred in concluding that none of the five challenged provisions comes within the procedural exception; the court held that two of them do. Those two are rules of agency procedure, so were validly promulgated without notice and comment. The court affirmed the district court’s invalidation of the rules regarding the eligible employee-voters list, the timeline for certification of election results, and election-observer eligibility. The AFL-CIO’s challenge to the 2019 Rule as arbitrary and capricious fails. View "American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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Perioperative Services and Logistics, LLC, sells medical devices to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). After someone emailed the VA accusing Perioperative of selling counterfeit implants, the VA’s National Center for Patient Safety posted an internal recall, requiring agency facilities to sequester Perioperative products. Forty days later, after an investigation yielded no support for the accusation, the VA lifted the recall. Seeking to unmask the complainant, Perioperative filed a FOIA request for the complaint. The VA denied the request, relying on Exemption 6, which shields “personnel and medical files and similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” Perioperative filed suit in district court, and the VA moved for summary judgment. The district court accepted an ex parte declaration and concluded that the requested record was exempt.   The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court relied on a declaration that the company cannot see, let alone rebut. But that dilemma is inherent in those FOIA cases where, as here, an ex parte declaration is the only way to “decid[e] the dispute without . . . disclosing the very material sought to be kept secret.” Further, the court held that the complainant’s substantial privacy interest outweighs any public interest in disclosure. Accordingly, the VA has demonstrated that the complaint is exempt from disclosure under FOIA Exemption 6. View "Perioperative Services And Logistics, LLC v. DVA" on Justia Law

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The Department of the Interior (DOI) provides annual funding for the judicial system of Navajo Nation, an Indian tribe, through a series of self-determination contracts authorized by the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA). After its 2014 annual funding request was “deemed approved,” Navajo Nation filed six separate lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to enforce similar funding requests that it had submitted each year from 2015 through 2020. In evaluating the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment to Navajo Nation as to the 2015 and 2016 proposals but granted summary judgment to the DOI as to the rest. Navajo Nation appealed the adverse judgment and contends that both the ISDEAA and its regulations prohibit the DOI from declining its funding requests for 2017 through 2020.   The DC Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the DOI. The court explained that it disagrees with respect to the ISDEAA but agrees with respect to the regulations. The court explained that because there is no “material and substantial change” between the proposed renewal contract—including the proposed 2017 AFA—and the previous contract, the DOI violated 25 C.F.R. Section 900.33 when it considered the section 5321(a)(2) declination criteria and declined to award the funds Navajo Nation requested in 2017. View "Navajo Nation v. DOI" on Justia Law

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Confronted with reliable claims of escalating Chinese cyber threats targeting the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) revoked the authority of China Telecom (Americas) Corp. (“China Telecom”) to operate domestic and international transmission lines pursuant to section 214 of the Communications Act of 1934. The Commission additionally found that China Telecom breached “the 2007 Letter of Assurances with the Executive Branch agencies, compliance with which is an express condition of its international section 214 authorizations.” Although the Commission offered support from the classified record, consisting of evidence obtained pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”), it has made it clear throughout these proceedings that its decision is entirely justified by the unclassified record alone.   China Telecom argues that the Revocation Order is arbitrary, capricious, and unsupported by substantial evidence. The DC Circuit denied China Telecom’s petition for review. The court explained that Commission’s determinations that China Telecom poses a national security risk and breached its Letter of Assurances are supported by reasoned decision-making and substantial evidence in the unclassified record. In addition, the court held that no statute, regulation, past practice, or constitutional provision required the Commission to afford China Telecom any additional procedures beyond the paper hearing it received. View "China Telecom (Americas) Corporation v. FCC (PUBLIC)" on Justia Law

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Under the Hatch-Waxman Act, a drug may receive “new chemical entity exclusivity” if no active ingredient in the drug was previously “approved.” The drug Aubagio was awarded this exclusivity because the Food & Drug Administration (“FDA”) determined that Aubagio’s only active ingredient, teriflunomide, had never previously been approved. This case concerns a challenge to Aubagio’s exclusivity period, which Sandoz Inc. raises to secure a solo period of marketing exclusivity for its generic equivalent. Sandoz maintains that teriflunomide was previously “approved” as an impurity in the drug Arava. In the alternative, Sandoz argued that teriflunomide was in fact approved as an active ingredient in Arava. The district court granted summary judgment for the FDA, agreeing with the agency that Aubagio was entitled to exclusivity because teriflunomide had never previously been approved.   The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court held that while Sandoz did not exhaust its statutory argument before the FDA, in the absence of a statutory or regulatory exhaustion requirement, the court found it appropriate to decide Sandoz’s challenge. When the FDA approves a new drug, it does not also “approve” known impurities in that drug for the purpose of new chemical entity exclusivity. And the record is clear the FDA did not approve teriflunomide as an active ingredient when it approved Arava. Aubagio was therefore entitled to new chemical entity exclusivity, and Sandoz cannot benefit from a solo exclusivity period for its generic equivalent. View "Sandoz Inc. v. Xavier Becerra" on Justia Law

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The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority ("SEPTA") operates local commuter trains in Philadelphia and its suburbs. Amtrak and SEPTA dispute ownership of the Commuter Easement that grants access to Amtrak’s Philadelphia-area rail lines and stations. The original owner of the Easement was the now-defunct Consolidated Rail Corporation (“Conrail”).SEPTA claimed that a series of federal rail statutes gave it the option to acquire the Easement from Conrail and that it exercised that right in 1982. Amtrak claims that when SEPTA tried to acquire the Easement, Amtrak exercised a contractual right of first refusal and purchased the Easement, and therefore SEPTA has no right to access Amtrak’s lines and stations.The D.C. Circuit reversed the district court's decision holding that an easement was not effectively conveyed to SEPTA, finding that SEPTA had a public right to acquire the easment and Amtrak had no authority to block Conrail from conveying it to SEPTA. View "National Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was employed through various foreign subsidiaries of Morgan Stanely between 2006 and 2016. Plaintiff claims that, between 2014 and 2016, he raised concerns about U.S. securities violations, which occurred overseas but affected U.S. markets. After receiving a pay cut and a recommendation that he find employment elsewhere. In January 2016, Plaintiff resigned. Plaintiff then hired counsel. However, counsel withdrew after Morgan Stanley threatened to pursue an action against counsel for violations of his professional obligations.The Department of Labor Administrative Review Board dismissed Plaintiff's claim under Section 806 of the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002, Title VIII of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act, finding that Section 806 did not apply because he was not an "employee" at the time of any alleged retaliation. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, finding that Plaintiff did not meet the definition of "employee" at any time during the alleged retaliation. View "Christopher Garvey v. Administrative Review Board" on Justia Law

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Appellants, three Sikh men, intended to join the Marines. However, existing Marines pre-enlistment requirements pertaining to hair length, beards, and a prohibition on wearing certain non-uniform items, conflicted with their faith. The Marines allowed an accommodation, but only after the men completed basic training.Appellants sought a preliminary injunction, and the district court refused. After considering the competing interests in the case, the D.C. Circuit reversed the decision as it related to two men, finding that they showed a likelihood for success on the merits and proved irreparable harm. The court remanded the third man's case for further proceedings. View "Jaskirat Singh v. David Berger" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Black student at George Washington University, claimed that the university discriminated against him on the basis of race in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court, applying the one-year statute of limitations contained in the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, granted summary judgment to the university. Plaintiff appealed.On appeal, The D.C. Circuit reversed the district court's granting of summary judgment, finding that the lower court erred in applying the one-year statute of limitations under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act; the proper statute of limitations was the three-year limit that applies to personal injury actions. The court also refused to affirm on alternate grounds, as requested by the university. View "Jabari Stafford v. George Washington University" on Justia Law