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

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Appellant filed a qui tam action under the False Claims Act, alleging that KBR and various subcontractors defrauded the US Government by inflating costs and accepting kickbacks while administering military contracts in wartime Iraq. After the district court granted summary judgment to KBR, the company filed a bill of costs with the clerk of the district court, seeking over $100,000 in costs. In this appeal, the DC Circuit considered the costs awarded under 28 U.S.C. 1920 subsection (4), which covers the costs of making copies of any materials where the copies are necessarily obtained for use in the case, and subsection (2), which covers fees for printed or electronically recorded transcripts necessarily obtained for use in the case. The court held that the district court awarded costs in excess of those authorized by subsections (4) and (2). Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for the district court to retax costs. View "United States ex rel. Barko v. Halliburton Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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BGE petitioned for review of FERC's orders arising out of its efforts to apply its "matching" principles to divergences between the timing of deductions for tax purposes and timing for purposes of allocating costs to ratepayers. BGE filed a new rate proposal seeking a net recovery of $38 million and FERC denied BGE's request. FERC concluded that BGE had breached the requirements of Order No. 144 by failing to file for recovery in its "next rate case," which, according to FERC, was BGE's 2005 rate filing. BGE countered that FERC's application of Order No. 144 was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. The DC Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that FERC's orders were not arbitrary and capricious. The court held that FERC reasonably interpreted its regulations and the settlement agreement to mean that BGE simply failed to comply with 18 C.F.R. 35.24 by its next rate case, as required by Order No. 144. The court rejected BGE's argument that, notwithstanding the requirements of Order No. 144, FERC has been more permissive with four "similarly situated" utilities and fails to explain its disparate treatment of BGE's filing. Therefore, FERC's rejection of BGE's tariff filing is a reasonable and reasonably explained application of Order No. 144. View "Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the various challenged rulings, but remanded the ineffective assistance of counsel claims to the district court. In this case, appellant was convicted for kidnapping and unlawful possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The court held that the district court did not plainly err by failing to sua sponte sever the kidnapping charges from the drug charges and order separate trials; the district court did not plainly err in admitting drug offense evidence; and appellant failed to demonstrate that the district court committed plain error when it refused to exercise its discretion to grant a new trial based on the exclusion of jury instruction 2.219 regarding impeachment by proof of a pending case, probation, or parole witness. The court also held that the district court did not err when it considered acquitted and uncharged conduct in imposing appellant's sentence, and the district court did not clearly or obviously err when it relied on the inference that kidnapping was in furtherance of appellant's drug trafficking at sentencing. Finally, the court held that appellant has raised a colorable claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. View "United States v. Browne" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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On remand, appellant asserted various ineffective assistance of counsel claims during the suppression stage, based on counsel's failure to move for STA dismissal, based on counsel's failure to call a witness, and based on counsel's failure to argue for a sentencing reduction. The DC Circuit held that appellant has established ineffective assistance with respect to his claim that trial counsel should have informed the district court that he had lost one year of Maryland state jail credits while awaiting his federal trial. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment insofar as it rejected appellant's sentencing-based ineffective assistance of counsel claim, remanding for resentencing. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "United States v. Miller" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The county sought to revoke two exemptions the Board granted with respect to a freight rail easement over the county's property, alleging that both notices misrepresented the easement's ownership. The Board denied the petitions because only a court competent in property, contract, and bankruptcy law could determine whether the notices' representations were in fact false. The DC Circuit dismissed the county's first petition for review as incurably premature and dismissed the second petition with respect to its material-error challenge to the Board's reconsideration order. The court held that it has jurisdiction to review the Board's initial order pursuant to the county's second petition, and that the Board's denial of the petitions to revoke was arbitrary and capricious for failing to address the claim that the notices, whether or not ultimately false, misleadingly omitted material information. Accordingly, the court granted the second petition for review insofar as it challenges the Board's initial order, vacated that order, and remanded the case to the Board for further proceedings. View "Snohomish County v. Surface Transportation Board" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, claiming that Mastro's deprived him and other servers of a minimum wage in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the District of Columbia's Minimum Wage Revision Act. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Mastro's motion to compel arbitration, holding that a reasonable factfinder could conclude that plaintiff was unaware of the arbitration agreement during the course of his work at Mastro's, and that he therefore had no reason to believe his continued employment could be seen as an intent to be bound by the agreement. The court held that the district judge, in a comprehensive opinion, correctly treated Mastro's motion as if it sought summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) with respect to the question whether plaintiff had agreed to arbitrate. In this case, Mastro's was unable to produce a copy of an arbitration agreement bearing plaintiff's signature, or any other direct evidence of his assent to be bound by the policy. Furthermore, nothing in the record negates plaintiff's sworn declaration that he was unaware of the agreement's existence and had no reason to believe he had relinquished his right to a trial. View "Camara v. Mastro's Restaurants LLC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied Union Pacific's petition for review of the Administration's regulation governing disclosures made by railroads that are transporting hazardous materials. Union Pacific alleged that the regulation was insufficiently protecting the railroad's data and thus failed to meet the requirement in section 7302 of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST) to establish security and confidentiality protections to prevent access to the information by unauthorized parties. The court held that FAST 7302 is neither dependent on a misreading of the statute nor arbitrary and capricious. In this case, the agency developed a mechanism to prevent inadvertent disclosure. Furthermore, Union Pacific failed to provide evidence to controvert the agency's express finding that this rule will satisfy security and confidentiality concerns as mandated by the statute. View "Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the petition for review challenging the Commission's order approving the continued use of admittedly outdated accounting rules for an ever-dwindling number of telephone companies whose pricing is governed by those rules. The court held that the individual petitioners lacked Article III standing to challenge the Commission's orders, because they have presented no evidence that the continuing application of the frozen rules has harmed them or is likely to harm them. In this case, the individuals do not purchase telephone service from a provider whose rates are directly affected by the rules and thus they have not shown how the rules distort the market to their disadvantage or otherwise harm them indirectly. View "Irregulators v. FCC" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a Guantanamo detainee, sought a writ of mandamus asking the court to prevent the government from proceeding with destruction of a particular detention center ("Site A"). The DC Circuit denied relief, finding that the government has produced digital and photographic representations of Site A and that petitioner cannot show, as he must, that it is clear and indisputable that those representations are so insufficient as to warrant the extraordinary remedy of mandamus. After reviewing the classified record, the court held that the government took steps fully consistent with the district court's order. View "In re: Ammar Al-Baluchi" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated actions, petitioners challenged the EPA's 2014 final rule, which exempted coal- and oil-burning power plant utility boilers' startup periods from numerical limits on hazardous air pollutants. EPA instead imposed qualitative "work practice" standards during these periods. The DC Circuit held that EPA erred in denying the petition for reconsideration and granted the petition in No. 16-1349 because it was impracticable for petitioners to raise their two objections during the notice-and-comment period and the objections were of central relevance to the final rule. Consequently, the court did not reach the merits of the arguments in No. 15-1015. View "Chesapeake Climate Action Network v. EPA" on Justia Law