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

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The DC Circuit held that the Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992 (Coal Act) required Arch Coal, as a person related to a 1988 last signatory operator (LSO), to provide security, and the security previously provided on behalf of Arch Coal's former subsidiaries does not satisfy that requirement. In this case, the letter of credit was no longer in force and the proceeds that the Trustees drew from it did not satisfy the requirement that Arch Coal provide security in one of the three ways allowed by statute. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment to the Trustees of the United Mine Workers of America 1992 Benefit Plan. View "Holland v. Arch Coal, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Trust appealed the district court's decision finding that the Trust failed to show that its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit caused the agencies to change their positions. In this case, the Trust requested records from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, and all parties subsequently agreed that the Trust received the lion's share of the records requested only after suit. The court held that, in order to establish eligibility for attorney's fees, a FOIA plaintiff must show that its lawsuit caused a change in the agency's position regarding the production of requested documents; the clear error standard of review applies to a district court's fact-finding regarding causation; and the district court did not clearly err here by finding that the Trust's lawsuit did not cause a change in the agencies' positions. View "Grand Canyon Trust v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of the unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 somewhere over the Southern Indian Ocean in the early hours of March 8, 2014. Representatives of many of the passengers filed suit in United States, alleging claims under the Montreal Convention against Malaysia's national airline at the time of the flight, its current national airline, and the airliners' insurers, as well as claims against Boeing, which manufactured the aircraft in Washington state. After the lawsuits were centralized into a multidistrict litigation in the district court, the district court granted appellees' motion to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds. The DC Circuit held that the district court did not clearly abuse its discretion in dismissing the lawsuits for forum non conveniens. In this case, the district court carefully weighed the relevant public and private interest factors and reasonably concluded that Malaysia is a more convenient forum to try the claims. View "Smith v. Malaysia Airlines Berhad" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of the USDA's motion to dismiss, based on failure to state a claim, an action brought under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by two animal-rights groups, alleging that the agency's failure to issue standards governing the humane handling and care of birds not bred for use in research amounted to arbitrary and capricious action. The court held that the Coalition has alleged facts sufficient to establish Article III standing, and thus the court need not consider whether the Anti-Vivisection Society too has standing. On the merits, the court held that the Coalition has adequately alleged that USDA has failed to take a discrete agency action that it is required to take. In this case, the Animal Welfare Act was amended eighteen years ago to require USDA to issue standards governing the humane treatment, not of animals generally, but of animals as a defined category of creatures including birds not bred for use in research. USDA has conceded that its general animal-welfare standards are inadequate to ensure the humane treatment of birds, and USDA has yet to fulfill its statutory responsibility to issue standards regarding the humane treatment of birds. Because the issue of whether such action has been unreasonably delayed has been unbriefed, the court remanded for the district court to consider it in the first instance. View "American Anti-Vivisection Society v. United States Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that defendant's prior bank robbery convictions were crimes of violence and affirmed the denial of defendant's motion for post-conviction relief. The court need not reach defendant's constitutional objection, because in 2003, when he was sentenced, a prior conviction could be a crime of violence under either the residual clause or the Guidelines' independent elements clause, which defines a crime of violence as one that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force. The court explained that the federal bank robbery statute requires proof that a defendant took property by force and violence, or by intimidation. In order to satisfy this requirement, defendant must have at least knowingly threatened someone with physical force (or have attempted to do so), which squarely placed the offense within the Guidelines' elements clause. View "United States v. Carr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The DC Circuit denied Rain for Rent's petition for review of a $116 fine under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. Rain for Rent was given a citation after an employee forgot to set the parking brake on a company truck, in violation of a safety standard governing unattended vehicles. The court rejected Rain for Rent's contention that its employee was not within the jurisdiction of the Mine Act at the moment the citation was issued. The court held that, under the Mine Act, the requirement is that the contractor -- not the particular employee on whom the citation is served -- be engaged in work at the mine, which Rain for Rent was. The court also held that the inspection did not violate section 103(f) of the Mine Act, and there was no violation of Rain for Rent's walkaround rights. Furthermore, even if there had been a violation of Rain for Rent's walkaround rights, the court rejected the contention that the violation warranted vacatur or suppression. The court explained that the statute did not expressly state the consequences of violating section 103(f). Finally, the court rejected Rain for Rent's contention that the warrantless inspection of its truck violated the Fourth Amendment because Rain for Rent was not afforded an opportunity for precompliance review. The court has never held that precompliance review is necessary for the constitutionality of warrantless administrative searches in a closely regulated industry like mining. View "Western Oilfields Supply Co. v. Secretary of Labor" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for six counts of sex trafficking and related crimes against minors, rejecting his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The court held that the existing record left no doubt that counsel's failure to challenge the qualifications of an expert witness was not ineffective assistance of counsel. In this case, an objection to the expert's qualifications would have been meritless under the applicable legal standard; the expert's curriculum vitae listed extensive medical training in pediatrics, decades of on-the-job experience, and specialized knowledge reflected in peer-reviewed publications, other publications and expert reports, and dozens of lectures on the dynamics of child sex trafficking and victimization; and the court's cases clearly supported qualifying an expert witness on these facts. Furthermore, counsel's decision to press the defense by challenging the expert on three grounds other than qualifications fell within the reasonable range of professional assistance. View "United States v. Marshall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The DC Circuit granted Constellium's petition for review of the Board's decision determining that the company violated sections 8(a)(1) and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by suspending and discharging an employee. The court held that, although the Board's decision was based upon substantial evidence and did not impermissibly depart from precedent without explanation, the Board failed to address the potential conflict between its interpretation of the NLRA and Constellium's obligations under state and federal equal employment opportunity laws. In this case, the arguments advanced by Constellium in its Answering Brief and reprised in its motion for reconsideration were sufficiently specific to apprise the Board that the issue might be pursued on appeal. Because the Board offered no argument on the merits of this point, remand was necessary for the agency to address the issue in the first instance. View "Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood, LLC v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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Commercial-fishing associations challenged the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which was established by President Obama to protect distinct geological features and unique ecological resources in the northern Atlantic Ocean. The district court concluded that the President acted within his statutory authority in creating the Monument, dismissing the Fishermen's claims. The DC Circuit first drew a distinction between two types of claims: those justiciable on the face of the proclamation and those requiring factual development. The court determined that the Fishermens' first three claims could be judged on the face of the proclamation and resolved as a matter of law, and the last claim required factual allegations. As to the first three claims, the court held that Supreme Court precedent foreclosed the Fishermens' contention that the Antiquities Act does not reach submerged lands; ocean-based monuments are compatible with the Sanctuaries Act; and the federal government's unrivaled authority under both international and domestic law established that it controls the United States Exclusive Economic Zone. Finally, the court held that the Fishermens' smallest-area claim failed, because the complaint contained no factual allegations identifying a portion of the Monument that lacks the natural resources and ecosystems the President sought to protect. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association v. Ross" on Justia Law

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In this first case arising under the Hague Convention that has reached the DC Circuit, petitioner claimed that his wife, respondent, wrongfully retained their five-year-old daughter in the United States. The court held that the district court did not err in finding that respondent retained the child in May 2019 and that the child's habitual residence was France. The court held that respondent's arguments regarding the date of retention and the child's habitual residence lacked merit. Furthermore, because the parties chose the Mozes framework, and respondent has not challenged the district court's findings under the remaining questions or asserted any defenses, the court affirmed the district court's grant of petitioner's petition for return. View "Abou-Haidar v. Sanin Vazquez" on Justia Law