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

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Since the 1940s, the U.S. Navy operated a landfill on the island of Guam, containing discarded munitions, chemicals, and everyday garbage. The Ordot Dump lacked any environmental safeguards. The EPA added Ordot to its National Priorities List in 1983, and, in 1988, designated the Navy as a potentially responsible party. The Navy no longer owned and operated Ordot—Guam did. The EPA ordered Guam to devise plans for containing and disposing of waste at the landfill and sued Guam in 2002 under the Clean Water Act. Guam and the EPA entered into a consent decree in 2004, which the district court approved; it required Guam to pay a civil penalty, close Ordot, and install a “dump cover system.” The Decree states that it is “binding upon the Government of Guam . . . and on the United States on behalf of U.S. EPA.” Cleanup continues; Guam closed Ordot in 2011. Guam sued the United States in 2017, seeking to recoup its closure and remediation costs, approximately $160,000,000. A suit against the Navy under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9613(f) “contribution provision” was time-barred; a suit under section 107 (42 U.S.C. 9607), the “cost-recovery” provision remained timely. The D.C. Circuit concluded that the 2004 consent decree triggered Guam’s right to pursue a section 113 contribution claim, precluding it from now pursuing a section 107 claim and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss. View "Government of Guam v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law
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Kentucky and Arkansas residents sued the Secretary of Health and Human Services based on the approval under 42 U.S.C. 1315(a) of an “experimental, pilot, or demonstration projects which, in the judgment of the Secretary, is likely to assist in promoting the objectives” of Medicaid. The district court held that the Secretary failed to analyze whether the projects would promote the primary objective of Medicaid—to furnish medical assistance. Kentucky terminated its project and obtained voluntary dismissal. The D.C. Circuit affirmed with respect to the Arkansas Works program, which required beneficiaries aged 19-49 to “work or engage in specified educational, job training, or job search activities for at least 80 hours per month,” except beneficiaries who show they are medically frail or pregnant, caring for a dependent child under age six, participating in a substance treatment program, or are full-time students. Works proposed to eliminate retroactive coverage, to lower the income eligibility threshold from 133% to 100% of the federal poverty line, and eliminated using Medicaid funds to assist beneficiaries in paying the premiums for employer-provided health care coverage. Instead of analyzing whether the demonstration would promote the objective of providing coverage, the Secretary identified three alternative objectives. Congress has not conditioned the receipt of Medicaid benefits on fulfilling work requirements or taking steps to end receipt of governmental benefits View "Gresham v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Jackson served in the Marine Corps, 1977-1991. Almost 30 years after his honorable discharge, Jackson filed a pro se complaint alleging that toward the end of his military career, his supervising officers discriminated against him because he is a black male, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e. The district court inferred additional claims under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A), and the Military Pay Act, 37 U.S.C. 204 but ultimately dismissed all of Jackson’s claims. The D.C. Circuit affirmed. The court noted the unanimous rulings of other sister circuits, concluding that Title VII does not apply to uniformed members of the armed forces. Jackson’s APA claim was untimely and, although the limitations period is no longer considered jurisdictional, the facts alleged were insufficient to apply equitable tolling. Jackson was able to manage his affairs and comprehend his rights; he alleged that at the time of the alleged discrimination, he knew that he “had been subjected to wrongdoing and strongly desired justice.” The court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to review the dismissal of Jackson’s Military Pay Act claim; the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction of such claims. View "Jackson v. Modly" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed Defendants Cooper and Bryant's appeal of their convictions and sentences for theft of public money and conspiracy to defraud the United States. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that Cooper's statements could be used at trial where the evidence showed that Cooper's statements were given freely and voluntarily; a special agent's testimony did not meaningfully prejudice the defense; the district court did not err by denying Cooper's motion for a mistrial during the government's rebuttal where the prosecutor did not misstate the evidence applicable to Cooper, and the occasional inadvertent references to "these defendants" when discussing acts not attributable to Cooper were quickly remedied; and the district court's calculation of the restitution amount was appropriate. View "United States v. Cooper" on Justia Law

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Baystate filed suit against the Secretary, challenging his promulgation of a final rule calculating the wage index for hospital reimbursements in 2017. Baystate alleged that the Secretary failed to comply with the statutory requirement to calculate a wage index that reflected the actual wage levels in Massachusetts, relied on data that he knew to be false, and entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Secretary, holding that the Secretary's interpretation of his authority under the Medicare statute was lawful and his action was not arbitrary and capricious. In this case, the Secretary provided a reasonable explanation for his decision to enforce the deadline and reject Nantucket's revised data; the decision to enforce the deadline against third-party hospitals was not arbitrary or capricious; and the Secretary's interpretation of his authority to enforce a deadline in calculating the wage index fell squarely within them. View "Baystate Franklin Medical Center v. Azar" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's suit, alleging that President Trump violated the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 by obscuring liabilities on financial disclosure reports, because plaintiff has not shown that he has a clear and indisputable right to mandamus-type relief. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that President Trump violated the Act by over-disclosing; that is, by listing debts in Part 8 of his May 2018 and May 2019 financial disclosure reports for which he was not personally liable. The court rejected plaintiff's contention that the declaratory judgment statute and the federal question statute provided statutory bases for jurisdiction. The court also held that the Mandamus Act did not provide a base for jurisdiction, because plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that the Ethics Act, once interpreted, imposed a clear and indisputable duty on President Trump to differentiate personal from business liabilities. Therefore, the court vacated the portions of the district court's decision addressing whether the equities would favor issuing mandamus-type relief but otherwise affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction. View "Lovitky v. Trump" on Justia Law

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215 Members of the Congress sued President Donald J. Trump based on allegations that he has repeatedly violated the United States Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause. The district court denied the President's motion to dismiss the complaint. The DC Circuit reversed and held that the members of Congress lacked standing. The court held that the district court erred in holding that the members suffered an injury based on the President depriving them of the opportunity to give or withhold their consent to foreign emoluments, thereby injuring them in their roles as members of Congress. The court held that Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811, 818 (1997), and Va. House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, 139 S. Ct. 1945, 1953–54 (2019), were controlling in this case. In Bethune-Hill, the Supreme Court summarily read in Raines that individual members of Congress lack standing to assert the institutional interests of a legislature in the same way a single House of a bicameral legislature lacks capacity to assert interests belonging to the legislature as a whole. The court stated that the members—29 Senators and 186 Members of the House of Representatives—do not constitute a majority of either body and are, therefore, powerless to approve or deny the President's acceptance of foreign emoluments. Accordingly, in regard to the district court's holding that the members have standing, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint. In regard to the district court's holding that the members have a cause of action and have stated a claim, the court vacated as moot. View "Blumenthal v. Trump" on Justia Law

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The Narragansett Tribe petitioned for review of the Commission's order denying its motion to intervene in a natural gas pipeline certificate proceeding after the certificate to build a pipeline had issued. While the Tribe awaited the Commission's action on its pending motion to intervene and its separate motion for reconsideration of an order allowing construction to commence, the pipeline was completed. In the process, more than twenty ceremonial stone features were destroyed. The Tribe then petitioned for review seeking only an order compelling the Commission to amend its regulation so that it cannot repeat the alleged violations of the National Historic Preservation Act in the future. The DC Circuit held that the Tribe lacked standing to seek such relief because it has not shown a substantial risk that a similar disagreement between it and the Commission will recur. Accordingly, the court dismissed the petition based on lack of jurisdiction. View "Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions for conspiring to traffic wholesale quantities of cocaine into the United States. The court found no grounds for reversal, holding that the evidence presented at trial did not materially diverge from the charges contained in the indictment. Furthermore, even if the district court erred by rejecting defendants' request for a multiple conspiracies jury instruction, defendants failed to show that the error substantially prejudiced them. View "United States v. Lorenzana-Cordon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Duquesne petitioned for review of the Board's decision and order requiring the school to bargain with a union representing the school's adjunct facility. Duquesne argued that its religious mission places it beyond the Board's jurisdiction. The DC Circuit granted the petition for review, agreeing with the Supreme Court and the courts of appeals which have held that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)—read in light of the Religion Clauses—does not allow the Board to exercise jurisdiction over religious schools and their teachers in a series of cases over the past several decades. The court held that Pacific Lutheran University, 361 N.L.R.B. 1404 (2014), runs afoul of the court's decisions in University of Great Falls v. NLRB, 278 F.3d 1335 (D.C. Cir. 2002), and Carroll Coll. v. NLRB, 558 F.3d 568, 574 (D.C. Cir. 2009), which continue to govern the reach of the Board's jurisdiction under the NLRA in cases involving religious schools and their faculty members or teachers. Therefore, the court held that the Board has no jurisdiction in this case and the court need not address the remaining arguments. View "Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit v. NLRB" on Justia Law