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

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Plaintiff, an asylum seeker, as well as Catholic Charities of Washington, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to DHS seeking documents related to her asylum application. After DHS's initial determination, plaintiff and Catholic Charities filed suit in district court, claiming that the agency's initial determination was part of an agency pattern of deficient FOIA initial responses. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of DHS's motion to dismiss on the ground that plaintiff had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies before seeking judicial review. The court held that plaintiff and Catholic Charities did not have standing to pursue their claims; rejected plaintiff's constructive exhaustion claim that she had "no duty" to file an administrative appeal at all; and held that excusing plaintiff's failure to exhaust would be inappropriate in this case. View "Khine v. DHS" on Justia Law

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After the Union proposed that, in appraising employee work performance, the Agency not use any "performance appraisal rating levels above the Successful rating level for purposes of the annual appraisal process," Agency representatives declined to negotiate over the matter. The Union then filed a negotiability petition with the Authority, but the Authority denied the petition and held that the number rating levels for both individual elements of the job and overall performance were essential aspects of an agency's rights to direct employees and assign work. The DC Circuit denied the Union's petition for review, holding that the Authority's position rests on a permissible and reasonable construction of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute and it was consistent with well-established precedent. The court explained that, because proposals restricting the number of performance ratings interfere with an agency's ability to measure and evaluate its employees, they interfere with an agency's nonnegotiable rights to assign work and direct employees. View "National Treasury Employees Union v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law

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Ipsen challenged CMS's designation of the pricing information Ipsen must report to CMS for a drug that it manufactures. At issue was whether a series of letters CMS sent Ipsen constitutes final agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to CMS, holding that Ipsen has plausibly argued that receipt of the letters significantly increased its risk of a statutory civil penalty being levied for knowingly providing false information. The court explained that this increased risk was a legal consequence sufficient to make the agency action final under the second prong of the test pronounced by the United States Supreme Court in Bennett v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154, 177–78 (1997). View "Ipsen Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Azar" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's partial grant of summary judgment to HHS. Determining that the appeal was not moot, the court held that the district court correctly declined to grant plaintiff equitable relief. The court held that, after properly channeling a single claim for "medical and other health services" benefits, a Medicare beneficiary can not obtain prospective equitable relief mandating that HHS recognize his treatment as a covered Medicare benefit in all future claim determinations. In this case, plaintiff's real problem was with Novitas and, to the extent he wanted the Secretary to instruct Novitas to cover his treatments, he could not do so through the claim appeal process. View "Porzecanski v. Azar" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the tax court's judgment that certain partnership currency option transactions lacked economic substance and were shams designed to look like real world trades without any of the risk or concomitant opportunity for profit. The court held that the tax court did not clearly err in concluding that the parties agreed in advance on the exact rates to be used in determining earnings and losses under the option agreements, together with a related evidentiary point. In this case, the parties fixed the forward exchange rates, ensuring that they could predict the precise amount that the winning and losing trades would pay—and ensuring that the trades had no ex ante profit potential and lacked any other legitimate nontax business purposes. The court rejected the partnerships' remaining claims and held that the tax court did not err in any material respect. View "Endeavor Partners Fund, LLC v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Tax Law
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After the labor union representing CBP employees proposed a new way to determine an employee’s eligibility for travel time and expenses, CBP viewed the union's proposal as running afoul of government travel regulations. The FLRA agreed with CBP and the union petitioned for review. The DC Circuit vacated the FLRA's decision, holding that the decision relied on a mathematical error and misunderstood the union's proposal. In this case, the proposition that the Union's proposal would create an official station that, one, extends beyond a fifty-mile-radius circle and, two, varies with each employee and every trip, was incorrect. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "National Treasury Employees Union v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law

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After defendant was sentenced for possession of a heroin mixture exceeding two kilograms based on the then-applicable statutory minimum contained in 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(A), Congress enacted the First Step Act, narrowing the range of past offenses that trigger section 841(b)(1)(A)'s mandatory minimum. The DC Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence and held that a reduced prison term applies only to a defendant whose sentence had not been "imposed" as of the Act's enactment date. Therefore, the court rejected defendant's argument that, because his case was still pending on direct review when the Act was enacted, he should receive the benefit of the decreased term of imprisonment. View "United States v. Young" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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HHS issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) in 2018, soliciting applications for family planning grants. Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the FOA as inconsistent with a governing regulation and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The district court rejected their claims, and granted summary judgment for HHS. After plaintiffs appealed, HHS issued its FOA announcing grants for 2018. The DC Circuit held that plaintiffs' appeal was moot because, while the appeal was pending, HHS disbursed the grant funds for 2018, issued a modified FOA for 2019, and amended the regulation. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions to dismiss the case as moot. View "Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin v. Azar" on Justia Law

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Save Jobs challenged DHS's rule permitting certain visa holders to seek lawful employment. The rule permitted H–4 visa holders to obtain work authorization if their H–1B visa-holding spouses have been granted an extension of status under the Immigration and Nationality Act or are the beneficiaries of approved Form I–140 petitions but cannot adjust status due to visa oversubscription. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's finding that Save Jobs lacked Article III standing and granting of summary judgment for the Department. The court held that Save Jobs has demonstrated that the rule will subject its members to an actual or imminent increase in competition, and thus Save Jobs has Article III standing to pursue its challenge. The court remanded to give the district court an opportunity to thoroughly assess and finally determine the merits in the first instance. View "Save Jobs USA v. DHS" on Justia Law

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The Institute filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking information related to all records contained in the IRS's Asset Forfeiture Tracking and Retrieval System (AFTRAK). The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the IRS, holding that whether the Open/Closed Report covers all records "contained in" AFTRAK was itself a material, genuinely disputed question of fact, and the answer in turn depended on other disputed and material facts. The court also held that whether AFTRAK was correctly classified as a database, a matter on which the IRS's Manual and other official documents contradict its legal denial here, appeared to be an intermediate fact with potential consequences for resolving the parties' claims. View "Institute For Justice v. IRS" on Justia Law