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

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Plaintiff filed suit against her employer, the EEOC, alleging that the agency had subjected her to a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and had violated her rights under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.The DC Circuit held that the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's retaliatory hostile work environment claim under Title VII, as well as her interference and reasonable accommodation claims under the Rehabilitation Act. The court stated that an employer's deliberate attempts to affect an employee's finances and access to healthcare strike the court as precisely the type of conduct that might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the retaliatory hostile work environment claim under Title VII for events occurring in 2013 and remanded. The court also held that the district court erred by treating the Confirmation Form and Huffer Letter as definitive proof that the only accommodation plaintiff sought was an uncertain and indefinite amount of paid leave. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the reasonable accommodation claim and remanded. The court also reversed the dismissal of the interference claim and remanded for further consideration of plaintiff's interference allegations. Finally, the court held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's confidentiality and medical inquiries claims. View "Menoken v. Dhillon" on Justia Law

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Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents, 18 U.S.C. 1001. In May 2020, before sentencing, the government moved to dismiss all charges with prejudice. Flynn consented to that motion and moved to withdraw his pending motions, including a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The district court appointed an amicus curiae to present arguments in opposition to the government’s motion and to address whether the court should issue an Order to Show Cause why Flynn should not be held in criminal contempt for perjury.Flynn filed an emergency mandamus petition. A panel of the D.C. Circuit issued the writ to compel the district court to immediately grant the government’s motion. On rehearing, en banc, the D.C. Circuit denied Flynn’s requests to compel the immediate grant of the government’s motion and to vacate the district court’s appointment of amicus. Flynn has not established that he has “no other adequate means to attain the relief he desires.” The court also declined to mandate that the case be reassigned to a different district judge; Flynn has not established a clear and indisputable right to reassignment. The court noted the interest in allowing the district court to decide a pending motion in the first instance; that Flynn is not in custody; and that “it is simply not the case that the Executive will be irreparably harmed by the procedures." View "In re: Flynn" on Justia Law

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After the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives ordered former White House Counsel McGahn to testify, the president instructed McGahn to assert absolute testimonial immunity from compelled congressional process. The D.C. Circuit initially ordered the dismissal of the Committee's suit. The en banc court subsequently held that the Committee has Article III standing to seek judicial enforcement of the subpoena.On remand for consideration of the remaining issues, the panel held that the Committee has no cause of action to enforce its subpoena and the case must be dismissed. Implied statutory limitations foreclose suits by the House and suits that implicate a governmental privilege. The Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. 2201(a), does not itself “provide a cause of action,” as the “availability of declaratory relief presupposes the existence of a judicially remediable right.” If Congress (rather than a single committee in a single chamber thereof) determines that its current mechanisms leave it unable to adequately enforce its subpoenas, it remains free to enact a statute that makes the House’s requests for information judicially enforceable. View "Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives v. McGahn" on Justia Law

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Two U.S. railroads began allowing engineers and conductors employed by their Mexican affiliates to operate trains on their tracks in the U.S. Railroads certify their own engineers and conductors, in compliance with minimum standards. The Federal Railroad Administration (49 U.S.C. 20135(a)) does not issue formal documentation approving a railroad’s written certification program but has a passive approval system. If the Administration does not notify the railroad that its written certification program fails to meet the minimum regulatory criteria, the program is considered approved. Because Mexican railroads do not meet the Administration standards, trains have traditionally switched crews at the border, a time-consuming practice.Unions representing railroad employees filed suit, arguing that it was unlawful to approve a certification program permitting one railroad to certify employees of a foreign affiliate railroad that it does not control and for a certification program to deploy an abbreviated curriculum and training protocol to engineers with operating experience only in Mexico.The D.C. Circuit vacated and remanded in part. The Administration’s approval of a railway’s revised engineer certification program that allows that railroad to use an abbreviated program to certify Mexican engineers is a final action subject to Hobbs Act jurisdiction. The court rejected a timeliness argument, stating that the Administration had “completely hidden its already obscured passive approval from public view.” The Administration failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its approval of the materially-altered certification program. View "Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen v. Federal Railroad Administration" on Justia Law

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The district court denied a habeas petition by Al Hela, a Yemeni sheik, challenging his detention at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay. Al Hela claims that the President lacked authority to detain him under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, 115 Stat. 224, for substantially supporting Al Qaeda and its associated forces; that he is entitled to release for due process violations; and that the discovery procedures failed to provide him with a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge his detention. The District Court for the District of Columbia has a standing case management order used in many Guantanamo habeas cases to manage discovery and to protect classified information from unwarranted disclosure. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, finding that the President has authority to detain Al Hela, who “substantially supported” enemy forces irrespective of whether he also directly supported those forces or participated in hostilities. Al Hela’s supportive conduct was not “vitiated by the passage of time.” The proceedings below complied with the requirements of the Suspension Clause, which provides that “[t]he Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Guantanamo detainees are entitled to a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge the basis for their detention, not a perfect one. The Due Process Clause may not be invoked by aliens without property or presence in the sovereign territory of the United States. View "Al-Hela v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed three sets of requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking information about the denial of his applications for a United States entry visa. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the agencies.The DC Circuit affirmed and held that the State Department and DEA's searches were reasonably calculated to locate all responsive records; OIP properly construed plaintiff's FOIA request to exclude the DEA and FBI documents created before his appeals were filed; OIP permissibly withheld the privileged information at issue; the district court address segregability when it addressed withholding the documents at issue under the deliberative process privilege; if the district court has not adequately addressed segregability, the court did so in the first instance and concluded that OIP appropriately segregated exempt and non-exempt portions of the documents; the DEA and FBI responses were proper determinations under FOIA, which triggered plaintiff's obligation to exhaust his administrative appeals; and the court rejected plaintiff's request to excuse his failure to exhaust on policy grounds. View "Machado Amadis v. United States Department of State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging a Federal Election Commission Rule requiring some donations known as independent expenditures (IEs) to be publicly disclosed. In the underlying case, plaintiff brought an enforcement complaint before the Commission alleging that a well-known IE-making entity, Crossroads GPS, had violated the Rule by failing to disclose certain contributors.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's determination agreeing with plaintiffs that the Rule conflicts with the plain terms of the Federal Election Campaign Act's broader disclosure requirements. After addressing various jurisdictional and procedural arguments, the court held that the Rule's requirement that IE makers disclose only those contributions aimed at supporting a specific IE conflicts with FECA's unambiguous terms in two ways: first, the Rule disregards 52 U.S.C. 30104(c)(1)'s requirement that IE makers disclose each donation from contributors who give more than $200, regardless of any connection to IEs eventually made; and second, by requiring disclosure only of donations linked to a particular IE, the Rule impermissibly narrows subsection (c)(2)(C)'s requirement that contributors be identified if their donations are "made for the purpose of furthering an independent expenditure." View "Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington v. Federal Election Commission" on Justia Law

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After the federal government brought an action against Dynamic Visions and its owner under the False Claims Act (FCA) for submitting false claims for reimbursement, the district court granted summary judgment to the government.The DC Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in large part but vacated the judgment as to a limited subset of the alleged false claims. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to those claims for which the falsity stems from the absence of any Plan of Care (POC), or from a POC with no signature from a physician, an untimely signature, or an authorization of services more confined in scope than the services for which reimbursement was sought. However, because the government's evidence does not foreclose a genuine dispute as to whether Dynamic Visions forged physician signatures, the court vacated the grant of summary judgment as to the corresponding subset of claims. The court rejected Dynamic Visions' remaining challenges. Finally, the court vacated the district court's order as to both damages and civil penalties, remanding for further proceedings. View "United States v. Dynamic Visions Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose from a longstanding dispute about which of two competing unions represents a group of several dozen mechanics who maintain and repair shipping equipment. Under NLRB v. Burns International Security Services, Inc., 406 U.S. 272 (1972), a successor employer inherits the collective-bargaining obligations of its predecessor only if the previously recognized bargaining unit remains appropriate under the successor. In determining whether the unit remains appropriate, the NLRB ignores workplace changes caused by unfair labor practices of the successor.The DC Circuit held that the Board did not adequately explain its decision for extending the rule to ignore changes caused by unfair labor practices of the predecessor. Because the Board did not engage in reasoned decisionmaking in the order under review, the court granted the petition for review of the Board's final order, set aside that order, denied the Board's cross-application for enforcement, and remanded for further proceedings. The court dismissed as moot the petition for review of the Board's order refusing to set aside the partial settlement. View "International Longshore & Warehouse Union v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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Five foreign nationals who each contributed $500,000 to Mirror Lake, a new commercial enterprise set to construct and operate a senior living facility, sought to obtain lawful permanent resident status under the EB-5 immigrant-investor program. The USCIS denied the EB-5 visa petitions on the stated ground that none had made a qualifying investment.The DC Circuit held that USCIS's denial of the EB-5 immigrant-investor visa petitions were arbitrary and capricious because the agency failed to offer a reasoned explanation for its denials. In this case, plaintiffs put their capital at risk because the redemption of their investments is dependent on the success of the business. Therefore, USCIS's decision to deny the visas on the purported ground that the investments are not at risk at all is neither reasonably explained nor supported by agency precedent. The court reversed and remanded with instructions to set aside the denials of the EB-5 petitions. View "Mirror Lake Village, LLC v. Wolf" on Justia Law