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

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Pacific is the multi-employer bargaining representative in collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) for its employer members. One member, Long Beach, employs watchmen, represented by Local 26, and marine clerks, represented by another union, under separate agreements. Pleas, a watchman, had a work-related argument with a marine clerk, who filed a grievance against Pleas under the clerks' CBA. Local 26 wrote Pacific that it was not bound by that agreement and requested that Pacific not take action against Local 26 members based on the proceedings. Neither Pleas nor a Local 26 representative attended the arbitration hearing. The Arbitrator found that Pleas had violated the clerks' CBA and should be suspended from working at all Pacific employer member terminals for 28 days. Pacific notified its employer members of Pleas’ suspension. Local 26 filed unfair labor practice charges, alleging that those actions impermissibly modified the Watchmen’s Agreement and unilaterally imposed a new term and condition of employment without bargaining. The NLRB and D.C. Circuit found a violation of the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1), (5), 158(d). Under the Watchmen’s Agreement, there was no “sound arguable basis” for Pacific and Long Beach to apply the clerks' CBA procedures and enforce the Arbitrator’s order against Pleas, who was covered under the Watchmen’s Agreement. Doing so unlawfully unilaterally changed the terms and conditions of Pleas’ employment. View "Pacific Maritime Association v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Communications Act of 1934 restricts the rates that telecommunications carriers may charge for transmitting calls across their networks, 47 U.S.C. 201(b). Iowa-based Aureon is a joint venture through which local carriers connect to long-distance carriers such as AT&T and has “subtending” agreements with participating local carriers. AT&T alleged that Aureon imposed interstate and intrastate access charges that violated the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) transitional pricing rules; improperly engaged in access stimulation (enticing high call volumes to generate increased access charges); committed an unreasonable practice by agreeing with subtending carriers to connect calls involving access stimulation; and billed for service not covered by its 2013 interstate tariff. The FCC found that Aureon violated the transitional rule. The D.C. Circuit reversed in part. The transitional rule applies to all “competitive local exchange carriers,” and Aureon falls into that category but the rule applies to intrastate rates so Aureon’s 2013 increase of its interstate rate was not covered. The court remanded the question of whether Aureon’s subtending agreements qualify as access revenue sharing agreements. The court affirmed the FCC’s determination that Aureon’s interstate tariffs apply to traffic involving any local carriers engaged in access stimulation. The FCC erred in refusing to adjudicate AT&T’s unreasonable-practices claim. View "AT&T Corp. v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

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Al Bahlul, a Yemeni national, was Osama bin Laden’s head of propaganda at the time of the September 11 attacks. After he was captured in Pakistan, Al Bahlul was convicted by a military commission in Guantanamo Bay of conspiracy to commit war crimes, providing material support for terrorism, and soliciting others to commit war crimes. The D.C. Circuit vacated two of his three convictions on ex post facto grounds. On remand, the Court of Military Commission Review, without remanding to the military commission, reaffirmed Al Bahlul's life sentence for the conspiracy conviction. The D.C. Circuit reversed and remanded. The CMCR failed to apply the correct harmless error standard, In reevaluating Al Bahlul’s sentence, the CMCR should have asked whether it was beyond a reasonable doubt that the military commission would have imposed the same sentence for conspiracy alone. The court rejected Al Bahlul’s remaining arguments. The appointment of the Convening Authority was lawful; there is no reason to unsettle Al Bahlul I’s ex post facto ruling, and the court lacked jurisdiction in an appeal from the CMCR to entertain challenges to the conditions of Al Bahlul’s ongoing confinement. View "Al Bahlul v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Department of Health and Human Services disallowed roughly $30 million in Medicaid reimbursements for payments Virginia made to two state hospitals. HHS determined that Virginia had materially altered its payment methodology without notifying HHS or obtaining approval and that the new methodology resulted in payments that overstepped applicable federal limits. Virginia had allocated disproportionate share hospitals (DSH) payments for the two hospitals to fiscal years other than “the actual year in which [related] DSH costs were incurred” by those hospitals for purposes of complying with the annual statewide DSH allotment and hospital-specific limit. The district court and D.C. affirmed. A comparison between Virginia’s previous operation of its plan—as manifested in the state’s prior representations about the plan’s operation—and its later operation of the same plan shows that there was a “[m]aterial change” in “the State’s operation of the Medicaid program,” so that the state was required to amend its plan and present the amendment for approval, 42 C.F.R. 430.12(c)(1)(ii). View "Department of Medical Assistant Services of the Commonwealth of Virginia v. United States Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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Hospitals and hospital associations filed suit challenging HHS's decision to reduce the reimbursement rates for 340B hospitals. The district court held that the rate cute exceeded HHS's statutory authority to adjust specified covered outpatient drugs (SCOD) rates. After determining that it had jurisdiction, the DC Circuit proceeded to the merits and held that HHS had statutory authority to impose its 28.5 percent cut to SCOD reimbursement rates for 340B hospitals. The court held that HHS reasonably interpreted 42 U.S.C. 1395l(t)(14)(A)(iii)(II)'s adjustment authority to enable reducing SCOD payments to 340B hospitals, so as to avoid reimbursing those hospitals at much higher levels than their actual costs to acquire the drugs. Applying Chevron deference, the court held that, at a minimum, the statute does not clearly preclude HHS from adjusting the SCOD rate in a focused manner to address problems with reimbursement rates applicable only to certain types of hospitals. View "American Hospital Ass'n v. Azar" on Justia Law

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The union filed suit challenging the Authority's decision overturning an arbitrator's award in a dispute arising from a termination provision of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The DC Circuit granted the petition for review as to the Authority's disposition of the breach claim and denied the petition as to the Authority's disposition of the unfair labor practice claim. The court explained that, in vacating the arbitrator's breach determination, the Authority's thorough, substantive review failed to conform to the proper standard of review. The court explained that the Authority's sole inquiry under the proper standard of review should have been whether the arbitrator was even arguably construing or applying the CBA. However, the Authority engaged in a much more searching review of the arbitrator's decision than permitted by law. The court also held that the Authority's explanation of the unfair labor practice issue, although terse, was not arbitrary and capricious. In this case, the Authority reasonably applied its precedent to determine that the employer did not repudiate the CBA even if it breached it. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "National Weather Service Employees Organization v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the District of Columbia, seeking compensation for the Executive Director of the Lottery Board's violation of plaintiff's Fifth Amendment rights. In this case, the Executive Director took a series of adverse personnel actions designed to push plaintiff out of his job without due process. The DC Circuit held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for the District and in denying summary judgment for plaintiff on the question of Monell liability. The court held, as a matter of law, that the Executive Director acted as a final policymaker on behalf of the District when he took the series of personnel actions that led to plaintiff's constructive termination without due process. Therefore, the court held that the District is liable for the Executive Director's wrongdoing. The court remanded for the district court to enter summary judgment against the District on the liability issue and to determine the appropriate amount of damages. View "Thompson v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied petitions for review challenging FERC's orders concerning SFPP's tariffs. SFPP challenges FERC's decisions to deny SFPP an income tax allowance, to decline to reopen the record on that issue, and to deny SFPP's retroactive adjustment to its index rates. Shippers challenge FERC's disposition of SFPP's accumulated deferred income taxes (ADIT) and its temporal allocation of litigation costs. The court held that FERC's denial of an income tax allowance to SFPP was both consistent with the court's precedent and well-reasoned, and that FERC did not abuse its discretion or act arbitrarily in declining to reopen the record on that issue. Furthermore, FERC reasonably rejected retroactive adjustment to SFPP's index rates. The court also held that FERC correctly found that the rule against retroactive ratemaking prohibited it from refunding or continuing to exclude from rate base SFPP's ADIT balance, and that FERC reasonably allocated litigation costs. View "SFPP, LP v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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Meritor filed suit challenging the EPA's listing of the Rockwell facility and surrounding areas to the National Priorities List, alleging that the listing is arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to governing regulations. The National Priorities List identifies hazardous waste sites in most urgent need of cleanup based on the threat that they pose to public and environmental health and to the public welfare. The DC Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the EPA did not act arbitrarily and capriciously by evaluating the Rockwell Site based on measurements taken before the sub-slab depressurization system was installed; by relying on a residential health benchmark when evaluating the "targets" metrics; and in calculating the "waste characteristics" component of the subsurface intrusion pathway. View "Meritor, Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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TIG filed an emergency motion for attachment-related relief and a writ of execution, seeking to satisfy a long-pending judgment by attaching a building that the Republic of Argentina listed for sale in the District of Columbia. After Argentina removed the property from the market, the district court concluded that the property was immune from execution because Argentina's removal meant that the property would not be "used for a commercial activity" at the time the writ would issue. The DC Circuit held that whether a property is "used for a commercial activity" depends on the totality of the circumstances existing when the motion for a writ of attachment is filed, not when the writ would issue. Therefore, the district court applied the incorrect legal standard in this case. The court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for the district court to determine whether, at the time of filing, the totality of the circumstances supported characterizing the property at issue as one "used for a commercial activity" and, if so, whether any of Argentina's other defenses bar attachment of its property. View "TIG Insurance Co. v. Republic of Argentina" on Justia Law

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