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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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On April 22, 2019, the district court denied petitioner's first three claims for habeas relief, but reserved his 18 U.S.C. 924(c) claim for later resolution because, at the time, United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319, 2324 (2019), had not been decided. The district judge explained that his opinion resolves three of petitioner's claims but leaves the 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion open until the court is able to resolve petitioner's fourth claim. In order for petitioner to appeal the final order in a section 2255 habeas case, section 2253(c)(1) requires him to obtain a certificate of appealability. Petitioner moved for a certificate of appealability a week after the district court issued its order and the district judge granted the certificate solely on petitioner's recantation claim without commenting on the finality of the underlying order— which, of course, left one claim pending.The DC Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the district court's judgment was not final. The court rejected petitioner's claims under Gillespie v. United States Steel Corp., 379 U.S. 148 (1964), which he claims "opens the door a little bit" and allows ostensibly nonfinal orders to be regarded as "practically" final. The court also concluded that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 do not facilitate jurisdiction here. View "United States v. Clark" 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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The DC Circuit denied the Refinery's motion to proceed under a pseudonym. The court weighed the markedly thin showing of potential injury by the Refinery against the substantial public interest in transparency and openness in cases involving the government's administration of an important statutory and regulatory scheme, holding that the Refinery has not overcome the customary and constitutionally-impeded presumption of openness in judicial proceedings.In this case, the Refinery has failed to demonstrate that requiring it to proceed in its own name will risk the disclosure of sensitive and highly personal information; the Refinery itself faces no risk of physical or mental harm; and the Refinery has chosen to sue a government agency regarding the operation of a statutory program and, in particular, applications for special exemptions from the law's obligations. The court held that none of the factors commonly involved in analyzing a request to proceed anonymously weigh in the Refinery's favor. Furthermore, the Refinery's additional arguments add nothing to its side of the scale either. View "In re: Sealed Case" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary Clinton's former Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills, sought mandamus relief preventing the district court's order granting Judicial Watch's request to depose each petitioner on a limited set of topics. The petition for writ of mandamus arose from a Freedom of Information Act case brought by Judicial Watch against the U.S. Department of State.The DC Circuit held that, although Secretary Clinton meets all three requirements for mandamus relief, Ms. Mills does not. In this case, Ms. Mills could appeal either a civil or a criminal contempt adjudication and thus, unlike Secretary Clinton, she does have available an "adequate means to attain the relief" and as such her petition fails at prong one. In regard to the second prong, the court held that petitioners have demonstrated a "clear and indisputable" right to issuance of the writ where the district court clearly abused its discretion by failing to meet its obligations under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, by improperly engaging in a Federal Records Act-like inquiry in this FOIA case, and by ordering further discovery without addressing this court's recent precedent potentially foreclosing any rationale for said discovery. Finally, in regard to the third prong, the court held that the totality of circumstances merits granting the writ. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for mandamus as to Secretary Clinton, denied it as to Ms. Mills and dismissed Ms. Mills' petition for lack of jurisdiction, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "In re: Hillary Clinton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against CareFirst after hackers allegedly stole sensitive customer information from the health insurer's data system, alleging tort, contract, and statutory claims. The district court dismissed all claims of five plaintiffs and most claims of two plaintiffs. At issue was whether the district court permissibly certified the dismissed claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), so as to make the dismissal order final and immediately appealable.The DC Circuit held that it lacked appellate jurisdiction over the certified claims of the Tringlers and of the other plaintiffs. Under basic principles of claim preclusion, the court explained that the Tringlers could not have litigated to judgment one action involving the claims still pending before the district court and another involving the claims already dismissed. Under Tolson v. United States, 732 F.2d 998, 1001–03 (D.C. Cir. 1984), they likewise cannot sever the latter claims for an immediate appeal under Rule 54(b). In regard to the non-Tringler claims, the court stated that it is unclear whether the district court would have certified these claims for immediate appeal had it properly declined to certify the claims of the Tringlers. Therefore, the court cannot determine whether the district court would have certified only the non-Tringler claims, much less whether it could have come up with a permissible justification for doing so. View "Attias v. CareFirst, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the DOJ under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging discrimination on the basis of his race and his sex, as well as retaliation for protected activity. Plaintiff cited seven instances of being passed over for positions for which he believes he was qualified. The district court granted the DOJ's motion for summary judgment, denying plaintiff's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) motion requesting to be allowed to take discovery.The DC Circuit held that the district court acted within its discretion in finding that plaintiff failed to make a showing as to each one of the disputed nonselections, with the notable exception of the handling of plaintiff's request for discovery on his first nonselection. The court stated that, in that respect, the district court's denial of plaintiff's Rule 56(d) motion was premised on error and was thus an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's entry of judgment as to that nonselection and reversed its denial of the relevant portion of plaintiff's Rule 56(d) motion. The court affirmed in part the district court's entry of judgment in DOJ's favor and its denial of plaintiff's Rule 56(d) motion. View "Jeffries v. Barr" on Justia Law

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After Strike 3's investigators recorded IP address 73.180.154.14 illegally distributing Strike 3's pornographic films via the BitTorrent network, the company filed a complaint against the IP address subscriber. However, because Internet service providers are the only entities that can link an IP address to its subscriber, Strike 3 could not serve its complaint without first subpoenaing the subscriber's ISP, Comcast, for information identifying the anonymous defendant. Strike 3 filed a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(d)(1) motion seeking leave to subpoena Comcast for records identifying the John Doe IP address subscriber. The district court denied Strike 3's discovery motion.The DC Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the motion and held that the district court abused its discretion by assigning improper weight to what it viewed as the "aberrantly salacious nature" of Strike 3's films, by concluding that Strike 3 could not state a plausible claim for infringement against the IP address subscriber, and by drawing unsupported, negative inferences against Strike 3 regarding its litigation tactics. Because the court found that the district court abused its discretion in denying Strike 3's discovery motion, its dismissal for failure to state a claim is also reversed. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Strike 3 Holdings, LLC v. Doe" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit dismissed the petition for permission to appeal in No. 19-8004 and related appeal in No. 19-7083 for lack of jurisdiction. In this case, the district court certified an order for interlocutory appeal but no petition was filed by 28 U.S.C. 1292(b)'s deadline. The district court then granted a motion to recertify its order and the litigants filed both a petition for permission to appeal and a notice of appeal within ten days after recertification. The court held that a district court cannot restart the jurisdictional clock in this manner. View "Strange v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Members of the Valambhia family filed an action to recognize the High Court of Tanzania's judgments in the District of Columbia. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Tanzania's motion to dismiss the amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the commercial activity exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA).The court held that the Valambhias have not explained how even a loose construction of the third clause of the FSIA commercial activity exception could support the conclusion that Tanzania's previous and optional use of a New York bank account constitutes a direct effect or an immediate consequence in the United States of Tanzania's conduct abroad. Furthermore, the Valambhias' claim of a direct effect stemming from the family's citizenship and residence in the United States is insufficient. The court dismissed the remaining claims and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Valambhia v. United Republic of Tanzania" on Justia Law

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In the underlying lawsuit, voting rights organizations alleged that the new Executive Director, Brian Newby, acted outside the scope of his authority by changing the Commission's policy on documentary proof of citizenship requirements. Eagle Forum subsequently moved, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(b), to permissively intervene for the limited purpose of gaining access to the sealed briefs and exhibits containing materials related to Commissioner Christy McCormick's testimony. Two years later, the district court denied Eagle Forum's motion in a Minute Order.The DC Circuit first held that the district court's order qualifies as an appealable collateral order. Under MetLife, Inc. v. Financial Stability Oversight Council, 865 F.3d 661 (D.C. Cir. 2017), the court held that Eagle Forum may intervene for the limited purpose of seeking to unseal references to the McCormick deposition. In so ruling, the court emphasized that this does not mean that those materials must be unsealed. Under the court's decision in United States v. Hubbard, 650 F.2d 293 (D.C. Cir. 1980), the district court will still need to determine whether countervailing interests, including the government's privilege claims, justify continued sealing. View "League of Women Voters v. Newby" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure