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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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Plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging that all members of the DC Circuit court violated his First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights based on the actions and inactions he alleges they took in the prior litigation. The district court dismissed the case sua sponte. Plaintiff appealed.   The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims. The court explained that the district court properly denied Plaintiff’s request for a change of venue. The court wrote that the case was properly dismissed on the independent ground that Plaintiff had an adequate remedy at law and was therefore not entitled to injunctive or declaratory relief. Moreover, Plaintiff’s claims would be barred by issue preclusion, a form of res judicata also known as collateral estoppel. Additionally, the district court correctly dismissed this case because it lacked jurisdictionFurther, because two of the named Defendants sit as judges on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Plaintiff argues that all the judges of that court should have been recused or disqualified on the basis that their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” He argued that because every judge of the district court should have been recused or disqualified, his complaint should have been transferred to another judicial district. First, the mere fact that this case challenges rulings made by other judges of the same court would not “lead a reasonable, informed observer to question the District Judge’s impartiality. Moreover, Plaintiff cites no authority for the proposition that recusal or disqualification of all judges in a judicial district is a basis for transfer of venue. View "Larry Klayman v. Neomi Rao" on Justia Law

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After Appellant, a ticketing agent ordered a non-ticketed individual off of the bus, the two women got into a physical altercation. When DC Metropolitan Police officers arrived, they grabbed Appellant, pressed her against the wall, and then forced her to the floor. The police charged her with simple assault on the non-ticketed individual and with assaulting a police officer while resisting arrest.   Appellant sued the District of Columbia and the police officers, alleging civil rights violations during this arrest and a second arrest that occurred two months after the first. Appellant appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the District and its officers.   The DC Circuit agreed in part and reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the District and its officers on Appellant’s Section 1983 wrongful arrest, common law false arrest, and respondeat superior claims. The court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to Appellant’s other claims. The court explained that there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether probable cause for the simple assault charge dissipated before Appellant was handcuffed a second time and taken involuntarily to the police station. Second, there is a genuine issue of material fact as to the existence of probable cause to arrest Appellant for assaulting a police officer. View "Xingru Lin v. DC (REDACTED)" on Justia Law

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In 2016, the Department of Housing and Urban Development promulgated a rule prohibiting the use of lit tobacco products in HUD-subsidized public housing units and their immediate surroundings. Appellants, led by New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (C.L.A.S.H.), brought an action raising a number of statutory and constitutional challenges to the Rule. The district court rejected all of C.L.A.S.H.’s claims.The D.C. Circuit affirmed, finding that the Department did not exceed its authority in passing the rule and was not arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion. The Court similarly rejected C.L.A.S.H.’s constitutional claims under the Spending Clause and the Fourth, Fifth, and Tenth Amendments. View "NYC C.L.A.S.H., Inc. v. Marcia L. Fudge" on Justia Law

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Appellee, an independent filmmaker, filmed parts of a feature film on land administered by the National Park Service (NPS) without having obtained the requisite permit and having paid the requisite fee. The Government charged him with a misdemeanor but later dismissed the charge. Appellee then sued for declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing the permit-and-fee requirements are facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The district court agreed with Appellee, holding the permit-and-fee requirements do not satisfy the heightened scrutiny applicable to restrictions on speech in a public forum.   The DC Circuit reversed the district court’s order. The court held that regulation of filmmaking on government-controlled property is subject only to a “reasonableness” standard, even when the filmmaking is conducted in a public forum. Here, the court found, that the permit-and-fee requirements are reasonable. The court explained that although filmmaking is protected by the First Amendment, the specific speech-protective rules of a public forum apply only to communicative activity. Consequently, regulations governing filmmaking on government-controlled property need only be “reasonable,” which the permit-and-fee requirements for commercial filmmaking on NPS land surely are. View "Gordon Price v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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The Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act (CMPA) governs collective bargaining by employees of the District of Columbia government. It allows officers of the Metropolitan Police Department, like other D.C. government employees, to unionize and engage in collective bargaining. They have done so and are represented by the plaintiff in this case, the Fraternal Order of Police, Metropolitan Police Department Labor Committee, D.C. Police Union (FOP). The police union contends that the statute violates equal protection principles, the Bill of Attainder Clause, the Contract Clause, and the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause.   The DC Circuit rejected all the challenges concluding that the district court correctly concluded that the FOP’s constitutional claims lack merit. The FOP disputes that police accountability motivated the Council. The court explained that the legislature’s actual motive is “entirely irrelevant”; all that matters is whether there are “plausible reasons” to conclude that the statutory classification furthers a legitimate government interest.   The FOP next contends that section 116 violates the Bill of Attainder Clause. However, the court found that the union makes no serious effort to show that the Council acted beyond its discretion. And the court could discern no express or hidden intent to punish. Further, FOP contends that section 116 violates the Contract Clause. The court explained that retrospective laws violate the Contract Clause only if they “substantially” impair existing contract rights. Here, the union could not have reasonably expected to insulate itself from legal changes after the 2017 Agreement had expired by its terms. View "Fraternal Order of Police, Metropolitan Police Department Labor Committee, D.C. Police Union v. DC" on Justia Law

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Appellees work at the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. When they are away from work, they want to express support for their preferred candidates in partisan elections. AO employees could do that for the first 79 years of the agency’s history. But since 2018, the AO has forbidden it. That prohibition violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Appellees but limited its injunction against the first seven restrictions to apply only to Appellees. The court reversed its grant of summary judgment to the AO on the other two restrictions, and the court remanded for it to enjoin their application to Appellees as well. The court explained that absent the belief that precedent directs it, there is no reason to treat driving voters to the polls and organizing political events differently from the other seven prohibited modes of political expression. They all implicate core First Amendment rights. And the AO has failed to show that they present any non-speculative threat to its operations.Further, the court wrote, that the AO is a government entity with an independent duty to uphold the Constitution. The court explained that it trusted that upon receipt of our judgment, it will reconsider the contested restrictions for employees whose work is comparable to (or less sensitive than) the work Appellees do. View "Lisa Guffey v. Roslynn Mauskopf" on Justia Law

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In implementing an Omnibus Amendment that establishes industry-funded monitoring programs in New England fishery management plans, the National Marine Fisheries Service (Service) promulgated a rule that required industry to fund at-sea monitoring programs. A group of commercial herring fishing companies contend that the statute does not specify that industry may be required to bear such costs and that the process by which the Service approved the Omnibus Amendment and promulgated the Final Rule was improper.On appeal, Appellants’ challenge to the Final Rule presents the question how clearly Congress must state an agency’s authority to adopt a course of action. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the Service based on its reasonable interpretation of its authority and its adoption of the Amendment and the Rule through a process that afforded the requisite notice and opportunity to comment. The court explained that when an agency establishes regulatory requirements, regulated parties generally bear the costs of complying with them.Here, the Act’s national standards for fishery management plans direct the Service to “minimize costs” of conservation and management measures and to minimize adverse economic impacts” of such measures on fishing communities. Those statutory admonitions to reduce costs seem to presume that the Service may impose some costs, as “minimize” does not mean eliminate entirely. View "Loper Bright Enterprises, Inc v. Gina Raimondo" on Justia Law

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The District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) regulates childcare facilities, including by setting minimum qualifications for their workers. OSSE issued a rule requiring many childcare workers to obtain an associate’s degree or its equivalent in a field related to early childhood education. Two childcare workers and a parent filed a lawsuit to challenge the new college requirements. They allege violations of their substantive due process and equal protection rights, as well as of the nondelegation doctrine.On remand, the district court dismissed, this time on the merits. In rejecting Plaintiffs’ substantive due process and equal protection claims, the court concluded that the college requirements are rational, including in the distinctions they draw between different classes of daycare workers. And in rejecting Plaintiffs’ nondelegation doctrine claim, the court held that the statute granting regulatory authority to OSSE bears an intelligible principle to guide the agency’s work.The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that under rational-basis review, the policy choices of the political branches are “not subject to courtroom fact-finding and may be based on rational speculation unsupported by evidence or empirical data. And here, as Plaintiffs acknowledge in their complaint, OSSE issued its regulations in part based on a report from the National Academies recommending a bachelor’s degree requirement for all educators of children ages zero to eight. Thus, the court found that a conceivably rational justification for the college requirements is readily apparent, and, in this context, that is all due process requires. View "Altagracia Sanchez v. Office of the State Superintendent of Education" on Justia Law

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Appellant was convicted of unlawfully possessing a loaded firearm. He does not dispute that the bulge of that gun in his waistband gave an arresting officer the reasonable suspicion required to conduct a stop-and-frisk that uncovered the gun. But Appellant argues he submitted to an illegal show of authority several seconds before then when the officer did not yet have a close view of the bulge in Appellant’s waistband.The DC Circuit affirmed the finding that Appellant did not submit to a show of authority. The court explained that Appellant has not described submission to a show of authority. Because the officer’s statement (“No.”) followed Appellant’s declaration that he was “going to walk off,” Appellant could not submit while he “continued moving forward.” One cannot submit to an order not to “walk off” by walking off. Moreover, even when a show of authority does not expressly prohibit flight, it can do so implicitly. Accordingly, at no point did Appellant voluntarily submit to a show of authority. He, therefore, was not seized until the officer blocked his path. By then, the officer could see the bulge of Appellant’s gun in his waistband, and Appellant does not dispute that the bulge gave the officer the reasonable suspicion required for the stop and frisk that followed. View "USA v. Amistad Veney" on Justia Law

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Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means (“the Chairman”) invoked Section 6103(f)(1) in a writing to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue (“the 2019 Request”). The Chairman requested the federal income tax returns of then-President Donald J. Trump and that of his related companies and organizations (collectively “the Trump Parties”). The Department of the Treasury responded that it did not intend to comply with the 2019 Request because it was not supported by a legitimate legislative purpose. Later the Treasury informed the district court and the Trump Parties that it intended to comply with the 2021 Request and provide the Committee with the requested materials. The Trump Parties alleged that Section 6103(f)(1) is facially unconstitutional and that compliance with the Request would be a violation of the First Amendment.The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the 2021 Request seeks information that may inform the United States House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means as to the efficacy of the Presidential Audit Program, and therefore, was made in furtherance of a subject upon which legislation could be had. Further, the Request did not violate the separation of powers principles under any of the potentially applicable tests primarily because the burden on the Executive Branch and the Trump Parties is relatively minor. Finally, Section 6103(f)(1) is not facially unconstitutional because there are many circumstances under which it can be validly applied, and Treasury’s decision to comply with the Request did not violate the Trump Parties’ First Amendment rights. View "Committee on Ways and Means, United States House of Representatives v. TREA" on Justia Law