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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
by
Separation-of-powers principles and historical practice compelled the DC Circuit to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction the Committee's suit to enforce the congressional subpoena against the Executive Branch. After the Committee ordered the former White House Counsel, Donald F. McGahn, II, to testify before the Committee, President Trump instructed McGahn to assert absolute testimonial immunity from compelled congressional process. The Committee then sought to invoke this court's jurisdiction to enforce its subpoena. The court held that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case and dismissed the Committee's suit based on lack of an Article III case or controversy. The court agreed with the DOJ that Article III of the Constitution forbids federal courts from resolving this kind of interbranch information dispute. The court found unpersuasive the Committee's three core arguments: first, the Committee attempts to frame the case as a run-of-the-mill dispute about the effect of a duly issued subpoena; second, relying largely on Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, 135 S. Ct. 2652 (2015), the Committee argues that it may assert an "institutional injury" to satisfy Article III, even in a suit against the Executive Branch; and, third, the Committee insists that circuit precedent before Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811, 820 (1997), requires that the court resolve this dispute. The court vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint. View "Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives v. McGahn" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, Chinese citizens who were imprisoned for expressing dissent on the internet, filed suit alleging that, as part of an earlier settlement, Yahoo established a charitable trust to provide humanitarian and legal assistance to imprisoned Chinese dissidents and that defendants improperly depleted the trust's funds, terminating it altogether. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that plaintiffs plausibly alleged that Yahoo established a charitable trust and that plaintiffs' "special interest" in the trust was sufficient to give them standing to enforce it. In this case, the Settlement Agreement created a charitable trust. Furthermore, plaintiffs' allegations satisfied the two prongs of the Hooker special interest standing test, because plaintiffs challenged an extraordinary measure threatening the existence of the trust, raising an issue that could only be tried once, and they plausibly satisfied the requirement that they belong to a class of potential beneficiaries that was sharply defined and limited in number. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "He Depu v. Yahoo! Inc." on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's suit, alleging that President Trump violated the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 by obscuring liabilities on financial disclosure reports, because plaintiff has not shown that he has a clear and indisputable right to mandamus-type relief. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that President Trump violated the Act by over-disclosing; that is, by listing debts in Part 8 of his May 2018 and May 2019 financial disclosure reports for which he was not personally liable. The court rejected plaintiff's contention that the declaratory judgment statute and the federal question statute provided statutory bases for jurisdiction. The court also held that the Mandamus Act did not provide a base for jurisdiction, because plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that the Ethics Act, once interpreted, imposed a clear and indisputable duty on President Trump to differentiate personal from business liabilities. Therefore, the court vacated the portions of the district court's decision addressing whether the equities would favor issuing mandamus-type relief but otherwise affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction. View "Lovitky v. Trump" on Justia Law

by
215 Members of the Congress sued President Donald J. Trump based on allegations that he has repeatedly violated the United States Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause. The district court denied the President's motion to dismiss the complaint. The DC Circuit reversed and held that the members of Congress lacked standing. The court held that the district court erred in holding that the members suffered an injury based on the President depriving them of the opportunity to give or withhold their consent to foreign emoluments, thereby injuring them in their roles as members of Congress. The court held that Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811, 818 (1997), and Va. House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, 139 S. Ct. 1945, 1953–54 (2019), were controlling in this case. In Bethune-Hill, the Supreme Court summarily read in Raines that individual members of Congress lack standing to assert the institutional interests of a legislature in the same way a single House of a bicameral legislature lacks capacity to assert interests belonging to the legislature as a whole. The court stated that the members—29 Senators and 186 Members of the House of Representatives—do not constitute a majority of either body and are, therefore, powerless to approve or deny the President's acceptance of foreign emoluments. Accordingly, in regard to the district court's holding that the members have standing, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint. In regard to the district court's holding that the members have a cause of action and have stated a claim, the court vacated as moot. View "Blumenthal v. Trump" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a white male of Chilean origin, filed suit under Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), alleging that WMATA failed to promote him on the basis of age and national origin and later retaliated against him for complaining of such discrimination by continuing to deny him promotions. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion that WMATA was entitled to sovereign immunity from the ADEA claims; affirmed the grant of summary judgment on all Title VII claims not exhausted via the 2014 Charge of Discrimination; and affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the Title VII claims arising out of the 2014 EEOC charge. The court held that plaintiff failed to present evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that WMATA's nondiscriminatory and non-retaliatory rationale for denying plaintiff a promotion in Fall 2013 was pretext for discrimination or retaliation. View "Oviedo v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority" on Justia Law

by
The First Amendment does not create an implied damages action against officials in the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) for retaliatory administrative enforcement actions under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA). The DC Circuit held that, consistent with the Supreme Court's marked reluctance to extend Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), to new contexts, the First Amendment does not create such an implied damages action. In this case, plaintiff filed suit against the United States and four OCC officials, alleging Bivens claims against the officials as well as various tort claims. The Bivens claims were based on the theory that the officials caused the OCC enforcement action in retaliation for plaintiff's protected speech criticizing an OCC investigation, in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution. The court held that this case clearly presented a new Bivens context, and FIRREA's administrative enforcement scheme is a special factor counselling hesitation. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded with instructions to dismiss plaintiff's First Amendment claims. View "Loumiet v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Duquesne petitioned for review of the Board's decision and order requiring the school to bargain with a union representing the school's adjunct facility. Duquesne argued that its religious mission places it beyond the Board's jurisdiction. The DC Circuit granted the petition for review, agreeing with the Supreme Court and the courts of appeals which have held that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)—read in light of the Religion Clauses—does not allow the Board to exercise jurisdiction over religious schools and their teachers in a series of cases over the past several decades. The court held that Pacific Lutheran University, 361 N.L.R.B. 1404 (2014), runs afoul of the court's decisions in University of Great Falls v. NLRB, 278 F.3d 1335 (D.C. Cir. 2002), and Carroll Coll. v. NLRB, 558 F.3d 568, 574 (D.C. Cir. 2009), which continue to govern the reach of the Board's jurisdiction under the NLRA in cases involving religious schools and their faculty members or teachers. Therefore, the court held that the Board has no jurisdiction in this case and the court need not address the remaining arguments. View "Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit v. NLRB" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit reversed the district court's order dismissing, based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, a pre-enforcement challenge to the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), brought by plaintiffs, alleging harm to their online activities. This action stemmed from Congress's continual goal of protecting minors online while promoting a free and open internet. The court held that at least two of the plaintiffs have established Article III standing to bring the pre-enforcement challenge to FOSTA. In this case, Plaintiff Andrews, an advocate for sex worker rights and a co-founder of several groups that advocate for the health, safety, and human rights of sex workers, has alleged intended conduct that is arguably proscribed by FOSTA and the threat of future enforcement is substantial. Furthermore, Plaintiff Koszyk, a licensed massage therapist and the owner of Soothing Spirit Massage, has demonstrated that a favorable decision would create a significant increase in likelihood that he would obtain relief. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Woodhull Freedom Foundation v. United States" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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