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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The case involves the Jibril family, who alleged that they were wrongfully placed on the U.S. Government’s terrorist watchlist, known as the "Selectee List." The family claimed that this placement resulted in extensive and intrusive security screenings and significant delays during their domestic and international travels. They filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and other federal officials, alleging violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and the Administrative Procedure Act.The District Court initially dismissed the case for lack of standing, as the Government neither confirmed nor denied the Jibrils’ Selectee List status. The Court of Appeals reversed this decision in part, holding that the Jibrils had plausibly alleged that they were on a terrorist watchlist and faced imminent risk of undue Government actions sufficient to support most of their claims for prospective relief.On remand, the Government filed a renewed motion to dismiss, this time submitting an ex parte declaration to the District Court for in camera review. Based on this submission, the District Court again dismissed the case, holding that the Jibrils lacked standing to pursue their complaint for prospective relief.The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's decision, agreeing that the Jibrils lacked standing to seek forward-looking relief. The court also held that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in relying on the Government’s ex parte submission to address matters implicating national security concerns. Finally, the court found no error in the District Court’s denial of the Jibrils’ motion for leave to amend their complaint. View "Jibril v. Mayorkas" on Justia Law

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The case involves Maria Esparraguera, a career appointee in the Senior Executive Service (SES), who was removed from her position by the Department of the Army. Esparraguera claimed that her constitutional due process rights were violated by the Army. The district court dismissed her suit, stating that she failed to show that the removal implicated a property interest protected by the Due Process Clause.Previously, the district court had dismissed Esparraguera’s due process claim, finding that she had no constitutionally protected property interest in her SES status. The court did not address whether the process Esparraguera received (or the absence thereof) complied with the Due Process Clause. Esparraguera appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The appellate court found that Esparraguera had a protected property interest in her SES status. The court reasoned that the statutory and regulatory provisions applicable to her case gave Esparraguera a property interest in her SES status. The court also concluded that the government was required to provide her, at a minimum, some form of meaningful notice and an opportunity to be heard before removing her from the SES. The case was remanded back to the district court for further proceedings. View "Esparraguera v. Department of the Army" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Wayne Holroyd, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 280 grams of crack cocaine. After his plea but before his sentencing, Congress amended the "safety valve" provision of the statute used to compute Holroyd's sentence, expanding the eligibility of a drug offender to be sentenced without regard to the statutory mandatory minimum. However, the district court sentenced Holroyd to the statutory minimum of 120 months' imprisonment. Holroyd argued that his counsel should have contended that he was eligible for sentencing without regard to the statutory minimum under the recently revised safety valve provision.The district court sentenced Holroyd to the mandatory minimum of 120 months' imprisonment. Holroyd's counsel did not move for reconsideration. Holroyd contended that his counsel was constitutionally ineffective in representing him at sentencing because counsel failed to give the correct interpretation to the safety valve provision. He argued that his two past convictions did not exclude him from the safety valve under the provision because the word "and" between subparagraphs must be read conjunctively so that only a defendant who has convictions satisfying all subparagraphs cumulatively is ineligible.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the district court's sentence. The court held that Holroyd's counsel's decision not to argue at sentencing or to move for reconsideration on the basis of Holroyd's eligibility for the safety valve was not deficient representation. The court noted that the Supreme Court recently adopted a different construction of the safety valve provision, which held that a defendant satisfies the criminal-history requirement only when he does not meet any of the disqualifying criteria. As Holroyd had a 6-point criminal history based on two previous 3-point offenses, he did not satisfy the criteria and was therefore ineligible for the safety valve. View "United States v. Holroyd" on Justia Law

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The case involves John Maron Nassif, who was convicted of four misdemeanor offenses for his role in the January 6, 2021, riot at the United States Capitol. He was sentenced to seven months in prison. On appeal, Nassif challenged one of his convictions and his sentence. The challenged conviction was for demonstrating in a United States Capitol building. Nassif argued that the statute’s prohibition against parading, demonstrating, or picketing in Capitol buildings is facially overbroad and void for vagueness in violation of the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause.The district court rejected Nassif’s overbreadth claim, holding that the interior of the Capitol building is a nonpublic forum where the government may limit First Amendment activities so long as the restrictions are reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum and are viewpoint neutral. The court reasoned that, in enacting section 5104(e)(2)(G), Congress permissibly determined that its institutional interest in peaceful space in which to do its lawmaking work supports the challenged limitation on demonstrating inside the Capitol buildings.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court concluded that the prohibition is reasonable and that it clearly applies to Nassif’s conduct, so it rejected his facial challenges and affirmed the conviction. The court also rejected Nassif’s challenges to his sentence and affirmed it. View "United States v. Nassif" on Justia Law

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The case involves a challenge to a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reinstate a waiver granted to California under the Clean Air Act. The waiver allows California to set its own standards for automobile emissions, which are stricter than federal standards. The petitioners, a group of states and fuel industry entities, argued that the EPA's decision was not authorized under the Clean Air Act and violated a constitutional requirement that the federal government treat states equally in terms of their sovereign authority.The lower courts had upheld the EPA's decision, finding that the petitioners lacked standing to challenge the decision. The petitioners appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower courts' decisions. The court found that the fuel industry petitioners lacked standing to raise their statutory claim, and that the state petitioners lacked standing to raise their preemption claim, because neither group had demonstrated that their claimed injuries would be redressed by a favorable decision by the court. The court also rejected the state petitioners' constitutional claim on the merits, holding that the EPA's decision did not violate the constitutional requirement of equal sovereignty among the states. View "Ohio v. EPA" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the designation of Samark Jose Lopez Bello as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker (SDNT) by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. OFAC had simultaneously designated Bello and Tareck Zaidan El Aissami as SDNTs under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act), which authorizes sanctions against individuals playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking and those materially assisting in such trafficking.Bello sued OFAC and its Acting Director in the district court, alleging that his designation was arbitrary and capricious, exceeded OFAC's statutory authority, deprived him of fair notice and resulted in an unconstitutional seizure of property. Bello also claimed that OFAC failed to provide sufficient post-deprivation notice. The district court dismissed his claims, and Bello appealed.The appeals court affirmed the district court's decision. It held that the Kingpin Act does permit simultaneous designation of Tier 1 and Tier 2 Traffickers and that this did not deprive Bello of fair notice of prohibited conduct. The court also found that OFAC had provided sufficient post-deprivation notice to satisfy due process, given the government's strong interest in preventing asset dissipation. View "Bello v. Gacki" on Justia Law

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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, former President Donald Trump was appealing a district court's denial of his motion to dismiss an indictment against him. The indictment was based on his actions contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election and interfering with the constitutional transfer of power to his successor. Trump argued that, as a former President, he was immune from prosecution for his official actions while in office.The appeals court disagreed and affirmed the district court's decision. It held that former presidents are not immune from federal criminal prosecution for their official acts. The court concluded that the Constitution, federal statutes, and history do not support the existence of such immunity. The court also noted that former President Trump's actions in question, if proven, constituted an unprecedented assault on the structure of the U.S. government.Additionally, the court rejected Trump's contention that his impeachment and acquittal by the Senate for the same or closely related conduct bar his subsequent criminal prosecution under principles of double jeopardy. The court held that impeachment is a political process and does not result in criminal punishment, and the crimes alleged in the indictment differ from the offense for which Trump was impeached. Thus, the court concluded that the Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not apply.These holdings allowed the criminal prosecution against Trump to proceed. View "USA v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Kaboni Savage, a federal prisoner, brought a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice arguing that the department was infringing upon his First Amendment rights by limiting his communication with family and friends. Savage claimed that the restrictions imposed under the Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) were unjust. However, Savage did not complete the Justice Department's Administrative Remedy Program (ARP), a process designed to seek relief from such restrictions. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed Savage's lawsuit, citing the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 (PLRA), a law requiring prisoners to exhaust all available administrative remedies before bringing a lawsuit. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, stating that Savage did not fully pursue all available administrative remedies and hence, his lawsuit was barred under the PLRA. View "Savage v. DOJ" on Justia Law

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In this case, Michael W. Langeman, a former Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), appealed against the dismissal of his complaint for failure to state a claim. Langeman was terminated from his position after an investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed his mishandling of the investigation into sexual abuse allegations against USA Gymnastics Physician Lawrence Gerard Nassar. Langeman claimed that his termination violated his constitutional rights protected by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. He argued that his termination violated a constitutionally protected property interest in his continued employment and deprived him of a constitutionally protected liberty interest in his reputation, thereby damaging his future employment in law enforcement.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed with Langeman's arguments. The court held that Langeman failed to sufficiently plead deprivation of a property interest or liberty interest without due process. The court found that the FBI had explicitly retained the discretion to summarily terminate employees, and this did not create a legitimate property interest sufficient to state a claim under procedural due process. As for Langeman's claim of deprivation of a liberty interest, the court found that Langeman did not establish that any allegedly defamatory conduct accompanied his dismissal from government employment.Therefore, the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Langeman’s complaint for failure to state a claim. It also found that Langeman could not demonstrate a clear right to relief for his mandamus claim due to his deficient due process allegations, therefore mandamus relief was not available to him. View "Langeman v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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In a case involving former U.S. President Donald J. Trump, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has partially upheld and partially vacated a lower court's order restricting Trump's public statements about the trial. The case stems from Trump being indicted for conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election through unlawful means and for obstructing the election’s certification. Trump had posted numerous statements on social media attacking potential witnesses in the case, the judge, and the prosecution team. The lower court issued an order restraining the parties and their counsel from making public statements that "target" the parties, counsel and their staffs, court personnel, and "any reasonably foreseeable witness or the substance of their testimony." On appeal, the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the order insofar as it prohibited all parties and their counsel from making public statements about known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses concerning their potential participation in the investigation or in the criminal proceeding. The court also upheld the order to the extent it prohibited parties and their counsel from making public statements about counsel in the case other than the Special Counsel, members of the court’s staff and counsel’s staffs, or the family members of any counsel or staff member, if those statements were made with the intent to materially interfere with the trial or with the knowledge that such interference was highly likely to result. However, the court vacated the order to the extent it covered speech beyond these categories. The court found that the order was justified by a sufficiently serious risk of prejudice to an ongoing judicial proceeding, that no less restrictive alternatives would adequately address that risk, and that the order was narrowly tailored to ensure the fair administration of justice while also respecting Trump's First Amendment rights. View "USA v. Donald Trump" on Justia Law