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

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against her employer, the EEOC, alleging that the agency had subjected her to a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and had violated her rights under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.The DC Circuit held that the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's retaliatory hostile work environment claim under Title VII, as well as her interference and reasonable accommodation claims under the Rehabilitation Act. The court stated that an employer's deliberate attempts to affect an employee's finances and access to healthcare strike the court as precisely the type of conduct that might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the retaliatory hostile work environment claim under Title VII for events occurring in 2013 and remanded. The court also held that the district court erred by treating the Confirmation Form and Huffer Letter as definitive proof that the only accommodation plaintiff sought was an uncertain and indefinite amount of paid leave. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the reasonable accommodation claim and remanded. The court also reversed the dismissal of the interference claim and remanded for further consideration of plaintiff's interference allegations. Finally, the court held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's confidentiality and medical inquiries claims. View "Menoken v. Dhillon" on Justia Law

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Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents, 18 U.S.C. 1001. In May 2020, before sentencing, the government moved to dismiss all charges with prejudice. Flynn consented to that motion and moved to withdraw his pending motions, including a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The district court appointed an amicus curiae to present arguments in opposition to the government’s motion and to address whether the court should issue an Order to Show Cause why Flynn should not be held in criminal contempt for perjury.Flynn filed an emergency mandamus petition. A panel of the D.C. Circuit issued the writ to compel the district court to immediately grant the government’s motion. On rehearing, en banc, the D.C. Circuit denied Flynn’s requests to compel the immediate grant of the government’s motion and to vacate the district court’s appointment of amicus. Flynn has not established that he has “no other adequate means to attain the relief he desires.” The court also declined to mandate that the case be reassigned to a different district judge; Flynn has not established a clear and indisputable right to reassignment. The court noted the interest in allowing the district court to decide a pending motion in the first instance; that Flynn is not in custody; and that “it is simply not the case that the Executive will be irreparably harmed by the procedures." View "In re: Flynn" on Justia Law

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The district court denied a habeas petition by Al Hela, a Yemeni sheik, challenging his detention at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay. Al Hela claims that the President lacked authority to detain him under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, 115 Stat. 224, for substantially supporting Al Qaeda and its associated forces; that he is entitled to release for due process violations; and that the discovery procedures failed to provide him with a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge his detention. The District Court for the District of Columbia has a standing case management order used in many Guantanamo habeas cases to manage discovery and to protect classified information from unwarranted disclosure. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, finding that the President has authority to detain Al Hela, who “substantially supported” enemy forces irrespective of whether he also directly supported those forces or participated in hostilities. Al Hela’s supportive conduct was not “vitiated by the passage of time.” The proceedings below complied with the requirements of the Suspension Clause, which provides that “[t]he Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Guantanamo detainees are entitled to a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge the basis for their detention, not a perfect one. The Due Process Clause may not be invoked by aliens without property or presence in the sovereign territory of the United States. View "Al-Hela v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging a Federal Election Commission Rule requiring some donations known as independent expenditures (IEs) to be publicly disclosed. In the underlying case, plaintiff brought an enforcement complaint before the Commission alleging that a well-known IE-making entity, Crossroads GPS, had violated the Rule by failing to disclose certain contributors.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's determination agreeing with plaintiffs that the Rule conflicts with the plain terms of the Federal Election Campaign Act's broader disclosure requirements. After addressing various jurisdictional and procedural arguments, the court held that the Rule's requirement that IE makers disclose only those contributions aimed at supporting a specific IE conflicts with FECA's unambiguous terms in two ways: first, the Rule disregards 52 U.S.C. 30104(c)(1)'s requirement that IE makers disclose each donation from contributors who give more than $200, regardless of any connection to IEs eventually made; and second, by requiring disclosure only of donations linked to a particular IE, the Rule impermissibly narrows subsection (c)(2)(C)'s requirement that contributors be identified if their donations are "made for the purpose of furthering an independent expenditure." View "Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington v. Federal Election Commission" on Justia Law

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This appeal involves conditions that the FCC imposed on a merger of three cable companies into a new merged entity, New Charter. Among other things, the conditions (1) prohibit New Charter from charging programming suppliers for access to its broadband subscribers, (2) prohibit New Charter from charging broadband subscribers based on how much data they use, (3) require New Charter to provide steeply discounted broadband service to needy subscribers, and (4) require New Charter to substantially expand its cable infrastructure for broadband service. The appellants include three of New Charter's customers, whose bills for cable broadband Internet service increased shortly after the merger. These appellants contend that the conditions caused this injury, which would likely be redressed by an order setting the conditions aside.The DC Circuit held that these three individual appellants have standing to challenge the interconnection and discounted-services conditions, but not the usage-based pricing and buildout conditions. Furthermore, although the lawfulness of the interconnection and discounted-services conditions are properly before the court, the FCC declined to defend them on the merits. Accordingly, the court vacated the first and third conditions based on the FCC's refusal to defend on the merits. Finally, the court dismissed the remaining aspects of the appeal for lack of an appellant with Article III standing. View "Competitive Enterprise Institute v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

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On petition for rehearing en banc, the en banc court held that the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives has standing under Article III of the Constitution to seek judicial enforcement of its duly issued subpoena. This case arose when the Committee began an investigation into alleged misconduct by President Trump and his close advisors. The Committee requested that Donald F. McGahn, II turn over documents related to the President's alleged obstruction of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller's investigation. When McGahn, then no longer White House Counsel, declined these requests, the Committee issued a subpoena ordering McGahn to appear at a hearing to testify and to produce the requested documents.The en banc court held that the Committee, acting on behalf of the full House of Representatives, has shown that it suffers a concrete and particularized injury when denied the opportunity to obtain information necessary to the legislative, oversight, and impeachment functions of the House, and that its injury would be redressed by the order it seeks from the court. The court explained that the ordinary and effective functioning of the Legislative Branch critically depends on the legislative prerogative to obtain information, and constitutional structure and historical practice support judicial enforcement of congressional subpoenas when necessary. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court in part. View "Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives v. McGahn" 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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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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The DC Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims of employment discrimination against Cushman & Wakefield's Chief Executive Officer of the Americas for lack of personal jurisdiction based on the fiduciary shield doctrine.The court held that the fiduciary shield doctrine lacks any basis in either the Due Process Clause or the transacting-business prong of the District of Columbia's long-arm statute, D.C.CODE 13-423(a)(1). The court also held that the district court's dismissal erroneously denied plaintiff's request in the alternative for limited jurisdictional discovery. Accordingly, on remand, the district court may either (i) determine on the current record that defendant's suit-related contacts (made in his capacity as CEO of the Americas and otherwise) satisfy the minimum-contacts standard, or (ii) grant jurisdictional discovery to permit development of the record on defendant's contacts with the District of Columbia. View "Urquhart-Bradley v. Mobley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a putative class action against Autovest and its debt-collection agency under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), alleging claims related to a prior collection action.The DC Circuit vacated the district court's order granting summary judgment to defendants, holding that plaintiff lacked Article III standing because she did not suffer a concrete injury-in-fact traceable to the alleged false representations or alleged statements for requested contingency fees. Rather, plaintiff testified unequivocally that she neither took nor failed to take any action because of these statements. Nor did plaintiff testify that she was otherwise confused, misled, or harmed in any relevant way during the collection action by the contested affidavits. In this case, although plaintiff stated that Autovest's collection action caused her stress and inconvenience, she never connected those general harms to the affidavits. Therefore, the court remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint. View "Frank v. Autovest, LLC" on Justia Law