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

Articles Posted in Constitutional 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

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Plaintiff filed suit contending that USPS's custom postage program violated the prohibition against viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment. While the parties were completing discovery and nearing summary judgment, the Postal Service adopted the 2018 Rule, which deems custom postage designs acceptable only if they are commercial or social and exclude any content that is political. After plaintiff filed a Supplemental Complaint, the district court granted the Government's motion to dismiss the viewpoint discrimination claim as moot and plaintiff's challenge to the 2018 Rule for failure to state a claim.The DC Circuit held that it had jurisdiction on appeal, because plaintiff's Supplemental Complaint raises two challenges to the Postal Service's current policies covering custom postage and neither claim is moot. First, the Supplemental Complaint incorporates the allegation that plaintiff suffers ongoing viewpoint discrimination. Second, the Postal Service has not met its heavy burden of making it absolutely clear that the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur. Accordingly, the court reversed the viewpoint discrimination claim and remanded for further proceedings on the merits.The court reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's facial challenge to the 2018 Rule, because the rule's blanket ban on political content fails the objective, workable standards test articulated by the Supreme Court in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, 138 S. Ct. 1876, 1891 (2018). Therefore, the contested rule is unconstitutional. View "Zukerman v. United States Postal Service" on Justia Law

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Following an incident at President Trump's 2019 Social Media Summit involving Appellee Brian Karem, a journalist with a hard pass, and Sebastian Gorka, a Summit attendee, the Press Secretary suspended Karem's pass for thirty days on the ground that his conduct violated "professional journalistic norms."The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of the suspension of Karem's hard pass credentials based on Fifth Amendment due process grounds. The court held that Karem is likely to succeed on his due process claim because, on this record, he lacked fair notice that the White House might punish his purportedly unprofessional conduct by suspending his hard pass for a month. The court also held that the remaining preliminary injunction factors counsel in favor of affirmance where Karem stands to suffer immediate irreparable harm absent an injunction, and the balance of the equities and the public interest factors also favor an injunction. The court limited the scope of the injunction to run only to the Press Secretary, rather than the Press Secretary and the President. View "Karem v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the validity of District of Columbia regulations that impose minimum education requirements for certain childcare providers. The district court held that the case was non-justiciable on grounds of standing, ripeness, and mootness.The DC Circuit held that the case is justiciable and remanded for the district court to consider the merits of the complaint. The court held that Plaintiff Sorcher's due process and equal protection claims are ripe for review, because she has demonstrated cognizable hardship where, in the absence of a decision in her favor, she will have to begin expending time and money in order to obtain the necessary credentials. The court also held that Plaintiff Sanchez's claims are not moot where there is no dispute that the regulations' education requirements continue to apply to her and her experience waiver is not permanent. Therefore, Sanchez retains a concrete interest in the outcome of the litigation and her case is also ripe. Likewise, Plaintiff Homan's claims are similar to Sorcher and Sanchez. View "Sanchez v. Office of the State Superintendent of Education" on Justia Law

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Appellant contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel during the direct appeal of his murder conviction in D.C. Superior Court. Appellant alleged that his appellate counsel labored under two conflicts of interest and failed to argue that the government withheld exculpatory evidence. The court rejected appellant's claims that a conflict arose from counsel's prior representation of another individual present at the time of the murder where counsel had forgotten his prior representation of the individual and thus lacked an actual conflict. Consequently, appellant's second claim of conflict also failed.The court further held that counsel was not ineffective by declining to pursue a losing Brady claim. Moreover, appellant's final argument that counsel was ineffective on appeal in failing to argue that he had been ineffective at trial simply repackaged the losing Brady argument. Therefore, appellant was not denied effective assistance of appellate counsel. View "Johnson v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the Attorney General of the United States in his official capacity as head of the Department of Justice (DOJ), alleging that the DOJ had denied her a promotion to a Division Director position because of her gender, in violation of 42 U.S.C. 2000e-16, and her age, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 633a. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the DOJ.The DC Circuit held that a reasonable jury could find that the DOJ's proffered nondiscriminatory reason for denying plaintiff the promotion that she sought was pretextual and that discrimination was the real reason. In this case, a reasonable jury could find in plaintiff's favor based on her superior qualifications, the accumulated evidence of gender discrimination, and pretext. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Stoe v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Appellant, an Algerian national detained at Guantanamo Bay since 2002, asks the court to hold that the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause categorically applies in full to detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and that his ongoing detention violates both the procedural and substantive aspects of the Due Process Clause.The DC Circuit affirmed the denial of appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus and held that appellant's arguments are foreclosed by circuit precedent. The court explained that the district court's decision that the Due Process Clause is categorically inapplicable to detainees at Guantanamo Bay was misplaced in light of Qassim v. Trump, 927 F.3d 522, 524 (D.C. Cir. 2019). Rather, the Supreme Court's decision in Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008), unequivocally held that Guantanamo Bay detainees must be afforded those procedures necessary to ensure "meaningful review" of the lawfulness of their detention. The court noted that whether and which particular aspects of the Due Process Clause apply to detainees at Guantanamo Bay largely remain open questions in this circuit, as well as what procedural protections the Suspension Clause requires. However, appellant has chosen not to ground any of his claims for procedural protections in the Suspension Clause. View "Ali v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against George Washington University, alleging that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation and discriminating against her because of her illness. Plaintiff also alleged retaliation and interference claims under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Less than a year after plaintiff underwent treatment for cancer while working as a psychiatry resident at the George Washington University Hospital, she was terminated based on documented instances of unprofessionalism and deficient performance.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the University on all claims. The court held that plaintiff failed to request an accommodation under the ADA, choosing to seek leave under the FMLA. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to identify evidence allowing a reasonable jury to conclude that her employer discriminated against her because of her disability. The court also held that plaintiff failed to rebut the University's legitimate justifications for its actions. Therefore, plaintiff's interference and retaliation claims under the FMLA likewise failed. View "Waggel v. George Washington University" on Justia Law