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

Articles Posted in Consumer Law
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In 2022, the Commission promulgated a rule that set stringent safety standards for the operating cords on custom-made window coverings based on a finding that such cords pose a strangulation risk to young children. The rule sought to eliminate the risk of injury by essentially prohibiting corded window products, and it set an aggressive timeline for industry compliance with the new standards. The Window Covering Manufacturers Association (“WCMA”) filed a petition in this court challenging the rule and its compliance deadline.   The DC Circuit granted WCMA’s petition for review and vacated the rule. The court held that the Commission breached notice-and-comment requirements, erroneously relied on certain data in its cost-benefit analysis, and selected an arbitrary effective date for the rule. The court reasoned that the Commission did not explain why it chose to credit the opinion of Safe T Shade’s company president over the contrary feedback that it received from 401 other commenters, the Small Business Association, and its own staff.  The court explained that if the Commission wishes to extend a safety standard’s effective date, it must find good cause to do so, and regardless of such an extension, the Commission must find that the effective date. View "Window Covering Manufacturers Association v. CPSC" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Green Development, LLC (Green Development) sought interconnection with the distribution system of Narragansett Electric Company (Narragansett), a public utility. Accommodation of the increased flows of electricity required certain upgrades to the transmission system owned by Respondent-Intervenor New England Power Company d/b/a National Grid (NE Power). NE Power assigned the costs of the transmission system upgrades directly to Narragansett. The newly assigned costs were reflected in a revised transmission service agreement (TSA) that NE Power and Narragansett filed for approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission or FERC). Green Development protested the revised TSA. The Commission denied Green Development’s protest.  Green Development petitions for review contending that the Commission (1) erroneously concluded that Green Development’s arguments in the underlying section 205 proceeding operated as a “collateral attack” on the Complaint Order; (2) improperly applied the governing seven-factor test; (3) misinterpreted the Tariff’s definition of “direct assignment facilities”; and (4) erroneously failed to apply the filing procedures of Schedule 21-Local Service of the Tariff.   The DC Circuit denied the petitions. First, the court held that Commission has cured any purportedly erroneous ruling that Green Development’s section 205 protest constituted a collateral attack on the Complaint Order. The court rejected Green Development’s fourth claim. The court wrote that the issue with Green Development’s contention is that it presumes that the procedures in Schedule 21-Local Service are “mandatory processes” that applied to the filing of the TSA. But, the SIS and associated technical arrangements “pertain to initiating transmission service” and “do not demonstrate that Narragansett as an existing transmission customer was required to request new transmission service” under the Tariff. View "Green Development, LLC v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Schwab Multimedia received a construction permit from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). But Schwab never built its station. Though the FCC granted Schwab’s first three requests for more time, it denied Schwab’s fourth. Schwab appealed the FCC’s decision, claiming that it was arbitrary and capricious.   The DC Circuit affirmed. The court held that the FCC based its denial of Schwab’s tolling request on three underlying determinations, and those determinations were reasonable. First, the FCC reasonably found that Schwab had no construction site. Indeed, Schwab admitted as much. It told the Media Bureau that the landlord of the original site had “rescinded [its] verbal agreement . . . to use the site.” And it offered no evidence to suggest that it had since secured the landlord’s permission. Second, it was reasonable for the FCC to conclude that site loss was the real reason Schwab could not build. Third, the FCC reasonably held that site loss is not a legitimate basis for tolling. Further, Schwab produced no evidence to show that good cause would support a waiver. View "Levine/Schwab Partnership v. FCC" on Justia Law

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The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (“the CFPB”) promulgated the Prepaid Rule, which regulates digital wallets and other prepaid accounts. As relevant here, the Rule requires financial institutions to make certain disclosures by using model language or other “substantially similar” wording. Challenging the Rule on statutory, administrative, and constitutional grounds, PayPal sued the CFPB. The district court reached only PayPal’s statutory claims, vacating part of the Rule because it mandated a “model clause” in violation of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (“EFTA”). In this case, PayPal and the CFPB proceed on the assumption that EFTA prohibits mandatory model clauses, and so the DC Circuit considered only whether the Prepaid Rule mandates such a clause.   The DC Circuit reversed. The court concluded the CFPB’s Prepaid Rule does not mandate a “model clause” in contravention of EFTA. That the Rule’s content and formatting requirements do not fall within the meaning of “model clause” does not necessarily mean the CFPB can impose whatever content and formatting requirements it chooses. The court directed that on remand, the district court may consider PayPal’s other challenges to the Rule, including the APA and constitutional claims, which remain to be addressed. View "PayPal, Inc. v. CFPB" on Justia Law

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In 2019, the Department of Justice announced that it would resume federal executions using a new lethal agent: the drug pentobarbital. Shortly thereafter, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the Bureau of Prisons’ records related to its procurement of pentobarbital. The Bureau of Prisons supplied some records but withheld any information that could identify companies in the government’s pentobarbital supply chain. The Bureau invoked FOIA Exemption 4, which protects, among other things, trade secrets and confidential commercial information. The district court sustained those withholdings and entered judgment for the Bureau.   The DC Circuit reversed. The court concluded that on de novo review that the Bureau of Prisons has not met its burden to justify the challenged nondisclosures. In particular, the Bureau has not provided the detailed and specific explanation required to justify withholding the information as “commercial” and “confidential” under Exemption 4. The court remanded to the district court to determine in the first instance whether and to what extent any information in the public domain is the basis on which the government seeks to withhold any records or reasonably segregable portions thereof under Exemption 4. View "CREW v. DOJ" on Justia Law

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Confronted with reliable claims of escalating Chinese cyber threats targeting the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) revoked the authority of China Telecom (Americas) Corp. (“China Telecom”) to operate domestic and international transmission lines pursuant to section 214 of the Communications Act of 1934. The Commission additionally found that China Telecom breached “the 2007 Letter of Assurances with the Executive Branch agencies, compliance with which is an express condition of its international section 214 authorizations.” Although the Commission offered support from the classified record, consisting of evidence obtained pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”), it has made it clear throughout these proceedings that its decision is entirely justified by the unclassified record alone.   China Telecom argues that the Revocation Order is arbitrary, capricious, and unsupported by substantial evidence. The DC Circuit denied China Telecom’s petition for review. The court explained that Commission’s determinations that China Telecom poses a national security risk and breached its Letter of Assurances are supported by reasoned decision-making and substantial evidence in the unclassified record. In addition, the court held that no statute, regulation, past practice, or constitutional provision required the Commission to afford China Telecom any additional procedures beyond the paper hearing it received. View "China Telecom (Americas) Corporation v. FCC (PUBLIC)" on Justia Law

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Under the Hatch-Waxman Act, a drug may receive “new chemical entity exclusivity” if no active ingredient in the drug was previously “approved.” The drug Aubagio was awarded this exclusivity because the Food & Drug Administration (“FDA”) determined that Aubagio’s only active ingredient, teriflunomide, had never previously been approved. This case concerns a challenge to Aubagio’s exclusivity period, which Sandoz Inc. raises to secure a solo period of marketing exclusivity for its generic equivalent. Sandoz maintains that teriflunomide was previously “approved” as an impurity in the drug Arava. In the alternative, Sandoz argued that teriflunomide was in fact approved as an active ingredient in Arava. The district court granted summary judgment for the FDA, agreeing with the agency that Aubagio was entitled to exclusivity because teriflunomide had never previously been approved.   The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court held that while Sandoz did not exhaust its statutory argument before the FDA, in the absence of a statutory or regulatory exhaustion requirement, the court found it appropriate to decide Sandoz’s challenge. When the FDA approves a new drug, it does not also “approve” known impurities in that drug for the purpose of new chemical entity exclusivity. And the record is clear the FDA did not approve teriflunomide as an active ingredient when it approved Arava. Aubagio was therefore entitled to new chemical entity exclusivity, and Sandoz cannot benefit from a solo exclusivity period for its generic equivalent. View "Sandoz Inc. v. Xavier Becerra" on Justia Law

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Telematch, Inc. is a commercial vendor of agricultural data. In 2018 and 2019, it submitted to USDA seven FOIA requests for records containing farm numbers, tract numbers, and customer numbers. USDA withheld the numbers under Exemptions 3 and 6. But it released or offered to release a statistical version of the files in accordance with section 8791(b)(4)(B). It also released payment information for the 2018 Conservation Reserve Program pursuant to section 8791(b)(4)(A). Telematch sued to challenge the USDA’s withholding of the farm, tract, and customer numbers. Both parties moved for summary judgment and attached statements of material facts to their motions.   The district court granted the government’s motion for summary judgment. The court held that USDA properly withheld the farm and tract numbers under Exemption 3, because the numbers are “geospatial information” covered by section 8791(b)(2)(B). Telematch appealed.   The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that farm and tract numbers identify a specific area of farmland in a specific location. They serve as a shorthand reference to individual plots of land. In this respect, they are analogous to a street address or latitude and longitude coordinates. They are, therefore “geospatial information” properly withheld under section 8791(b)(2)(B). Further, the court explained it need not definitively resolve whether farm and tract numbers meet these two statutory definitions. Neither of them applies to section 8791. Thus, the court held that the USDA permissibly withheld the requested farm, tract, and customer numbers. View "Telematch, Inc. v. AGRI" on Justia Law

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Part of the Transportation Equity Act required the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “consider, in consultation with the Secretary [of Transportation], spectrum needs for the operation of intelligent transportation systems. The FCC allocated that spectrum in 1999. In 2019, the FCC began a new rulemaking process to ensure that the 5.9 GHz band was put to its best use. The FCC also proposed changing the technology that would be used by intelligent transportation systems; vehicles would need to start using “vehicle-to-everything” communications (in which they send communications to cell towers and other devices) rather than the “dedicated short-range” communications originally permitted in 1999.   The Intelligent Transportation Society of America and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (“Transportation Petitioners”) now petition for review. They argue that the court should vacate the part of the order reallocating the lower 45 megahertz of spectrum but leave in place the rest of the order dealing with what technology intelligent transportation systems use.   The DC Circuit dismissed the appeal and denied the petitions for review. The court found that the FCC adequately explained its conclusion that “30 megahertz is sufficient for the provision of core vehicle safety related [intelligent transportation system] functions. Further, the court reasoned that FCC may modify the licenses it issues when such modifications promote the public interest. View "Intelligent Transportation Society of America v. FCC" on Justia Law

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PJM Interconnection, LLC (“PJM”)  authorized a series of upgrades to facilities owned by the Public Service Electric and Gas Company (“PSE&G”). PSE&G’s Bergen and Linden switching stations; a second involved repairs to and around PSE&G’s Sewaren substation. Together, these two projects cost around $1.3 billion. Initially, PJM assigned most of the projects’ costs to entities that reroute electricity from northern New Jersey into the New York market. Thereafter, the New York-based entities gave up their rights to withdraw electricity from New Jersey, and PJM reassigned their costs to PSE&G. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “the Commission”) approved both rounds of cost allocations. The petitions for review in these two cases are about whether these cost allocations were “just and reasonable” under the Federal Power Act, and whether FERC’s orders were “arbitrary [and] capricious” in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).   The DC Circuit denied the petitions for review in New Jersey Board v. FERC, and granted in part and denied in part the petitions in ConEd v. FERC. In denying the New York entities’ applications for rehearing of both the First and Second Linden Complaint Orders, the court explained that FERC failed to adequately distinguish its decision in Artificial Island from its treatment of the Bergen and Sewaren projects. Further, FERC upheld the de minimis threshold in its orders denying rehearing of the First and Second Linden Complaint Orders and the ConEd Complaint Order. The court, therefore, vacated FERC’s denial of Linden’s two complaints. The court also vacated its denial of ConEd’s complaint and remanded for further proceedings solely on the de minimis issue. View "New Jersey Board of Public Utilities v. FERC" on Justia Law