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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Jackson served in the Marine Corps, 1977-1991. Almost 30 years after his honorable discharge, Jackson filed a pro se complaint alleging that toward the end of his military career, his supervising officers discriminated against him because he is a black male, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e. The district court inferred additional claims under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A), and the Military Pay Act, 37 U.S.C. 204 but ultimately dismissed all of Jackson’s claims. The D.C. Circuit affirmed. The court noted the unanimous rulings of other sister circuits, concluding that Title VII does not apply to uniformed members of the armed forces. Jackson’s APA claim was untimely and, although the limitations period is no longer considered jurisdictional, the facts alleged were insufficient to apply equitable tolling. Jackson was able to manage his affairs and comprehend his rights; he alleged that at the time of the alleged discrimination, he knew that he “had been subjected to wrongdoing and strongly desired justice.” The court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to review the dismissal of Jackson’s Military Pay Act claim; the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction of such claims. View "Jackson v. Modly" on Justia Law

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Kentucky and Arkansas residents sued the Secretary of Health and Human Services based on the approval under 42 U.S.C. 1315(a) of an “experimental, pilot, or demonstration projects which, in the judgment of the Secretary, is likely to assist in promoting the objectives” of Medicaid. The district court held that the Secretary failed to analyze whether the projects would promote the primary objective of Medicaid—to furnish medical assistance. Kentucky terminated its project and obtained voluntary dismissal. The D.C. Circuit affirmed with respect to the Arkansas Works program, which required beneficiaries aged 19-49 to “work or engage in specified educational, job training, or job search activities for at least 80 hours per month,” except beneficiaries who show they are medically frail or pregnant, caring for a dependent child under age six, participating in a substance treatment program, or are full-time students. Works proposed to eliminate retroactive coverage, to lower the income eligibility threshold from 133% to 100% of the federal poverty line, and eliminated using Medicaid funds to assist beneficiaries in paying the premiums for employer-provided health care coverage. Instead of analyzing whether the demonstration would promote the objective of providing coverage, the Secretary identified three alternative objectives. Congress has not conditioned the receipt of Medicaid benefits on fulfilling work requirements or taking steps to end receipt of governmental benefits View "Gresham v. Azar" on Justia Law

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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

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Baystate filed suit against the Secretary, challenging his promulgation of a final rule calculating the wage index for hospital reimbursements in 2017. Baystate alleged that the Secretary failed to comply with the statutory requirement to calculate a wage index that reflected the actual wage levels in Massachusetts, relied on data that he knew to be false, and entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Secretary, holding that the Secretary's interpretation of his authority under the Medicare statute was lawful and his action was not arbitrary and capricious. In this case, the Secretary provided a reasonable explanation for his decision to enforce the deadline and reject Nantucket's revised data; the decision to enforce the deadline against third-party hospitals was not arbitrary or capricious; and the Secretary's interpretation of his authority to enforce a deadline in calculating the wage index fell squarely within them. View "Baystate Franklin Medical Center v. Azar" on Justia Law

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The Narragansett Tribe petitioned for review of the Commission's order denying its motion to intervene in a natural gas pipeline certificate proceeding after the certificate to build a pipeline had issued. While the Tribe awaited the Commission's action on its pending motion to intervene and its separate motion for reconsideration of an order allowing construction to commence, the pipeline was completed. In the process, more than twenty ceremonial stone features were destroyed. The Tribe then petitioned for review seeking only an order compelling the Commission to amend its regulation so that it cannot repeat the alleged violations of the National Historic Preservation Act in the future. The DC Circuit held that the Tribe lacked standing to seek such relief because it has not shown a substantial risk that a similar disagreement between it and the Commission will recur. Accordingly, the court dismissed the petition based on lack of jurisdiction. View "Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office v. FERC" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review of the Commission's order finding that the company violated regulations promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). In this case, the company had hired a construction contractor to remove steel beams from four shipping containers by crane. During unloading, the contractor crane operator touched an overhead power line with the crane, electrocuting three company employees and injuring others. The court held that the Commission adequately explained why it viewed the circumstances here as different from Sec'y of Labor v. Sasser Elec. & Mfg. Co., 11 O.S.H. Cas. (BNA) 2133, and more akin to Fabi Construction Co. v. Secretary of Labor, 508 F.3d 1077 (D.C. Cir. 2007). Unlike in Sasser, the Commission explained that this was the first time that the company had hired the contractor to perform crane work, so there was no history of safe crane practices in compliance with the Act upon which to base reasonable reliance. Furthermore, the Commission stated the potential duration of exposure to the violative condition was different. Therefore, the Commission's decision not to treat Sasser as dictating the outcome here was not arbitrary. The court also held that the Commission did not misapply the summary judgment standard, because there was no genuine dispute about the scope of the agreement between the company and the contractor, the foreseeability of the accident, and the "signaling" within OSHA regulation. View "Manua's, Inc. v. Scalia" on Justia Law

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The Trust appealed the district court's decision finding that the Trust failed to show that its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit caused the agencies to change their positions. In this case, the Trust requested records from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, and all parties subsequently agreed that the Trust received the lion's share of the records requested only after suit. The court held that, in order to establish eligibility for attorney's fees, a FOIA plaintiff must show that its lawsuit caused a change in the agency's position regarding the production of requested documents; the clear error standard of review applies to a district court's fact-finding regarding causation; and the district court did not clearly err here by finding that the Trust's lawsuit did not cause a change in the agencies' positions. View "Grand Canyon Trust v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of the USDA's motion to dismiss, based on failure to state a claim, an action brought under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by two animal-rights groups, alleging that the agency's failure to issue standards governing the humane handling and care of birds not bred for use in research amounted to arbitrary and capricious action. The court held that the Coalition has alleged facts sufficient to establish Article III standing, and thus the court need not consider whether the Anti-Vivisection Society too has standing. On the merits, the court held that the Coalition has adequately alleged that USDA has failed to take a discrete agency action that it is required to take. In this case, the Animal Welfare Act was amended eighteen years ago to require USDA to issue standards governing the humane treatment, not of animals generally, but of animals as a defined category of creatures including birds not bred for use in research. USDA has conceded that its general animal-welfare standards are inadequate to ensure the humane treatment of birds, and USDA has yet to fulfill its statutory responsibility to issue standards regarding the humane treatment of birds. Because the issue of whether such action has been unreasonably delayed has been unbriefed, the court remanded for the district court to consider it in the first instance. View "American Anti-Vivisection Society v. United States Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law