Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows a federally-recognized Indian tribe to conduct gaming on lands held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior for the tribe’s benefit, 25 U.S.C. 2710(b)(1), 2703(4)(B) if the lands had been taken into trust as of the Act’s effective date of October 17, 1988. The Act permits gaming on lands that are taken into trust after that date “as part of . . . the restoration of lands for an Indian tribe that is restored to Federal recognition” to ensure “that tribes lacking reservations when [the Act] was enacted are not disadvantaged relative to more established ones.” In 1992, the Mechoopda Tribe regained its federal recognition; 12 years later, the Tribe asked the Secretary to take into trust a 645-acre Chico, California parcel, so that the Tribe could operate a casino, arguing that the parcel qualified as “restored lands.” The Secretary agreed. Butte County, where the parcel is located, sued. The district court and D.C. Circuit upheld the Secretary’s decision, rejecting an argument that the Secretary erred by reopening the administrative record on remand. The court noted the Secretary’s findings concerning the Tribe’s historical connection to the land and whether current Tribe members were descendants of the historical Tribe and concluded that the Secretary’s substantive decision survives arbitrary-and-capricious review. View "Butte County, California v. Chaudhuri" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted the Postal Service's petition for review of the Commission's orders ruling that a mail preparation change constitutes a change in rates if it results "in the deletion of a rate cell" or "in the redefinition of a rate cell if the mail preparation change causes a significant change to a basic characteristic of a mailing." The Commission reaffirmed its earlier decision and held that the Postal Service's mail preparation change constituted a change in rates. The court held that the Commission's new analysis added no discernible clarity to its reasoning and it rested on an unreasonable interpretation of "changes in rates" that "goes beyond the meaning that the statue can bear." The court explained that its 2015 decision found that the Commission may have authority to treat some Postal Service changes in mail preparation requirements as changes in rates, but that such potential authority depended on its articulating and applying a test consistent with the statute. In this case, the Commission's present orders failed to do this and thus the court vacated the orders. View "USPS v. PRC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted the Postal Service's petition for review of the Commission's orders holding that the discontinuation of a service on the Postal Service's authorized list of market dominant products also amounted to a rate increase subject to the statutory rate cap. The court held that the Commission lacked statutory authority to conduct such overlapping review, subjecting discontinuation of a product to multi-factored review under Section 3642 of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act and simultaneously treating it as a rate change under Section 3622 of the Act. View "USPS v. PRC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, parents of two State Department employees that died during the September 11, 2012 attacks on United States facilities in Benghazi, Libya, filed suit against former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for common-law torts based on her use of a private email server in conducting State Department affairs while Secretary of State and public statements about the cause of the attacks she made in her personal capacity while a presidential candidate. The DC Circuit affirmed the substitution of the United States as the defendant on the claims involving the email server and the dismissal of the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. The court held that any harm allegedly caused by Clinton's email communications was within the scope of her employment and thus the United States was properly substituted; the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act (Westfall Act), 28 U.S.C. 2679, covered claims because plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2675(a); and even assuming the truth of the alleged falsity of Clinton's statements, the district court did not err in dismissing the remaining tort claims for defamation, false light, and intentional infliction of emotional distress (in relevant part) for failure to state a claim. View "Smith v. Clinton" on Justia Law

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Georgetown University and others petitioned for review of the FAA's approval of new flight paths that would bring planes closer to the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Petitioners alleged that the FAA failed to comply with environmental and historic preservation laws when assessing the noise impacts of the new departure procedures. The DC Circuit dismissed the petition as time-barred, because the FAA's December 2013 approval of the new routes, not its later publication of the route charts, qualified as the agency's final action, and because petitioners failed to challenge it within the sixty-day statutory time limit and had no "reasonable grounds" for the delay. View "Citizens Association of Georgetown v. FAA" on Justia Law

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The FDA counted both the sale to a minor and the failure to verify age as two separate violations on Orton's second failed inspection and assessed the maximum penalty of $500 for three violations within a 24-month period under the civil money penalty schedule. The DC Circuit denied Orton's petition for review, finding no merit in Orton's contention that the Tobacco Control Act precludes the FDA's methodology of charging multiple violations in a single inspection, and that the FDA violates the law by failing to provide a process for retailers to challenge first violations before the issuance of a warning letter. The court held that the statute was easily understood to permit multiple violations where multiple regulations were breached, and the FDA interpreted the statute consistently. The court also held that the FDA's adjudication of the subsequent violation provided a meaningful opportunity for a retailer to be heard regarding the underlying first violation, at the time that the first violation carried legally significant effects. In this case, due process required nothing more. View "Orton Motor, Inc. v. HHS" on Justia Law

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Conservation petitioners challenged the portion of the EPA's Final Rule, which implemented Congress's effort to restore air quality and visibility in certain national parks and wilderness areas (Class I areas), allowing states to treat Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) compliance as a better-than-BART (Best Available Retrofit Technology) alternative. State and Industry petitioners challenged EPA's disapproval of State Implementation Plans (SIPs) relying on the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) as a better-than-BART alternative. The DC Circuit held that conservation petitioners' first main challenge was moot; the attack on EPA's use of presumptive BART was jurisdictionally foreclosed; EPA's rule requires aggregate average improvement, and its comparison of the CSAPR-region Class I areas as well as all Class I areas nationwide was reasonable; and the remaining claims failed. Because the court found no merit in the conservation petitioners' arguments and could afford no relief to the state and industry petitioners, the court denied the petitions. View "Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA" on Justia Law

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NorthWestern challenged FERC's determination that its proposed rate was not just and reasonable. The DC Circuit held that FERC's decision in this case was reasonable and reasonably explained where FERC reasonably modified NorthWestern's proposed cost-calculation ratio by excluding the megawatts associated with "regulation down" from the numerator; FERC did not arbitrarily increase the denominator of NorthWestern's proposed cost-calculation ratio; FERC's decision on fuel costs was reasonable and reasonably explained; and FERC acted reasonably by requiring NorthWestern to make separate Section 205 filings. The court also held that FERC properly decided to treat this case like an ordinary over-collection case and ordered a refund. Therefore, the court denied the petition for review. View "NorthWestern Corp. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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After Torres Advanced terminated Plaintiffs Elliott and Sickle's contracts when Elliott sought workers' compensation benefits under the Defense Base Act, 42 U.S.C. 1651, and Sickle medically documented Elliott's claim, plaintiffs filed suit for breach of contract and common law torts. The DC Circuit held that the Act preempted Elliott's tort claims because they derived from his efforts to obtain Defense Base Act benefits. The court held, however, that the Act did not preempt Sickle's claims or Elliott's contract claim because those injuries arose independently of any claim for workers' compensation benefits. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sickle v. Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

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After Torres Advanced terminated Plaintiffs Elliott and Sickle's contracts when Elliott sought workers' compensation benefits under the Defense Base Act, 42 U.S.C. 1651, and Sickle medically documented Elliott's claim, plaintiffs filed suit for breach of contract and common law torts. The DC Circuit held that the Act preempted Elliott's tort claims because they derived from his efforts to obtain Defense Base Act benefits. The court held, however, that the Act did not preempt Sickle's claims or Elliott's contract claim because those injuries arose independently of any claim for workers' compensation benefits. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sickle v. Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law