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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Save Jobs challenged DHS's rule permitting certain visa holders to seek lawful employment. The rule permitted H–4 visa holders to obtain work authorization if their H–1B visa-holding spouses have been granted an extension of status under the Immigration and Nationality Act or are the beneficiaries of approved Form I–140 petitions but cannot adjust status due to visa oversubscription. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's finding that Save Jobs lacked Article III standing and granting of summary judgment for the Department. The court held that Save Jobs has demonstrated that the rule will subject its members to an actual or imminent increase in competition, and thus Save Jobs has Article III standing to pursue its challenge. The court remanded to give the district court an opportunity to thoroughly assess and finally determine the merits in the first instance. View "Save Jobs USA v. DHS" on Justia Law

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The Institute filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking information related to all records contained in the IRS's Asset Forfeiture Tracking and Retrieval System (AFTRAK). The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the IRS, holding that whether the Open/Closed Report covers all records "contained in" AFTRAK was itself a material, genuinely disputed question of fact, and the answer in turn depended on other disputed and material facts. The court also held that whether AFTRAK was correctly classified as a database, a matter on which the IRS's Manual and other official documents contradict its legal denial here, appeared to be an intermediate fact with potential consequences for resolving the parties' claims. View "Institute For Justice v. IRS" on Justia Law

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States, environmental groups, and industry representatives challenged the EPA's announcement that it would reconsider the appropriateness of, and conduct a rulemaking to potentially alter, greenhouse gas emission standards adopted in 2012 for model year 2022 to 2025 motor vehicles (Revised Determination). The DC Circuit dismissed the petitions for review based on lack of jurisdiction, holding that the EPA has not engaged in final action under the Clean Air Act. The court held that the Revised Determination was akin to an agency's grant of a petition for reconsideration of a rule. In this case, the Revised Determination neither determines rights or obligations or imposes any legal consequences, nor alters the baseline upon which any departure from the currently effective 2012 emission standards must be explained. View "California v. EPA" on Justia Law

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INEOS, a chemical producer, petitioned for review of the Commission's decision to accept tariff filings without an investigation under Section 15(7) of the Interstate Commerce Act (ICA). The DC Circuit dismissed the petition for review based on lack of jurisdiction, holding that INEOS lacked Article III standing. In this case, INEOS' claim of competitive injury from denial of access to the South Eddy Lateral was too speculative to support standing; INEOS has not established that it would have received access to the South Eddy Lateral more quickly absent the transfer of ownership; and INEOS also failed to demonstrate that harm it has allegedly suffered was fairly traceable to the Commission's acceptance of the protested tariff filings. Finally, the court rejected INEOS' contention that the Commission's determination denied it of the opportunity to challenge Mid-America's disposition of the South Eddy Lateral as an exercise of undue discrimination and affiliate abuse. View "INEOS USA LLC v. FERC" on Justia Law

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President Trump filed suit alleging that the House Committee on Oversight and Reform's investigation into his financial records serves no legitimate purpose. He sued to prevent Mazars, an accounting firm, from complying with the Committee's subpoena. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Committee, holding that the Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply. The court held that, in issuing the challenged subpoena, the Committee was engaged in a legitimate legislative investigation, rather than an impermissible law enforcement inquiry; at bottom, the subpoena is a valid exercise of the legislative oversight authority because it seeks information important to determining the fitness of legislation to address potential problems within the Executive Branch and the electoral system; it does not seek to determine the President's fitness for office; and the documents sought are reasonably relevant to the Committee's legitimate legislative inquiry. Finally, the court held that it had no need and no authority to interpret the House Rules narrowly to deny the Committee the authority it claims. View "Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit declined to vacate the FCC's 2018 Order in its entirety, which classified broadband internet access services as an information service under Title I of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Specifically, the 2018 Order classified broadband internet as an "information service," and mobile broadband as a "private mobile service." In the Order, the Commission adopted transparency rules intended to ensure that consumers have adequate data about Internet Service Providers' network practices, and the Commission applied a cost-benefit analysis, concluding that the benefits of a market-based, "light-touch" regime for Internet governance outweighed those of common carrier regulation under Title II. The court held, under the guidance of National Cable & Telecomms. Ass'n v. Brand X Internet Servs., 545 U.S. 967, 980–981 (2005), that the Commission permissibly classified broadband Internet access as an "information service" by virtue of the functionalities afforded by DNS and caching. The court also held that, even though petitioners' reading of a functional equivalence in 47 U.S.C. 332(d)(3) was not foreclosed by the statute, the agency's interpretation of that term, and its application to mobile broadband, were reasonable and merit Chevron deference. Furthermore, the court held that the Commission's rationales in favor of its reading of Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act was reasonable, and agreed that the transparency rule was authorized by 47 U.S.C. 257. Therefore, the court upheld the 2018 Order with two exceptions. The court held that the Commission has not shown legal authority to issue its Preemption Directive, which would have barred states from imposing any rule or requirement that the Commission "repealed or decided to refrain from imposing" in the Order or that is "more stringent" than the Order. Accordingly, the court vacated that portion of the Order. The court also remanded the Order to the agency on three discrete issues regarding public safety, pole attachments, and the Lifeline Program. View "Mozilla Corp. v. FCC" on Justia Law

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After the University terminated plaintiff, she filed suit under the False Claims Act's (FCA) anti-retaliation provision. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the action and held that the district court's decision reflected too narrow a view of the Act's protection for whistleblowers. The court held that the complaint sufficiently alleged that plaintiff's actions were undertaken to try to prevent what she reasonably believed would be the presentation of false claims by the University regarding the conditions of laboratory animals. The court held that the district court erred by defining protected activity as requiring plaintiff to have investigated matters that reasonably could lead to a viable FCA case, which only applied to the first prong of Section 3730(h)(1), but not the second prong. Furthermore, the district court wrongly required plaintiff to allege that her efforts were outside the scope of her responsibilities as Attending Veterinarian. The court also held that plaintiff adequately alleged termination of her position, the University's awareness of her protected activity, and facts connecting her termination to that protected activity. View "Singletary v. Howard University" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the EPA's rule implementing the "Good Neighbor Provision," which requires upwind states to eliminate their significant contributions to air quality problems in downwind States, by promulgating a regulation addressing the interstate transport of ozone, or smog. The DC Circuit held that the rule was inconsistent with the Clean Air Act, because it allows upwind States to continue their significant contributions to downwind air quality problems beyond the statutory deadlines by which downwind States must demonstrate their attainment of air quality standards. The court held that EPA acted lawfully and rationally in all other respects. Accordingly, the petitions for review were granted in part and denied in part. View "Wisconsin v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted a petition for review challenging the Postal Services' stamp price increase for the "Forever Stamp," which was part of the Postal Regulatory Commission Order 4875. The court held that the price hike did not meet the Administrative Procedure Act's requirements for reasoned decisionmaking, because the Commission failed to provide an adequate explanation of the increase and failed to respond to public comments challenging the increase under relevant statutory factors and objectives included in the Commission's organic statute, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA). Accordingly, the court vacated Order 4875 addressing rate adjustments for the category of first-class mail. View "Carlson v. Postal Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the Commission's order authorizing Nexus Gas to construct and operate an interstate natural gas pipeline and exercise the right of eminent domain to acquire any necessary rights-of-way. Although the DC Circuit rejected many of petitioners' arguments, the court agreed with petitioners that the Commission failed to adequately justify its determination that it was lawful to credit Nexus Gas's contracts with foreign shippers serving foreign customers as evidence of market demand for the interstate pipeline. Accordingly, the court remanded without vacatur to the Commission for further explanation of this determination. View "City of Oberlin v. FERC" on Justia Law