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

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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This case arose from a longstanding dispute about which of two competing unions represents a group of several dozen mechanics who maintain and repair shipping equipment. Under NLRB v. Burns International Security Services, Inc., 406 U.S. 272 (1972), a successor employer inherits the collective-bargaining obligations of its predecessor only if the previously recognized bargaining unit remains appropriate under the successor. In determining whether the unit remains appropriate, the NLRB ignores workplace changes caused by unfair labor practices of the successor.The DC Circuit held that the Board did not adequately explain its decision for extending the rule to ignore changes caused by unfair labor practices of the predecessor. Because the Board did not engage in reasoned decisionmaking in the order under review, the court granted the petition for review of the Board's final order, set aside that order, denied the Board's cross-application for enforcement, and remanded for further proceedings. The court dismissed as moot the petition for review of the Board's order refusing to set aside the partial settlement. View "International Longshore & Warehouse Union v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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After the federal government brought an action against Dynamic Visions and its owner under the False Claims Act (FCA) for submitting false claims for reimbursement, the district court granted summary judgment to the government.The DC Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in large part but vacated the judgment as to a limited subset of the alleged false claims. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to those claims for which the falsity stems from the absence of any Plan of Care (POC), or from a POC with no signature from a physician, an untimely signature, or an authorization of services more confined in scope than the services for which reimbursement was sought. However, because the government's evidence does not foreclose a genuine dispute as to whether Dynamic Visions forged physician signatures, the court vacated the grant of summary judgment as to the corresponding subset of claims. The court rejected Dynamic Visions' remaining challenges. Finally, the court vacated the district court's order as to both damages and civil penalties, remanding for further proceedings. View "United States v. Dynamic Visions Inc." on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied the Refinery's motion to proceed under a pseudonym. The court weighed the markedly thin showing of potential injury by the Refinery against the substantial public interest in transparency and openness in cases involving the government's administration of an important statutory and regulatory scheme, holding that the Refinery has not overcome the customary and constitutionally-impeded presumption of openness in judicial proceedings.In this case, the Refinery has failed to demonstrate that requiring it to proceed in its own name will risk the disclosure of sensitive and highly personal information; the Refinery itself faces no risk of physical or mental harm; and the Refinery has chosen to sue a government agency regarding the operation of a statutory program and, in particular, applications for special exemptions from the law's obligations. The court held that none of the factors commonly involved in analyzing a request to proceed anonymously weigh in the Refinery's favor. Furthermore, the Refinery's additional arguments add nothing to its side of the scale either. View "In re: Sealed Case" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary Clinton's former Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills, sought mandamus relief preventing the district court's order granting Judicial Watch's request to depose each petitioner on a limited set of topics. The petition for writ of mandamus arose from a Freedom of Information Act case brought by Judicial Watch against the U.S. Department of State.The DC Circuit held that, although Secretary Clinton meets all three requirements for mandamus relief, Ms. Mills does not. In this case, Ms. Mills could appeal either a civil or a criminal contempt adjudication and thus, unlike Secretary Clinton, she does have available an "adequate means to attain the relief" and as such her petition fails at prong one. In regard to the second prong, the court held that petitioners have demonstrated a "clear and indisputable" right to issuance of the writ where the district court clearly abused its discretion by failing to meet its obligations under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, by improperly engaging in a Federal Records Act-like inquiry in this FOIA case, and by ordering further discovery without addressing this court's recent precedent potentially foreclosing any rationale for said discovery. Finally, in regard to the third prong, the court held that the totality of circumstances merits granting the writ. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for mandamus as to Secretary Clinton, denied it as to Ms. Mills and dismissed Ms. Mills' petition for lack of jurisdiction, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "In re: Hillary Clinton" on Justia Law

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The EPA issued a regulation known as the Pathways II Rule, allowing renewable-fuel producers to use a measurement method "certified by a voluntary consensus standards body" (VCSB), or a method "that would produce reasonably accurate results as demonstrated through peer reviewed references." EPA then issued the Cellulosic Guidance to explain its interpretation of the applicable regulatory requirements and clarify the types of analyses and demonstrations that might meet them.The DC Circuit dismissed in part and denied in part POET's petition for review of the Cellulosic Guidance. The court held that POET's challenge to the Guidance's treatment of VCSB-certified methods is unripe because no such method yet exists and POET's registration efforts rely on the peer-reviewed alternative. In regard to POET's challenge to the Guidance's discussion of peer-reviewed methods, the court held that the Guidance announces a final, interpretive rule that lawfully construes the underlying regulation. View "POET Biorefining, LLC v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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This appeal involves conditions that the FCC imposed on a merger of three cable companies into a new merged entity, New Charter. Among other things, the conditions (1) prohibit New Charter from charging programming suppliers for access to its broadband subscribers, (2) prohibit New Charter from charging broadband subscribers based on how much data they use, (3) require New Charter to provide steeply discounted broadband service to needy subscribers, and (4) require New Charter to substantially expand its cable infrastructure for broadband service. The appellants include three of New Charter's customers, whose bills for cable broadband Internet service increased shortly after the merger. These appellants contend that the conditions caused this injury, which would likely be redressed by an order setting the conditions aside.The DC Circuit held that these three individual appellants have standing to challenge the interconnection and discounted-services conditions, but not the usage-based pricing and buildout conditions. Furthermore, although the lawfulness of the interconnection and discounted-services conditions are properly before the court, the FCC declined to defend them on the merits. Accordingly, the court vacated the first and third conditions based on the FCC's refusal to defend on the merits. Finally, the court dismissed the remaining aspects of the appeal for lack of an appellant with Article III standing. View "Competitive Enterprise Institute v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

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Congress enacted an appropriations rider in 2009 prohibiting the District of Columbia from paying more than $4,000 in attorneys' fees for any past proceeding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). At issue in these 11 consolidated cases was whether the District must pay interest on amounts that exceed the payment cap.After determining that the District did not forfeit the interest issue, the court held that the District cannot be compelled to pay interest on the portion of fee awards that it has been legally prohibited from paying off. The court explained that this case implicates a well-established common-law principle: If the law makes a debt unpayable, then interest on the debt is also unpayable. Furthermore, the court had no basis to conclude that 28 U.S.C. 1961(a) abrogated this background rule. The court reversed the district court's judgment requiring payment of interest on above-cap fees, affirmed the district court's judgment in all other respects, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Allen v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from NSC's three lawsuits raising 45 claims against six federal agencies arising out of numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests initiated by NSC. Through a series of decisions, the district court ruled in favor of the government on all the claims.In this opinion, the DC Circuit individually addressed three of NSC's claims: two claims concerning distinct FOIA requests made to the CIA and a third claim concerning the DOJ's assertion of attorney-client privilege in response to a FOIA request. The court held that the CIA and the district court correctly concluded that, as drafted, the request for all CIA records pertaining to the IBM supercomputer named Watson called for an unreasonably burdensome search. In regard to the request seeking OLC opinions pertaining to various statutes including FOIA itself, the Privacy Act, and the Federal Records Act, the court held that there was no waiver of the attorney-client privilege with regard to the two OLC opinions at issue. The court did not separately discuss NSC's remaining claims, but found that they lacked merit. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in all respects. View "National Security Counselors v. Central Intelligence Agency" on Justia Law

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On petition for rehearing en banc, the en banc court held that the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives has standing under Article III of the Constitution to seek judicial enforcement of its duly issued subpoena. This case arose when the Committee began an investigation into alleged misconduct by President Trump and his close advisors. The Committee requested that Donald F. McGahn, II turn over documents related to the President's alleged obstruction of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller's investigation. When McGahn, then no longer White House Counsel, declined these requests, the Committee issued a subpoena ordering McGahn to appear at a hearing to testify and to produce the requested documents.The en banc court held that the Committee, acting on behalf of the full House of Representatives, has shown that it suffers a concrete and particularized injury when denied the opportunity to obtain information necessary to the legislative, oversight, and impeachment functions of the House, and that its injury would be redressed by the order it seeks from the court. The court explained that the ordinary and effective functioning of the Legislative Branch critically depends on the legislative prerogative to obtain information, and constitutional structure and historical practice support judicial enforcement of congressional subpoenas when necessary. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court in part. View "Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives v. McGahn" on Justia Law

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The Department of Health and Human Services disallowed roughly $30 million in Medicaid reimbursements for payments Virginia made to two state hospitals. HHS determined that Virginia had materially altered its payment methodology without notifying HHS or obtaining approval and that the new methodology resulted in payments that overstepped applicable federal limits. Virginia had allocated disproportionate share hospitals (DSH) payments for the two hospitals to fiscal years other than “the actual year in which [related] DSH costs were incurred” by those hospitals for purposes of complying with the annual statewide DSH allotment and hospital-specific limit. The district court and D.C. affirmed. A comparison between Virginia’s previous operation of its plan—as manifested in the state’s prior representations about the plan’s operation—and its later operation of the same plan shows that there was a “[m]aterial change” in “the State’s operation of the Medicaid program,” so that the state was required to amend its plan and present the amendment for approval, 42 C.F.R. 430.12(c)(1)(ii). View "Department of Medical Assistant Services of the Commonwealth of Virginia v. United States Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law