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

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The San Antonio Symphony contracts to perform most of its shows at the Tobin Center. After the Tobin Center barred the Symphony’s musicians from distributing leaflets on the premises, the musicians’ union filed an unfair labor practices charge. The leaflets informed patrons attending a ballet performance that they would not hear a live symphony and encouraged them to insist on live music. The National Labor Relations Board revised its approach and concluded that a property owner has the right to exclude from its property off-duty contractor employees seeking access to the property to engage in Section 7 activity unless those employees work both regularly and exclusively on the property and the property owner fails to show that they have one or more reasonable non-trespassory alternative means to communicate their message.The D.C. Circuit remanded. In aiming to identify those contractor employees with a sufficiently strong connection to the property to warrant the grant of access rights, the Board’s approach was arbitrary, both as to the condition that contractor employees work “regularly” on the property and as to the condition that they also work “exclusively” on the property. On remand, the Board may decide whether to proceed with a version of the test it announced and sought to apply in this case or to develop a new test. View "Local 23, American Federation of Musicians v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. 2719, allows a federally recognized Indian tribe to conduct gaming on lands taken into trust by the Secretary of the Interior as of October 17, 1988 and permits gaming on lands that are thereafter taken into trust for an Indian tribe that is restored to federal recognition where the tribe establishes a significant historical connection to the particular land. Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians regained its federal recognition in 1991 and requested an opinion on whether a Vallejo parcel would be eligible for tribal gaming. Yocha Dehe, a federally recognized tribe, objected. The Interior Department concluded that Scotts Valley failed to demonstrate the requisite “significant historical connection to the land.” Scotts Valley challenged the decision.Yocha Dehe moved to intervene to defend the decision alongside the government, explaining its interest in preventing Scotts Valley from developing a casino in the Bay Area, which would compete with Yocha Dehe’s gaming facility, and that the site Scotts Valley seeks to develop "holds cultural resources affiliated with [Yocha Dehe’s] Patwin ancestors.”The D.C. Circuit affirmed the denial of Yocha Dehe’s motion, citing lack of standing. Injuries from a potential future competitor are neither “imminent” nor “certainly impending.” There was an insufficient causal link between the alleged threatened injuries and the challenged agency action, given other steps required before Scotts Valley could operate a casino. Resolution of the case would not “as a practical matter impair or impede” the Tribe’s ability to protect its interests. View "Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation v. United States Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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National Butterfly Center, a 100-acre wildlife sanctuary and botanical garden owned by the nonprofit North American Butterfly Association, lies along the border with Mexico. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) planned to build a segment of the border wall through the Center. The Association sued, citing the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and two environmental statutes. DHS has not analyzed the environmental impact of border wall-related activities at the Center (42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C)), nor consulted with other federal agencies about how to minimize the impact of those activities on endangered species. An appropriation act subsequently prohibited funding for border fencing at the Center.The district court dismissed all claims, citing the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, 8 U.S.C. 1103, as stripping jurisdiction over the statutory claims because the DHS Secretary waived the application of environmental laws with respect to the construction of roads and physical barriers at the Center.The D.C. Circuit affirmed in part, first holding that the claims were not moot and that jurisdiction over the statutory claims was not stripped by IIRIRA, nor was review channeled directly to the Supreme Court. The court held that DHS’s waiver determination defeats the statutory claims, that the Association failed to state a Fourth Amendment claim of unreasonable seizure of property it acknowledges to be “open fields,” but that the Association stated a procedural due process claim under the Fifth Amendment. View "North American Butterfly Association v. Wolf" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Department in an action challenging the Department's decision to take a tract of land into trust for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and authorized it to operate a casino there. The court held that the North Fork was an Indian tribe for which the Department had authority to acquire trust land under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). The court rejected plaintiffs' claims that the Department's trust decision violated the IRA, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. The court viewed the same extensive record and afforded the appropriate measure of deference to the Department's supportable judgments and concluded that its decisions were reasonable and consistent with applicable law. View "Stand Up For California! v. DOI" on Justia Law

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The D.C. Circuit held that the district court properly entered summary judgment for judicial foreclosure to the property at issue, because D.C. law allows the holder of a note to enforce the deed of trust by judicial foreclosure. In this case, there was no genuine dispute of material fact that the Bank holds the Note. The court rejected defendant's counterclaim for declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as defendant's counterclaim under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Furthermore, the Bank has carried its burden of showing there was no genuine dispute of material fact with respect to the quiet title counterclaim; defendant forfeited his claim under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA); and, in regard to the civil conspiracy claim, defendant failed to meet the heightened pleading requirements for fraud. View "Bank of New York Mellon v. Henderson" on Justia Law

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This case stems from the Herzog family's effort to recover a valuable art collection seized during the Holocaust. On remand, the district court concluded that the family's claims against the Republic of Hungary, its museums, and a state university satisfied the expropriation exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1604, and that no other provision of the Act barred their claims. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling that the Herzog family's claims to art never returned to them satisfied the Act's expropriation exception; remanded for the district court, with respect to art that was returned to the Herzog family, to determine whether the claim to recover each piece may proceed under the expropriation exception; instructed the district court to dismiss the Republic of Hungary as a defendant and to grant the Herzog family leave to amend their complaint in light of the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, Pub. L. 114–308, 130 Stat. 1524; and dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction Hungary's appeal from the denial of its motion to dismiss on exhaustion grounds. View "De Csepel v. Republic of Hungary" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the government based on claimants' lack of Article III standing in a civil forfeiture case. The court held that claimants met their burden of making an assertion of ownership and provided some evidence of ownership to establish standing. The court explained that credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts were jury functions and not those of a judge. In this case, the record was devoid of contradictory evidence, claimants consistently maintained that the money was theirs, nothing in their account was physically impossible, and the couple explained how they came to own the money in considerable detail. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "United States v. $17,900.00" on Justia Law

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Under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-289, 122 Stat. 2654, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) became the conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2012, FHFA and Treasury adopted the Third Amendment to their stock purchase agreement, which replaced the fixed 10% dividend with a formula by which Fannie and Freddie just paid to Treasury an amount (roughly) equal to their quarterly net worth. Plaintiffs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stockholders, filed suit alleging that FHFA's and Treasury's alteration of the dividend formula through the Third Amendment exceeded their statutory authority under the Recovery Act, and constituted arbitrary and capricious agency action in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A). The court held that plaintiffs' statutory claims are barred by the Recovery Act's strict limitation on judicial review; the court rejected most of plaintiffs' common law claims; insofar as the court has subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs' common-law claims against Treasury, and Congress has waived the agency's immunity from suit, those claims are also barred by the Recovery Act's limitation on judicial review; in regard to claims against FHFA and the Companies, some are barred because FHFA succeeded to all rights, powers, and privileges of the stockholders under the Recovery Act, and others failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted; and, as to the remaining claims, which are contract-based claims regarding liquidation preferences and dividend rights, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Perry Capital LLC v. Mnuchin" on Justia Law

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Petitioners appealed to the Secretary of HUD after an ALJ found them liable for violations of governing programs administered by HUD. The Secretary upheld the ALJ's liability determinations but imposed higher penalty amounts. Determining that the court had jurisdiction, the court denied petitioners' petition for review, upholding the Secretary's finding of Section 8 violations where Mantua Gardens increased Section 8 tenants' rents without giving the tenants and HUD one year's notice of the proposed termination of a Housing Assistance Payment contract; the Secretary’s reversal of the ALJ’s $450,000 penalty, imposing instead the original amount sought by HUD of $1,260,000; the Secretary's determination that no request was made for Secretarial approval of a prepayment, and therefore no cancellation of the agreement occurred; and the Secretary's determination that HUD conducted an appropriate penalty analysis. Because the Secretary's conclusions are not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion, the court denied the petition for review. View "Grier v. HUD" on Justia Law

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This dispute stemmed from a house that Debra Stevenson and her son Eugene Smith both own. After Stevenson refinanced her mortgage twice and then filed for bankruptcy, HSBC filed suit in Bankruptcy Court seeking equitable subrogation, which permits courts to declare that the owner of a mortgage (HSBC) has the same rights as an earlier-in-time owner of another mortgage (Wells Fargo). Only Stevenson signed the paperwork for the second refinancing with HSBC and Smith refused to sign because he thought the interest rate was too high. HSBC went ahead with the mortgage in full without Smith's signature. The court affirmed the Bankruptcy Court's conclusion that HSBC is entitled to equitable subrogation and rejected Stevenson and Smith’s claims that the mortgage is invalid under D.C. and federal lending laws. The court affirmed the judgment. View "In Re: Debra M. Stevenson" on Justia Law