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

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Virginia power wholesalers who buy electricity from Dominion challenged the Commission's conclusion that Dominion's Virginia customers, but not its North Carolina customers, should bear the costs of undergrounding new transmission wires. The DC Circuit denied the petitions for review and rejected petitioners' claim that the Commission did not properly invoke its power under section 206 of the Federal Power Act; held that petitioners were provided adequate notice of the Commission's intent to modify Dominion's filed rate; and held that the ALJ did not misinterpret a Commission order and thereby improperly cabined the scope of an evidentiary hearing. Finally, the court rejected petitioners' claim that the Commission acted arbitrarily by requiring Dominion's Virginia customers to bear the costs of undergrounding. View "Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking information related to the FBI's thoughts about and possible uses of mosaic theory in its handling of FOIA cases. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the FBI, holding that the FBI failed to sufficiently explain its determinations. The court held that the FBI's affidavit did not explain how the agency concluded that the files preliminarily listed as responsive did not relate to the request; the affidavit said nothing—at least nothing clear—about the files whose numbers were redacted, though it identifies each numbered file as either non-responsive or destroyed; and the affidavit did not explain why or how the FBI knew that certain files had been destroyed. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's decision in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Shapiro v. Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap filed suit seeking access to documents from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The DC Circuit held that, because the emails at issue were neither "similar" to the "examples" of covered documents listed in the December 2017 injunction opinion, nor "substantive disclosures" within the plain meaning of that opinion, they were not among the disclosure obligations imposed by that injunction. Therefore, the court held that the January 2019 order that required their release changed the legal relationship between the parties and hence was immediately appealable. On the merits, the court held that Secretary Dunlap could not clearly and indisputably show that the emails he sought fell within the work of the Commission, and thus the district court lacked jurisdiction to entertain his request for their disclosure. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's January 28, 2019 order insofar as it required the release of such emails. View "Dunlap v. Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity" on Justia Law

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Cares filed suit claiming that defendants unlawfully allowed an insurer offering Medicare prescription drug coverage, Humana, to pay Cares less for drugs that Cares obtains at a discount under a separate federal program known as Section 340B, than Humana would reimburse a non-Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) for the same drugs. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Cares' claim, holding that the Medicare statute does not preclude HHS from approving prescription drug plans that lower reimbursements for FQHC pharmacy services based on whether the FQHC obtained the pharmaceuticals at a discount under Section 340B. The court need not and did not decide whether the statute permits the contrary interpretation Cares advances or whether, as a matter of policy, HHS might promulgate regulations requiring Medicare prescription drug plans to include a "not less than" term in their agreements with FQHCs to secure to FQHCs broader financial benefits from 340B drug discounts. View "Cares Community Health v. Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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The County and other parties filed a complaint in the district court claiming that DOT exceeded its authority under 26 U.S.C. 142(m)(1)(A) when it allocated $1.15 billion in Private Activity Bond (PABs) to fund Phase II of the AAF Project. The complaint also alleged that the allocation violated 26 U.S.C. 147(f), and challenged the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared by the FRA under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the County's interest were within the zone of interests protected by section 142 and thus the complaint raised claims that were cognizable under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). However, the court held that DOT permissibly and reasonably determined that the Project qualified for tax-exempt PAB financing under section 142(m), and that the EIS for the Project did not violate NEPA. View "Indian River County v. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied Affinity's petition for review of the Board's finding of labor practices violations. The court held that substantial evidence supported the finding that Affinity committed unfair labor practices by disciplining firing, and reporting to the state nursing board a pro-union nurse; excluding a union organizer from the hospital; and threatening nurses who filled out union complaint forms. The court was without jurisdiction to review Affinity's only defense to the refusal-to-bargain charge. View "DHSC, LLC v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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After the Board found that the company violated Sections 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act by suspending and discharging one of its employees, the company petitioned for review. The DC Circuit granted the petition for review, denied the Board's application for enforcement of its order as it related to the employee, and held that, although the Board was not obliged to agree with either the judge or its dissenting member, the Board was obligated to confront evidence detracting from its conclusions, particularly where the dissenting member has offered a nonfrivolous analysis. The court held that the Board failed to adequately explain the basis of its disagreement with the ALJ and took action against the company without the support of substantial evidence. In this case, the Board's decision relating to the company's suspension and discharge of the employee, the Board's conclusion regarding the significance of the post-discharge investigations, and the Board's disparate treatment finding were all unsupported by substantial evidence. View "Windsor Redding Care Center, LLC v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to vacate his conviction. Defendant claimed that his trial and appellate counsel failed to properly argue or advance a claim that his Speedy Trial Act (STA) rights were violated. The court assumed without deciding that the STA was violated, and that the trial and appellate counsel were deficient in failing to properly argue or advance that violation. The court held that failure to obtain a dismissal without prejudice under the STA does not constitute Strickland prejudice. Highlighting that each of the explicit statutory factors weighs in favor of a dismissal without prejudice, the court held that defendant has not shown that he suffered any trial or non-trial prejudice sufficient to tip the scale in favor of a dismissal with prejudice. View "United States v. McLendon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Flat Wireless and NTCH challenged the FCC's order approving rates that Verizon offered to Flat Wireless for both voice and data roaming. The DC Circuit held that Flat Wireless' challenge runs counter to Commission rules that deliberately eschew cost-based regulation of roaming rates. The court rejected Flat Wireless' primary contention that the Commission should have required Verizon to offer roaming rates closer to its costs, and considered Flat Wireless' challenge as a collateral attack on the Voice and Data Roaming Rules. The court rejected Flat Wireless' remaining arguments in support of its claim and denied the petition for review. The court also held that it lacked jurisdiction over Flat Wireless' challenge to the 2015 Open Internet Rule because the rule was nonfinal as to Flat Wireless and was still subject to the Commission's revision. Finally, the court dismissed NTCH's petition for review because it was not properly before the court. View "Flat Wireless, LLC v. FCC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment sustaining the Tobacco Control Act and its application to e-cigarettes. The court held that e-cigarettes are indisputably highly addictive and pose health risks, especially to youth, that are not well understood. Therefore, the court held that it is entirely rational and nonarbitrary to apply to e-cigarettes the Act's baseline requirement that, before any new tobacco product may be marketed, its manufacturer show the FDA that selling it is consistent with the public health. Furthermore, the First Amendment does not bar the FDA from preventing the sale of e-cigarettes as safer than existing tobacco products until their manufacturers have shown that they actually are safer as claimed. The court explained that this conclusion was amply supported by nicotine's addictiveness, the complex health risks tobacco products pose, and a history of the public being misled by claims that certain tobacco products are safer, despite disclaimers and disclosures. Finally, the court held that nothing about the Act's ban on distributing free e-cigarette samples runs afoul of the First Amendment where free samples are not expressive conduct and, in any event, the government's interest in preventing their distribution is unrelated to the suppression of expression. View "Nicopure Labs, LLC v. FDA" on Justia Law