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

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Hall filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking records from the EPA related to the agency's purported adoption of a "nonacquiescence decision." The judgment at issue is that of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in Iowa League of Cities v. EPA, 711 F.3d 844 (8th Cir. 2013). The DC Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment to the EPA, holding that the date on which the EPA reached a final decision to not acquiesce remains a genuine issue of disputed material fact. In this case, the issue of whether the EPA settled on its nonacquiescence position at the time of that press statement on November 19, 2013, or in the days leading up to it, determines whether the documents regarding that nonacquiescence decision are predecisional and, as such, may qualify for withholding under the EPA's deliberative process privilege. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hall & Assoc. v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging the Navy Secretary's refusal to grant him a waiver of statutory requirements that govern his eligibility for incentive pay. After determining that plaintiff has abandoned his substantive challenge to the waiver denial, the DC Circuit held that the question of whether the Secretary complied with the process outlined in the applicable regulation is judicially reviewable. On the merits of plaintiff's procedural claim, the court held that nothing in Instruction 7220.87 obligates the Secretary to seek updated endorsements, and plaintiff gave the court no reason to conclude that the Secretary abused his discretion by relying on the old endorsements or by considering plaintiff's performance data. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Secretary. View "Stewart v. McPherson" on Justia Law

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Three scientists who had previously received EPA grants and served on advisory committees, as well as several non-profit organizations, filed suit arguing that the EPA's directive, which now prohibits all grant recipients from serving on any agency advisory committee, was both arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of the EPA's motion to dismiss, holding that the mandatory language of GSA's regulations provides meaningful standards for defining the limits of the agency's discretion, giving the court law to apply under section 701(a)(2) of the APA. On the merits of the APA claim, the court held that the district court correctly dismissed plaintiffs' claim that the Directive is contrary to law merely because it differs from OGE's uniform standards; the EPA failed to rationally address its previous conclusion that EPA grantees can provide objective and unbiased advice on matters unrelated to their grants; and an agency's failure to comply with OGE's process is subject to judicial review irrespective of a disclaimer contained in the OGE regulations. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Physicians for Social Responsibility v. Wheeler" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit vacated the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence. The court held that officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they seized defendant because they lacked reasonable suspicion to justify the stop. In this case, a seizure occurred when the officers pulled into the parking lot, partially blocked defendant's vehicle, and activated their take-down light. The court held that any inference of suspicion that the officers drew from encountering defendant soon after hearing the nearby gunshots were undermined by the government's failure to identify specific and articulable facts supporting the officers' estimation of where the various shots came from. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Delaney" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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After the EPA issued guidelines for two categories of solid waste incinerator over two years ago, the Administrator has not imposed a federal plan on noncompliant States. Sierra Club filed suit under the Clean Air Act's (CAA) citizen-suit provision seeking to compel the Administrator's action. The district court dismissed the claim based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The DC Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the CAA because the duty in question failed to qualify for section 304's conditional waiver of sovereign immunity. In the alternative, the court held that the district court lacked jurisdiction under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), because the APA contains a carve-out that prevents a plaintiff from using its general sovereign immunity waiver to evade limitations contained in other statutes like the CAA. View "Sierra Club v. Wheeler" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted UPS's petition for review, challenging the Commission's Order Adopting Final Rules Relating to the Institutional Cost Contribution Requirement for Competitive Products, No. 4963. The order modified Commission regulations that are meant to ensure that all of the Postal Service's competitive products collectively cover what the Commission determines to be an appropriate share of the institutional costs of the Postal Service. The court held that two aspects of the Commission's order require a remand. First, the Commission has not adequately explained how the statutory phrases "direct and indirect postal costs attributable to [a particular competitive] product through reliably identified causal relationships" and "costs . . . uniquely or disproportionately associated with any competitive products" can coincide. Second, in focusing on costs attributed to competitive products under 39 U.S.C. 3633(a)(2), the Commission failed to discharge its responsibility under section 3633(b) to "consider . . . the degree to which any costs are uniquely or disproportionately associated with any competitive products." Therefore, the order is arbitrary and capricious because it is largely incomprehensible with respect to the matters in issue. Accordingly, the court remanded for further consideration. View "United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Postal Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The families of American victims of a 2002 bombing in the West Bank filed suit against the Palestinian Defendants, alleging that defendant are liable for the attack on the theory that they enabled the bombing through their provision of significant support to the Popular Front. After determining that the district court's ruling is an appealable final judgment, the DC Circuit held that the district court erred in rejecting the Palestinian Defendants' argument that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction. In this case, the families forfeited their interest in the cross-appeal rule, and exceptional circumstances excused the Palestinian Defendants' failure to cross-appeal the question of personal jurisdiction. The court held that the Palestinian Defendants did not forfeit their personal jurisdiction defense, and the district court abused its discretion in concluding otherwise. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for the district court to dismiss the case without prejudice. View "Shatsky v. Palestine Liberation Organization" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Plaintiff, a former employee of the FAA, filed suit against the Secretary of Transportation for unlawful retaliation and discrimination, and the Secretary of Transportation and the Department of Labor for violation of her First Amendment right to run for office without penalty. In this case, after she ran for elective office, her full disability benefits were reduced. The DC Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint, holding that plaintiff alleged her FAA retaliation claim almost fifteen years after her protected activity and thus the lack of temporal proximity did not support an inference of causation. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to state a claim under the Rehabilitation Act or Title VII, because she is neither an employee nor an applicant. Finally, OWCP's determination that plaintiff had demonstrated an ability to run for elective office, and thus disproving her doctor's contention that she was permanently disabled and would be unable to work again in any capacity, did not violate the First Amendment. View "Pueschel v. Chao" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit reversed the district court's judgment and remanded with instructions to grant defendant's motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255. Defendant was convicted of murder almost 50 years ago. The government recently acknowledged that hair evidence introduced against defendant was false and exceeded the limits of science, and that the prosecution knew or should have known as much at the time of his trial. The court held that the false hair evidence presented by the government was material, because there is a reasonable likelihood that the false hair evidence could have affected the jury's verdict. In this case, the hair evidence provided powerful corroborating evidence. In the absence of the potentially confirming role played by the false hair evidence, the court held that a reasonable juror could have found that the government fell short of meeting its heavy burden, even without the defense advancing a compelling alternative theory. View "United States v. Butler" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The DC Circuit denied petitions for writs of mandamus seeking vacatur of all orders issued by the former presiding military judge because of the appearance of partiality. Petitioners are being tried before a military tribunal for their alleged roles in the September 11th terrorist attacks. The court held that it was neither clear nor indisputable that the military judge should have recused himself. The court explained that the military judge's career and relationships do not constitute reasonable bases for the extraordinary remedy of mandamus. View "In re: Mustafa Al Hawsawi" on Justia Law